B2B CMOs can’t be expected to predict what the marketing technology stack will look like in five years — with the rise of artificial intelligence and the increased emphasis on account-based marketing, things are simply changing much too fast.
They should, however, start to develop a sense of the skills they’ll need their teams to have as they take advantage of that martech stack, no matter how it evolves. And they should start helping their team ensure they’re developing those skills as the marketing department of the future takes shape.
Think about the way marketing departments in B2B organizations are structured today. There are teams devoted to customer marketing, content marketing, marketing communications, demand generation and product marketing, among others. All those teams may have different goals and objectives, but they have one thing in common: their most likely access to customers is through digital channels.
Few marketing managers, however, were formally trained in creating great digital experiences when they started their careers. Now they find themselves, like B2B CMOs, in meetings with developers, technology vendors and other third parties on whom they rely to design web sites, landing pages and apps that convert visitors into leads or buyers. They are essentially trying to learn skills in user experience design on the fly — which can lead to less than optimal results.
Many organizations try to address the skills gap by offering funding for training and education purposes, but not enough employees are seizing these opportunities. Course Compare recently conducted a survey, for instance, in which employees gave their employers an average score of 68 per cent when it comes to providing ongoing learning and training opportunities. More than half, or 64 per cent, also said they did not use the funding for education made available to them.
It’s interesting to compare those stats with those from the most recent Gartner CMO study, which showed martech budgets in 2017 decreased by 15 per cent compared to the previous year. It’s possible that many marketing leaders are spending less on technology because they’re still trying to make the most of what they already have. But to do that, they’ll need to nurture the talent base that will use marketing technologies directly.
Of course, employees need to advocate for their own education, and to connect outside training opportunities with a clear ROI for their employer. When our survey respondents were asked what prevented them from using corporate learning budgets, however, they said they lacked the time to do so, that they weren’t sure what skills were important, and that programs weren’t well-promoted internally.
These are all areas where B2B CMOs can take a greater role in developing a culture of continuous learning that sets up their department — and their organization overall — for long-term success.
It might be carving out dedicated time to help their team gain greater fluency in web development and design so they can help ensure better results on their next campaign.
It might be taking a step back and looking at the demands and pressures facing marketing departments today, and looking at where needs and skills align. In Adobe and Econsultancy’s 2018 Digital Trends report, for instance, the top three priorities included optimizing the customer experience, data-driven marketing that focuses on the individual, and creating compelling content for digital experiences. UX design, web application development and coding all contribute to achieving those objectives.
Finally, it might take leading by example, where B2B CMOs demonstrate a commitment to self-development, and showing their teams that building marketing skills is as important, if not more important, than building a bigger martech stack.