What do today’s marketers need to succeed? One person with particular insight is Larry Weber, a pioneer of interactive marketing and founder of The Weber Group, which he eventually grew to become the world’s largest public relations firm. I spoke with Weber, the author of Everywhere: Comprehensive Digital Business Strategy for the Social Media Era, at the recent Inbound Marketing Summit, where we were both keynote speakers.
For years, traditional advertising held sway over marketers and clients, says Weber. “I watched how paid advertising had become a mafia, an ecosystem that really didn’t have the sensitivity to the future of how people were going to buy products or services. They were all focused on television…the heroin is the 30 second spot, and it’s too hard to get off that.” But, he says, the future is fast approaching: “This convergence of data, real-time research, analytics, content creation, community creation – that’s where this is all headed.”
So what will marketers need in order to adapt? The first step is they’ll have to develop technical expertise – now. “The CMOs of today better know one thing really well,” says Weber, “and that’s to understand what software and technical tools are at their disposal. In next 36 months…you’re going to see CMOs become more and more the buyers of software and software applications, analytics, and services that help them get closer to customers. The issue we’re facing now is most marketing people haven’t been trained at all in software and technology. I’m not saying you need to know how to program, but you have to have an understanding of what a lead generation system does, what a CRM system does, what a social listening tool does.”
CMOs will increase in influence, says Weber, because marketing “is not going to be in a silo anymore; it’ll cover the entire breadth of a company.” But with that power comes responsibility – and vigilance. Marketing used to be about the completion of discrete tasks, he says: “It was: finish the ad, finish the news release, finish the annual report – done, done, done. But you’re never done anymore.”
Immersing yourself in technical tools may sound daunting for already-pressed marketing executives. But Weber says it’s OK to start small: “Even if you grabbed a beer and Googled once a month about new software applications in marketing, that would help.” So what else is mandatory to keep up with? Weber suggests the following:
- Mobile. “You want to know where mobile is headed, because all computing is going to be mobile.”
- Digital couponing and loyalty. “As boring as it sounds,” says Weber, it’s going to be a major factor in consumer purchasing decisions.
- Visualization. “You don’t have to be a filmmaker,” he says, “but you want to understand the impact of visualization when it comes to information and content. It’s going to be less important to have text in our communications.”
- Amazon. There are plenty of smart companies to keep an eye on, says Weber. But Amazon is “the most important company of the next 10 years. [They excel in] the cloud, they know how to create a great digital environment, how to create loyalty, how to use data. You can learn from Amazon every minute of every day.”
What are you doing to keep your marketing skills sharp for the next decade? What knowledge do you believe is essential?
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website on November 5, 2012.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.