What Skills do Marketers Need to be Truly Effective in 2014?

Advances in technology and innovative new business models mean b2b marketers today work in a more complex and dynamic environment than ever before. How you perform today is as much to do with keeping up-to-date with the zeitgeist, as it is rolling out a tried and tested marketing plan. If ever there was a need to plan out a personal development plan, it’s now.

But what areas do you need to focus on to be effective in 2014 and beyond?

I’ll be speaking about exactly this at The Evidence conference in March. Here’s a sneak peek of what I’ll be covering:

1. Measuring Return on Marketing Investment

Marketers at all levels must get to grips with measuring return on investment. Open rates, click through rates, event attendance and reach are no longer good enough.

What’s the impact on sales pipeline and how do we as marketers positively impact these numbers? 

The good news is technology makes this easier to achieve, but also this means marketers need to get closer to sales. Make 2014 the year you learn how to be friends with the sales director.

2. Digital Marketing

The effect of new technologies on marketing has been transformational. Changing not just what we do, but how we do it.  2013 was without a doubt the year digital grew up and social media began to show real value.

But do you know your social channels and how to work with them effectively? Do you understand how to integrate digital marketing into everything you do?

Yes B2B marketers need to get smarter at using social media, but also marketing automation, website analytics, conversion tracking, mobile apps and so on. As a marketer in 2014 it’s time to truly get digital. 

3. Data Protection

More technology invariably means more data. More data means more regulation. More regulation means more careful data management.

It is essential marketers understand their responsibilities in this space. 

But it’s not just about the legalities. Are you cleaning your data regularly, segmenting it effectively and using it to create personalised brand experiences? There is without a doubt a huge opportunity for marketers here, but let’s not forget about the opportunities of using data from multiple sources too a.k.a. big data. 

An understanding of the new European Data Protection Regulations should be high up on your list of skills to acquire too.

4. Creative & Integrated Marketing

Typically when we think of creativity we consider the creative execution: messaging, branding / design and media channel selection. There is increasing scope for creativity in each of these areas, but marketers should remember the crucial role they play as the bridge between customer and business.

Let’s not forget to look for creative approaches to managing that relationship through new channels and business models too.

5. Content Marketing

2013 was the year of the content avalanche. B2B marketers looking for fresh sales leads ramped up the volume of content being produced. With the increased volume it became apparent that if a channel existed, a marketer would use it; the field of dreams scenario.

Every single marketer using a content strategy needs to work out how to rise above the din that is content marketing.

Otherwise the ROI is likely to be somewhat slow to appear. Marketers must learn how to create content that is engaging, educational or entertaining, preferably all three. Optimise it to attract eyeballs and distribute it well to gain maximum attention.

On top of that you must know how to measure the impact of your content strategy. Google Analytics anyone?

6. Getting Up Close and Personal

The landscape for events is evolving too. With new technologies come greater opportunities for before, during and after show experiences and also entirely new event formats.

What can you do to embed digital tactics into your event?

With research indicating 70% of a buyer’s information search is now completed before they contact a vendor, event marketers need to tailor their campaigns to the correct stage in the buying cycle.

7. Partnerships

The age-old pitch from agencies that “we like to be a partner to our clients” might seem like a broken record, but it is worth considering for driving up effectiveness. Agencies need clients but partnerships are never a one-way street.

Client side marketers need to know how to get the best from their agencies (note this is unlikely to be by beating them up).  At the same time agencies really should be a partner to their clients. Invest time to understand your clients’ businesses, hire and retain staff and incubate new team members.

Reward clients with excellence in consultancy and execution; they deserve nothing less.

8. Using Emotion

In B2B we generally sell based on rational data: product specifications and speed tests for example. Business buyers really only care about the features. But is that accurate?

Your customer is a person, not a machine. People use emotions in decision-making and even more so when making big-ticket purchases.

Consumer marketers know this and use emotion heavily in their communications, but this might just make the difference for B2B marketers in 2014 too.

Learn how to get in touch with your emotional side in 2014 and apply that to your marketing and communications.

Let me know in the comments what you think are the key skills marketers need in 2014 to be effective. Plus, hear more from Andy at our event 'The Evidence' taking place in March. Click here for more info.