Is the time right for Marketing skill in the cloud?

The early months of a year always see our inboxes inundated with reports of the “top 10 trends of the year” type, and 2017 was no different. The world of B2B Marketing, we are being told, is undergoing massive change and undoubtedly you do need to be abreast of what this could mean for your marketing strategy. But, in all reality, even if you are in a reasonably sized marketing team, how can you hope to have the breadth of skills and knowledge to do that?

The Skills Gap in B2B Marketing

By way of example, just take a look at 3 of these “trends for B2B Marketing in 2017” reports that I read recently and extrapolate what they mean for skill requirements, let alone band width, to action them:

Fox Agency “B2B marketing challenges – the 2017 report”

TrendSkills needed
ResearchData, Analytics & Creative presentation
Inspiration from B2CB2C experience
Make events a realityEvent management and marketing
PR meets SEOPR, SEO
Hackers AnonymousCyber security
Interview with an AndroidArtificial Intelligence
Social is for B2BSocial Marketing, monitoring, voice of customer
Beyond the PodfatherSound recording, storyboarding
Where print meets pixelsPrint media, design & content
Politics of the KPIData analytics, metrics definition

Forbes Magazine “13 Marketing Trends For 2017 That B2B Marketers Need To Understand”

TrendSkills needed
Customer ExperienceUX/UI, Envisioning exercise
Executive BrandingBranding – corporate & personal
Artificial Intelligence / Machine LearningArtificial Intelligence
Visual Content MarketingVideo, Photo, Design, Storyboarding
Influencer MarketingThought Leadership Strategies
Native AdvertisingAdvertising
Agile MarketingProject Management
Experiential MarketingUX/UI/Customer Journey
Social MediaSocial Marketing
Mobile MarketingMobile/Responsive design
Next Gen AutomationMarketing Automation & technologies (with over 3800+ mar-tech in the market in 2016)
Alignment & CollaborationSales Enablement,
Outsourced Marketing ExecutiveOutsourcing

Get2Growth “Top 10 B2B Marketing Trends 2017”

TrendSkills needed
Data drives focus on customer experienceUI/UX/Customer services
Rise of the machinesArtificial Intelligence
Playing with VRVirtual/Augmented Reality
B2B eCommerceeCommerce
Getting Serious with Social MediaSocial Marketing
User Generated ContentUser content engagement
Influencer MarketingThought Leadership strategies
MobileMobile/Responsive design
ABM comes of ageAccount Based Marketing
Video dominates effectivenessVideo / Design

Now, I may disagree with the odd prediction here – I am not sure that Virtual Reality will be the biggest thing in 2017 B2B marketing when many have not yet got to grips with video, for example –  but if I were responsible for B2B marketing in any size of organisation my overwhelming response would be panic! Just selecting a few of these to prioritise my planning around would quickly reveal a huge gap in my skills portfolio, both personal and team. Then there is the headache of finding time to progress any projects with the constant daily demand for quality sales leads so that we can pay the bills taking up most of my teams’ effort. Everyone from the Sales Director in a small SME without a marketing department through to a major enterprise with a significant marketing team is going to find it well-nigh impossible to keep up with developments and exploit even a small proportion of these new trends.

These trends are not going away, however. What’s more, they will be changing and growing – witness the explosion in Marketing Automation technologies with the “Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic” published by chiefmartec.com growing from 150 logos to 3,500 in just 5 years! Obviously, we need to find a new way for the typical B2B Marketing Executive to meet this challenge.

How do we currently solve the problem?

This challenge is not new. Even if the volume of new technologies is growing faster and faster the gap between the skills of the typical marketing department and the latest developments in B2B marketing practice have been around for quite a few years.

We are used to temporarily buying-in skills. Consultants, such as myself, are contracted to lend our skills to a particular project or for a period of time where there is a gap in the in-house marketing. However, as individuals, we too do not have all the knowledge and skills to address every one of the trends identified.

Augmenting your in-house skills with temporary staff will increase your management overhead. Trying to cover all the areas with multiple temps will potentially lead to a fractured team with working conditions, objectives and rewards being different between permanent and temporary staff.

If you engage an Agency they will want to take control of a complete project, and they will usually also have skills gaps. Because of history, their focus and strengths will tend to be either technically based or creativity based, not both. As many of the newer developments in marketing require strong creativity matched with technical prowess this still leaves a skills gap.

If you are working in a large enterprise that can afford the services of the huge consultancy firms then you may be able to use one of them – but even here it would need to be a major project, such as a new launch or market entry, to justify the cost. What about day-to-day demand generation campaigns?

Can we put skills in the cloud?

We are now familiar with accessing technologies in the cloud. Many of the Marketing Automation technologies in the landscape graphic referenced above are delivered that way. It makes perfect sense – you don’t need to worry about the technical infrastructure of the tool, you just use it. And with many of the best charging models, you only need to pay for what you use, and when you use it. The technologies are effectively a utility.

However, they do not automatically run demand generation campaigns without the input of humans. Could we do the same for the human skills needed?   To a certain degree this “skills in the cloud” approach has already been proven to work. Companies such as Infosys and Wipro grew by providing IT technical skills based in India as a “virtual resource”. The idea was successful enough for IBM to also set up a similar operation in India.

We need to extend that set of skills available to include more creative and well as technical skills. Ideally, I think we need access to a combination of multiple human skills, experience and knowledge combined with the latest marketing technologies accessible as a single entity for running individual campaigns – and just paying for what we use when we want to use it. So, I was very interested to hear about a new announcement by my friends at Augentia.

Augentia is a new style of Marketing Consultancy – a group of very experienced B2B marketers that are offering their services as a “virtual marketing department”.  Their new offering is called “Campaign As A Service”. Using a Wizard, you define your campaign requirements and the costing is identified. When you press “go”, behind the scenes a dedicated Campaign Manager will project manage all the skills and technologies needed to deliver the campaign(s). As with other cloud-based services you only need to use them and get the results, without worrying about how it is working. It’s just like jumping into your car to get from a to b – you control direction and speed without understanding what is happening under the bonnet.

This service has already been adopted by some of the largest known brands in the memory manufacturing space and I was happy to see them extend the engagement for subsequent quarters to run their marketing campaigns.

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