The Marketing Communications Executive's Ever-Evolving Role in the Age of Digital Convergence, Business Transformation, and the Internet of Things
January 2017 TorchLight
By Ron Torch, Founder, President and CEO - Torch Group Inc.
In the not so distant past, a successful B-to-B marketing communications leader’s skill set was as predictable as it was traditional: excellent writing and editing skills, an understanding of communications theory, experience with the trade press, expertise in print advertising and direct mail, familiarity with print production and events management, and the ability to manage in-house staff and work with external agencies. A tall order even at the time, but, given today’s increasingly fragmented yet interconnected markets, one that now seems woefully inadequate, almost quaint.
Riding the Wave of Digital and Media Convergence without Falling Off-- A Neat Trick
Digital convergence (the intersection of IT, telecom, consumer electronics, and entertainment), its direct offspring media convergence (the merging of traditional and electronic communications), and the Internet of Things (intelligent devices, mobile hardware, and interactive software) have transformed marketing, as well as many other aspects of contemporary business and everyday life. Nowadays marketing communications comprises multiple digital and conventional functions and requires experience in varied related disciplines. On the strategic level, this can include behavioral marketing, account-based marketing (ABM), database marketing, and face-to-face marketing. On the tactical level, it can entail content marketing, inbound marketing (web site content, SEO, SEM, and PPC), outbound marketing (e-mail marketing, direct mail and print advertising), social media, and classic marketing activities, such as events marketing, public relations, and point-of-purchase marketing.The diverse elements of the marketing communications mix often have overlapping objectives with tangential ramifications. Ensuring that they don’t work at cross-purposes but instead provide optimal value requires strategic planning and coordinated execution across different marketing and communications channels. Hence, the rise of integrated marketing communications and the need for marketing communications leaders who, though not necessarily expert at each function, must know how to harness them for multi-channel marketing initiatives that can comprise elements as diverse as print advertising, retail locations, websites, events, social media, and features of the product itself. However, this is not the greatest challenge now facing marketing communications leaders. Rather, it is the rapidly blurring line between marketing communications and sales-or, more succinctly, the convergence of the two.
Most Migrations Involve Border Crossings
In some business sectors, such as consumer products and retail, sales responsibilities have been moving to marketing functions such as e-commerce for more than a decade, with a major milestone having been achieved over the 2016 Thanksgiving Day weekend, when, according to the National Retail Federation, an estimated 108.5 million Americans shopped online versus the 99.1 million who visited stores. This trend underscores the importance of marketing communications executives in these sectors having e-commerce expertise in addition to the print advertising background that has long been a perquisite for such positions.However, in most other business sectors, the migration of sales responsibilities to the marketing function is not as clear cut. Indeed, by contrast, in professional services, B-to-B manufacturing, and capital equipment, digital and media convergence are not causing sales and marketing responsibilities to shift from one area to the other but rather, causing them to be shared, with marketing communications being called upon to provide sales-ready leads, shorten the sales funnel, and create bona fide sales opportunities.
Every Migration Entails a Journey and Most Journeys Involve a Map
The fusion of sales and marketing means that marketing communications executives in general need a better understanding than ever before of their targeted customers. Effective marcom leaders have risen to this challenge by familiarizing themselves not just with the beginning of the sales and marketing process-awareness and consideration, which has always been their purview-but also with its end stages-preference and adoption/purchase, which were formerly the exclusive province of sales. They have done this by working with their sales colleagues and by employing marketing automation systems that enable them to create customer personae from empirical, behavioral, and anecdotal data and using these personae to help them develop customer journey maps and customer stories that reveal both the customer’s actual and desired state experience with their companies. Such journey maps cover the customer’s every interaction with the company and are often intended to drive everything from the content and UX (user experience) on the web site to sales training and even, in software and mobile apps organizations, new product development.
What Does Your Next Marketing Communications Leader Need to Bring to the Party?
The answer is a lot of different than inter-related competencies, values, and experiences. Gone are the days when small to mid-sized industrial companies could assign marcom management to a long-time administrator with good organizational skills or to a graphic artist with the ability to write passable copy or, at least, to proofread somebody else’s. Also gone are the days when a manufacturing-sector engineer with sales experience, a consumer products category manager, or a retail store manager, however talented, could easily assume such a position and be counted on to quickly grow into it. These days, truly effective marcom leaders-those who hit the ground running and know what needs to be done to stay ahead of your competition-must have a deep understanding of the dynamics that lead to sales in your industry, whether those sales are on-line or face-to-face. They also need to be able to interpret primary and secondary research to develop integrated, multichannel marketing communications strategies. Finally, in order to successfully execute on these strategies, they must be deeply familiar with the full complement of traditional and digital tactics available in today’s marketing tool kit as applied across the entire sales and marketing funnel, from prospect attraction and development through customer acquisition and retention.
The Right Fit
Finding the best individual to a fill a key marketing communications role can be a challenge for companies large and small alike. As with all mission-critical positions, the list of required skills, traits, and cultural competencies is often dauntingly long and the pool of likely candidates sometimes discouragingly small, at least on the surface. This is why, as is often the case for other senior leadership positions, hiring companies sometimes turn to executive search consultancies, as these firms can have significant internal databases of potential candidates as well as access to even larger external databases of the same. The advantages of seeking the assistance of a search consultancy are many-from a more varied and richer slate of candidates to an expedited screening process and accelerated hiring cycle. If a search consultancy with deep experience in marketing communications and related disciplines such as marketing automation and funnel management is selected, so much the better.Just as you typically hire marketers or salespeople who are familiar with your industry and products, it is best to retain search consultants with a track record of successfully finding and placing marketing communications executives. Like practiced musicians, such consultants know the score because they’ve played it before-which, ultimately, can only play to your benefit.
This is the second in a series of articles that examines the characteristics and experience that employers should expect to find in candidates for executive and senior leadership positions in mission-critical functions such as marketing communications, business development, digital marketing, product marketing, loyalty marketing, direct marketing, and public relations, as well as sales and other types of channel management.
For comments or for more information, please contact:
Customer and prospect contact: Ronald S. Torch, Founder, Chief Executive Officer, and President, the Torch Group,email@example.com, www.torchgroup.com, 440.519.1822 x101.Media contact: Ronald-Stéphane Gilbért, Senior Consultant & Global Managing Director, Gilbért, Flossmann & Zhang Worldwide, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.globalmarcomm.com, 216.816.4947
ABOUT TORCH GROUP, INC.
- Posted by Stuart Glassman
- On January 7, 2017
- 0 Comments