Why The Modern Marketing Journey Doesn’t Begin With Just One Step

Fred Isbell

External events are always a great reason to get out of the office and gain a real-world view of how businesses are evolving, fending off risks, and seizing new opportunities. The experience is more than just sitting through keynotes and sessions; the opportunity to network is where people get to expand their skills and perspective, adapt and refine new ideas to match business needs, and broaden an organization’s repertoire.

And these are the reasons are why I jumped at the chance to present a session at the Richmond Events Marketing Forum in Miami. This event attracts marketers from a variety of industries and company sizes and includes a cross-section of agencies and content providers.

My session, “Navigating Modern Marketing, Digital Transformation and Innovation,” focused on the unprecedented transformation happening in the world of marketing and how marketers can take advantage of it before it’s too late.

Several first steps lead to a common goal

The session covered the impact of technology – such as cloud solutions, social media, Big Data and analytics – and how this new landscape is redefining marketing technology. After a discussion of both innovation adoption and digital transformation, I offered ten best practices for modern marketing and closed with seven dominant marketing personalities that can hopefully help marketers successfully navigate their journey to modern marketing.

The questions I received at the forum session ranged from “Where do I get started?” to “Should I follow a specific sequence or set of steps?” Drawing on many years of experience, my answers started with the phrase “It depends.” This phrase has been quite handy during many years of solutions and services marketing experience. While that reply may seem frustrating, there’s a solid rationale for it.

Like any business and use case, marketers need to start with precise priorities, understand the context of the business situation, assess available resources know the target market and unique customer needs. And the need for speed and understanding the past has never been greater as marketers take any of these first steps. Here are three we discussed at this year’s Marketing Forum:

1. Leverage storytelling, visualization, and thought leadership

According to Dan Roam, author of The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, pictures can tell a compelling story by conveying the message visually in a manner that enhances an audience’s understanding and ability to recall the main idea and supporting evidence. Dan was the keynote at the Marketing Forum event and has worked with SAP. I was recently reminded of the power of visual storytelling at another event, when a presenter used an endless barrage of bullets in a PowerPoint presentation that was devoid of any images. The audience was literally falling asleep around me!

Good storytelling leverages visual images and dovetails with thought leadership to present and convey overall value.

2. Build and enhance skills that answer the needs of the digitally empowered customer

According to IDC, the five fundamental skills of the modern marketer are content marketing, sales and channel enablement, business intelligence and analytics, digital and social engagement, and loyalty and advocacy. But unfortunately, there is a considerable gap between the importance of these attributes and the overall readiness of the marketing community.

Whenever I am asked what has changed in marketing over the past 30 years, I say, “Everything.” And honestly, this is the truth. Marketers can no longer rely only on structured internal and external training – they must be lifelong self-learners who can masterfully integrate on-the-job learning into their daily responsibilities to round out and upskill their capabilities.

3. Build a unique personal brand

In his article “No Marketer Is an Island: Meet the 7 Personas of the Modern CMO,” by Tim Kopp, managing partner of Hyde Park Venture Partners, explains the seven dominant personalities of a successful CMO. Personally, I believe that we need to apply this line of thinking throughout the marketing organization to identify, focus, and enhance our own skills and strengths. And we should all be our own CMO of our personal brand.

Where do you fit within this spectrum of marketing personas?

  • The thought leader: As the importance of thought leadership continues to grow, many marketers are stepping up their capacity to become a leader in their specific domain of expertise. What is yours? I’m always advocating people to channel this trait and acquire the organizational skills and knowledge needed to turn thought leadership into compelling stories.
  • The growth hacker: Through many years in field marketing as well as reporting, CRM, marketing automation and the evaluation of the impact of marketing, I have found that modern marketing is significantly contributing to the business through data sciences, Big Data and analytics, and increasingly, predictive analytics.
  • The product marketer: Products and services need to be sold in the context of a buyers’ journey. Despite the call for persona-based and value marketing, customers need marketers and sales people to represent the features and functionality in the context of an overall value-based customer conversation.
  • The brand marketer: The value of a company’s brand is wrapped up in its image in the marketplace and the position it occupies in a buyer’s mind. The strength of the brand is an essential component of value-driven storytelling, visualization, and communication.
  • The strategist: Marketing strategy is essential to guide the business to success and profitability. Through the rise of digital transformation, digital marketing is emerging in mainstream practices and the application of marketing technology – driving the urgency for a solid strategy.
  • The culture builder: Building a strong team and embracing a culture of inclusion and diversity goes hand in hand with substantial commitment from leadership. Modern marketing involves making informed choices and being a change agent, all of which speak to the need for a supportive culture aligned with organizational goals.
  • The all-around athlete: When it comes to modern marketing, there’s no such thing as a jack of all trades – we once spoke of the “super marketer” but that era has passed. However, marketers must procure a mix of left-brain and right-brain skills. Like a decathlete, marketers can be adept in one discipline that can flow into other areas to allow flexibility, especially in smaller organizations.

I encourage everyone to periodically step out of the office and attend an event, network with fellow marketers and expand perspectives and skills. Until then, please check out my session slides from Richmond Events Marketing Forum and my virtual trip report. I wish you the best of luck as you take your own first steps to modern marketing!

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About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell worked at SAP for nearly 19 years in senior roles in SAP Marketing. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing spanning nearly 30 years. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.