Top Companies Get Together To Define The Anatomy Of The Modern Marketer
I was facilitating a panel at a recent Forbes CMO event when the topic of talent came up: How do we effectively hire, train and create career paths for up-and-coming marketing leaders?
This question predictably arises any time you get a bunch of CMOs together. Modern marketing now spans such a vast spectrum of activities, from sophisticated data modeling to artful storytelling and everything in between. The skills, specialties and functions that fall into a marketing agenda are so numerous and varied that it creates a challenging chasm that needs to be crossed: how do you staff a team with the specific expertise you need, while at the same groom the generalists that can eventually step into a broader leadership role?
At an even more basic level, what does it take to be a competent modern marketer? What mix of skills is required for which levels in the organization? How can you provide clarity and visibility around expectations for growth and advancement? And how do you do that consistently across teams, let alone organizations?
Board member Matt DelRe, Director of Performance Solutions at Google, said he was motivated to get involved from his many conversations with marketers who were facing digital transformation. “They’re looking to make the transition to digital, but it’s about more than just changing your media plan,” he told me. “They need to change culture and empower teams with knowledge and skills. This framework will help marketers understand how to make that transition.”
Kellogg SVP of Marketing Gail Horwood saw the Marketing Standards Board as a way to make a bigger impact than she could at just her own organization. “The challenge of building these broad-based skills is one that so many organizations face,” she said. “By creating a framework that can be used by every company, we hope to be able to really impact the marketing world and elevate skills across the industry.” Ben Harrell, SVP Brand and Digital Marketing at Priceline, agrees: “We become better as an industry when we start speaking the same language.”
The group started by defining what makes a marketer—those timeless, fundamental functions that don’t change, even as new channels, technologies and capabilities come online:
Brand. Defining and communicating brand purpose, value and customer experience.
Acquisition. The strategic and tactical execution of marketing campaigns to grow and win new customers.
Retention and loyalty. Engaging customers to build loyalty and maximize lifetime value of the relationship.
Analytics and insights. Informing business decisions and improving ROI by analyzing data and generating insights.
Building on these four functions, the Board then created a framework to define a career path and the skills necessary to advance in a marketing organization:
Level 1: Foundation represents the bundle of skills that any marketer needs to effectively start out—regardless of industry or company size. These are the building blocks that are all needed, regardless of which path one ends up choosing.
Level 2: Application speaks to the mid-career stage and goes back to those four key functions described above. Successful marketers will need literacy in all four but will naturally gravitate more to one or two of them, based on personal passions and skills. “We used to talk about the ‘T-shaped’ marketer, with one deep area of expertise and a broad set of knowledge,” Kieran Luke, General Manager of Credentials at General Assembly, told me. “But now we’re looking more at the “pi-shaped” executive, with two or more areas of deep strength.”
At this level, the thoughtful guidance of marketing leaders and HR is critical to find the alignment of organizational needs and individuals’ capabilities. The necessary strengths across the Level 2 functions, combined with strong vision and business judgment, form the talent model for the next-generation marketing leader.
Level 3: Leadership contains the skills needed to function effectively at the level of Marketing Director, VP and ultimately CMO. These abilities are, of course, necessary but not sufficient to excel in a leadership role. At this level, communication skills, organizational navigation and domain expertise also become critical enablers of success. And since roles at this level call for engaging in such a broad range of functions and issues, successful leaders typically bring with them more than one area of expertise from Level 2.
A key point on most marketing leaders’ minds these days is talent sourcing: how to get a healthy flow of the right candidates; how to build the right diversity into the team; and how to apply consistent standards across hiring managers. Board members expect the new framework to bring particular benefits to this challenge. “ Focusing on skills, rather than background, levels the playing field,” said GA’s Luke. “It’s a scalable way to identify top candidates and enables more diversity.”
A common language and roadmap can also help individuals move across functions, even entering the field from non-marketing roles. “I hope this encourages people to think about their own career and getting out of silos,” said Google’s DelRe. “I spent 14 years in television, then spent 6 on performance. That change was a huge leap forward in my career. Getting out of one’s box is definitely worth the risk.”
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