What's Required of the Next Generation of Marketers

To Rise in the Industry, One Has to Have a Strong Understanding of Analytics, a Deep Sense of Curiosity and Ability to Speak Between Offline and Online

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If there's one thing the next generation of marketers -- and even today's marketers -- need to know, it's that you can't just be a marketer anymore.

At one time "you could be a functional expert in one very narrow area of marketing tactics," said Tom Collinger, associate dean and department chair- Integrated Marketing Communications at the Medill School at Northwestern University. "Back in the day, if you were a direct or data marketer or PR specialist, that was enough."

But today, "if you can't understand the breadth of the choices the consumer has and the context of where your strategy fits," then the marketer is at a loss, said Mr. Collinger. "That's relatively new and I don't think that 's ever going to go away."

Tomorrow's marketers will have to be well-rounded multi-disciplinarians who understand not only creative, but also digital marketing, social media and new technologies -- and how those all complement one another -- as well as how to back up a plan with data and analytics. Tech geeks are increasingly valued in marketing, and it's no secret procurement and financial management have been a hot-button issue for for several years. The answer? Marketers should learn those skills, too.

Ability to read and speak data

Successful marketers five or 10 years from now will have to master relevant disciplines and tools, including those for digital and social media, to develop deep relationships with customers, said Andrew Hayes, CEO and CMO recruiter at executive recruiting firm Russell Reynolds Associates. He said they'll need to be able to "predict the future by leveraging insights, interpreting trends and mining data to consistently develop products and services consumers never really knew they needed or wanted."

And don't forget data as a key component of understanding ROI. "The marketer who is able to track ROI and understand how to manage their marketing group and budget with a ROI mindset -- those are the ones who are going to be the most successful. CEOs expect that now," said Mr. Hayes.

Analytical depth is crucial for tomorrow's marketers "because there's so much data out there," said Sunil Gupta, the Edward W. Carter professor of business and head of the marketing department at Harvard Business School.

Agile learners
Marketers have been starting to change the types of candidates they're looking to hire. General Mills, for instance, has always looked for marketers that build results and inspire marketing teams. What has changed, said Sarah Beaty, director-university recruiting, is that desired candidates have a greater understanding of databases, analytics and social messaging. "The change is quite rapid. ... We're looking for more learning agility -- the ability to adapt quickly. We look for someone who can not just manage today but can easily adapt to what's next."

Other trends that Andrew Gardner and Evan Kaplan, co-managing partners at Kaplan-Gardner, a recruiting firm specializing in digital marketing, are seeing clients look for are candidates adept at search marketing, as they are increasingly allocating money in that direction; continued interest in marketers who have expertise in localization, such as services Groupon provides; and those versed in portable media and mobile payments like Google Wallet.

Deep understanding of digital
Tomorrow's marketers, especially ones at the executive or CMO level, won't need to know every technological intricacy, but they will need to have a deep understanding of new digital and social-media tools.

"At a high level, you have to have a fundamental understanding of what's happening and what the trends are," said Mr. Kaplan. "You don't need to roll up your sleeves and code HTML 5, but if you're recruiting for those roles, you need to have an understanding."

Integrated-marketing capabilities
"If you drive just digital and social media, you're only chasing tactics," noted Patricia Alvey, director-Temerlin Advertising Institute at Southern Methodist University. "We don't believe in angles when it comes to education. We try to prepare young professionals for what's next -- to understand the changing consumer market. If you think about it, it all includes digital."

That notion has influenced the University of Texas-Austin to adapt a more integrated view when it comes to digital's place in the curriculum. "We have courses specifically focused on digital but it's embedded in all of our courses," said Isabella Cunningham, chair of the department of advertising.

So don't think marketers should focus solely on digital and social media at the expense of more traditional advertising. "The digital trend is very much driving the new world order," said Mr. Hayes. "But any CMO you talk to -- they're shifting more money into digital and social, but they'll tell you they're never going to walk away from traditional. The benefit of them is the viral aspect of it, but you can't reach the same number of people at one time as you can, say, in a Super Bowl ad."

Indeed, executives in the industry are noticing a higher demand for those with an integrated mindset, along with data and analytical prowess. "Integrated marketing is becoming a major thrust and the challenge is finding people who can merge online and offline analytics techniques," said Mr. Gardner. "Offline and digital people aren't able to bridge the gap. People who can do that are going to be worth a fortune."

Industry-specific knowledge
Schooling can only prepare tomorrow's marketers so much. Some industries have specific marketing hurdles that some argue can only be learned through experience. "If you have someone come through with a classical marketing education, and they come into this complicated market full of regulations, that classical education just doesn't work here," said Gary MacDonald, managing director and global head-ETF marketing at State Street Global Advisors, an asset-management company.

Mr. MacDonald said in the financial-services industry there are so many hurdles and restrictions on what companies can and can't promote , not to mention all the disclaimers, that tactics like social media are almost too difficult to employ in the way most companies are using it. He said that SSGA uses social media more for listening to consumers, as well as research, but that "we're starting to get more guidance and people are starting to get more comfortable with a two-way conversation." He added that the restrictions on what can and can't be said in marketing "really force us to be educators. [We] can't be cheerleaders."

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