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What Marketing Skills Do You Need for 2021 and Beyond? Part 2

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marketing skills

This is the second post of a three-part journey into a discussion about the marketing skills that you will need in 2021 and into the future to be successful.

In case you missed it, in the first post I talked about embracing change, communication, and writing. If you haven’t read the first article yet, let me give you a quick taste.

Change is arguably moving at the fastest pace since the industrial revolution. If you aren’t willing to embrace change as an opportunity you will be left behind.

Communication seems like an obvious skill for anybody in marketing or public relations (PR) but communication isn’t easy. There are many ingredients that go into it and you don’t always have control of them.

Sometimes it’s what your audience brings with them that can have the biggest impact on how your message is received. This plays out not only with the messages that are being used to communicate with prospects and customers but all across your business. As Julia Angelen Joy said, “We need to create a culture of communication.”

Finally, I talked about writing, which is part of communication but holds a special place within our profession. Michelle Garrett aptly stated, “Writing permeates everything do.”

Jay Acunzo, the host of multiple podcasts and a video docuseries said that 90% of what he does writing while 10% plays out in front of a mic or in front of the camera.

Last, but not least, Whitney Danhauer spoke of how fiction writing impacted her business writing. “Doors and locks are something that we encounter every day, but my fiction writing helped me switch up my view,” she said. “I wasn’t just writing dry, product-driven posts anymore.”

If you want to read more, click here. Don’t worry, I’ll wait while you catch up.

Welcome back.

This week, I’m going to talk to you about the next three marketing skills that you need moving forward.

Those three skills are:

  • Collaboration
  • Research
  • Data and Analytics

Without any further ado, please put your trays in the upright position and let’s get going.

Why Collaboration Matters

This summer I was attending a webinar featuring Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media and he stated that the future of content marketing is collaboration.

It’s an interesting idea. Instead of banging on our keyboards what if you actually told some people what you are writing about and asked for their input on the topic?

This impacts your content marketing in multiple ways. It adds a voice (or voices) to the content that can give it some additional depth because we don’t all view everything in exactly the same way. Having the additional viewpoints adds some additional depth and makes your position more persuasive.

Through this series, I have brought in some other viewpoints that helped me see the topics I was talking about in different ways. It made me more knowledgeable which led to me creating a better article for you. In the end, it’s always about helping your reader and additional viewpoints within the content help you do this.

But collaboration doesn’t stop when the content is done. It also adds to your marketing. If you’ve asked people to collaborate on the topic, let them know when it’s coming out. Chances are good that they will be willing to share it as well. It helps promote them as thought leaders and could introduce them to new audiences.

In the case of content marketing, collaboration is a win-win situation.

Of course, not all content is written. Sometimes in other forms such as podcasts or videos.

Regardless of the format, collaboration is a good thing. It always adds something that you couldn’t have produced if it was just you.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

I don’t listen to many podcasts but one I listened to fairly frequently a couple of years ago was Inside PR. Unfortunately, the podcast has either ended or is on hiatus, but there were three people on the show (one who you’re going to hear from later). All were hardened PR veterans and they obviously knew each other pretty well but they had their own experiences and it was the nuances in how they each viewed a topic that made listening worthwhile.

SharpSpring, a company that produces sales and marketing automation tools hosted a series called Agency Acceleration. The fourteen part series was a who’s who of marketers in the industry that included Rand Fishkin, Ann Handley, Seth Godin, Jay Baer, Shama Hyder, Chris Brogan, plus many more. Each gave a little presentation but what made it collaborative was that they then answered questions posed by both the host and attendees. It gave the content something extra that wouldn’t have been there if the presentation would have covered the entire time period.

Any sort of content that you create will always be better when you collaborate with others but it doesn’t stop there.

There are many places across your business that need collaboration. In most cases, it’s likely not happening because of silos.

Sometimes we create silos on purpose. Marketing needs to focus on marketing. The doctors need to focus on the patients. The engineers need to focus on engineering. Payroll needs to focus on paying people.

It’s understandable that there are going to be areas within your business in which there is a specific focus. This is what usually leads to silos, intended or not.

However, silos have a tendency to cause as many issues as they solve.

If sales and marketing are in silos and ignoring each other your customers are going to pay the price which will ultimately cause an issue with your business. This isn’t good.

“Yes, the silos need to GO,” says Michelle Garrett of Garrett Public Relations. “That’s holding everyone back. It’s a lack of looking at the bigger picture.”

I couldn’t have said it any better. Your company has a mission and the silos will prevent it from achieving that mission.

Silos are like dogs in a dog sled. If all the dogs are ignoring the others and just doing their own thing the sled may go somewhere but it won’t be where you want.

Everybody in the organization needs to know what others are doing. If the company needs to zig it will be a problem if only one group realizes that’s the right way.

“I think it leads to blindsides – which even if unintentional, don’t help create trust. And make an organization appear disjointed,” says Michelle.

If a customer is working with a company that doesn’t appear to have its act together, it will negatively impact the trust you have with them.

Once the trust is gone, it’s hard to rebuild it. A few customers might give you a chance but most will leave and that will be the end of your relationship with them.

I’ve never run into a situation where silos were a good thing for the business. Do yourself a favor and knock them down. Embrace working together.

There are many benefits of collaboration and they will make you a better marketer, better PR person, and most importantly, an easier business for your customers to work with.

Good Marketing Starts With Research

Many of the prospects that I talk with aren’t really doing any research. They are just doing what feels right. I understand.

Research can be a pain. It takes a lot of time and has to be analyzed.

In most cases, research is not a one and done exercise because things always change.

Research can also feel like busywork. Your spending all this time on something that doesn’t directly relate to a business result.

When you post an article, change your website, post to social, or create a podcast or video you are putting something into the world that feels concrete.

When you research you aren’t putting anything into the world. You’re trying to better understand how the world works. There is no direct result in this that you can tie to your marketing or to business results.

I’ve written about marketing being an investment but it’s an investment where you can, if you choose to, see a return on that investment.

Nobody says, “I did research and leads increased by 15%.” Or, “I did research and it improved the bottom line by 10%.”

Research doesn’t lend itself to that kind of result. However, research has a big impact on everything you do in your business. It will tell you what you need to focus on and where need to be.

What if you were investing most of your energy into Facebook but after you did some research you found out that most of your customers were on LinkedIn? You would change your focus to LinkedIn.

I remember conversations in a community that I was in a couple of years ago in regards to what social media tools to use. The leader of the community raved about a specific tool so that’s one I started using but at the end of the subscription period, I dropped it. The tool worked ok but I just wasn’t thrilled with it.

Several months later I was reading an article and it included somebody from the company who produced this social tool. They stated that they did some research and discovered some very specific characteristics of the people that used their tool. They in turn were targeting people with these characteristics.

The person in the community that loved about this tool had all the characteristics. I had none of them.

The company did the research and then used it to improve their marketing. This in turn helped the company meet its goals.

Research produces data that gives you a picture of what you need to know to make your marketing perform better. It’s different than measurement, which is the data that tells you how something did.

It helps inform you of what you should do. It’s the difference between being proactive and reactive. It’s the difference between success and failure.

It’s a marketing skill that you need to embrace moving forward.

Data and Analytics

I’m sure I’ve told this story before at some point. I worked at Intel for over six years. Being a technology company that was largely run by engineers, it probably won’t be surprising to hear that we focused heavily on data and analytics.

Everything had to be measured. Everything was analyzed. We always were looking to the data to determine what was working and wasn’t so we could make adjustments.

If you brought an idea to the table you had to support it with data. If you didn’t the conversation would be over before it ever began.

Of course, when money is involved, whether it be a budget or a client paying for a service, people want to know they are getting a return on their investment. This isn’t unreasonable and the only way we can do this is through data.

I was scrolling through Twitter recently and I saw a tweet from Christina Garnett that grabbed my attention. I always stop when the conversation turns to data but I confess, I was also in the process of writing this post. Here’s the tweet:

I found the idea of data being armor interesting so I asked her why she thought this.

“Marketers are creative and actively work to understand the audience,” she says. “The problem is when others don’t understand the nuance and want “proof” of effectiveness. Higher-ups want to see the data to support what you are presenting. Your story has to marry the creative with data.”

Essentially, you need to come to the table with more than an opinion.

“The data defends your argument,” says Christina. “It protects you from those who don’t understand the nuances of the work. It protects you from the people who want evidence vs. gut.”

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a client or your boss, we need to show that the actions we have taken are working.

Ultimately marketing is about connecting and data shows how you are doing in this endeavor.

We live in the digital era which means we have a heck of a lot of data. Much more than in the past. That presents plenty of opportunity for you but what does it mean?

Data isn’t just numbers and information. It has many functions. It helps us gauge where we are and helps us present arguments. It helps you find opportunities that you may have otherwise missed.

At this point, I turned to Martin Waxman, President of Martin Waxman Communications. Martin works in digital, social media, and communications but he also does AI research. His LinkedIn newsletter, Digital Marketing Trends, speaks to all these topics.

I was interested in what he thought about the role of data and analytics moving forward and he summed it up nicely.

“Marketers and communicators have always used data, whether it’s a media or influencer list, a customer relationship management platform, insights from research, or media impressions,” he says. “But data is much more expansive and includes structured, unstructured, and semi-structured data types. And we need to consider everything we do to connect with customers digitally—from blog posts to videos, tweets, photos, or emails—as a data point we can measure and analyze in order to better engage and help our audience.”

“To do that, we require a basic understanding of statistics because statistical predictions are the backbone of analytics and AI,” he explains. “Once we have that knowledge, we can work with data scientists to uncover insights and patterns that can shape our strategic approach, enhance our creative programs, and delight our customers.”

You should go back and read that again.

Martin hits on an important point.

Collecting is important but analyzing is even more important. It’s through the analyzation process that you discover insights.

You need to make sure that you are collecting the correct data. You also need to make sure that you are approaching the analyzation process without bias.

I once worked for a company that made decisions not based on what the data was telling them but what they wanted it to say. They would make a decision and then find the data that supported the decision.

There are two issues with this. One, it is highly unethical. Second, if you manipulate the process like this, it will come back to haunt you because you will be dealing with data that is completely wrong.

Data can be complicated. The best possible scenario is to work with a data scientist. If like me, this isn’t an option, there are resources such as books and classes that can help you. There are also people such as Christopher Penn from Trust Insights who love to talk to talk about every aspect of data.

Data has always been important but in a digital world, it’s become even more important. It’s marketing skill that is critical.

To Be Continued…

Before I say anything else, I want to give a shout out to Michelle Garrett, Christina Garnett, and Martin Waxman for sharing their knowledge and insights.

I’m moving to a bi-weekly posting schedule so I will be back in two weeks with part three in this series on the marketing skills that you need in 2021 and beyond.

Be good humans.

*Image by janrye from Pixabay

Shane Carpenter
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