Performance marketing tips and advice

My latest thoughts on sales & marketing

The Biggest Challenges in Modern Marketing: Talent Part 1

Published on March 20, 2019


Marketing leaders are faced with a dynamic, constantly changing landscape. Much of the change over the past decade has been driven by the rise of MarTech. 5000 technologies created to make marketing turnkey, 5000 silver bullets, easy buttons all presented to the marketing leader to make marketing “easy.” It’s created a new marketing norm, one that comes with a new set of challenges.

I am super fortunate in that every week for the past 5 years I’ve spoken with anywhere from 3-6 marketing leaders. This has provided me with a front row seat to a unique set of challenges in front of a leader who knows their tenure is by far the shortest of their peers in the C-Suite. The average tenure of a CMO is 4 years, compared to their next closest peer, the CEO, who is double that at 8.

Most recently the trend has been these 3 big things…

1.    Talent

2.    Go to Market Strategy not aligned with marketing tactics

3.    Operations

This article is focused on talent, the rise of MarTech has created a need for a set of skills in the marketing department that did not exist 10 years ago. Take a look at this infographic which outlines the cost of running a Marketing Automation team. That’s just one small piece of the overall puzzle and you are looking at 11 roles with some big salaries attached to them. Granted some of those roles are cross functional skill sets, but it a good example of a single (albeit large) piece of MarTech which has created a huge need and talent gap in a lot of organizations.

Let’s quickly run down some of the other critical skills needed to make up a modern marketing organization. Messaging and positioning, planning, creative, field/sales enablement, data science and business intelligence, target market and audience research, product marketing, strategy and technologists. That’s a huge and extremely diverse set of skills on one team, there is no other profession that encompasses such a diverse set of skills, therein lies the challenge.

If you are marketing leader who came up in a “traditional” marketing world, where do you find and how to you manage these skill sets? If you are a new graduate how do you find your way in a world that looks nothing like was described to you in school?

The talent gap is big and widening, building a plan to close the gap is critical. Let’s first look through the lens of the CMO, then we will shift to the college grad looking to break into marketing in part 2.

As a CMO you have a set of organizational objectives and KPIs that are your guiding light, it’s critical that your organizational design is set against those first and foremost. Once objectives and KPIs are set then it’s time to assess the current talent and run a gap and SWOT analysis. The initial pass should be focused on people with roles and who’s performance is directly in alignment with helping you meet your objectives. Beware, this has to potential to be a small list, but he honest with yourself, just because it’s a small list does not mean all hope is lost, there is the potential that talent is there, but it needs to be realigned. It’s all part of the exercise, the more you focus talent on the what’s helping meet the organizational objectives the better off you will be in the long run.

The next assessment is simply identifying “talent,” who knows maybe you have a unicorn on the team! Regardless, look for people who have cross functional skill sets. Many times, you will find folks who cluster in certain areas that can have cross functional roles in areas where you may not need an FTE. Lately, I have seen marketing leaders find gems on their team with a bend toward data and analytics. These folks are great because they have an analytical skill set and can help to make sure operationally you are getting the data you need to ensure tactically the programs being executed are in alignment with the organizational objectives. I’ve seen these folks get thrust into leadership roles in marketing ops and really transform that piece of the business. As a marketing leader this is a huge win given ops is the connective tissue between your go to market strategy and marketing tactics.

This assessment should provide you with a decent gap analysis and SWOT analysis of the current state. Now how do you fill the gaps?

Hiring can be a bit of the wild west as demand for a lot of the “non-traditional” marketing roles is very high and supply is relatively low. If you are in large markets like San Francisco or New York, the odds of finding someone are better, but it will come at a price. Smaller markets will struggle to find talent, consider offering remote positions or consolidating and outsourcing certain roles. I recently had a customer with a Marketing Ops Specialist role open for 12 months in a rural Washington area, local talent was not there and there was not enough draw to bring someone in from the “city.” They decided to outsource the function.

Talent for the CMO is critical for the success of the overall marketing organization. Talent should be the foundation that holds up the Technology and Data infrastructure while driving the go to market strategy.

Next up, let’s tackle this from the candidate perspective. Stay tuned…

I’d love to hear about your talent wins and woes in the comments. Talent is a huge topic, help me fill the gaps here…