In The Era Of Tech-driven Marketing, Marketing Enablement Is No Longer Optional

by | 28.Aug.18

Plug “sales enablement” into Google and you’ll return nearly 2.5 million hits. Google “marketing enablement” and you’ll get a tenth of that number. There’s not a lot of logic to it, but while enablement has long been a standard requirement for sales, marketing teams have been left out of the loop.

The idea that marketers can and should be “enabled” in the same way that their colleagues further down the pipeline have been for years is only just beginning to take root, but the realization is long overdue.

For those marketers who have never heard of marketing enablement, you’re in good company. Very few organizations have begun to recognize the need for marketing enablement programs, let alone implementing them.

So what is marketing enablement? Essentially, it’s a means of empowering marketing teams with the technologies and training they need to achieve their goals and perform efficiently. And it’s no coincidence that marketing enablement is trending up at a time when marketers are dealing with an unprecedented amount of technology and data.

Bigger stacks require more skills

In 2011, there were 150 marketing technologies on the market, give or take. In 2017, there were more than 5,000. The average enterprise uses 91 marketing cloud devices, and CMOs have been outspending CIOs on technology since 2015. The pace of change has been breakneck, yet marketers often struggle along without access to the formal training and support network their peers in sales have enjoyed.

As a result, a lot of marketers are feeling stretched. A 2016 Ascend2 survey showed that nearly one-third of marketers are feeling the skill gap: 31% reported that they have all the tools they need, but don’t fully utilize what they have. In a 2017 report from Walker Sands, only 3% of marketers reported being able to get full value out of their tools.

Hire, train, or partner up

Accessing the skills required to manage sophisticated stacks and the data that flows through them is emerging as one of the discipline’s biggest challenges. As a martech consultancy, we see this scenario play out all too often. Companies are making big investments in technology, but they don’t always factor in the costs of training or acquiring the talent to run it. And the costs of ignoring the talent factor are only going to grow more acute, because while marketing technology is rapidly becoming more complex and advanced, formal training is still trailing far behind, with the vast majority of marketers still being self-taught.

In Change Agents: The Radical Role of Tomorrow’s CMO, a book I co-authored with Eric Hollebone, we touched on the talent gap and offered some tips to help marketing leaders strengthen their team’s capabilities:

Promote and train.

Take a close look at the people on your team. Are any of them analytical, process-oriented, and numerically literate? Nurture those abilities by assigning progressive levels of responsibility for technology-driven campaigns. Get them certified for the platforms you rely on. The majority of vendors offer robust training resources and excellent user support, but you need to be disciplined in carving out the time your staff need to complete that training.

Beg, borrow, or steal.

Marketing has become a crossover discipline, requiring as much technical proficiency as creativity. If your marketing team is constantly reaching out to IT to help them untangle technology issues, it might make sense to lure some of the IT and engineering talent in your organization over to the marketing department. It’s time to think differently about what a marketer looks like and what skills need to be included on the team.

Hire from outside.

If you don’t have any home-grown talent with the aptitude or interest to learn the platform-management or data-analysis skills required, you’ll need to hire the people you need. But brace yourself: martech talent isn’t easy to find and it doesn’t come cheap. (For salary benchmarks, take a look at Mondo’s annual Tech and Digital Marketing Salary Guide or the Chief Martech 2018 Marketing Technology & Operations Salary Survey.)

Set a budget, make a plan

No matter where you find your talent, you need to keep their skills fresh. The technology that drives our marketing capabilities is continually evolving. It’s what makes this discipline so exciting, but it also means that training needs to be ongoing, regular, and structured.

According to SiriusDecisions, 81% of B2B organizations spend no more than $1,000 on marketing training and development. Given that many organizations are now spending tens or hundreds of thousands on technology, the lack of investment in training is short-sighted. Why spend $50-100K on marketing automation and then hand it over to someone with little or no experience with the platform? It’s like handing the keys to a racecar to someone who just graduated from driver’s ed.

Marketing enablement needs to be built into the martech budget and built into the schedules of those who are expected to manage the organization’s marketing technology. It’s simply the cost of doing business in the digital age. Learning on the job will always play a role, but when you’re handling mission-critical data or communicating with thousands of prospects, there’s a limit to how much trial-and-error learning you’ll want to rely on.

Fortunately, there are now several good options for martech training:

Vendor training.

At a minimum, marketers should participate in vendor training programs and certifications. Most offer high-quality training at a low (or no) cost. However, the downside is that this type of training tends to be self-directed, with little or no one-on-one or personalized instruction.

College degrees and certificates.

In 2015, ChiefMartec.com announced the first martech degree. Today, there are dozens of college-level programs available in digital marketing and marketing technology. Many of them can be taken part time and are delivered online, so they could be a fit for full-time staff. (There’s a good list of U.S. digital marketing degrees and certificates here.)

Customized training.

A number of martech consultancies are now offering bespoke training packages, including remote one-on-one training, on-site group training and workshops, and onboarding or orientation sessions for new employees. DemandLab has offered training from the beginning because we recognized early on that human capabilities were just as essential as technical capabilities. In addition to stand-alone training engagements, we fold training and enablement into many of our services by including a one-on-one or group training component as well as providing documentation that can be used as a reference for current team members or an onboarding document for new additions.

Marketing enablement has yet to hit the mainstream, but you’re going to be hearing about it a lot more in the near future. Technology- and data-driven marketing is here to stay, and organizations are waking up to the fact that none of it is plug-and-play stuff. To take full advantage of the potential that marketing technology offers, and to properly support a team with expanding revenue responsibilities, organizations need to implement structured, consistent, intentional processes for training and supporting marketing practitioners.

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