On Thursday 23 February, Storm Doris caused disruption across the UK, but nothing could stop us from bringing together 25 marketing leaders to challenge the perceptions of what modern marketing means today, and the skills it requires, over a dinner discussion at London’s Andaz Hotel.

You can watch a video of the whole event here, but below are the key takeaways that marketers can use right now to start their journey to becoming a truly modern marketer in 2017.

Our Disrupt Forum panellists:

  • Sippora Veen, GSI Partner Marketing, EMEA, Oracle
  • Shane Redding, Think Direct, the IDM
  • Heidi Taylor, Marketing Strategist
  • Patrick Barwise, Author, Professor at London Business School
  • Facilitated by Joel Harrison, Editor-in-Chief, B2B Marketing

Before I share some of their insights on how marketers can face the challenges of 2017, I’d like to begin with something Patrick Barwise said:

“Marketers need to embrace the fact that marketing is difficult and interesting. It’s not a single discipline, it’s multifaceted.”

How do you get to know everything?

The simple answer is, you can’t. With the pace of change in marketing and the constant development of new technology, there’s just too much for any one person to fully keep abreast of. Shane says that senior marketers come from a culture where they were expected to be an expert in everything, but that time has gone.

“CMOs need to be brave enough to admit they don’t know everything and be prepared to appoint a leader on a project who might be 22 or 23 and be part of their team.” Shane Redding.

But Patrick says that “the further up an organisation you go, the more important it is to know enough about the new stuff to know who’s good and who’s bullshitting.”

Marketing hasn’t changed at all

Our panellists agreed that the disciplines underpinning marketing haven’t actually changed all that much, despite the proliferation of marketing technology, and that we mustn’t let the struggle to learn this technology squeeze out functional skills.

It’s especially important that younger marketers understand this. Heidi says that they think “new technologies and platforms have changed marketing beyond all recognition” and so are reluctant to learn the history and disciplines that underpin marketing.

On a similar note, Sippora says that too many marketers see marketing as a hobby and don’t even understand the importance of the bottom line.

Do marketers need formal qualifications?

This subject was quite the controversy at Disrupt Forum. Heidi thinks that all marketers need formal education, and should have an MBA.

“If you’re a marketer going into business, why wouldn’t you want to learn more about the wider environment?” Heidi Taylor.

But not everybody agrees. Shane feels that, at a time when diversity is more important than ever, you wouldn’t want the team to be full of people with MBAs.

An audience member thought that curiosity was the most important quality, which is something that can’t be taught.

Something else that marketers need to learn, says Patrick, is leadership skills, even at a junior level.

“Marketing invests less in development of people than any other business function.” Patrick Barwise.

Get out of the silo

Marketing leaders need to get people out of the marketing silo and start collaborating and communicating with other business functions. It’s not just about learning marketing, but about understanding the perspectives of your non-marketing colleagues so you know about the strategy that underpins the whole business. You do a lot of cool things as a marketer, but it’s all done to get business results.

Despite technology making it easy to communicate remotely, Heidi says that “you need to be physically in close proximity to the people you work with.”

Be inspiring

It’s about a different way of leading, letting younger marketers get on with things and experimenting while continuing to inspire them from the front, back and middle.

Patrick says this is only possible when marketing leaders themselves are inspired by what they do – “Then it’s contagious!”

A snapshot of the marketing skills needed in 2017

As part of our exploration into the skills marketers require in 2017, we’re conducting a survey into the Anatomy of the Modern Marketer.

So far, 78% rate strategy as being the most relevant skill to have in their team’s toolbox but 58% think it’s also the biggest skills gap.

Do you agree? Have your say by completing the survey.

Your journey to becoming a modern marketer starts right now

I don’t think anybody who works in marketing, at any level, will go far wrong by taking our Disrupt panellists’ insights to heart, and using them as a guide on your journey to becoming a truly modern marketer. And, however big the challenges are, always remember just how exciting marketing really is, especially right now.

But this isn’t the end, because we’ll be back in June for further discussions about where marketing is right now and where it’s heading in the future. Registration for the next Disrupt Forum event in London opens soon, watch this space.

Posted by Matt Stevens, Managing Director at MOI Global

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