The fundamentals of marketing, including the goal of gaining and keeping customers, haven’t changed, but it sure seems like everything else has.

Today’s technology provides many low-cost channels of communication between brands and their customers, a reality that presents both opportunities and challenges. In The Digital Marketer: Ten New Skills You Must Learn to Stay Relevant and Customer-Centric, authors Lisa Leslie Henderson and Larry Weber offer a guide for marketers to use digital tools and engage with customers.

They explain in this Q-and-A how digital marketing has changed, where it is headed and how marketers can adapt. This interview has been condensed and lightly edited.

How are changes in marketing affecting the customer experience?
Digital has enabled marketers to turn every product and service into an extended customer engagement that has the potential to inform and delight.

When designed and delivered well, this integrated customer experience facilitates an emotional connection with customers. When designed poorly, these interactions can be costly, as customers often walk away from an organization after a poor experience—and spread the word across multiple channels.

Amazon grasped the game-changing power of customer experience early on. Its customers are used to highly relevant and customized recommendations, fast and accurate product search, the opportunity to purchase items directly from Amazon or from a competitive vendor on the same webpage, no fuss shipping, the ability to post and read peer reviews, and much more. Amazon’s ubiquity has raised the customer experience bar high for every organization, regardless of industry.

What skills do marketers need to adapt to digital?
Marketers must become customer experience architects, able to create and scale individualized, and often predictive, customer experiences that feature our prospects and customers rather than our selves or our products.

These experiences must be integrated across the individual’s preferred channels and reflect their most recent behavior, current context—location, time, and what device are they using— and what each of these nuggets of data tell us about what our customers may be trying to achieve. They must prompt engagement throughout the entire customer journey, from brand awareness through purchase, use, repurchase, and collaboration.

Marketers are learning new skills as a result, including becoming:

  • Adept in behavior science
  • Proficient in customer journey mapping, analysis, and optimization
  • Aware of what can be accomplished with data analytics and skilled in assessing assumptions and results
  • Skilled in creating and distributing contextualized content via marketing automation
  • Capable of creatively combining paid, earned, and owned media to enhance reach and credibility
  • Experienced in creating and nurturing customer relationships via digital communities
  • Successful in orchestrating multiple cross-functional and intra-ecosystem efforts to deliver remarkable customer experience
  • Agile

How is big data evolving marketers’ roles within their companies?
Big data is a big nada without relevant analytics that can turn reams of structured and unstructured bytes into insight. When combined with analytic know-how, big data can be highly useful to marketers.

Marketers are not expected to become data scientists; however, we are expected to be data and analytics savvy. This includes understanding what analytics can and cannot achieve, knowing the necessary questions to ask when designing and evaluating a project, and having a basic comprehension of the math and statistics upon which models are based to effectively evaluate their validity and feel confident making decisions based upon their output.

How are changes in digital marketing changing the C-suite?
Multiple new positions are appearing in the C-suite including the Chief Experience Officer, the Chief Customer Officer, the Chief Analytics Officer, and the Chief Innovation Officer. In many cases, the Chief Information Officer role is also changing, expanding to include responsibility for data and analytics and purchasing marketing-related software. The thread running though all of these positions is an understanding that today’s competitive advantage lies in a genuine knowing of our customers and in authentic customer engagement.

These changes in the C-suite pose a challenge to marketing’s traditional role as the keeper of the customer. To remain relevant, we have to reach beyond marketing’s traditional boundaries to think and act more broadly about the end-to-end customer experience.

Now that social media marketing is an established field, what’s next?
Social media will continue to be an intricate part of the marketer’s toolkit. It is the primary vehicle though which we interact in real time with our prospects and customers. It has reach—although the days of free organic reach are numbered—and amplifies our content. It is also integral to our ability to listen to our customers and to catalyze and curate their stories.

That having been said, despite the fact that Facebook now has over 1.3 billion active members, in the next few years we will see a proliferation of smaller, interest-based social networks and communities. Our customers are driving this change.

Niche networks can be a more efficient way of gaining information and of facilitating discovery than many larger one-size-fits-all networks. Niche networks also offer the opportunity for deeper engagement with like-minded colleagues.

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