Embrace Data -- Or Start Looking For A New Career

If you’re a marketer and you want a career that will flourish in the next five years, you’d better wise up to data. 

I did. I recently joined the ranks of the initiated by jumping feet-first into the world of data-driven marketing (in full disclosure, I joined BlueKai about three months back).  I’d been listening to the discussion for the last couple of years, and even hosted a debate in San Francisco with the Bay Area Interactive Group about the “Content Buying vs. Audience Buying” discussion.  The topic was interesting, and both sides were very passionate about their points of view.  That event was more than a year ago, and content buying won the debate -- but it feels like a really long time ago. It’s not the same case today.

Data is fast becoming the center of the marketing universe. A marketer’s future career now depends very heavily on his ability to understand how to use data and implement it for his needs.  You can still buy premium contextual placements, but data should be informing everything you do, from the decision to purchase that media, to the messaging you place there, to the optimized landing page where you drive users dependent on the data you have available about them.  If you know where to look and what sources to tap into, whether your own first-party data or the wealth of third-party data that’s available, you can create a 360-degree view of a user and leverage that information to dramatically increase the performance of your marketing.

If you look five or even 10 years down the road, you can envision a future in which data informs as much as 75% of all your marketing efforts -- a mult-billion-dollar business.  Your online display advertising, your CRM, your site experience, and even the rest of your addressable marketing such as digital video, digital TV and mobile will all be informed by data.  The age of the static ad network is officially over and the world of data-driven marketing is here. 

So as a marketer, what can you do now to prepare yourself and ensure you’re still a valuable piece of the pie for years to come? You need to identify a key partner or two in the data-driven digital marketing category and go deep with them.  Invite them into your meetings, especially the internal ones where the team can use some education.  Craft a calendar of lunch-and-learns and other knowledge-driven events -- but make sure the content for these events is focused on real-world challenges and not pie-in-the-sky thinking.  You need to understand data in context -- specifically it in YOUR context.  Throw real challenges at these partners and work with them to uncover the right solutions. 

Of course this means you have to pay your data partners  something for their help, but that investment now is likely going to pay high dividends over the next five years as the data amassed grows exponentially and your internal value increases proportionally. 

Remember what it was like to be the “digital” guy/gal in your company back in 2000?  Data is like that, but even more necessary because there’s no avoiding the topic at this point, as you could ignore the Web for a brief period following the bubble burst.  Digital is here to stay, and data is the driving force behind it

Regardless of whom you work with and what avenue you choose to go down, treat your partners fairly and with respect, because your future career and earning potential may rely on what they can help you to earn.   If you stick your head in the sand and try to ignore the coming storm, then you’re sealing your own fate.  Planned obsolescence is never a good business decision for a marketer.

Don’t you agree?

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2 comments about "Embrace Data -- Or Start Looking For A New Career".
  1. Robert Gilmour from Innfinite Hospitality Ltd , August 9, 2012 at 6:48 a.m.
    A bit of a no brainer, what's new?
  2. Erika Cannon from Rally Marketing , August 14, 2012 at 8:14 a.m.
    What are the best data sources? Without good data, there's no point!