Fellow Executives, It's Time To Go Back To School

Permutation, correlation. causation: These are the new vocabulary words for today's marketing leaders. Four years ago, you needed to hire someone to understand what your digital marketing data meant. That's because digital and all the valuable insight it has to provide about how your consumers see, internalize and interact with your brand was becoming something you needed to understand. But you're not a freshman anymore. This is now a varsity game. 

Today, digital spending makes up about one-third of all the advertising dollars allocated globally. By 2017, global digital spending will surpass TV ad spending. This isn't just because of the rise of mobile. It's because digital has more to teach us than television, radio, print and even the earlier evolutions of digital marketing ever did. Today, digital is giving us full visibility into the relationships our consumers have with our brands. Investing in digital means investing in business insights that can be applied and re-applied. Marketing will never lose its roots in art, but it's becoming more and more about science every day.



Today, cross-channel attribution can give us more insight into the customer journey than we've ever had before. Where they were once imaginary things meant to illustrate the way marketing efforts work together, today we can literally see our marketing funnels in action, visualized on-screen. Since the conceptual is becoming less important than the actual, the lines between stages of the funnel are blurring, and the flow of the funnel is becoming all that matters.

Because of this meshing of channels, we are witnessing a need for approaches to marketing that embrace the convergence of media. Who cares what PR did? What does it matter if it was your content marketing team or your sales enablement team who used to get the credit for a new tranche of prospects? Today, a marketing win is a win for marketing, and a win for digital.

Some companies are investing in extracting insights from digital channels that can be applied to digital channels, regardless of departmental titles. They do this for clients, but more and more, their marketing analytics teams also help them understand their business better.

Big Data isn't the answer. It's the era, the genre. Below the surface, we see many types of data, each of which can be used to different ends. And if Big Data is like music, it's nothing without the conductors and the listeners. The former wrangle it, clean it, turn it into something greater than the sum of its parts. The latter interpret it, transforming it from data into information, from information into insights. 

It's time to learn to truly understand Big Data. It's time to let your imaginary marketing silos fall down. Your team members will have different skills, yes. And you’ll need to invest in new skills as I have, too. But in the end, you’ll be learning to learn your business faster. You’ll be learning to beat your competition, to innovate and to drive your organization forward.

Fellow executives, it’s time to go back to school. It’s time to talk to your staff. To learn from them. And to teach them the things about business that will never change. It’s time to learn to trust new kinds of employees with new kinds of analytical skills. It’s time to learn to embrace digital and the convergence of media. During this back-to-school season, it’s time for you to get back to learning, too.

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