New Skills Needed to Address Marketing Gap

by Lauren Carlson

CRM Market Analyst,


Here’s a staggering statistic: B2B organizations are losing upwards of 10 percent of revenue per year due to their inability to properly align sales and marketing around the right processes and technologies, according to IDC. To put that in perspective, that would be a $10 million loss for a $100 million company. Ouch.

These numbers reflect what we have been hearing over and over again: We’ve got this powerful software in marketing automation, and yet, marketers are still missing the boat. So, what are we missing, here?

Many of today’s marketers were brought up in the traditional marcomm, PR and event-driven marketing that consisted primarily of a one-way communication: vendor to buyer. That kind of approach is no longer effective in the modern buying landscape where the buyer is now in control of the conversation.

“It’s no longer about lead generation, it’s about engagement. You’ve got this buyer who is now so well-connected. They can go to sites like Software Advice, Quora, Focus and even Twitter to connect with other buyers. That’s how buyers are now finding information.” – Carlos Hidalgo, Executive Director of the Marketing Automation Institute

So the real question is, how do marketers bridge the gap between getting buyers interested and truly engaging them in a dialogue to give them the information they need?

That is the question Hidalgo set out to answer when he founded the Marketing Automation Institute (MAI). The goal of the MAI is to educate, equip and enable marketers with the skills, practices and principles they need to be successful at their jobs. Marketing automation is more than a tool. It is a strategy. One that requires content marketing, attention to revenue and other skills and details that marketers never had to pay attention to in the past. Individuals that participate in classes offered by the MAI will become Certified Marketing Automation Professionals.

Education at the MAI takes place via an active user community, as well as classes taught by thought leaders who specialize in areas such as marketing operations, inside sales, social media, lead management and implementation basics to name a few. While these classes cover a wide range of skills, we wanted to know which ones were the most important to the modern marketer’s success. Here are the essentials:

  • Analytics and metrics: More and more, marketing is becoming a numbers game. The introduction of marketing automation software switched marketing from a gut-feeling, creative discipline into a numbers-driven, measurable activity. Marketers are now able to measure campaign performance, track conversions along the sales funnel and make accurate forecasts. This has elevated marketing’s value proposition to address the C-level’s top priority: revenue. The modern marketer must be metrics-driven and have a strong understanding of how to turn analytics into actionable insight that can help improve marketing’s contribution to overall revenue.
  • Lead management strategy: Marketers who define their job as filling the top of the funnel will not be successful with marketing automation software. Lead management has to be built on a strategy that focuses on managing the entire pipeline, not just one end of it. Marketers have to work with sales to define the different stages of the buyer’s journey. Then, they must develop a process that will best lead the buyer down that path. This signals a paradigm shift in the marketer’s focus, from quantity of leads to quality of leads.
  • Content marketing: As we know, today’s approach to marketing is about engaging the buyer. That is where content comes in. Content is any information that touches the buyer. It can include white papers, blogs, email, case studies, newsletters, video and social content, to name a few. Relevant content is the key to engaging the buyer and getting them interested. Marketers have to be able to build a content strategy around their buyer’s journey. Understanding the buyer’s behavior and path to purchase will help marketers map the right content each step along the way. Marketers must also understand that content is what fuels the entire marketing automation engine. A content development plan has to be part of your strategy in order to be successful.
  • Social media: Love it or loathe it, social media is here to stay, and marketers and organizations that choose to ignore it are already left behind. A recent report by Pew Research indicated that adult engagement on social networks has risen from 11 percent in 2005 to 65 percent in 2011. More buyers are getting social, providing a viable medium for engagement. Being successful with social requires thought, strategy, content and consistent execution. Additionally, you have to measure your efforts. See what works and what doesn’t, modifying your approach appropriately. The marketer that gets social media right will be an invaluable asset to any company.

The B2B market is in a constant state of evolution. Marketers that hope to keep up will have to master these skills, not only to add value to their organization, but to stay relevant in a competitive job market.

Let us know your thoughts. What would you identify as weak areas where marketers need improvement? What skills are crucial in a technology-enabled, buyer-centric world? Leave your comments in the space below.

Thumbnail image created by limaoscarjuliet



Engaging visitors is a critical challenge, and the topics above are certainly important. However, there is typically a more basic challenge that causes marketers to be ineffective, and that is the task of making all the tools they use as part of lead generation to work together. There is often a lack of a clear process before automation is implemented. Automating chaos leads to just that: more chaos. The difficulty in connecting various tools further complicates things: most marketers are using all of these at the same time: list building, marketing automation, landing page optimization, CRM, social media analytics. Companies that wish to overcome these challenges, really need to take an engineering approach and architect the entire system and how every tool should work together, and then proceed to implement it with a cross functional team that includes sales, marketing, product and engineering. It’s also critical to supplement in-house talent with outside experts that have deep knowledge of each of the tools used.

Comment by Greg Rublev

As usual, a great article, this time yielding insight into the growing problem of marketing automation which “doesn’t perform”.

As you said, the problem is not the technology’s power to achieve impressive results, it’s the way people use it. Unless it’s used to implement a cohesive marketing strategy, it won’t deliver on its potential.

Your article highlights the skills needed by the modern marketer to make an Inbound Marketing Automation system perform well. We posted an article on our blog regarding this sea-change in the skill-set needed by today’s marketer in April 2010: The post focused on the data side to better tune it to our audience, but your list strikes me as an accurate one for today.

I’d stress the part about this being a strategy, a process. Most companies don’t get the design of their Inbound Marketing Automation systems (IMA) right the first time: there are too many variables, and the process is too complex. But take heart – the system can be tuned. You need only get it close enough to understand how to improve it, and then try again. To design this marketing strategy the first time, its best to assemble a team of people with all the skills you list above, plus the technical, creative and management skills needed to forge the strategy and the project plan to execute it. The company’s star sales people’s input is critical to this effort, too. Even better, actual customers are valuable sources of the information needed (persona and buying cycle definitions are, after all, their realm). And then this entire team must draft the strategy and the project plan to design, install and operate the IMA system.

If you get this right, the IMA machine will become your best sales and marketing practices encased in silicon. It seldom does in practice, though (the problem you cite above) because the process of distilling people’s work activities into automation rules is expensive. This is especially true when the people are passionate and ambitious, and thus prone to intellectual debate. This is, I believe, is an area in which outside expert help can be invaluable: experienced moderators smooth-out the process and – by directing the discussion – often help to achieve breakthroughs in team processing.

In my opinion, Automating marketing functions without a complete buy-in from sales and marketing; without a complete agreement on the Inbound Marketing Automation system’s objectives and definition’s of terms and roles, is an expensive mistake.

The reward, if you get it “close enough to tune”, is that your Inbound Marketing Automation system coddles every lead on your website with the ultimate care (as defined by your star sales people), nurturing them around their own buying cycles 24/7, from cold to hot to hand off to sales. And the sales rep inherits enough information about the lead to turn cold calls into a thing of the past.

Done right, IMA really does deliver more sales leads of higher quality at lower cost.

Comment by Eric Goldman

All very good points!

What this points to is the need for Customer Relationship Planning (CRP) to make CRM and Marketing Automation more effective.
This includes having a clear strategy and market focus that spans from product development to product market to outbound marketing to sales and service. Since every organization has limited resources, this helps focus the combined effort to have the maximum impact. It requires making hard choices with support across the organization… and sticking to those choices. Not easy when everyone is scrambling to bring in revenue!

It also means ensuring that there is an agreement between sales and marketing re what the key steps of the buying/sales process and who does what to hit each milestone. Further, there needs to be a clear definition re what a “sales ready” lead is and that sales will follow up promptly when one is generated.

Like it or not, in today’s world, the voice of the customer speaks much more loudly than anything the company claims. So, it is everyone’s job to produce happy customers. Then, we need to leverage them into customers saying, tweeting, posting good things… and producing customer success stories, case studies and testimonials.

It is indeed a brave new world. Marketers and sales people have less control. As in the martial arts, rather than opposing this; you must use the new paradigm to propel you forward!

Comment by Ron Snyder

Like! Love!

Jill Rowley @ Eloqua

Comment by Jill Rowley

It’s an SEO-off!

Comment by Justin Gray

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