There’s a famous scene in Mad Men where Peggy Olson delivers a tear-jerking pitch to a room full of suits from the head office of an American fast-food chain. She details the personas of an American family and all the ways in which the TV has caused it to become disconnected. “There may be chaos,” she tells the clients, “but there’s family supper at Burger Chef.”
Her stone-faced delivery of that line causes a look of relief to wash over the suits’ faces. “That’s beautiful,” one of them says.
It used to be that marketing departments depended on the “ideas” people—the creative minds crafting meaningful ads that would reach into the hearts of customers and inspire them to run out and buy whatever the company was selling.
As we’ve come to learn, however, that’s no longer enough in ultra-competitive marketplaces. Now we rely on cold, hard customer-insight data to help us create the most strategic ads and marketing materials possible, for multiple channels across all media. This shift has impacted the office too, divvying up staff and funnelling them in to new and expanding roles. There are now different people to handle analytics, automation, SEO and SEM, social media, content, design.
We spoke to Damon Popovich and Todd Hovey, two digital-marketing experts, about what these technological advancements mean for employment prospects, the division of marketing labor, and how to reach across these divides to act as a whole.
Between the two, they’ve worked as digital marketing strategists for Motorola, eBay, Microsoft, Humana, and many other firms. Keep reading to get a glimpse of what digital transformations in marketing mean for the job landscape.
Q: You've both worked for so many different companies over the years. Are there any particular pain points that you find are universal when it comes to figuring out how to use digital marketing to its fullest potential?
Hovey: Their biggest pain point is how to be efficient. Efficiency is driven by multiple things: Having the right talent in place who know how to use the automation tools, having the budget to actually acquire and implement the tools, and having a good partnership from marketing, to operations, to IT. Some organizations fight over who is going to run them, who's going to manage them and who's going to pay for them. That seems to be one of the biggest hurdles across almost every type of work environment I've ever seen.
Popovich: The digital marketing landscape is so vast. For mid-sized to larger businesses, the most common trend I’m seeing is them starting to realize one size doesn't fit all. A lot of them say, “We need somebody who knows CRM and knows data and how to segment audiences. We need somebody who can manage our marketing strategy and campaigns, we need somebody who can manage social, we need somebody who does all the things that comprise digital. And I think that the prior thinking was that one person could do all those things. Finding somebody who knows all those different disciplines across digital marketing is a challenge for the recruiting team, because there's so much segmentation within digital marketing now.
Q: Marketing used to have one director who’d oversee all facets of the work, but now—because of fragmentation and specialization—that might not be such an easy task. How does strategy get designed in this scenario?
Popovich: I think it's more collaborative. Say I’m consulting a senior director on strategy. He knows ecommerce, web management, content management and a little bit of email marketing, but he doesn’t know CRM, social, or SEO/SEM. So he relies on a collaborative environment. He outsources SEO/SEM to an agency, he has an internal social media manager report to him. Channel owners own their strategy, and the director gives them high-level insights and helps frame the strategy, and the director signs off on that.
Q: Can you tell us more about who the channel owners are and what they do?
Popovich: In terms of digital, I've seen a channel owner for all things related to a website—the content, the UI, and so on. There's a channel owner who owns the outbound email marketing, and that person usually also owns CRM and marketing automation tools.
There's a channel owner for social—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn for company, or even the company's CEO's account. SEO/SEM is another very important channel, though it sometimes falls under website.
Q: What about content marketing, specifically? How does that role factor into a marketing team?
Hovey: Content is really critical because it's primarily used in social marketing, but it's also used across blogs and the website. Longform content could be used in a lead-generation email campaign—for example, a gated app or a white paper behind a locked wall on your website. That content is also valuable for the sales team; they use it in their pitches or their customer communications.
Content marketing plus social media is most important, because it's learning how to present a message to an audience that will get a reaction. That is so critical right now, because some companies destroying their own marketing efforts by producing too much non-relevant content. Social media can tell you exactly how that content is performing, and that insight helps drive the next development of content.
Q: What are you seeing in terms of the talent coming right out of colleges and universities, and how those institutions are keeping up with the changing landscape? How are companies able to help these workers grow into new roles and prevent rapid staff turnover?
Hovey: We may not be seeing course descriptions reflect the changes, but there’s no such thing as getting a BA in traditional marketing anymore—it’s a BA in digital marketing now. So they're getting there, and the students are getting really good general marketing knowledge. It’s when the school specializes in vertical tracks—SEO or paid media, for example—those specializations can hurt people in the long run. They might get frustrated in their job seven years after following only one discipline. If had a marketing team of 25 people and I hired that specialized strategist, I’d assume they were going to stay with my company for about three or four years and then I'm going to lose them. I would be apprehensive about somebody so specialized, especially when you're bringing them onboard right after university.
On that note, I think internal growth and mentoring that's really important. It's hands-on experience that helps a new hire at a very entry-level position to understand what the business and strategy paths are.
Popovich: Millennial talent entering the workforce now have degrees in things like social-media marketing. It's very channel-specific. It's definitely a different world.
But what I'm seeing is that degrees are beginning to matter less than certifications. Employers don't care if they have an Associate’s degree, or a Bachelor's degree, and in either case they don't really care what that degree was in. If somebody is certified in Google AdWords, or Google Analytics, or, Google Webmaster Tools, Hubspot or Hootsuite, or whatever the digital marketing technology might be, that certification that a candidate might have probably holds higher value than the diploma they have.
This interview has been condensed and edited for grammar and clarity.