Build on traditional skills and welcome new ones

Sheree Hellier, head of insight and programme development, the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing.

Sheree Hellier

Strip off and take the naked approach to training. This should be on the agendas of all marketing directors, managers and executives this year.

In other words, unlearn what you already think you know, understand where your knowledge and skills gaps are, and go for it.

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The best marketers never stop learning, but the process of learning involves a degree of unlearning. As the ‘father of modern management’ Peter Drucker said: “In order to start doing something new you need to stop doing something old.”

Right now I wouldn’t advise taking Drucker’s advice as we’re seeing that marketers need to “start doing something old in order to do something new”. This is in the guise of fully embracing (and learning about) “old-skool” targeted response-driven accountable marketing principles.

What comes through in our extensive research is that in the face of shiny new digital tools and techniques many traditional skills, such as branding, positioning, writing campaign briefs, calculating response rates, testing and evaluating, seem to be getting lost along with the traditional flair and innovation that were once a marketers’ prerogative.

In 2012 the IDM launched several successful digital marketing training programmes, including Awards in search and social media. We also saw a surge in the number of people attending training courses covering the absolute essentials of direct and digital marketing. Attendance was not just from junior marketers, demonstrating that these skills are the core grounding that will help marketers progress at every stage of their careers.

Marketers now need to step up to the roles of ‘conductors’ and ‘masters of content’. To do this they need to have learnt and applied the core marketing skills themselves, so that they can grow, but also confidently lead teams to the next level. The good news is that wherever you are in your career, there are professional development programmes available to guide and support you.

As for innovation and creativity, the risk-avoidance culture of 2012 inhibited these skills from fully flourishing. But 2013 is a blank canvas and (I have it on good authority) that this is the year for you to release your entrepreneurial skills and get creative. So let’s put the love and creativity back into marketing, get naked and hungry for learning! After all, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always do what you always did.

Sheree Hellier

Twitter: @ShereeHellier
Email: shereehellier@theidm.com

PS - I always welcome pin-sharp insight on your knowledge and skills gaps, new ideas for training programmes and partnership opportunities so please do get in touch.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Isn't it time to stop talking about digital marketing as anything different to 'marketing'. It seems that people forgot that the only real difference digital offered is the platform and the tools associated with that platform.

    At the essence of all digital marketing activities has to be the recognition that it's marketing and the same rules apply to digital as any other platform or media.

    So, if your content (positioning, consumer relevance, differentiation) are compelling your marketing will be successful. Those who understand the platform well often fail spectacularly to deliver on the marketing side of the equation because they are so obsessed with the technology.

    I agree, the technology is amazing, it's incredible what we can do now and the potential reach - but it's all for nought if the foundation of a competent marketing strategy does not underlie these activities.

    If you can get the marketing right, the platform is the leverage you have to exploit it, not the other way around.

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