Technology Challenges Facing Today’s Marketing Workforce

My friend Steven Slater recently began working In his new capacity he places senior marketing executives at large companies.

Steven told me about the new position at CommCore‘s 30th Anniversary party (pictured above) last month in Washington, DC. While we chatted he mentioned how technology was providing some of the greatest challenges for companies seeking capable marketers, ad for potential marketing executives trying to find work. I followed up with Steven, and asked him some deeper questions about these difficulties. Here are his insightful answers.


GL: What is the biggest challenge facing company’s trying to recruit able marketers?

SS: It would be hard for me to identify one challenge when there are multiple, which in every one of my cases, are directly or indirectly related to marketing technology. Senior marketing leaders are facing increasing pressure from leadership to make the most of technology investments – to achieve company-wide objectives that the technology was promised to deliver.

Coupled with this, senior marketers are uncertain of skills needed. And, believe it or not, some hiring managers are finding frustration hiring and retaining junior staff to perform in less technical marketing roles, because new entrants are rushing to acquire technology cred to their resumes.

GL: Why are marketers struggling so much to embrace technology tools?

SS: There are a combination of factors, most of which I believe are intimidation, complexity and cost. Given these, it’s often easier to ignore the issue, or take baby steps, as I’ve heard it said. As an aside, ‘baby steps’ creates difficulty scaling, because hard won added resources yield only incremental capabilities.

For the brave, here’s just a flavor of the issue:

A) The tens of numbers of competing vendors with tools–online applications, bolt-ons, stand-alones, with myriad capabilities for Customer Relationship Management, Marketing Automation, and Content Management Systems, among others, serve to create daunting decisions.

B) There are numerous capabilities within one system, which alone are rarely used to capacity. Then, some companies have multiple, integrated systems, connected to create seamless capabilities from demand generation to lead generation to funnel conversions and to close, and more. These have somewhat complex processes for data owners with hand offs and usage rules. Other companies have get even more sophisticated an integrated system, to systems of systems, often tied in some fashion with Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP platforms, spanning enterprise wide with integrated cross operational capabilities.

C) Marketers are often the front line of managing these systems, putting in place the controls for usage and figuring out ways to avoid corrupting data, so the output is remains of value.

D) Marketers are also responsible for the knowledge and resources that go into norms and best practices for social media. And they must ensure through metrics that resources expended for content generation achieve intended results, and that technology and processes are in place to capture the data, and the entire operation is continually improved.

E) Most often marketers also are responsible for data collection and analysis, including from their own systems collecting any and all data generated from inbound and outbound communications, with additional capabilities to mine market intelligence, competitive intelligence, discover market opportunities, and to test concepts and forecast results, along with other predictive measures leadership can use to reliably deciding how to invest for growth.

GL: How can companies find more capable marketers?

SS: The answer is not so straightforward, and in my opinion, the biggest conundrum. The technology has evolved more rapidly then available documentation (economic-based) that would help inform and advise HR professionals who in turn could advise hiring managers.

A recent statistic cited nearly 50% of marketing hires failing in six months due to mis-alignment of skills to business needs and requirements. This occurs on both sides of the hiring equation between a candidate and hiring managers. The dialogue goes something like this: A candidate says, “Yes, I can do that,” and hiring managers believe a ‘marketer’ is a ‘marketer,’ so he/she should be able to perform. But today, no two marketers are alike.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which defines and categorizes the U.S. workforce by jobs, titles and wages, have yet to tackle today’s marketing roles. Meantime, academia continues to churn out marketing candidates that are the same as yesterday’s marketing candidates.

Based on a 6-month study that I conducted this year, I was able to determine based on hundreds of marketing job requisitions, that hiring marketers truly need candidates who have: sophisticated statistics in order to develop and test scenarios with volumes of collected data; economic understanding to identify internal and external market influences and pressures to anticipate buying patterns, to unwind business models, and to help anticipate market cycles; an analytical ability for ways of gathering and measuring useful data, and overall, develop order to data chaos; strategic thinking to help align capabilities from technology to organizational objectives; and not least, the ability to compile compelling presentations that leadership can easily digest for decision making.

In practicality, though, hiring managers should focus on those who think strategically, are comfortable with process, or learning process to help it evolve for efficiency without sacrificing quality, and who posses a “have-no-fear” approach to experimenting with technology, yet who starts their exploration with a mindset of a desire outcome.

GL: Is there an answer or a solution to the capability gap?

SS: Yes, I believe the solution wrests in the hands of academia. Their entry requirements, curriculums, and graduation requirements must better align with employers’ hiring needs – along the lines of marketing is now a much “harder-skill” discipline then it was taught.

GL: Do you see technology continuing to create this disparity or will the next generation of marketers be better at adapting to new technologies and methods?

SS: I have little doubt the next generation will be superior, primarily because far fewer systems will exist, and skills, therefore, will be better defined, categorized and quantified.

To me, the past is a very clear barometer of the future, and it has proven over time that technology tends to narrow to a few, manageable number of competitors. When that occurs in our case for existing marketing technology, then a near perfect alignment of skills will occur, and the gap will disappear.

Case in point, at the turn of the 20th century, there were dozens of U.S. automobile manufacturers, yet only three survived 100 years. The big three U.S. auto manufacturers compete with few other American companies due to the high barrier to entry.

The same will occur with the technology used by marketers. If anyone remains unsure, I challenge them to find a 2015 resume listing skills in Wordperfect, Dbase, or Lotus.

About Steven Slater

Steven Slater is a marketer and business developer who has staffed, built and run marketing departments for commercial and non-profit organizations ranging in size from $1M to $5 Billion.

As the field of marketing has evolved into a digital environment, he is focused on improving marketing performance by connecting hiring managers with those who have a unique set of skills and capabilities. A perpetual student and practitioner of marketing innovation, he has spent the past year studying the widening gap between skills and organizational needs, using the findings to chart a mix of required skills–the ingredients to marketing success in a digital age.

Steven is part of long-established Employment Enterprises, Inc. and works alongside people and services from Temporary Solutions. This helps him offer marketing people skills as contingent-consultative or permanent staff – or, in other words, the right skilled individuals, at the right time to solve digital challenges.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Online Cause Marketing

The above presentation was delivered to the Cause Marketing Forum last Tuesday, February 15. It focused on lessons learned integrating social media into cause marketing campaigns, and how the influx of conversations requires a new level of authenticity from causes and nonprofits.

All of the campaigns featured were from 2010 or 2011 with the exception of one (Haagen Dazs). Here is a discussion of three of the campaigns, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly featured in the first half of the presentation.

The Good: AMEX’s Small Business Saturday

Eastwood good ugly

American Express launched its Small Business Saturday campaign to encourage Americans to purchase from small businesses the day after Black Friday. Primarily a Facebook effort, AMEX integrated the application with a media push that included a launch with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as a Twitter campaign.

For every Fan Page “Like” up to 500,000 (the page surpassed 1.4 million), AMEX gave a $1 donation to Girls, Inc. to foster female entrepreneurship. Small businesses were featured on the page, and 10,000 small business owners received $100 worth of social advertising from Facebook.

The campaign had a lot to like about it: There was an obvious tie to American Express’s business, demonstrating authenticity. The effort integrated media relations, online advertising, and influencers and Twitter, all in addition to the strong use of the Facebook application. There were several great calls to action including a like turned into a dollar for Girls, Inc.; in exchange for signing up and spending, consumers got a discount; and using the wall to share small business stories, which along with Twitter encouraged participation and engagement.

The only possible improvements would be extending it beyond a moment in time, and making it a sustainable effort. In addition, there was too much focus on Facebook as the final destination with not enough traffic driving back to the AMEX site.

The Bad: Groupon’s Super Bomb

Van Cleef Good Ugly l

Not much more needs to be said about Groupon’s series of “humanitarian” ads. An attempt to make fun of American consumerism, the ads just insulted a good portion of the country, not to mention the Chinese government. In addition to the questionable creative, numerous tactical errors were made making Groupon’s 2011 Super Bowl ads one of the worst cause marketing campaigns ever.

No call to action helping the charities was present in the ads, and Groupon did not include an obvious URL. There was no explanation of the ideas behind the ads on Groupon’s social channels. When the blogosphere blew up, Groupon did not address concerns, instead it justified the attempted joke on their blog. Further, Groupon did not engage bloggers directly, and disregarded feedback. It took four days of mounting criticism for the company to pull the ads.

The Ugly: KFC’s Buckets for the Cure


While selling a lot of buckets of chicken for charity ($8 million donated), this partnership had issues due to the tie between Komen’s mission to cure breast cancer, and KFC producing fatty foods. Komen’s own site had research demonstrating obesity as a precursor for older women developing breast cancer. This represents a larger issue where a nonprofit and company choose money over strategic partnerships, dancing with the wrong partner and degrading brand value.

When people put two and two together, bad blog posts started popping up. This campaign went from being a lethal generosity win for both parties to a full on blogodrama.

Here’s a breakdown of the good and the bad on the Buckets for the Cure: First of all financially, it has to be considered a win. Lots of chicken sold and money raised. But it was poorly engineered from the get-go as the Komen web site contradicted the campaign with its research. There was no explanation of why Komen chose KFC as a partner, and what they hope the relationship demonstrated.

Then there was no major social media component, but social media ended up being a key media set when bloggers took to their WordPresses. The good was that KFC engaged directly with bloggers and probably made friends, stopping the bad publicity from spreading too far. However, Komen completely ignored it, and 2010 and 2011 acts have continued to negatively impact their online and offline reputation.


Again, the whole presentation is above, but here are the concluding points for online cause marketers:

  • Civic media is the great opportunity to embrace customer voices
  • It can also turn on us
  • To avoid worst case scenarios, cause marketing campaigns need better engineering
  • Campaigns need authenticity mapping to corporate cultures and ethos
  • Use the tools to connect dots for stakeholders
  • Have your own site, use Facebook and Twitter for In AND Outbound
  • Empower stakeholders to participate, embrace and own your story
  • Be prepared for the ugly, and evolve (two way dialogue)