What Will the Marketing Department of the Future Look Like?

Marketing expert Steven Van Belleghem explains how small businesses can adapt their marketing techniques to utilise changes in structure, platforms and audience

What Will the Marketing Department of the Future Look Like?

The digital world we live in today and the ongoing development of technologies has seen the roles and skills required in marketing departments change dramatically in recent years. In many cases, organisations have been slow to react to these changes and have stuck with a traditional structure for their marketing departments.

Increasingly, smart businesses are recognising how being flexible and agile is the key to remaining competitive in fast-paced markets, and I believe we will see companies adopt a similar approach when it comes to their marketing departments.

Focus on your business’ brand:

The key thing all companies should focus on is the strategy of their brand. In most contemporary marketing departments brand managers have to invest too much time in operational or tactical issues, and consequently don’t have time to manage the real purpose or strategy of the brand.

I would argue that the best marketers are the ones that have the ability to take a strategic view, but also have the hands on expertise to know how to execute the nuts and bolts of a campaign. Especially when it comes to digital and social, I think it is important to know how to do it yourself. Even if leaders don’t need to do it anymore because they are higher up the organisational chart, it is still very valuable to know the little tricks and limitations of the various digital channels.

Have a flexible team in place:

The most important thing a strategic marketer should have is support from experts. These experts might be part of the company, but could increasingly be people from outside the organisation.

An increasingly common challenge for many companies is the ability to attract digital talent. What’s more, the skill-sets required in marketing change so quickly that what is needed today may be different by the time you have been all the way through the recruitment process. Coupled with this, the growth of lean and virtual businesses mean there is also a strong trend for really talented young staff to take the initiative and start their own company. This makes it questionable whether big organisations will still be capable of attracting the very best talent available for themselves in future.

Putting everybody on the payroll makes organisations slow and less flexible, and in today’s digital world it is vital to be fast, agile and responsive in order to be competitive. In my opinion, the way marketing departments of the future will succeed is by working with a network of trusted external parties.

These small, specialised companies or individuals can help marketing managers quickly and efficiently when you need them, but don’t drain resources when they are not required. These smaller players have more time to learn, experiment and develop the latest techniques, so businesses can make the most of them while they are effective, but stay lean enough to call on others’ expertise when their needs change.

In-house roles should focus on strategy:

Companies should always keep the strategy side of the business in-house. A modern marketing department could consist of project managers – a group who is responsible for executing the strategy by being the link between the company and the network of experts.

As a result of this, a number of the more operational jobs in internal marketing departments could disappear in the not-too-distant future as companies start to employ smaller teams and utilise more independent outside experts. In terms of prospects and skillsets required for marketing professionals, this highlights the increasing value of a strategic focus and the importance of staying up-to-date with the latest techniques and technologies.

This guide was written by Prof. Steven Van Belleghem, author of When Digital Becomes Human, which is out in April 2015.

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