The Sunday Business Post

Sunday, February 24th


The emergence of digital marketing is creating new roles that did not exist five years ago, but employers should take care to hire marketers with the right mix of digital and traditional skills, writes Gareth Naughton of ‘The Sunday Business Post’.

These emerging roles are in search, social and mobile. In the search area, the roles on offer are in the areas of optimisation, search marketing and, particularly, analytics, according to Ian Dodson, chief executive of the Digital Marketing Institute.

“Ultimately, no matter what form of digital marketing you do, analytics and an understanding of how to pull the numbers together and deduce actionable insights out of them are crucial,” said Dodson.

“It is a strong, emerging field. Pulling decent insights out of data is one of the challenges with digital. There is so much data available to companies, the challenge becomes how to decipher the data and pick the information that you use to make decisions like where to base spend or focus on.”

Social networking

Social networking has been responsible for the most obvious shift in marketing departments with companies bringing in their own teams and to take care of Facebook, Twitter and the rest rather than outsource to an agency.

For organisations accustomed to delivering a centralised message and speaking with one voice, consumer demand for interaction over social media is a significant challenge. “With social, one of the problems is that you cannot outsource your soul,” said Dodson.

“We are seeing companies hire people back in to deal with social media. You are talking about everything from copywriters and content writers right through to community managers.

“You need people who can write and communicate through social media, who are able to reflect the tone and extend  into that company’s brand on the internet.”

New Technologies

The advent of mobile, and the continuing evolution of smartphones and tablets, is giving companies a new marketing platform that will become increasingly important as the technology develops.

Although this may seem like an area for app developers, there are opportunities for marketing specialists, Dodson said.

“There are technical and programming roles, but it is very concretely sitting within the marketing sphere in terms of being able to communicate with people and now adding that additional element that mobile brings, which is that whole location aspect. It is not just sitting at a computer at home, now we are searching or interacting in a context,” he said.

Companies also need to be mindful that digital goes beyond the marketing department and will become a factor throughout the organisation.

“What you are seeing are digital channels actually spreading right across the organisation, so it is not just the marketing people who will be challenged by these digital channels, it is everyone in the company,” said Dodson. “Ultimately, it is a paradigm shift away from a company-centric view of the world to a customer-centric view and that means that companies have to adapt.”

Skills shortage

The common refrain in digital marketing circles is that Ireland is about two years behind our British counterparts. There is an understandable skills shortage across the board, according to Colin Lewis, a fellow of the Marketing Institute of Ireland.

“It has exploded very quickly,” Lewis said. “The training has not had a chance to catch up and people have not had a chance to train up their skills. A lot of companies believe they need to source this externally. It takes existing people a while to build up skills and there is a lag there: people who did not upskill five years ago are behind the times.”

This is a full-employment sector and those with the right skills are in high demand, Lewis said that companies needed a combination of people who are skilled in traditional and digital marketing.

“You have a fleet of specialists who need to be expert. The people who want to move up the marketing channel don’t need to be experts but they need to be able to understand it, because with the talent to manage these people, understand the creative aspect and really see where they plug in right across all channels, those are the guys who can make the real difference. That is the digital end game.”

Getting the skills necessary is not an insurmountable problem. Organisation like the DMI, MII and the Digital Skills Academy are among a number offering courses in digital marketing ranging from seminars right up to full-time postgrads and much of the training is practical.

“What we have now is this continuous education requirement and it does not stop, because you have to keep on top of both the features and the technology capabilities and what that means for the business and how to mange the people with those specific skills,” he said.

“Instead of continuous professional development being something that was nice to have, it is now going to be the only thing that will make you survive in your marketing career. What you learn today, even with the best course, will have to change in two years time.

“The thinking is changing very quickly on the back of it. How you create brands used to be straightforward. People are now launching brands, huge international brands, without using the old channels.”

While there is no doubt that the emergence of digital marketing has created new roles and significant opportunities for those with specific skills, at mid-to-senior level there is an emphasis on commercial marketeers who can oversee and plan across a wide range of channels both traditional and digital.

Colm Buckley, managing director of The People Group, said there had been a noticeable shift: employers were thinking less about cost-cutting and more about growth.

“The accountants and, to some degree, the HR people have been the power base in a lot of blue chip corporates in Ireland over the last three to four years”, said Buckley, and ” it has been about cost-cutting, reducing the numbers of people and doing more with less for less. Over the last year – and this will continue in 2013 – a lot of chief executives have been saying: ‘how are we going to do more with less marketing spend and fewer sales people?’.

“Traditional marketing, or integrated marketing, including digital is coming back to the table. If someone is looking for a digital marketer only, I would question that. They are most probably looking for a good marketer in a practical sense who has digital knowledge and experience,” he said.

That said, like the IT sector, there is a distinct shortage of strong traditional marketeers with a good solid grounding in digital in Ireland.

This supply and demand issue has resulted in those who do fit the bill being able to command a premium.

“There has been a bit of panic in the market over the last two or three years here. The supply of good digital marketeers has not been there. It is very new in Ireland so they do command higher salaries. Where you are getting a traditional marketing director in a blue chip company for 100,000, a digital marketing director is going to cost you 140,000,” he said.

The traditional marketing manager should also take heed that burying their head in the sand and ignoring digital will do them no favours.

Yes, they need to have solid marketing foundations but the future will be in integrated marketing where companies reach out to consumers with a cohesive strategy, and digital is going to play a significant role in that. It is not going away.

“There is no doubt about it but the people in their 30s and 40s need to get with the script, upskill, get some digital skills and be able to talk that language. But at the end of the day, companies who are looking for people in that age and experience bracket are always looking for a commercial marketeers – If someone has digital skills, that will definitely enhance their position in the running,” said Buckley.

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