People skills vs. martech skills: You don’t have to choose

As marketing technology continues to underpin nearly every aspect of our work, marketers have to juggle efforts to not only become more adept at using martech, but to give ample focus to developing the people skills that improve their relationships with customers and other departments within their own organizations.

Striking the balance isn’t easy, and a contentious debate that broke out on LinkedIn last week showed just how difficult it is to find consensus on whether traditional, people-based marketing skills or technical know-how are more important in a world where martech is marketing.

However, it doesn’t have to be an ‘either/or” situation. Nurturing both disciplines will make you a better marketing technologist.

Making connections is essential

Companies are investing in and implementing new marketing platforms at staggering rates. Many of these companies are also recruiting and hiring new people with specific, certified skills — i.e., HubSpot or Salesforce certifications  — to run marketing programs on those platforms. On the other side, companies are hiring marketers with broader skillsets, sometimes without offering them sufficient training and ongoing enablement.

Martech skills are difficult to quantify. Establishing a foundational knowledge of how marketing technology works – and being able to drive the right results with it — will pay off for the individual and the organization in the long run.

On top of those skills, developing relationships by initiating conversations with colleagues and customers to understand their needs will improve those relationships and help you to grow in your career.

“Although it’s extremely important to keep up with the latest changes in the industry, it’s more important to have a conversation and figure out how you can provide a solution to the customer’s problem,” says Daniel Rivas, senior education consultant at Digital Marketing Institute. “Marketing isn’t a cookie-cutter approach and that’s the problem most companies seem to have.”

Martech enablement is always key 

The martech environments marketers work in are constantly changing, and investing the time to learn new platforms and consistently prioritize martech enablement is just as important. 

Marketers struggle to stay ahead of new technology advancements, and many only use a small portion of the solutions they pay for, surveys routinely show. In some cases, marketers joining a new organization inherit a “mess” of marketing systems and end up working double-duty to remediate issues while running campaigns, sharing results and keeping up with the latest trends.

Martech enablement starts with working directly with your vendor to get hands-on experience, documenting specific use cases and processes for your team and leading enablement sessions for updates relevant to your use cases, business objectives, and customer needs.  

Don’t hide behind technology

It is easy to point fingers at technology when we don’t get the results we expect. Instead of accepting time-consuming workarounds and buggy software as the status quo, marketers need to initiate conversations with their counterparts in IT and establish strategic alignment across the organization to address these problems. 

“The relationships between marketing and sales or marketing and finance can’t be fixed by creating a better stack,” said Jeremy King, executive consultant at Corporate Relationship Counseling. “It must be led by people who have the desire and the ability to listen to their colleagues in other departments and work with them to deliver the results your organization or brand needs. There are lots of CMO’s that need to work on their tech skills but those without relationship skills won’t be around long enough to worry about tech.”

Those who fail to bridge these gaps can unintentionally create tension between the teams, leading to deprioritized marketing technology projects — or people hiding behind the technology and causing internal roadblocks.

This is about us, as marketing professionals, and the considerations we need to make for our careers. “Whatever road you choose in your career, there is no ‘best’,” says Jordie van Rijn, email and martech consultant at Email Vendor Selection. “In my experience, it can be good to be excellent at one thing as long as it is not the only thing you know. Become a big fat T-shape marketer.” 

About The Author

Jennifer Videtta Cannon serves as Third Door Media’s Senior Editor, covering topics from email marketing and analytics to CRM and project management. With over a decade of organizational digital marketing experience, she has overseen digital marketing operations for NHL franchises and held roles at tech companies including Salesforce, advising enterprise marketers on maximizing their martech capabilities. Jennifer formerly organized the Inbound Marketing Summit and holds a certificate in Digital Marketing Analytics from MIT Sloan School of Management.

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