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What upskilling in marketing means in the era of AI

Published Nov 23 2023 7 minute read Last updated Apr 23 2024
upskilling in marketing
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In digital marketing, change is the only true constant. Out of all of the recent advancements, the rapid development of new artificial intelligence (AI) applications has been one of the most disruptive. The rules of the game are changing, and marketers must adapt or fall behind. Today's marketing demands that you're not just a creator of campaigns but a sage of data, a decryptor of algorithms, and a whiz at strategic execution. To stay relevant, you must improve your skills quickly as technology advances.

If you're at the helm of marketing initiatives, especially for those who wear the CMO title, the surge of AI is both a conundrum and a call to action. In an industry being reborn through technological innovation, how do you ensure that your role remains viable and valuable? Is AI poised to replace you?

The challenge is to not just adapt to AI but to master it. You must wield it to your advantage and amplify your strategic prowess, all while devising marketing strategies that move your audience to the core.

So, how can you transform these ground-breaking shifts into catalysts for your professional growth? Which strategies should you adopt to reinforce your marketing arsenal in this new era of digital engagement? The answer lies in continuous upskilling. 

Join us to explore why expanding your marketing skills is vital, the necessary capabilities to acquire, and how you can shape the future of your industry.

The marketing arena redefined by AI

Step into the arena where AI is not just an undercurrent but a powerful wave remolding the marketing sector. Big data no longer plays a supporting role — it's now the show's star, powering personalized marketing tactics that have become the standard. Your task is to skillfully conduct this intricate data performance, blending analytical accuracy with creative expression.

Working with AI in marketing is like being the director of a constantly evolving performance. Here, innovation is relentless, and algorithms are the dynamic artists that adapt with each moment. It's crucial to treat AI not merely as a tool in your arsenal but as a key performer in your strategic show. It becomes an indispensable part of choreographing consumer experiences, crafting hyper-personalized content, and revolutionizing campaign management with unparalleled efficiency.

The harmony between human creativity and AI's computational might is a strategic fusion. It's about creating a partnership where technology acts as a lever to elevate human ingenuity. 

The upskilling imperative: what marketers need to learn

To ride the relentless wave of digital marketing innovation, one must become a virtuoso of versatility. Think of upskilling in marketing as the lifeline that keeps you relevant in an ocean of data and technology. It will enable you to seize opportunities, experiment with new strategies, and adapt your skillset to fit the times. With 85% of marketers reporting that they have updated their skill sets because of AI, upskilling has become vital to staying competitive and future-proofing your career.

Data analysis: unearthing insights from the digital depths

Funnel's Marketing Data State of Play 2024 shows that data skills will be more important than ever going forward. In fact, 58% of marketers surveyed say that they are upskilling in data analysis.

The ability to dive into the digital depths and emerge with actionable insights is what sets apart the new breed of marketers. Data analysis is no longer about surface-level number crunching. It's about deep mining, predictive modeling, and sentiment analysis. It's understanding not just the 'what' of customer behavior but the 'why' and the 'how.' 

As a marketer, your upskill path should be strewn with statistical knowledge. This may involve acquiring proficiency in tools such as R or Python for advanced analysis. It should also entail cultivating an intuitive understanding of consumer analytics platforms. Mastering these will allow you to identify and predict trends that can inform hyper-targeted campaigns.

Visualization: the art of influencing decisions

In the high-speed world of marketing, a well-crafted visualization is like a dramatic pause, commanding attention and underscoring key themes. It's the skill of distilling vast, complex data into a story that's at once simple, clear, and impossible to ignore. This is where proficiency in tools like Tableau or PowerBI becomes invaluable. These tools will allow you to create dashboards and visuals that speak directly to C-suite executives or clients.

At its best, great visualization will allow your data points to converse, conflict, and converge to point the way forward. Your learning in this area should go beyond mere technical skills to create visuals. It needs to expand to a narrative ability to help you make your data sing a story that persuades and informs.

Technical acumen: beyond SEO to the symphony of systems

SEO remains a foundational pillar in the digital marketing temple, but the new age demands a broader set of technical skills. Modern marketers must orchestrate a digital symphony with various software and platforms. Knowing how to use marketing automation tools like HubSpot or Marketo is as important as SEO knowledge. Allowing you to enhance campaign personalization and reach through automation, these tools make every customer interaction a step toward conversion.

In the second part of this technical symphony, you need a basic understanding of coding and web analytics. This involves looking beneath the surface to see how actions on your digital platforms can trigger marketing automation, such as sending emails or delivering personalized content.

Upskilling in this area means understanding how systems work together to create a seamless user experience. You can create a connected digital marketing system as you become more familiar with these technical aspects. This system should be able to predict user behavior and adapt to it in real time, making your marketing strategy dynamic and responsive.

Understanding AI and marketing data quality

Navigating AI's potential in marketing begins with a simple yet profound principle: "garbage in, garbage out." High-caliber AI predictions are contingent on the quality of data ingested. For marketers, this means moving beyond simply collecting copious amounts of data. 

Instead, you should be curating a repository where each data point is verifiable, relevant, and actionable. Every piece of data — from user clicks to engagement metrics — needs to be clean, categorized, and current for AI to wield it effectively.

In the practical sense, this means developing a competency in data hygiene practices, being proficient in the use of data cleaning tools, and having a hawk eye for anomalies within datasets. It also means understanding the sources of your data. Are customer insights being gathered from verified touchpoints? Is the behavioral data reflecting the actual customer journey? 

Rigor in these areas ensures that when AI comes into play, it's operating on a foundation set for success, not failure.

The human element: creativity and strategic thinking in the age of AI

While AI may be a virtuoso in processing information and identifying patterns, it lacks the innate human capacity for creative problem-solving and nuanced strategic planning. In your journey to upskill, pivot towards cultivating areas where human intelligence shines. For instance, develop the ability to interpret AI-generated data creatively. Think laterally about what AI's insights mean for emerging market opportunities. And consider how narrative storytelling can bring a human touch to data-driven campaigns. 

Specifically, you could focus on workshops or courses that enhance creative ideation techniques or strategic scenario planning. It's also advantageous to immerse yourself in environments that challenge conventional thinking, such as cross-disciplinary teams or industry think tanks, where the collision of diverse ideas sparks innovation. 

Remember that AI is a tool to inform and expedite. However, the unique human abilities to craft a brand story that tugs at emotions or to strategize a market disruption remain at the core of marketing. These skills are developed through experience, continuous learning, and a keen eye for understanding human behavior.

Building the marketing teams of tomorrow

For CMOs charting the future, crafting a resilient marketing team is pivotal. This entails strategic hiring that zeroes in on a candidate's potential for adaptability and growth. As AI and data analytics redefine the marketing landscape, look for professionals who exhibit robust analytical thinking, creativity, and a proactive approach to technology.

The focus should be on assembling a team with a balanced skillset. Look for those who can interpret data with the eye of a scientist but strategize with the vision of an artist. Invest in continuous professional development, encouraging team members to stay ahead of technological advancements and marketing trends. Foster a culture that celebrates agility and regards the ability to adapt as a core element of the team's identity. This fusion of diversity, flexibility, and continuous learning will not only ensure the survival but also the triumph of your marketing team in the future.

Analytics and attribution in an era of uncertainty

The shift towards probabilistic analytics is reshaping the marketing landscape. In this emerging terrain, a deep understanding of statistical concepts such as standard deviations, predictive modeling, and trend analysis is becoming indispensable. Marketers are now required to navigate a realm teeming with data yet clouded by uncertainty. This means making decisions not based on absolutes but on the strength of evidence and the probability of outcomes.

Integrating these probabilistic models calls for a shift toward a more nuanced approach to analytics. Teams should develop the skill to interpret different levels of data reliability and understand the range of possible outcomes. This statistical proficiency enables marketers to allocate their resources more efficiently and make more precise forecasts about future trends.

Upskilling pathways: how to start and where to go

Forging an upskilling journey in marketing requires a strategic approach to learning. Here are several paths you can take to elevate your marketing capabilities:

  • Online marketing courses: Platforms like LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and Udemy are treasure troves for marketers eager to sharpen their skills. Pick courses focusing on AI in marketing, advanced SEO techniques, or data visualization.
  • Certification programs: Validate your advanced marketing skills with certifications from Google Analytics Academy, HubSpot Academy, or the Digital Marketing Institute. These certifications are often recognized as industry standards and can bolster a resume.
  • Data analytics specialization: Delve into the numbers game with analytics courses offered by universities through platforms like edX, or specialize in data science on Khan Academy to understand the intricacies of marketing data.
  • Hands-on tools training: Get practical experience with tools like Tableau for visualization, Salesforce for customer relationship management, and SEMrush for SEO. Many of these platforms offer their own training and certifications.
  • Workshops and webinars: Keep an eye out for workshops and webinars by industry leaders. These can provide the latest insights and are a chance to network with other marketing professionals.
  • Peer learning and networking: Join marketing forums and LinkedIn groups or attend marketing meetups to learn from your peers and stay abreast of current best practices and emerging trends.

Staying ahead in marketing: the upskill path and Funnel's role

In the whirlwind of digital marketing's evolution, powered by the dual engines of AI and big data, the mantra for marketers is clear: upskill or be left behind. Honing data analysis, perfecting the storytelling of data visualization, and broadening your tech toolkit are the new survival skills in this jungle of innovation.

This is where Funnel comes in — a beacon for the data-tangled marketer. Funnel provides a user-friendly, no-code platform that simplifies data operations, making it easier for marketers to become data-savvy without being overwhelmed by the technicalities. It empowers marketers to clean, organize, and leverage their data, turning it into a solid foundation for strategic execution with just a few clicks.

But tools alone are not enough. For real impact, marketers need the right knowledge to wield these tools effectively. Remember, data is just a means to an end. It's the storytelling, creativity, strategic thinking, and continuous learning that give data its value. 

The future doesn't just belong to the data-rich — it belongs to those who can dance with data.

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