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What will be the impact of AI on marketing jobs?

By Expert commentator 20 Mar, 2017
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How to keep your marketing job and stay competitive as traditional jobs disappear and Artificial Intelligence erodes demand for some marketing skills but increases the demand for others

When robots named Pepper are taking orders at Pizza Hut, it’s safe to say that we’re entering the era of automation. Traditional jobs are being automated out of existence on a daily basis. And it’s happening in every industry, from healthcare to marketing.

Yet most marketers aren’t concerned about becoming irrelevant in the near future. This is short-sighted; acknowledging that many marketing jobs aren’t going to be around in another 10–20 years is the first step to staying competitive in an uncertain future.

How many jobs are disappearing?

In 2015 alone, nearly 2.4 million U.S. jobs were outsourced to other countries. And nearly every major American company has been accused of outsourcing or automating their jobs overseas.

By some estimates, artificial intelligence will cause the loss of 7.1 million jobs across 15 leading economies over the next five years. For example, as chatbots improve, millions of customer service representatives around the world will lose their jobs. And as developers get better at automating certain parts of their jobs, they’re unwittingly replacing themselves.

Clearly, something needs to be done to prepare the future workforce for a changing global economy and increasingly digital world. This is especially true for more traditional departments, like advertising, design, and marketing.

How can marketers stay relevant in the 21st century?

Most marketers have to accept that what they’re familiar with won’t be around forever. Many of my marketing colleagues have been in this industry for multiple decades, and their skills are getting more and more out of date.

To stay in demand in an increasingly digitized marketplace, marketers have to learn new skills fast: they have to become digital marketers in every sense of the word (not just in title).

Lead generation is being automated

A great example of fast-paced automation in the marketing world is marketing automation, which by some estimates has only existed since 2011. Yet in only 5 years, marketing automation has drastically decreased headcounts at large companies.

The entire inbound marketing funnel (e.g., lead qualification, lead capture, data reporting, etc.) can be automated using SaaS services. For many corporations, no human interaction with customers is needed, especially for B2C products.

What this means for marketers: knowing how to write direct response copy and sell a product or service using language isn’t enough anymore. Digital marketers will have to be proficient with email marketing platforms like InfusionSoft and marketing automation platforms like HubSpot to really leverage their know-how.

But people are still needed for creativity

On the other hand, a marketing automation funnel can only be created and set up if someone comes up with a digital marketing strategy, decides which metrics to track, and actually creates all the content.

In other words, as more companies adopt marketing automation, content creation and strategy services will also be in higher demand than ever before. The Internet has created a high demand, high supply ecosystem for digital and traditional marketing skills as a whole.

So not all marketing jobs will be automated; far from it. But digital skills are slowly but surely ousting traditional skills when it comes to hireability. Put another way, more and more customers have digital jobs that only digital marketers can accomplish (it’s not too hard to guess who they’ll hire for those jobs).

The future of marketing is already very different from what we’re used to. But it’s only going to get more and more specialized. That’s why all marketers must prepare to learn and do the things that automation cannot.

How to keep the workforce relevant

For marketers to react and adapt in time to automation, Chief Marketing Officers and Talent Officers must encourage an open-minded culture of digital learning for employees. This won’t just boost productivity and enthusiasm—it will make the products and services you offer far more attractive, too.

Learn new skills that solve the latest customer needs

When Google updated its algorithms to punish SEO gamers and reward high-quality content, most marketers took notice. But few actually knew how to pivot accordingly because they were already set in their ways.

They wanted to keep selling outdated SEO tactics because those same tactics had worked in the past. Instead, they should have been thinking of how Google’s bold move changed up the jobs that clients needed to get done.

As Theodore Levitt famously explained, “People don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” The problem is that it’s a lot easier to sell quarter-inch drills (a product/service) than it is to sell quarter-inch holes (a job that needs to get done).

Today, the most in-demand, winning marketers focused most of their budget on creating big, evergreen content for their clients that could be reused and reshared. They do this because they understand the changing content landscape that Google nurtures with every change to their algorithm and they know what jobs their clients need to do as a result. The losing agencies continued to pour all their money into black hat SEO, and continue to see their revenue vanish.

The moral of the story is that the latest marketing techniques will be new one day and old the next. That’s why fostering and encouraging a digital-first culture prepares you and your employees for an unpredictable future.

Understanding how to do an SEO audit and identifying your target keywords, figuring out your ad budget for Facebook, determining how to set up your ROI metrics in Google Analytics—these are all core marketing skills that every marketer should have. And learning the basics of digital marketing will not only net you more clients, it will also lead to:

  • Greater productivity
  • Better retention and staff empowerment
  • Improved consistency, compliance, and confidence
  • More time and resources for strategic opportunities and planning
  • Happier customers who get the right message at the right place and at the right time

Invest in your current employees

If you’re a traditional marketer and digital marketing is an alien ecosystem, it may be tempting to just hire outside pros with the skills you need. But there are several major advantages to training employees you already have.

First, training always costs less than seeking out new employees. For many digital marketing businesses, the cost of hiring a qualified worker is about 50 to 60 percent of an annual salary. And if that employee leaves, all that money is wasted. By comparison, training an employee you already have is much more affordable.

Second, studies show that training existing employees not only ensures they are prepared for their job, but also reinforces their sense of value. Remember: these people already know your brand and your values in a way that new hires don’t. So if you show your employees that you understand their value by offering a helpful learning program, they’ll show commitment to you. This will reduce your turnover rate and allow you to smoothly transition workers to new roles when necessary.

For example, ClearPivot, an inbound marketing agency, requires new hires and current employees to complete certifications directly related to their role. And new hire onboarding is designed to be flexible and change as digital skills change. It’s no surprise that ClearPivot consistently ranks among the best marketing agencies in the country.

Staying hungry and competitive

If you’re totally new to digital marketing and aren’t sure where to start, or if you need to open up the shed and sharpen your tools, TopRank Marketing Blog recommends reading all the latest industry news and free content you can get your hands on. You should also attend webinars whenever possible and hold workshops with your employees to discuss what you’ve learned.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how much you know right now or how many digital skills you already have—the key to successfully adapting to a digital marketplace is to constantly think about your services from a jobs-to-be-done point of view. You need to be able to recognize, after any shift in the market or its technology, what new jobs your clients need to get done the most.

Of course, it’s also important to stay hungry and competitive. And today, that’s easier than ever. You can learn just about anything you want, for free, on any device.

So if your employees are always learning the latest digital marketing skills and technologies, they’ll be ready for whatever comes their way. More importantly, it will become the norm for your hires, and learning new skills will be second nature.

By encouraging digital learning and regularly checking the pulse of your agency’s digital competency, you’ll be investing in an organization that will always stay in step with its customers, one that will stand the test of time.

By Expert commentator

This is a post we've invited from a digital marketing specialist who has agreed to share their expertise, opinions and case studies. Their details are given at the end of the article.

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) for marketing

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