5 Roles Making Waves in Direct Marketing

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If you don't have marketers in these uniquely skilled positions on your team, now is the time to hire them. Here's why.

The evolution of direct marketing over the past several years has led to an emergence of new roles and new expectations for current ones. “Marketers have never had to know so much,” says Jerry Bernhart, founder of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, which specializes in marketing, e-commerce, and CRM. “There are just so many moving pieces to modern marketing. You need someone who is data savvy [and] analytic; someone who has a proven track record of growing a business; someone who's a financial steward; and someone who's a marketing technologist. It's the land of a thousand niches.”

Bernhart, who has been placing job candidates for more than 20 years, says that need for specificity is creating a demand for more defined roles, such as marketing analysts, data scientists, digital project managers, and social marketing strategists, as well as marketing executives who know how to capitalize on technology. “These days [senior marketers] have to be more technologically savvy than ever; they have to be able to demonstrate how technology can deliver success metrics,” he says.

But that's not all. “Marketing executives have to be innovative and have to be an advocate of the brand, an advocate for the customer, and a partner with the CEO,” Bernhart adds. “It's amazing when you think about it how much modern marketers have to bring to the table.”

Among all those attributes, an affinity for data is one that comes up most often. “The most important things [that have affected] how marketing and marketing roles have evolved are data and analytics centered on marketing,” says Michael Adler, managing partner at AC Lion, which specializes in digital, technology, and sales recruiting. Adler points out that executive recruiters like him are taxed with finding direct marketers with those data-driven, quantitative skills. “Executive jobs in marketing today require direct marketers to look at mobile, tablets, display, video, and social,” he says. “And for them it's now about looking at those as a quantitative display of the consumer. In other words, a direct marketer has to be able to look at those elements to really understand who the consumer is by collecting the data on those consumers.” 

Adler adds that marketers in evolving and emerging roles today require information—and lots it. “Really, in a marketing job today,” he says, “what can you do without data?”

Aldler, Berhart, and Sherri Bedster, division manager and recruiter at Ad+One, outline four positions that are disrupting direct marketing today: marketing analysts, data scientists, digital project managers, and social marketing strategists—all positions that are shaping up differently than in years past. They also define the modern marketing executive; underscoring how a new wave of industry expectations and emerging technology is changing the game for even the most seasoned marketers.

“These [positions] have been around for a while, but now it's just kind of sexier to be in them,” Bedster says. “Direct response, loyalty, acquisitions—these are all areas that have had a need for these positions in [direct marketing]. Their rise…has to do with mobile and social—hands down.”

Marketing analysts
The need for marketing analysts has only increased in the age of data. “The challenge, more so than ever for marketers, is how we can use data to drive actions and ideas,” Bedster says. “A huge part of that is because there's just much better availability of data than even five years ago. That puts more pressure on talent.”

The marketers coolest under the pressure of all this data are marketing analysts. “These critical thinkers look at the meaning behind the figures of marketing campaigns—from the design through post sale, such as customer feedback,” Bernhart says. “Marketing analysts help to determine what's working and what's not.”

Data scientists
The roles of the data scientist are diverse. But, for marketers looking to add data scientists to their team, Bernhart keeps the definition simple. “This role recognizes that the tracking and analysis of data is a science,” he says. “As part analyst, part artist, the data scientist examines information—particularly large amounts of data—to help a business gain a competitive edge.”

Bedster points out that finding a data scientist, however, requires identifying a candidate who understands and communicates with both the creative and analytic sides of a company. “Every industry has kind of been using [data scientists], but it's like finding a unicorn,” she say. “These people are like the bridge between social, creative, and tech teams.”

Bernhart agrees that data scientists aren't all about numbers. “They speak the language of business,” he says. “At the senior-most levels, they can also be responsible for introducing a data-driven culture to an organization that doesn't have one, so it can also be a very transformational role.”

Digital project managers
Consumers' shift to digital channels for entertainment and information and the shift in marketing spending that's followed have increased the need for digital project managers. Their focus and skill set—for example, the ability to cohesively orchestrate a campaign across disparate digital touchpoints—are different than that of other project managers. “This role allows marketers to lead major projects in the digital space; marketers can then create in the way the consumers today discover and experience marketing messages,” Adler says.

The value digital projects managers bring is apparent immediately via consumers' engagement and activity, as well as over the long term in ways such as providing insight based on those actions that can inform future campaigns. “Managing those digital experiences and how they're executed give the marketing team a deeper understanding of how and when products and messages should be implemented, both for the benefit of companies and the customers,” Adler adds.

Social marketing strategists
Social media ties in with most every aspect of marketing today, across the entire customer life cycle. “[Social marketing] strategists do more than post on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus,” Bernhart says. “They partner with other marketing-related teams, such as advertising, product teams, and public relations, to come together on key messaging to integrate into social [marketing] programs.”

Bernhart adds that through social media marketers are able to authentically inject themselves into natural conversations consumers are already having. “Just as important, social marketing strategists know how to interact with shoppers on social media, track sentiment, and make decisions based on social interactions,” he says. “They're the voice of the company's social communications: part brand ambassador, part content manager and part digital marketing evangelist.”

Modern marketing executives
There's a sort of dichotomy among leaders in marketing today. Many veteran chief marketers come from traditional backgrounds in direct mail and television, while a growing number of younger leaders are digital natives. But there are assets that both need to be successful; these include an affinity for data and analytics, the ability to look broadly across all touchpoints to create a cohesive omnichannel strategy, and a penchant for using technology to enable their marketing initiatives. “Executives in direct marketing today have to be top-tier messengers who understand the importance of an integrated strategy,” Adler says, adding that they have to be able to communicate the importance of an integrated approach both inside and outside of the company, as well. 

“Some of the top priorities in this job include breaking down internal silos, understanding the cross-channel landscape, and recognizing the value of emerging technology,” Adler emphasizes. “Today's marketers need to be a master of their customers' tools.” Those tools, like mobile devices and social platforms, help marketers to gain the 360-degree view of customers they covet. “A champion marketing executive today knows that digital drives everything,” Bedster adds.

But modern marketers don't have to be polymaths; they should be more like an orchestral conductor. “The best candidates don't have to know how to do everything,” Bedster says. “They just need to be digitally savvy and need to be able tie together all the traditional and digital channels.”

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