Building Marketing Leaders of the Future

Inside a new roadmap of core skills to drive vision and leadership in the industry.

What does it take to be a leader in marketing?

The answer has changed dramatically in recent years as the responsibilities of today’s marketers have expanded in scope. While strengths that used to set marketers apart — like crafting a powerful brand voice and a brilliant go-to-market strategy — are still more important than ever, leaders today need to be technology savvy, data fluent, and measurement focused. They must be equipped to decide which systems power their strategies, connect the customer experience across an array of channels, and address new innovations such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence. They are also accountable for demonstrating and optimizing ROI.

As marketing’s purview has widened, we’ve seen individual roles become increasingly narrow and specialized, creating silos of digital capability. Budding marketers often focus on technical skills around a specific set of digital tools such as Optimizely and AdWords that translate to growing sub-fields, including conversion rate optimization and SEO/SEM.

The problem with this approach is that by focusing on a limited set of tactical skills rather than the broader goals those skills help achieve, marketers risk losing visibility into how brands grow. They also lose the ability to solve complex problems that span beyond their immediate domain.

This creates several human capital challenges:

  1. Lack of leadership development: Narrow skill sets are not suited to leadership roles in marketing, which increasingly require synthesis across channels and touchpoints.
  2. Lack of career guidance: To grow beyond narrow domains, marketers need clear guidance on what skills they should develop and what career options become available as a result.
  3. Lack of clarity in hiring: Without clarity around the essential marketing skills or how to assess for them, recruiters can only guess at who might be a high-potential candidate. And without clear expectations, new hires are not set up for success.

To better prepare the next generation of marketers, leaders across the industry urgently need to come together to explain the broad set of skills needed for success in the field today. As a wide-ranging set of marketing leaders across the consumer goods, technology, publishing, and education sectors, we formed the Marketing Standards Board to channel our collective experience toward this purpose. With the goal of defining excellence in the field and providing transparency into marketing careers, we’ve crafted a framework that will help provide this clarity for individuals, teams, and business partners.

What Makes a Marketer?

Marketing is comprised of 4 major functions, each with a distinct goal:

1. Brand: Define and communicate brand purpose, value, and experience.

  • Brand marketers are responsible for brand strategy, brand communications, and working across the organization to create a holistic customer experience.
  • Sample job titles: VP of global brand, director of integrated marketing, brand manager

2. Acquisition: Win new customers for your products and services.

  • Acquisition marketers are responsible for acquiring customers within a given budget. They run campaigns and think strategically to improve performance.
  • Sample job titles: Director of search engine marketing, lead generation specialist

3. Retention and Loyalty: Retain customers and expand share of wallet.

  • Retention and loyalty marketers are responsible for engaging customers. They deeply understand the consumer journey and work to maximize customer lifetime value.
  • Sample job titles: Manager of CRM, director of brand activation

4. Analytics and Insights: Get business insights and drive ROI using data.

  • Marketing analysts are responsible for analyzing increasingly large volumes of data to derive insight that informs business decisions.
  • Sample job titles: Marketing analytics manager, data scientist — marketing

These four functions are common threads of marketing, and they frame goals that haven’t changed over time. They were true when TV, print, and radio were the dominant media, remain true today with the prominence of web and mobile, and will remain true for whatever media and products come next. Although the execution required to achieve these goals has changed due to new tools and technology, the underlying purpose provides a stable frame of reference to understand and explain our profession.

Experienced marketers will often find the skills needed for their role spread across more than one of these functions, given that a single role is often accountable for multiple goals that require a blend of skills.

A Career Framework for Marketing

With the four functions of marketing in mind, we have drafted a framework that captures our collective thinking about the career paths and associated skills required in marketing today.

For more details and insights, feel free to book a meeting session with our Experts