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Will technology take my marketing job?

13 June 2016
by Adam Oldfield

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With advances continuing apace in the marketing technology industry, is there a danger that tech will progress to the point it can do the job of a savvy marketer?

This was the question that industry website Marketing Tech posed to Force24 last month. If you missed the resulting article, you can read it in full here…

In late 2015, employed individuals throughout the country began to question whether a ‘robot’ would steal their job. The panic transpired as a result of research conducted by Oxford University and Deloitte. The key – and widely published – finding was that 35% of UK jobs are at high risk of computerisation over the next 20 years. But the ‘find out my automation risk’ search tool, which subsequently became available on the BBC website, meant people then flocked online to learn if their chosen career would be ‘safe’.

So where does this leave marketers?

There can be no denying that the modern marketing department is being highly affected by digital transformation. Following Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey 2015-16, Yvonne Genovese, Group Vice President, Gartner for Marketing Leaders, said: “Digital marketing has moved into the mainstream, as 98% of marketers affirm that digital techniques are merging into the larger marketing operation.”

Shrewd marketing teams therefore increasingly rely on smart technology every day, whether for CRM, database management, lead generation, marketing automation, digital advertising or automated bidding strategies. The list goes on.

Even savvier marketing teams will work hard to integrate all these systems together, to achieve a single customer and campaign view. Reaching this point without tech, would be nigh-on impossible. And growth in marketing technology is undoubtedly set to continue in the API economy. But does this mean tech will put creative marketers out of a job?

No.

Many in industry have noticed a shift towards technology-enabled marketing strategies and, at a personal level, some marketers have recognised the need to reskill, either formally through academic learning or on the job. Three years ago, a marketing manager capable of running campaigns via a marketing automation platform was seen as a ‘nice to have’. These days, the ability to build, manage and measure campaigns via in-house systems is a prerequisite.

In larger organisations, we’ve even seen the rise of the marketing technologist – a team member solely focused on marketing systems and operations. This evolution shows just how important tech has become. But it also evidences the role of a person. They’re needed to make the tech tick. It can’t do great things alone.

The best marketing technology in the world is only as smart as the information being fed in. There will always be a role for applying intelligent human decision making. Marketing technology takes the ‘graft’ out of campaign reporting and relays what has happened, but it requires intuitive marketers to understand why campaigns have performed in the way they have.

And that’s why a marketing technologist isn’t the only resource within a department. Sophisticated marketing teams still have content kings, ops specialists, data analysists, creative geniuses and more. And smaller marketing departments with limited resources partner with agencies that can offer this expertise, if they can’t afford the headcount in-house.

Without this talent blend and knowledge base, how could marketers truly personalise their customer communications? Yes analysis of big data helps provide the insight. But it doesn’t produce the meaningful, next-step conversations.

And it seems the ‘Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to automation?’ study would agree. The probability of a ‘marketing associate professional’ being replaced by automation is not very likely (33%), whilst the odds are even more reassuring for a ‘marketing and sales director’ who is highly unlikely to be superseded by a robot (1%).

Technology can help facilitate so many of the fantastic things that a savvy marketer wants – and needs – to do. It can empower. It can streamline. But the role of the human is still paramount.

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Adam Oldfield
Managing Director & Founder

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