Congratulations! You’re working in one of the fastest-paced, most rapidly changing industries around — marketing. Between technology and techniques that are constantly changing and sophisticated buyers who are also evolving how they shop, evaluate and purchase your products and solutions, you’re challenged with growing your skills to keep up with this changing landscape.
Staying ahead of trends, technologies and your competitors can feel pretty daunting. However, there are steps you can take to not only keep up with the change, but also help both yourself and your business win. Here are seven strategies to help you get ahead of the pack — if not lap the field.
1) Dial in to your CMO’s agenda.
If you’re among the companies that run on a fiscal year that matches the calendar year, your CMO (or highest-level marketing leader) most likely puts together a strategy document outlining key initiatives for the upcoming year. Consider asking your CMO or marketing head if you can be involved in putting together the plan or if you can review the plan as soon as it’s published.
For many companies, September is when these plans and strategy sessions begin. Ask yourself: How can you marry your digital agenda with the CMO’s agenda? If you are able to align your goals and plans with your CMO’s, you’ll be able to identify some areas that will make not only make you and your role indispensable, but will also make your CMO look good.
2) Get certified.
Most digital marketing platform providers have certification programs you can enroll in to boost your knowledge. Silverpop, for example, has a comprehensive certification program, and there are several ways you can earn your certificate, including on-site certification classes or online training. If you use a different provider, check for similar programs. Certification not only is a great resume booster, it will also help you get the most out of your technology investment to improve your overall marketing results.
3) Pick a monthly theme.
Kick off every month with a skills focus area and make that feature or concept the center of your marketing efforts for the entire month. For instance, let September’s theme be lead scoring, October’s be landing pages, November’s be social, and so on. If you have a team, make sure you get everyone on board.
Also, consider doing a mini-content audit – round up and then share all of the white papers, case studies, blog posts and other content related to the month’s theme. Read up, then determine a functional upgrade plan to improve (or start) your implementation around each of these areas.
4) Expand your knowledge by attending industry conferences.
There are some superb conferences, trade shows and round tables happening in all pockets of the globe. Dig around and pull together a list of conferences you’d like to attend. See if you can put your attendance at some of these conferences in your 2015 budget, or even squeak in attending them in the remaining months of 2014.
If conferences aren’t in your budget for the year, consider finding local events that wouldn’t include travel costs, or perhaps working with you communications team to nominate yourself as a speaker at an event you’d like to attend (see tip 5 below). Business and trade organizations are always looking for fresh speakers, so this could be a great way to not only network with industry peers, but also publicize your brand!
5) Speak at conferences.
Almost all conferences and events have a need for speakers. And, as a bonus, speakers usually have the conference fee waived. Identify the conferences that are a good fit for your product, market and interest areas. Work with your communications team to contact the conference organizer four to six months in advance and let them know you’d be interested in speaking.
It helps to have a few ideas of topics you’d like to discuss. Some events prefer case-study type presentations, so consider approaching your technology or consulting partners, or even customers, and offer to speak with them. Or, look at last year’s speaker lineup, contact a few of them and offer to speak with them this year. Perhaps you could be on a panel with other like-minded marketers. The key tip is to plan ahead — don’t wait until a few weeks before the conference, as all the speaking slots will most likely be filled.
6) Make a list of your favorite blogs and websites.
You can never stop learning from others. Staying on top of industry news and trends only helps you be a better marketer. Once you know what your favorite blogs and websites are, put them into an RSS feed so you can stay on top of all their latest articles. Some of my favorites include:
Also, be sure to add any industry marketing associations or other organizations that are posting interesting content. An RSS feed will allow you to get all this content in one place, so you’re less likely to miss important updates.
7) Build a network of like-minded colleagues.
Find a small group of industry peers you can regularly keep in touch with. You can usually meet these folks at conferences or trade shows. Seek out people who have similar roles but work in different industries or market different products. They can be great sounding boards for new campaigns, new technology or new projects. Make an effort to stay in touch and the relationship will pay dividends when you need advice or inspiration.
What other ideas do you have to stay sharp? Pick one, two or even all these ideas and I’m certain you’ll learn some new digital marketing techniques or pick up some strategy angles that will help you get ahead this fall and get a jump start on 2015. If you’d like to hear more in-depth tips and strategies, please consider joining me Sept. 25 for “Back to School: Tips for Brushing Up on Your Digital Marketing Skills.”
1) White paper: Ultimate Guide to Assessing Your Digital Marketing Program
2) Blog post: Use Silverpop Resources to Coach Your Team to Success
3) Blog post: 5 Steps to Optimize Your Content