Three out of four marketers think significant and “dramatic” change is coming to their professions, according to a 478-person marketing executive study conducted for Marketo.

And that’s after they’re already reeling from change.

“Marketing has changed more in the last five years than over the previous hundred,” Marketo CMO Sanjay Dholakia told me yesterday. “But … marketing is going to change even more in the next five years.”

That might be small comfort to marketers who already feel less than confident with the new technologies the massive martech revolution has placed in their hands. And it aligns perfectly with what we’ve seen in VentureBeat research as well: Only 17 percent of marketers we surveyed believed their use of martech was going to stay the same. But there’s also good news: The technology is getting better and easier. In addition: marketers are getting bigger and bigger pieces of the organization pie.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” Dholakia says, tongue only partially in cheek. “75 percent of marketers see themselves owning engagement over the entire customer lifecycle over the next 3-5 years. They’re the only folks that can elevate over the transactional fray.”

customer experience

In other words, marketing is moving away from the arts & crafts world of making pretty stuff that makes the corporate board feel good about themselves and becoming integral components in driving revenue and also owning the customer — not just while hunting, not just when the “kill” is consummated, but also in the farming stages.

Sales people are almost necessarily transactional. Support teams are generally reactive. Marketers can see the full picture, according to the study. The result is that marketing is moving away from being a cost center and moving towards being a revenue generator, and that marketers are becoming the chief customer advocates.


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Today, only a third of marketers can make that claim. Marketers clearly believe that the number will more than double in the next five years.

Marketo calls it “the era of engagement marketing,” which we’re reaching after going through the mass marketing of the mass media, the transactional marketing that dominated the first decade of the Internet (it’s all about the click), and moving forward to deeper relationships with pre, current, and post customers across multiple platforms and in multiple media, while each of those individuals is at a unique stage in their own self-directed customer journey.

customer engagement

Sounds challenging, no? Sure … but there is help on the horizon.

“There’s clearly a crawl-walk-run mentality here,” says Dholakia. “I need to invest in my system of record … you cannot elevate and own this customer engagement lifecycle unless you have it. Every other business function has had their system of record, but the marketer has had 52 databases that don’t talk to each other.”

There, of course, is where Marketo competes with the Adobes, Salesforces, IBMs, and Oracles of the world, as each vendor assembles its version of a marketing cloud with all the intricate functionalities needed for understanding current and potential customers, communicating with them, and optimizing those communications.

For those who want to do more than crawl or walk, effort is required. Marketers recognize that, according to the study.

The biggest skill gaps, according to the CMOs and marketing execs who answered the survey, are understanding and executing digital engagement and running marketing operations and technology. Strategy and planning is a close third, followed by data analysis and demand generation.

marketing skills needed

Closing skill gaps and ensuring you not only have systems of record but also all the other bits and pieces needed to make your marketing technology sing is not free, of course.

This study’s respondents have a lot in common with the 5,000 marketers Salesforce surveyed a number of weeks ago: They’re investing in social, and they’re investing in mobile.

Interestingly, however, where companies are investing most depends somewhat on the size of company: “Social marketing has a disproportionate share of sub-US$500m companies, while marketing analytics claim a high share of companies with revenue over US$5bn,” the report says.

marketing technology investments

As marketers get wider purview over their companies and bigger budgets to own larger slices of the customer experience, there’s a positive result: Marketing leaders are getting more respect. In fact, the study shows, CMOs’ infamously short tenures — about four years on average just recently — are growing longer. Only about 25 percent longer so far … but it’s a start.

And one thing is clear: Marketers need to be able to adapt to the age of the customer. And their technologies will need to do so as well.

“The buyer is in control of their journey — 60-80 percent of the buying journey is self-directed,” Dholakia says. “Others will have you believe that they will design the journey for the customer. Bullshit … the customer will design their own journey — we all have our own path — and the capabilities need to be able to react and flow to that path.”

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