I was recently asked, “What do you think the landscape for targeted conversion optimization will look like in five years?” A number of things came to mind, including:
- Automated personalization technologies that essentially eliminate the need for conversion optimization
- The end of the website due to the rise of apps
- The end of the website due to the rise of mobile devices
- The end of the website due to the collapse of civilization
These all made for interesting writing. But the one thing that I think will define website optimization in the next five years is the rise of the Marketing Scientist (or Martec, as my colleague Scott Brinker would call these folks).
In my career as a corporate marketer, I became aware of the powerlessness that marketing departments have in the corporate organization chart. Someone else delivers the products or services. The agencies do the creative. IT manages the CRM and the website, and sales (or the website) delivers the revenue. Marketing’s budget is a seen as a cost, not an investment.
Marketing has essentially been a gatekeeper.
This is going to change very quickly, and there are a few trends that will guarantee that.
The Availability Of Amazing Marketing Tools
It is the golden age of marketing tools. For less than $1,000 per month, almost any business can be working with a simple-yet-powerful set of capabilities that uncover the desires and intent of visitors to their website.
Analytics are everywhere. Aside from the free tools offered by Google, every cloud service you use provides its own analytics reporting. Facebook offers Insights. Your email service provider offers data on opens, clicks and how many bozos report you as spam. Your video host can tell you how long people are watching your videos. Your content management system integrates with analytics packages at a minimum. Online chat services provide both analytics as well as transcripts, which are chock full of gold.
In short, the question, “Is this working?” is now much easier to answer.
Ad Networks provide a scary amount of information. Search ad platforms such as AdWords and Bing Ads can tell you which keyword/ad combination is delivering the most revenue. They can cookie and track people who visited your site and follow them around with retargeted ads. And, the ability to target people with these technologies is… scary.
Virtual User Testing Tools let you get behind the eyes of your visitors. You can record user sessions, get heat maps of the places visitors click, and commission a panel of users for just a few dollars each.
Dashboard and Reporting Tools let marketing scientists digest and communicate the discoveries made from all of these data sources. They will help end what we call Spreadsheet Hell.
Testing Tools are going to be the death of the gatekeeper marketer. No longer is guessing required nor desired. No change will be rolled out until it is known what effect it will have on leads and sales.
Personalization Tools automatically pick content for a given visitor. At some point in the next decade, these tools may run the most effective websites.
Rating and Review Tools aren’t just content anymore. We learn a great deal from the reviews on e-commerce sites.
Marketing Automation Tools are the little robot friend of the online marketer. They allow multi-touch campaigns, qualification and reporting on your visitors.
What will all of this be used for?
It will determine which content is invested in. It will determine which online and offline communications channels will be prioritized. It will determine how messaging will be shaped to best serve the company. It will be used to identify the most qualified prospects. And, most importantly, it will influence the development of products and services.
Influence is what turns marketers from gatekeepers to game-changers.
From Hype To Hypotheses
Armed with data analysis skills, marketers will be responsible for more tech than the techies in the company.
In truth, most of the people looking to improve their online fortunes have, or have had, tools like this at their disposal. Understanding how to use them and being able to prioritize the time to explore them is a cost beyond the licensing fee.
It’s cool to be a geek again.
There’s a disconnect between the kind of people who can spend time in the data asking questions and those who know how to communicate with other human beings effectively. Marketers are communicators and less prone to spend time doing stupid statistics tricks in Excel. Data analysts are known to put spreadsheets into their slides.
The Marketing Scientist is going to have to do both. These folks are going to spend less time creating hype and more time exploring hypotheses.
According to Scott Brinker, CMOs are going to spend more time on IT than the CTO. This means more technicians in the marketing department, people who know HTML and CSS and databases and data analysis. No, these are not Web developers. They are something different.
The ability to make decisions based on data is powerful. In five years, marketers will be prized for their insight, not their creativity.
Don’t Freak Out
We think it’s quaint when we hear someone say something like, “I don’t text” or “Please fax that to me.” Sure, they are getting along just fine, but it requires those around them to adjust. It’s a recipe for isolation.
Likewise, the marketer who says, “I don’t do statistics” or “I’m not a mathematician” is going to be looked upon as an anachronism.
For the up-and-comers, the message is clear. Anum Hussain leads off his list of 20 Things Every Graduating Marketing Student Needs to Know with “Don’t be afraid of numbers” and says, “Marketers need statistics.”
Jason Garoutte noticed a trend in marketers’ degrees, with “frequent testers” having degrees requiring analysis skills. Businesses with these kind of marketers will win in the next five years.
For those of us past our college years, we’re going to have to approach the science-y side of marketing with the same vigor with which we jumped into social media.
And get a lab coat. Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.