In recent posts I’ve been exploring the finer points of growth hacking and how it impacts on marketing and marketers.

A few posts back I talked about how the marketer of tomorrow’s tools for growth could be more aligned with those of a software engineer than a traditional marketer thinking about product truths, compelling brand personalities or metaphors and unique propositions.

An interesting article by Nicolas Walter expanded on the concept and he arrived at the same conclusion, that the marketers of the future will need a grounding in statistics, behavioural psychology and design. This is validated by an Economist survey (click here for the highlights in my infographic) which highlights a gap between current and desired skill sets.

Nicolas used a diagram that I have seen several times from IDEO’s Tim Brown and since modified for marketing by Brian Balfour, VP of Growth at HubSpot (how’s that for an accountable title!). This is what the skill set of the marketer of tomorrow looks like – and I think it’s fairly accurate:


The base knowledge layer, the marketing foundation layer and the channel expertise layer are well set out and clearly illustrate the required skills. While one could be forgiven for concluding that the skills in the above diagram are those of a generalist something tells me that being a ‘Jack of all trades’ won’t cut it in the future. In my experience marketers need an in-depth knowledge of most of these areas in order to make the right decisions, especially when leading a team.

Just as marketers of old were able to match pantone colours without referencing a PMS chart, or understand when Rotoscoping was required for that killer animation for a new commercial, the level of domain knowledge hasn’t changed, it’s the areas of knowledge that have.

These days any marketer worth their salt should be able to wireframe up a website using tools like Balsamiq, or score inbound leads to assess what constitutes a marketing qualified lead.

When McKinsey’s Kate Smaje described the role of a CDO (Chief Digital Officer) she said “CDOs need a variety of resources. And in some ways, it matters less about the boxes and lines and organizational structure of who owns whom, but they need to be able to call on those resources. It doesn’t matter if your developers happen to sit with IT or the CDO. But the CDO needs to be able to influence those developers, needs to be able to demand-manage and get the right set of priorities acted on fast enough by those guys”.

Over the next few posts, I will explore these topics (and more) in depth, and build a handy guide – an mini online tutorial of sorts.

Some of the principles behind these new skills will be very familiar to those of you who have been in the industry a while. Consider that a definite advantage – as both experience and a firm grounding in good communication will remain important. But first, let’s explore the stand out areas in Tim and Brian’s schematic.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and PPC (Pay Per Click) are seen as the two areas where a modern marketer requires really deep knowledge. For brevity’s sake, I will stick with one as an example – SEO.

A few years ago, SEO was (rightly) considered one of the dark arts of the internet marketing world. Cloaked in secrecy, you handed over your site’s admin rights and a couple of days later it was pronounced “done” with the only caveat being that results wouldn’t be seen for a few weeks, possibly even months – during which time a search engine robot or spider had crawled over your site a few times and reported back to Google or Yahoo or Ask (remember them?) about it.

Nowadays, with continual updates to search engine algorithms many of the corrupt and marginally dodgy practices like keyword stuffing, manipulative linking, cloaking (hiding text from search engines) paid links, link farming – all invented to game the system, have been made redundant.

New search engine technologies, particularly using machine learning to assess how a human would interact with a piece of content on a website, have meant that search engines now reward ‘good’ content, irrespective of its quantity. And how do they assess it to be good? Well, outside of the inner circles of engineers at Google and Bing, no one knows for sure but the smart money is pointing to popularity as one of the keys. The web is a meritocracy now, and the more people who share, write about and link to great content the higher up the search engine rankings it goes making it easier to be found by others.

One of the most important elements to building an online marketing strategy around SEO is empathy for your audience. Once you grasp what your target market is looking for you can more effectively reach and keep those users. Nothing new here – in fact, empathy for the audience is something that the older generation of marketers do much better than younger marketers with less life experience to draw from.

The best thing is to remind yourself that SEO rests on less than half a dozen words in a search box.

Many familiar terms will come into play such as relevance; is the information you’re conveying going to attract the right type of audience?

Then comes the keyword chase. How much is a keyword worth to your website? With good keyword research, you can not only identify the correct keywords for your audience (think about what they would type into a search box rather than what you want them to find), you can also predict shifts in demand, respond to changing market conditions and ultimately produce the product, service and content that your audience want.

It is a game of cat and mouse that appears to be a small part of your overall marketing effort but is never ending. However, in the history of marketing there has never been such a low barrier to entry or more accessible tools to help understand the motivations of customers in nearly every market.

This leads us to content, the gas which keeps the SEO engine running. In short, your content must deliver on two areas:

  • it must be relevant

  • it must be marketed

You cannot expect your search ranking to improve without meaningful, educational and generally helpful content. Google rewards legitimacy. Like every business, it wants to give it’s customers what they want. Show your content is what Google customers want and Google will give it to them

So, get your SEO hat on, to help you I have made a list of the good SEO analytics tools you should be checking out:

  • Omniture

  • Fireclick

  • Mint

  • Sawmill Analytics

  • Clicktale

  • Coremetrics

  • Unica NetInsight

  • Google Analytics