Online marketing is a world fraught with danger. Some dangers are obvious. Others... not so much.

The fact that 83.7% of companies report that merely hiring for content marketing is either “somewhat difficult” or “difficult” hints at the underlying instability those in the marketing profession face.

The truth is that sinkholes in your marketing strategy can pop up out of nowhere, and once they've swallowed you, escape can feel impossible.

What’s worse, CMOs often unknowingly steer their teams directly into avoidable sinkholes, even with the best of intentions.

That's why it's vital to have your eyes wide open to the four most common marketing sinkholes:

  1. Skill Scarcity
  2. Tool Trauma
  3. Silo Sorrow
  4. Data Delusion

We’ll look at what they are, how to avoid them, and how to get out if you realize you’re already caught in the sinkhole.

1. Skill Scarcity

According to Harvard Business Review, 39% of all US employers suffer from skills gaps – the inability of team members to perform job-critical tasks.

In other words, more than one in three companies struggle to find and retain the human talent they desperately need.

For marketers, this pain is even worse.

As Econsultancy recently discovered: “When asked to rate issues on a pain scale of one to five (with five being the most painful), 30% of respondents rated ‘finding marketers with the right skills is a nightmare’ as either four of five.”

To test your own digital knowledge, take Econsultancy's free Digital Skills Index. It'll help identify areas you need to improve on and benchmark your knowledge versus your industry peers.

How can you prevent skills gaps?

Start by identifying the top “in-demand skills” for today’s marketers: most notably, using data to optimize campaigns and mastery of marketing technology.

Then, instead of simply lamenting a lack of training, develop your own “best of” resource list to equip your teams. This doesn’t necessarily mean creating your own in-house marketing curriculum, although, for some, that can be a phenomenal solution.

Instead, it means being intentional about collecting the books, blogs, guides, courses, and swipe files that have impacted you the most. In other words, create your own “must read” list of resources.

Even more vital is sharing these resources with your team not as one-off individuals, but as group-wide learning experiences.

2. Tool Trauma

Kevin Freedman, CEO of Kaboodle, recently admitted “in my opinion, current management tools do not work for marketing, they are much too structured and I have often seen teams struggle to work without the flexibility they require.”

Along with inflexibility, the sheer number of tools marketers now use is itself daunting. Curata’s nearly incomprehensible visualization illustrates this well:

Image Credit: Curata

But there is a solution.

Get control of tool trauma by collecting a comprehensive “tool list” both internally from your marketing team as well as externally from other, job-critical departments.

For example, check out Econsultancy's lists of useful SEO and content marketing tools.

Coming together like this is a great way to not only reduce tool trauma, but also build bridges between silos.

Next, search for applications that bundle key functions and eliminate redundant tools. For example, when it comes to collecting, curating, and sharing resources, pick one (and only one) central, digital hub.

Then, instead of spreading your content and files across multiple applications -- like Evernote, Pocket, Buffer, separate cloud providers, and (worst of all) email -- consider an integrated tool like Memit.

Memit allows your team to save, manage, and share content on themed collections that resemble Pinterest boards. Moreover, it integrates directly with major cloud services like Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive.

Image Credit: memit

3. Silo Sorrow

When it comes to silos, Neil Perkin’s view is straightforward: “In the context of the rapid pace of change, silos are not good.” He goes on to say, ”[Silos] slow communication and decision-making, and lead to over-burdensome hierarchies.”

Marketers often fall victim to silo sorrow because other departments -- especially customer service and product development -- don’t understand how to coordinate.

Silos produce inconsistent brand messaging, untapped leads, distrust between departments, and blame-shifting instead of solution-building when problems arise.

Creating multi-discipline teams and a strong communication plan are first and foremost in knocking down deadly silos.

This means creating regular meetings, at least once a month, where you intentionally get everyone in the same room -- whether in person or digitally -- to share their victories, struggles, and insights.

Collaboration tools that foster cross-departmental workflows are also a must. I’ll talk more about this in the next point.

You might even consider how rearranging the physical work spaces can enable cross communication among employees.

Quite simply, spaces that are better designed for collaboration can dramatically improve not only communication, but your bottom line as well.

4. Data Delusion

A recent Forrester Consulting study found that “eight in 10 senior-level marketers agree that using intent data for targeting created value.” 

However, that same study showed that 61% are struggling to combine and act upon relevant data.

The truth is that big data -- while hailed as the ultimate business solution -- can cause gargantuan problems.

Simply put, data delusion occurs when you’ve got far more data than you know what to do with.

Unmanaged data is useless, but there are many software platforms available to aid you.

Harvard Business Review points out that there are five main areas that must be targeted for better data management: leadership, talent management, technology, decision making, and company culture.

The easiest way to overcome data delusion is to create all-in-one dashboards that merge online analytics with offline metrics.

Here’s a great example from Cyfe that brings together the overall big picture (revenue YTD) along with keyword ranking, email data, and even social media mentions.

Image Credit: Cyfe

Start Now

If your company is currently experiencing -- or better yet, planning to prevent -- any marketing sinkholes, good for you.

Too many companies will unfortunately be hit unprepared.

Skills scarcity, silo sorrow, tools trauma, and data delusion are the four most common problems.

But the good news is you can get out in front of them and guide your team away from danger.

Jacob McMillen

Published 23 November, 2015 by Jacob McMillen

Jacob McMillen is a professional copywriter, marketing blogger, and the content director for CoachTube. Follow him on Twitter.

6 more posts from this author

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