Nowadays, marketers need to know so many systems, platforms, formats, and channels that it can be tough to keep up. 

As we can’t be researching everything all the time, it is important to ‘park’ some skills while training up on others. As an example, a marketing team may decide to hold steady with their AdWords strategy while spending time and effort on improving how they approach social media.

Naturally, marketers want to focus on what will give them the most ‘bang for their buck’, though. They need to know what technologies have improved recently or what techniques are producing great results elsewhere.

In order to find out what these key skills are right now, we recently asked a number of industry experts to comment on what they see as the most important marketing technologies and techniques for the coming year.  

Below is the answer from Janet Low, Vice President of Client Services in APAC at Epsilon International, followed by some comments on each of the skills she regards as key in 2017.

1. CRM

The customer relationship management (CRM) system has been a part of marketing technology for many years.

What Ms Low points out, though, is that the CRM can now provide business value across the whole customer lifecycle. This means that marketers should become more familiar with the CRM now as it is more than the system used only by the call centre.

Marketers from a recent roundtable event in Mumbai agreed with this notion. Attendees pointed out that CRM data can be used for:

  • Improving targeting with email marketing.
  • Building audiences with Facebook and Google.
  • Segmenting customers using attributes such as purchase history and website behaviour, and not just age and gender.

For those who have not yet tapped into the ‘CRM goldmine’, 2017 is a great time to start.

2. Applied analytics

Analytics have been a key component of a marketer’s toolbox for at least a century, but their usefulness was limited due to the lack of high-quality data. Marketers now have sufficient data to be confident about conclusions drawn from analysis and so applied analytics is now becoming a greater part of their job.   

Participants at an Econsultancy event in Shanghai last year, came up with three ways in which they make decisions using analytics

  1. Delivering customized content using data from customer profiles.
  2. Changing the frequency of messaging according to the success rates of email and ad campaigns.
  3. Updating brand creative based on the feedback they get from social media and customer reviews regarding how well consumers understand the brand.

 So, 2017 is the year for analytics to break out of the back room and become part of the front-line strategy.

3. Customer journey mapping

Analytics can also help marketers understand their customers better. Previously, a lot of assumptions had to be made about the customer journey, but now there is data showing which touchpoints consumers have hit along the way to becoming customers. 

In a recent survey, however, marketers in Australia and New Zealand indicated that only half (50%) of companies in the region had at least an ‘intermediate’ understanding of the customer journey and only around a third had any budget allocated for improving the situation.

What this means is that marketers who take up the mantle and spend time on the customer journey are likely to benefit by pulling ahead of the competition.  Some benefits include more efficient media spend, improved customer metrics such as Net Promoter Score, decreased time-to-conversion, and greater customer retention.

With so many good reasons to map the customer journey, it’s surprising that more companies haven’t done it already. And, as Econsultancy’s Ben Davis says, mapping the customer journey doesn’t have to be difficult.

So while it still will not be possible for marketers to relearn everything in 2017, there are some key activities which industry experts and other marketers globally will be prioritising this year. To keep up, marketers need to reflect on these topics and ensure that their skills are up-to-date. 

To improve your own digital skills in 2017, check out our global range of training courses.

Or to benchmark your knowledge against industry peers, complete our Digital Skills Index.