Should B2B marketing be employing more scientists than artists?

That’s the question implied by one of IDC’s recently published “Top 10 predictions for 2013”. Driven by a number of profound changes in both the business and marketing environments, they project that from 2013 onwards, 50% of new marketing hires will have technical backgrounds.

They point out that the fastest growing job categories in marketing today include campaign management, marketing operations, intelligence/research, sales enablement, social media and marketing IT. Many of these categories hardly existed less than a decade or less ago.

Analytics and automation

All of these roles require – to varying degrees – a primarily systems orientated mindset rather than a creative one. They make use of measurements, metrics and data to identify and eliminate bottlenecks, focus resources and improve performance.

Then you’ve got to factor in the implications of the rapidly growing investments in Marketing Automation – a little over 3% of the average marketing budget last year but projected to rise to more than 9% in the not-too-distant future.

No silver bullet

As many of the companies I speak to have realised, investing in marketing automation is no silver bullet, and in this respect it’s no different from any other technology: it has to be implemented and managed thoughtfully by people that know what they are doing.

At a superficial level, you might conclude that traditional marketing creative types are probably not perfectly equipped to cope with the left vs. right brain thinking involved. But I think the underlying issue is different from and deeper than that.

Patterns and connections

You see, many marketing departments still appear to be operating at the campaign level, without much regard to what happens to the leads they end up generating. They feel a sense of relief when the campaign is finally launched, and typically turn their attention immediately to the next one. It’s a treadmill.

I see them having issues with making the time (or having the mindset, which is more worrying) to step back, absorb the big picture, identify patterns, make connections and identify how and where they could invest their resources more intelligently. If they did, they would probably end up doing fewer campaigns better.

Raising marketings’ game

Sometimes, they simply don’t have access to the data, or can’t extract truly useful intelligence from it. But uncomfortably often, they seem to lack the ability to take an analytic approach and draw conclusions from the data.

There’s a real risk that many of the traditional marketers that have been doing competent jobs for their companies in the old world simply lack the intellectual horsepower to realise the potential (in every sense) of the realities of the new marketing environment.

I believe that B2B marketing has to raise its’ collective game, and take an end-to-end perspective, and maximise the lifetime value of the demand they are creating. It needs to think not just about the top, but the middle and the bottom of the sales funnel, and beyond.

Creativity plus analytics

But you need data to do this. In the future, outstanding marketing departments will need to combine high levels of creativity with analytic, systems thinking skills that can make sense of the dramatically increasing flow of data that they are or could and should be generating.

This, in turn, raises expectations about the qualities we should be looking for in our next generation of CMOs. And these new CMOs (and the old ones that have successfully reinvented themselves) will need to take a long hard look at the competencies both they and their departments need to master.

New competencies

As well as profiling their existing employee base against these new analytic and systems competencies, they are going to have to rethink the experience and skills they choose to bring in to their marketing departments. Many already are.

So: in response to IDC’s question, I do think that companies are going to have to change the balance between artists and scientists in their marketing departments. Many are already doing so, and it’s being reflected in recruitment profiles.

The role of agencies

I also think it will change the balance between marketing departments and the agencies they choose to engage. In addition to bringing creative excellence to bear, the better agencies are already working out how they can add value in an increasingly data-rich, analytic environment.

Winning creative awards is going to be less important than delivering practical, measurable, repeatable results – but it always has been the case for the employees and agencies that are creating the real value in B2B marketing.

Where are you on the journey?

The trend I have described won’t come to fruition overnight. But it is clearly already underway. How far along the journey are you – both at the individual and organisational level? And what are your experiences of the obstacles that could hold people and companies back?

Bob Apollo is the Managing Partner of Inflexion-Point, and an accredited Funnel Coach. To read more of his insights, go to the Inflexion-Point blog.