How marketing has changed over time – and ways to excel at it in 2019

This article originally appeared on Inc42. 

Thinking of a career in marketing? Five stars to you for choosing to take up a fun, adrenaline-inducing, and highly-rewarding profession. But exciting as it may be, the marketing function is not what it was a decade ago.

For instance, did you know that there are over a dozen kinds of marketing? And each kind requires a different, specialized skill?

Marketing as a function has undergone a major transformation. With the mainstreaming of the internet and social media, the ubiquity of technology, and the world becoming a more connected place, marketing is no longer restricted to traditional methods.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the mention of the word marketing would conjure up a picture of a man all suited and booted, carrying a briefcase in one hand and a bagful of sample products in the other, knocking on people’s doors trying to make a sale.

Then it moved to the telephone, where telemarketers spent all day making phone calls hoping to enthuse the person on the other end about his product.

Cut to 2019, and we are in the days of digital marketing. The picture is far less vivid—albeit more active and effective—as it is restricted to the customer and his personal devices.

Most marketing happens on our phones or computers and revolves around what we click or swipe, how often we do it, and how much effort we are willing to put into it.

Consequently, the way companies strategise and manage their marketing efforts has changed, as has the way customers now receive these messages from companies.

This means that a marketer’s role has changed. Being a successful marketer today requires a different set of skills, aptitude, and approach towards the role.

Marketing has become multi-dimensional. For each of the kinds, there is a business side, an analytics side, a creative side, and many more. The target groups vary in terms of demography and geography.

Moreover, the intent could differ–for example, some marketing campaigns are done solely to generate leads while some could be done in order to establish the brand name and ensure brand recall. And each of these different aspects isn’t necessarily standalone, and there could be an overlap of two or more of these.

Simply put, marketing is no longer a simple tool companies use to sell their products or services. It is now a labyrinth that has to be navigated for companies to take their message to the customer. So it is critical to get up to speed with the changes in order to be able to make a mark in the world of marketing.

If you don’t adapt to these changes and prepare yourself to handle the new challenges, you run the risk of turning irrelevant.

Here’s how you can be a star:

The era of specialization

Given that marketing now includes multiple kinds, the need for specialization has emerged. For example, social media marketing is entirely different from influencer marketing or digital marketing. An influencer marketer’s approach to a particular brand’s campaign will be nothing like a content marketer’s strategy to manage the same campaign.

The skill sets will rarely overlap, and in most cases, a person cut out for one specialization may not be the right fit for other roles.  As in the case of the medical profession, where a specialization–like surgery, or pathology–is required along with a general medical degree, in marketing too, it no longer suffices for a student/aspiring marketer to study and practice marketing in general.

Think like a doctor with a super-specialization. Master the basics but focus on specifics and specialize in the one you are cut out for. Learn the techniques, develop the skills required, and establish yourself as an expert in the niche.

Specializing in one or a few is not just helpful, it is critical, or a prerequisite for a job in marketing.

Find your sweet spot

You know by now that marketing is a web of multiple threads intertwined. It encompasses nearly a dozen kinds: digital marketing, social media marketing, influencer marketing, content marketing, micro influencer marketing, inbound marketing, evangelism, cross-media marketing, direct marketing, multi-level marketing, guerilla marketing.

So before you jump in, identify your sweet spot. What kind of a marketer are you– analytical? creative? adventurous?

Pin down what you’re best suited for. Some kinds of marketing roles require you to be wired to play with data and numbers, some require you to be talkative and outgoing, some require a creative bent of mind. Think about the different functions, identify the ones that pique your interest the most, and hone your skills accordingly.

Find your spot, and play to your strengths.

Watch the market and track trends

The best marketers are the ones who not just create trends with their unique campaigns, but also keep an eye out for what’s brewing in the marketing world.

Each kind of marketing targets a different section of the audience. So study the cross-section of society, have your ear to the ground of what your customers are saying, and be sure to give customers what they what, and more.

Similarly, keep an eye on competitors and others in the ecosystem so you can fend off competition, learn from peers, and also establish yourself as the industry leader among them.

Watch the news, keep tabs on the newsmakers and industry experts, follow trends.

Tap technology

About a decade or two ago, marketing and selling was a relatively simple task. Build a good product, nudge the customer, and your sale is practically done. Today, the process of customer acquisition and marketing is quite complicated. But technology helps make everything better.

Technology now enables you to collect, analyze, and process data about everything and take better, more informed decisions. It gives you to opportunity to reach customers where they want to be reached, personalize your communication with them, and market your product and brand to them more effectively.

Use technology to work around these challenges, and you’re a winner on the way.