Many marketers underestimate the investment in staff required to make the most of marketing platforms.

Skills and capabilities ranked highly among the issues discussed by leading marketing and advertising technology vendors during a roundtable hosted by Which-50 late last year. Comments in this story are drawn from those discussions.

While the industry acknowledges it can do a better job, they say it is not a problem for the vendors alone to solve.

And there is a wider problem, the skills needed are ever changing as analytics and programmatic take hold.

The sheer number of new advertising formats has agencies scrambling to find the talent to disseminate and exploit these new platforms.

It’s not just a matter of implementing a suite of software; in order to properly utilise the efficiencies and range of the product, the Which-50 roundtable found staff must be properly trained otherwise the loss of productivity can severely impact the business.

Scott Rigby, head of digital transformation at Adobe, suggests leveraging the visual skills of younger, more digitally savvy employees with those of more established, traditional staff.

“Having a steering committee to drive these programs ensures that digital natives in the business are sitting side-by-side with the traditionalists,” he says

“This elevates the skills and capabilities and makes sure we have a digital strategy that’s then communicated throughout the organisation.”

Reverse mentoring is also an effective way of utilising the skills spread out over an existing workforce.

“A lot of the brands we work with have some kind of evangelist within the business who knows what they’re talking about, whether they’ve come from a tech background or an agency background,” said Danni Brown, marketing manager at TubeMogul, which is now part of Adobe.

Attention to detail

“A lot of them are doing reverse mentoring programs, so you’ve got that person or a group of younger people reverse mentoring some of the more senior execs.”

But rather than look for staff trained explicitly in technical matters, hiring those with attention to detail and finer execution skills can often turn out to be great additions to the team.

“Some of the guys that do really well in our business don’t necessarily come from a tech background or an engineering background, they just have really good attention to detail,” said Peter Ostick, vice president at Tremor Video.

“If you look at the basics of what makes them good. Can they dig in? Can they be self-starting? If they are, then you can just educate them on your own kind of business and your own kind of platform.”

While the concept of Big Data dominated headlines and for a time was the buzzword of corporate Australia, delving into those vast troves of information and discovering useful patterns and trends is one of the most hotly demanded skills.

“You need to be able to get actionable insights from that data,” says Ben Sharp, VP and Managing Director of AdRoll in Asia Pacific, a retargeting and prospecting platform.

“And the only way to do that is to be really, really smart about how you manipulate a whole bunch of data into something that makes sense to your business or your clients’ businesses.”

But once those with this attractive skillset are found, there is the added trouble of appropriately remunerating them, especially given most digitally savvy employees are aware of their own value in the broader market.

“If I was starting my career again, I’d probably come out of uni and call myself a data scientist, because it seems to be the role that attracts the highest price tag,” joked Sharp.

Additionally, relying on the vendor alone to implement a solution will only leave employees frustrated they aren’t able to use the new technology properly. The likes of Adobe prioritise training, so that clients aren’t having to turn their hand to what just isn’t their speciality.

“We find that customers are sometimes not making a dual investment in themselves, as well as their own technology,” said Adobe’s Rigby.

“And it doesn’t have to be a dollar investment, it can be having a sponsor at the top level driving.”

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