Over the past decade or so, a seismic change has shifted the ground underneath the marketing industry transforming it from an art into a science. Where once the marketing department was a natural home for creative minds, now those creative skills are being honed into analytical skills. This is a result of:
- Post-austerity budgets demanding accurate and detailed ROI calculations
- The availability of 40+ marketing communications tools adding variety and diversity to the industry, and making it easier to track physical and digital performance
- The effectiveness and affordability of digital marketing automation platforms
- The accessibility and ease-of-use of Google Analytics, Mint, KISSMetrics and similar
- A drive towards deeper levels of customer engagement and the demand for businesses to structure, clean and enrich their data to generate a single customer view
- The availability of advanced tools to extract meaningful insight from data
The industry will, thankfully, always be home to creative minds – indeed, the new digital tools we have access to have been a springboard for some of the most creative, engaging and successful campaigns ever produced. But the ability to derive real value and insight from data is a skill which is set to become even more essential as the Internet of Things and the Industrial Internet evolve.
The Internet of Things is now part of our everyday, digitally connected lives, as we control our TV, heating and hot water from our smartphones, wear smart watches and Fitbits and buy new refrigerators and vacuum cleaners equipped with sensors to manage efficiency. Analysts IDC forecast that by 2020, 212 billion devices will be connected to the Internet. This generates a huge amount of data – data which is becoming invaluable to marketers, who can use it to create a clear, accurate view of our buying behaviour and purchasing patterns.
The enterprise version of the Internet of Things is known as the Industrial Internet. Its power, and the opportunities it presents, are boundless. Whilst the Internet of Things is very much about convenience, consumables and communication, the Industrial Internet turbocharges this concept to connect people and technology. It has the potential to impact our lives, our economy, and our environment. Data-gathering sensors are being placed on everything from planes to streetlights to mail production equipment, to gain real-time insight; to extract predictive analytics for better planning and forecasting; and to drive prescriptive maintenance for faster diagnostics and problem resolution.
The Industrial Internet is a game changer for marketers. Rather than market products or solutions, they need to focus on communicating outcomes, results and the impact this has on businesses and consumers – an improvement in site safety, for example; a major increase in productivity; a dramatic increase in output speed; an improvement in the accuracy and precision of forecasting; and the ability to limit downtime.
Faced with reams of data to make sense of, marketing professionals must develop the skills to understand and interpret the data generated by sensors, and exploit this data, to improve the way they work. They need to focus on innovation, as the Industrial Internet fuels innovation in its most accurate sense, overhauling and transforming industry. And they also need to nurture communication and collaborative skills, as it will become more important than ever to work closely across different disciplines such as engineering and sales, as data is shared and value added.
The Industrial Internet will need marketers to:
- Equip themselves with the tools and knowledge to generate deep insights from the data they will have access to
- Become more process-driven, so they work in a structured way
- Get closer to clients, both internal and external, so they can communicate success stories and case studies
- Improve collaboration and communication between departments
- Maintain the ability to ‘translate’ technical outputs into simplified language
- Develop their technical skills and their knowledge of new analytical platforms
- Make some important decisions based on data management: what information should be collected? How can it be stored, and accessed, securely? Who is going to do what, with it?
Marketing professionals have a fantastic opportunity to take the lead in a business and drive change with the advent of the industrial internet. At a strategic level, they have the chance to:
- Structure the department, and potentially the business, to drive business improvement and maximise opportunities the Industrial Internet presents
- Educate the market on what the Industrial Internet actually means, and influence its perception
- Change the image of manufacturing from one of industrial machine production to one of innovation
- Share operational success stories which have a huge, positive impact on businesses: supply chain transformation, for example, or major health and safety improvements
- Deep-dive into customer data to generate best practice customer engagement
The Industrial Internet requires marketing professionals to become data scientists, but it also puts the emphasis back on creativity, communication and customer engagement. Marketers will need to hone new skills such as analytical skills and the ability to adapt quickly to new technology platforms, but they will also need to nurture those skills more traditionally associated with marketing. We are on the cusp of the fourth Industrial Revolution, and marketers are being given an unprecedented opportunity to create real impact and drive change.