Do You Have the Bench Strength to Deal With the
Onslaught of Data?
By Ginger Conlon
Are you building the internal culture and talent pool necessary to deal with today’s data overload? That was the question 1-800-Flowers.com CMO Amit Shah posited during his keynote Q&A with Ad Age reporter Adrianne Pasquarelli at the Ad Age IQ: Marketing & Technology Conference. “The internal state of being is as important as the external forces,” Shah said.
Shah provided his perspective on how to build a marketing team able to keep pace with the evolving marketing landscape, and shared how 1-800-Flowers.com is building its marketing team bench strength.
“Basic marketing pedigree is not cutting it,” Shah said. He recommended looking for people with a multidisciplinary background. But those people are unicorns, he said. So, it’s essential to train people with diverse backgrounds to get them to the skill level needed. Put learning at the center of your workforce, Shah advised. This can help to create team of people who are skilled at learning and who can sub for each other when the “expert” in a certain area is out, he pointed out.
“One of the key things we look for in terms of measuring success is the rate of learning among our staff,” Shah said. “Can we take newer people and have them tackle emerging challenges? Did they succeed and stay with us? We have to earn the right for employees to come to work for us every day—especially today in a market where it’s tough to find talent.”
Why is it so tough to find the right people to fill open marketing positions? “Marketers still lacks relevant skills,” Shah said. “Marketing grads are still moving out with great marketing fundamentals, but need more digital skills and understanding. For example, they need a basic understanding of Google analytics.” This dearth of digital marketing skills is one reason 1-800-Flowers.com launched an internal program for developing digital marketing skills. The program teaches competencies in key areas such as web analytics. “The goal is to build bench strength,” Shah said.
Part of the learning process should involve collaboration across teams, he noted. Creatives and engineers, for instance, need to talk. “We’re now co-locating some people from different areas to help break down silos,” Shah said, “and not just be digital-first in practice, but also in how people look at each other as one team with shared goals.”
One area of collaboration that’s especially important is marketing and IT—especially as companies build out their martech stacks. “We’ll spend more time not just bringing together marketing and tech, but those teams, too,” Shah said.
Shah added that marketing leaders looking to build their bench strength have to watch how fast AI will disrupt their marketing tech stack. “AI won’t replace humans in the short term, but traditional role work will get disrupted, including how brands put out campaigns,” he said.
Another shift that the influx of data has brought about is the ability to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. “Traditional job-oriented skills will take a back seat to dealing with the ambiguity of data,” Shah said, adding that marketing leaders should look for marketers who can understand the “constructs of what’s coming out of the data” that they can use. Shah recommended asking job candidates questions such as, “How many times have you failed and what did you do subsequently?” and “What leadership can you bring to the table as a result of that?”
Marketing teams also need people with the ability to learn, respond, and shift quickly. “Marketers need to ask: Is the rate of agility inside equal to the rate we need?” Shah said.
With all of these changes, the recruiting of tomorrow will be different from the recruiting of today, Shah asserted. “Companies are going to stop hiring for roles and start hiring for DQ: digital quotient,” he said. “Companies will win or lose by their overall DQ. Do they have people who understand digital and related data?”
About the Author
Ginger Conlon, chief editor and marketing alchemist at MKTGinsight, catalyzes change in marketing organizations. She is a frequent speaker on marketing and customer experience, and serves in advisory or leadership roles for several industry organizations. Ginger was honored with a Silver Apple lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the marketing industry.