As a current college student (and Marketing-Sales intern at BrightFunnel), I’ve noticed an increasingly dangerous trend in academics: the overemphasis on the creative aspects of marketing. Undoubtedly, creativity still plays a critical role in the world of marketing, but the field has evolved to beyond what was once considered and arts-and-crafts function to be more data-driven than ever before. Creative-focused curriculum may do a good job of teaching the basics but, due to disruption in technology and the mass availability of data today, it’s time for a refresh. I’ve realized most information that I take away from marketing and business classes, although still valuable, may be outdated and no longer optimized for the direction that marketing is heading.

Marketing seems to be moving too fast for curriculum to catch up. With marketing evolving at such a rapid speed, the lessons being taught in colleges must evolve along with it. Today’s classes should dive deep into a wide range of digital marketing essentials and core technology—search engine optimization, marketing automation basics (Marketo and Eloqua), CRM best practices (Salesforce), and the analytics associated with each of these platforms. Most importantly, how to analyze the data being presented by analytics and reporting features, interpret it, and act upon it would certainly give me a leg up on the competition in my generation.

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Marketing is now a science.

Today, you simply must be data-driven to succeed. Whether it’s fine-tuning your automation strategy, A/B testing everything across your web experience, or finding ways to gain better visibility into performance throughout the buyer’s journey, if you’re not making use of all the data you’ve amassed, you’re wasting time and money. Data-driven practices are not only applicable to Marketing, but to every department within an organization. Sales Development Representatives can utilize data through lead scoring—honing in on the lead that’s most likely to turn into an opportunity or deal. Recruiters can adopt a data-driven mindset just as much as Marketing and Sales—through analysis of job listings, finding the candidates most fit for the position, and finding new ways to approach them. There’s not a department where data can’t be used to benefit an organization, tech industry or otherwise.

Working with BrightFunnel I’ve realized that, in some ways, my education path is not too different from some established CMOs and Marketing VPs. Even at prominent organizations, many marketing executives at are just now discovering the benefits that data can provide and, much like myself, are scrambling to get up to speed. Data-driven culture has reached a point where it is critical to adopt in order to succeed—learning about the data-based tools and strategies and applying them to every aspect of a marketing plan.

At BrightFunnel, we’re solving a problem that B2B marketers have struggled with since the beginning of time: understanding the impact that marketing has on pipeline and revenue. Using these insights to more efficiently plan and budget is at the core of what it means to be a data-driven marketer and I feel honored to be part of an organization that’s playing such a pivotal role in the evolution of the field. For instance, a few issues that we’ve already helped great companies solve for include:

  • Having no answer to “If I had X amount of marketing budget where should I invest that?”
  • Relying on time-consuming spreadsheets to calculate cohort oppty and conversion rates
  • Not knowing which marketing channels generate the most opportunities
  • Lack of full insights for lead cycle, their conversion rates, and velocity

  • No insights on marketing impact for every stage of the funnel

Having visibility on these insights allows B2B marketers to not only see the impact that marketing has on revenue and pipeline, but take complete control of their marketing campaigns and budget.

Did marketers in the past pre-data-driven era throw money at the problem rather than solve it?

While data analysis might not seem as appealing as a creative role, marketing technology has simplified what was once a painful, manual, and time-consuming process. Today, there are an abundance of tools that do the heavy lifting for marketers—analyzing the data across marketing systems and delivering valuable insights that can be applied to your strategy. Marketers that choose to ignore these tools—convincing themselves that what worked a few years ago should still work today—are going to quickly fall behind the competition. Decision making based off “feel” is a thing of the past and can hurt your marketing performance far more than it helps.

You don’t need to neglect what has traditionally worked to be open to the concept of data-driven marketing. A new paradigm has emerged and the data-driven marketers will reign over those who fail to adapt. The data-driven curriculum is still being written every day, but you can stay ahead of the trend by proactively familiarizing yourself with new data-driven processes, technologies, and best practices. Whether it’s “textbook” or not, marketers who fail to adopt a data-driven mindset can and will fall behind. To those that believe in the power of data—students, new marketers, and seasoned executives alike—class is now in session.