Inside Google Marketing: The challenge of today’s digital marketer

Shaifali Nathan / April 2020 / Trends & Insights

Recently, I was reflecting on the programs, events, and trainings my team has delivered over the last couple of years, and one of my biggest observations was the constant effort required by marketers to stay on top of digital media trends. Given ad tech’s rate of change, even the most nimble will encounter disciplines, features, and trends that will be new to them.

It's no wonder that, at some point, just about every marketer feels overwhelmed. Every week, there are new technologies, processes, and terms to learn. There are books to read, talks to attend, and videos to catch up on. Add to that the need to be social — and on social — and there’s little time left for family and friends, and even less for ourselves.

While I love a challenge as much as any other marketer, I’ve also got a lot on my plate. So, I often ask myself, when is there time to learn, adapt, and stay updated?

To meet the pace of digital marketing, my team and I have evolved our approach over the last few months. Not all strategies apply to every context, but here are the ones I find the most valuable.

Continuously upskill the team

There’s always more to learn. Some things are obvious (such as keeping tabs on the latest Google Analytics or GMP features), but softer skills should not be overlooked. For example, my team spends a fair amount of time writing narratives and speeches, so we decided to sharpen our storytelling skills by inviting an expert to host a writing workshop. When the training received strong positive feedback, we scaled it to our broader teams. We then set up regular office hour check-ins with the storytelling coach and trained a group of in-house writing champions to act as consultants on new briefs.

I learned it’s important to carve out team-time for training so everyone understands it’s a team priority. The benefits will be magnified once everyone is empowered and equipped with the right skills because they will ultimately make better decisions for the business.

Start with internal strength

Training sessions with external experts are not always the most optimal format, so formats like peer-to-peer learning are especially effective.

Look within your team for expertise — it’s accessible, immediate, and may even prove to be more impactful because it’s relevant to your organization. Encouraging and providing a forum for peers to conduct trainings can be quick to set up, informal, and easy to scale.

For example, during an offsite training session last year, we broke up the attendees into smaller groups and invited peer-to-peer trainers to volunteer their time. What emerged were diversity and inclusion trainings, a data visualization workshop, and even a session on how to foster a healthier feedback culture.

Afterwards, we encouraged participants to provide feedback so we could uncover whether a training was helpful (and should be scaled) or where there were areas of improvement so we can learn from the experience.

This model not only builds confidence with team members and deepens their expertise but also transfers their knowledge to colleagues and the wider organization.

Believe in FAILs

Lastly, encourage your team to celebrate their “FAILs” — their First Attempt In Learning. By adopting this mindset, you create an environment where there is no shame in asking questions and let people know it is safe to prototype, learn, and iterate.

Similarly, as in all the examples above, a structured follow-through is needed to help form new habits and mindsets within a team. At the end of every quarter, when reviewing objectives and key results, team leaders talk through their team’s FAILs so the rest of the group can learn from the experience.

In today’s current climate, change is constant. This is especially the case in digital marketing. While it enables us to bring our products and services to our customers in more engaging and compelling ways, it also reinforces the fact that we need to focus on our ability to adapt and evolve.

After all, isn’t the biggest benefit of digital the ability to iterate, learn fast, and constantly optimize?

Inside Google Marketing: 5 principles guiding our media teams in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak