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Upskill and Adapt: Jason Miller’s Advice for Future Marketing Leaders

July 2, 2024

In this latest Q&A session, we delve into the insights and experiences of Jason Miller, former Head of Brand and Content Marketing at Microsoft, LinkedIn, and ActiveCampaign. With a rich background in tech marketing, Jason shares his perspectives on the evolving challenges in product development, growth, and technology. He emphasises the critical importance of brand building in today’s market, the overlooked potential of customer journey mapping powered by AI, and the nuanced impacts of remote work on team dynamics and work-life balance. From practical adjustments to improve productivity and well-being to strategic advice for aspiring marketers, Jason offers a comprehensive view on navigating the future of tech and marketing.

Reflecting on your experience, what major challenges do you anticipate product/growth/tech will face in the coming years? How do you think leaders should be preparing themselves and their teams to tackle these challenges?:

Right now, every leader should be focused on brand building. When I started in tech marketing, it was all about leads: “we need more leads, gate everything.” Then we moved into the big data era: “we need more data, data, data.” Next, we saw the rise of storytelling: “everyone’s a storyteller,” but we recently figured out that no one gives a shit about any of these things unless they know who you are and trust you. This is where brand marketing comes in. 

The problem with getting buy-in from CEOs and boards is that it’s much more difficult to measure but not impossible. (I’ll talk more about this in my session and give you a simple framework to measure brand impact.) To convince sales and put a commercial lens on it, I use this quote from my better half, Tricia Miller (also a tech marketer): “People don’t buy from companies they don’t trust, and they don’t trust companies they’ve never heard of.” Moving forward, it’s all about brand building and all the things that come along with that, including positioning, differentiation, and, most importantly, big ideas. 

In your opinion, what is the next big opportunity for tech innovation that you feel is currently being overlooked or isn’t receiving enough attention?

Everyone seems to be talking about generative AI and automated content creation, but none of that matters if you don’t understand your customer journey through Customer Journey Mapping. The fact that this journey is no longer linear and is pretty much all over the place is begging for an AI-powered answer, but it’s not sexy to talk about, and it’s not going viral on LinkedIn, so no one gives a shit.

Employing advanced analytics to map out detailed customer journeys and identify key touchpoints helps create more effective and personalized marketing strategies that address each stage of the buyer’s journey. Cut through the fluff and give your prospects and customers exactly what they need to solve their problems without any friction. If you can add your opinions along the way and not be afraid to piss off a few people, you’ll be way ahead of the curve.

From your own experience, how do you see the continuing evolution of remote work and its technologies impacting your own work-life balance?

Having worked in fully remote settings, hybrid setups, and full-on office environments, I think there needs to be a balance. I’ve seen a lot of complaints about workplace culture and lack of opportunities for promotions and advancement. We need to be realistic in recognizing that relationships matter. Soft skills are critical for advancement, and it’s much more difficult to build relationships remotely. This is even more true for team building and keeping everyone motivated.

In the remote environment, we often forget that people driving pipeline or sales are also managing teams. There is a lot less emphasis on the human element of the team and more pressure on hitting numbers, which is not sustainable or scalable. The reality is that some roles will require you to be in the office to be successful and get that promotion, like it or not. I would also argue that what we think of as “freedom to work anywhere in the world” also comes with a mental health cost which is largely neglected based on the coolness of the trend. This is going to come back to bit us all. 

If you could implement changes to the way people work based on your own routines and practices, what specific adjustments would you make to improve productivity or well-being?

You need an inspiring leader who gives a shit. Structure and processes lay a foundation and are critical, of course, but someone needs to paint the picture of what’s possible, share the vision, bring everyone along for the ride, and make them feel as if they have skin in the game. Celebrate wins accordingly and check in with team members on a personal level. It’s not all about the numbers, as much as we want to make it so.

With the job market heating back up, it’s critical to attract the best talent and retain them for the long run. You won’t achieve that by constantly shoving pipeline numbers down their throats.

Reflecting on your own journey in your field, what is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is just starting out?

The one piece of advice I would give? Upskill, upskill, upskill. Growth mindset is thrown around so loosely these days that it’s lost its luster, but don’t ignore it. Back when I worked at LinkedIn, we came up with the concept of the hybrid marketer—a marketer who’s not an expert in any one thing but understands how all the different disciplines of marketing fit together and what success looks like. Everyone said, “Jack of all trades, master of none,” which really pissed me off.

Now, with AI taking over many “expert” tasks, those “experts” are scrambling to adapt. The average half-life of a skill is now less than five years, and even shorter in some tech fields. Just like athletes train constantly to stay at the top of their game, marketers must do the same to survive. The future of marketing leadership depends on being versatile. CMOs with limited exposure to brand, content, email, social, SEO, and PPC are seeing short tenures. Be a hybrid marketer, upskill constantly, and be ready to pivot as technology evolves. Those who can adapt will lead, and those who can’t will be left behind.

About:

Jason Miller has held senior marketing roles at ActiveCampaign, Microsoft, and LinkedIn. He is a prolific speaker and a digital marketing instructor at the University of California, Berkeley. His book, “Welcome to the Funnel: Proven Tactics to Turn Your Social Media and Content Marketing up to 11,” was a best-seller, and his new book, “Second Skin: Tales from the Mosh Pit of Life,” is out now. When he’s not immersed in his day job, you can find him photographing the world’s biggest rock stars across various stages in Europe.

Jason Miller’s Turing Fest talk: Branding in the Age of AI

In an AI-obsessed world, brand is the key to building trust and authority. Join Jason Miller for a dynamic exploration of branding in the AI era, where authenticity is essential. Miller expertly blends AI with a human touch, ensuring your brand avoids the uncanny valley—a phenomenon where overly perfect AI becomes unsettling.

He calls out superficial tactics and empty promises, emphasising the importance of focusing on your brand’s core values. Forget fleeting metrics and quick wins; it’s about building a solid foundation for sustained demand and real impact.

Drawing from his experiences at Sony Music, LinkedIn, Microsoft, ActiveCampaign, and Tyk Technologies, Miller provides strategies to measure true brand impact in the B2B world. Learn how to balance human elements with AI enhancements to elevate your brand strategy. Discover the key traits of successful modern brands and position yours for long-term success. Gain insights into evaluating your brand’s true impact, focusing on genuine value instead of superficial numbers.

View the 2024 agenda here.

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