Technology continues to change the way we live. The manner in which we communicate and the decisions we make every day are invariably tech-related. It is inevitable then that when planning a marketing strategy, you need to be exceptionally well-informed and up-to-date with the very latest methodology to reach your target audience.

This is probably the number one challenge confronting marketing professionals in the 21st century.

The marketing and information technology departments are two of the most vital of any company as they hold the requisite skills and resources to drive a successful and profitable organisation. In order to more effectively reach their target markets, companies have quickly realised that a tech-savvy marketing team needs to work closely with the IT team in developing and executing strategies that deliver a competitive edge to the organisation. With the continual emergence of new and improved information and communications technology, you – as a marketing professional – are expected to keep yourself up-to-date with the latest and most efficient methods of communication in the digital world.

This not only aligns your marketing department to the IT team in terms of ‘lingo’, but it also keeps you and your team current with the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ of the latest communication channels available.

Of course there is hardly a shortage of tech-savvy people in today’s tight labour market, as most graduates are appropriately informed of the world’s ever-evolving technology. Schools and universities are equipped with cutting edge technologies (computers, wireless connections, video conferencing facilities, online information, interactive online applications, etc.). Today’s children, from as young as two, are constantly exposed to online games, emails, mobile phones and other digital and interactive media.

Regardless of your educational background, you are, more than likely, highly exposed to (and in touch with) the high-tech world we live in through your everyday activities.

Companies that maximise sales potential by putting their high-tech foot forward – keeping a team that is capable of coming up with fresh ideas or improving on used ones to appeal to today’s tech-savvy crowd – will ensure the organisation’s competitive edge.

To consistently achieve this, you need to keep yourself and your company across new and emerging trends used by leading companies around the world – tried and proven methods or even brand new ideas to reach your target audience.

As most marketing professionals would have experienced, as soon as you get to grips with using the traditional banners and other variants online, mobile and interactive media cause a brand new wave, thanks to high-speed broadband. It is inevitable that something better and improved will constantly be introduced to the market and you are expected to keep learning them.

So how do you keep yourself constantly updated with the ever-changing technology of today?

There are a number of ways that you can stay ahead of the game, especially in the digital world. Below are just a few useful tips:

Watch and learn

The ever-growing high-speed digital medium we use today has made possible features such as vodcasts, podcasts, digital audio, broadband ad formats, voiceover internet and other online interactive functions. The employment of these functions allows online marketing campaigns to be more engaging and interesting for viewers – but, beware, innovation does not stop there.

One of the best ways to learn about new and improved marketing methods in the digital space is to observe what other companies are using. Of course, you should aim to be the innovator in your industry as opposed to being a follower, but sometimes it pays to learn whether a certain method is effective before investing a huge amount of capital in your own marketing campaign. It’s just keeping an eye on the competition. (They’re invariably keeping an eye on you!)

Ongoing training

Another way to keep yourself and your company at the forefront of the marketing game is to attend training courses on the latest and/or emerging marketing technologies. There are a number of online courses you can take – or, alternatively, you can attend short courses and seminars locally.

These courses are a great way to meet other marketing professionals and share methods and gain insights into what other companies are doing. Tertiary institutions with highly regarded marketing courses include Charles Sturt University, Monash University, the Australian Graduate School of Management, the University of New South Wales and the University of Queensland. Thompson Education is also a well-regarded publisher of online educational programs.

E-newsletters and trade magazines

More often than not, you can get the very latest news and ideas on innovative marketing in the digital space from online newsletters or trade magazines, so a monthly or quarterly subscription to sources like these is definitely beneficial. Many successful companies tend to get publicity through articles in trade magazines, where they share their outlook on trends and sometimes expose their methods and trade secrets.

Learn more about search engine marketing

There is no shortage of search engines on the web and considering the direction in which the world is heading, it is a good idea to learn how you can maximise exposure and results from your digital marketing campaign.

Among many other things, you will learn how search engines function, what affects their listings, how you can manage and manipulate multiple domains, track every visit and, most importantly, protect your brand by avoiding ‘bad links’ in a negative cyberspace neighbourhood.

The online search engine is forever morphing and improving; therefore, learning about them will not only equip you with knowledge on how they affect your business, but it will also keep your planning well ahead of the game.

Learn from digital marketing companies

Often organisations look to specialist marketing companies for expert advice and assistance in their new or ongoing marketing campaigns. This is because specialist marketing companies have the product and industry knowledge to advise their clients on what marketing strategy and medium is – or is not – relevant to their products/services.

Talk to recruiters

Recruiters today not only perform their traditional function of recruiting, but also act as ‘career managers’ or advisers to many of their candidates. Most importantly, they are extremely useful sources of information as they have first-hand knowledge of the industry constantly fed to them by their clients and other candidates. So the next time you have a meeting with a recruiter, don’t hold back in asking what they know about the latest trends, or what experiences and skills their clients are looking for. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Armed with that new-found information, you can look up what you don’t know and familiarise yourself with it. Your potential employers will be more than impressed with your initiative in learning about new and emerging trends and technology.

As a 21st century marketing executive, it is largely your responsibility to update your skills and convince an old-fashioned employer to change with the times for the sake of the company’s future (not to mention, your career development). And if that fails, you should seek other opportunities where you will be able to experience the professional growth your career demands.