In today’s highly competitive business environment, a marketer’s dilemma is how to keep pace with and leverage on cutting edge technological developments in the market.

Technology is advancing like never before. The past year caught many napping and unaware on how to do business. Digital disruption forced many companies and even entire industries to re-think their business models. Digital disruption refers to the rapid transformational changes made possible by digital technologies and the impact they have on business practices challenging and in some cases threatening the established ways of doing business.

The mantra was innovate or die. The Covid 19 pandemic fast tracked the digital revolution five-fold, creating a new normal or way of doing business.

Marketers now have virtually unlimited access to data that is created every day of the consumers’ lives by technology. Technology is unleashing an exciting wave of disruption on marketing, enabling marketers to solve consumer’s problems with precision at the same time creating an even more demanding customer.

New digital technologies are driving massive transformation in the global economy amid the Covid 19 pandemic. This had led to Marketing 5.0 which is a group of technologies that aim to emulate the capabilities of human marketers. It includes Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT), Predictive Analytics (PA), Marketing Automation (MA), virtual reality (VR), blockchain and augmented reality (AR). A combination of these technologies is the enabler of Marketing 5.0. Industries are being transformed and the world we live in is changing in exciting ways. Disruptive technologies require a different approach or mindset shift for a marketer.

In all these digital transformation it is important for marketers to up skill and be able to balance with technology. Marketing is one of the most multi-skilled occupations there is. Basic marketing principles may remain the same but the digital marketing skills and tools needed  to thrive in the workplace are constantly evolving.

Preparing for a job in the marketing world tomorrow will be vastly different than it is today, the digital marketing skills and tools you need to analyze, create, and implement marketing campaigns continue to evolve at breakneck speed. The emergence of remote working means that one’s job can easily be replaced by an external expert.

In all this, the customer is also not spared from change. The changing power of the consumer cannot be ignored. The COVID-19 crisis, however, has forced many consumers to change their behaviors, and their new experiences have caused them to change their beliefs about a wide range of everyday activities, from grocery shopping to exercising to socializing. When consumers are surprised and delighted by new experiences, even long-held beliefs can change and they often share their experiences on the digital platforms. This has created importance of customer service to most corporates.

In other words, this is a unique moment in time during which companies can reinforce and shape behavioural shifts to position their products and brands better.

The new normal has created a global customer through the digital channels. The increase in the use of e-commerce platforms and online shopping experience has created a global customer who has to get the same shopping experience from one part of the world. Statistics from Amazon and E-bay, TakeaLot  and Ali Baba showed experienced increased sales from the onset of the Covid 19 pandemic to date.

The online customer is totally different from the physical customer, they need instant response, promptness and convenience.  A customer service blunder can go viral within five minutes. Customers have resorted to converging on online communities to share their terrible experiences with brands and to recommend the ones they think still offer better services. We have all seen how many brands and corporates have been shamed by their customers online and that going viral. This is normally followed by a tirade of other vile comments from other customers who may have experienced the same experience from that particular company.

But how does a marketer solve such a challenge?

Highly emotional occasions can spark intense consumer reactions and therefore present an opportunity for companies to create peak moments associated with their products or brands. Many are falling short of strategies of solving those challenges. Some resort to engaging in private while some engage publicly. There are many pros and cons to the two strategies.

Businesses that strive to offer the best experience to their customers will definitely survive and record increased sales. Those that still think prioritising the customer is not a survival strategy might find themselves operating from the dustbin soon. The internet particularly social media has provided customers with an opportunity to rally each other, converge, vent and share brand experiences. Some businesses have suffered from customer flights after negative reviews while some have been bolstered by an increase in sales through the same platforms. Customer experience therefore remains critical to the survival of any business particularly during this Covid 19 era.

As the Association for Marketers in Zimbabwe we have led the way by ensuring that our members are up to date with current trends as far as the professional development is concerned.

We have led the way in ensuring that today’s marketer is up-to date and ready to face the 21st century business challenges.

We have array of programs that we have introduced in the past years to prepare our marketer. These include the Professional Certificate in Digital Marketing, The Certified Digital Marketer Program, the Marketing Practitioner Status, the ZimChartered Marketer, Marketing Leadership Development Program, Business Leadership Development Program, short courses and workshops among others.

Apart from the Training programs already on the calendar we host the Annual Continuous Professional Development Master Class (Winter School) where we have different classes offering different career development topics to members. This is the sought after program for continuous professional development for marketing and related professionals.

For this year’s Winter School to be held under a hybrid set up with  physical and virtual participants from June 24 to 26 , 2021 we have three classes  with different programs.

Class A is for the Marketing Practitioner Status.

The target audience for this class is qualified marketing personnel, Public Relations Executives, Customer service personnel and Digital Marketers. Among the topics to be covered in this class are; Advanced Marketing Strategy in the Digital Era , CEO Expectations of the Marketing Function ; Measurement  Metrics for Marketing Skills and Preparation of Digitally Integrated Marketing Plan.

Class B is the newly introduced Sales Practitioner Status whose target audience is sales personnel, Business development, Sales managers and key account executives.  The Sales person has not been spared the demands of a changing landscape. Topics to be covered include High impact sales strategy in a Digital World, modernising the sales process for today’s selling environment, Go to market strategies in the Digital Age as well as From elevator pitches to compelling B2B Value propositions.

Class C the Continuous Professional Development Master Class targeted at among others senior managers, marketing managers, Digital Managers , existing marketing practitioners, public relations personnel,  customer service personnel, product development and research personnel, among others. Topics for this class include ; Driving enterprise organic growth through business innovation , measurement metrics for marketing efforts , Go to Market Strategies in the Digital Age, customer centricity and personalisation to build loyalty, the changing landscape of marketing communication , application of customer experience (CX)  and user design (UX) and processes to create customer value.

Speakers at the Winter School are Dr Panashe Chiurunge , Group Chief Technology Officer , CBZ Holdings ,  Nkosivile Mandingo , Senior Lecturer at University of Cape Town , Lovemore Nyatsine ,  CEO , Clean City , Maxen Karombo , Managing director , OK Zimbabwe , Stephen Essein –D.light –CX Director Africa ( Ghana) Clement Hlangwana , Sanlam  Head of Marketing (South Africa) ,  Wendy Monkey , ‘SHE-EO Digital Content Lab (South Africa) ,  Mrs Unaiswi Nyikadzino , Commercial Director , Beitbridge Juicing , Admire Ndumo , Hyundai –General Manager , Collin Samata ,Merchandising Manager , Brands Africa and Dr Nomathemba Ndlovu , Academic Researcher (based in USA).

They hybrid set up will see physical participants converging in Mutare.

Enia Zimunya is the Head Operations and Marketing at the Marketers Association of Zimbabwe. She is a seasoned marketer and brand strategist.