What skills make a marketer well-equipped and future-ready?
To answer that question, let's take this data into consideration:
A whopping 90 percent of the world’s data has been produced in the last two years, according to Deloitte’s 2020 Global Marketing Trends Report.
And that data is being consumed on more than 26 billion smart devices worldwide!
New trends in media consumption combined with evolving marketing & data technologies has necessitated the role of an agile marketer who is strategic, creative and analytical - simultaneously.
As digital transformation and disruption continues, it's obvious that digital marketing skills are still in top demand.
Companies worldwide need people who are innately creative and technically proficient with data to make sense of the deluge of analytics generated by advertising platforms.
To explain this highly in-demand skillset further, I've created the "Modern Marketing Skillset Framework" that explains the intersection of skills that make the perfect, master marketer.
The following Venn diagram highlights the 3 main capabilities every marketer should develop and practice to prepare their companies (and their career) for highly competitive times ahead.
In short, (although it can't get any shorter than this) - if you want to start a successful & competitive marketing career or hone your existing one, it's crucial to think from all these 3 mental frameworks.
No individual skill is complete without the other 2 corresponding ones.
This is a framework I've developed after spending years learning, practicing and bettering my marketing skills to make my agency and clients profitable.
For each segment, I've assigned 5 most in-demand skills you should focus on, to build effective brands and get the most ROI.
Under most skills, I'll link to additional reading resources to help you get better in those areas.
However, I'd recommend you to read this article from start to finish before hopping on to those resources, so that you don't lose the tempo of your up-skilling process.
Let's jump right in.
This set of skills requires marketers to create actions that have an impact - Actions that involve goal-setting and achieving them.
The plethora of skills in this segment involves marketers thinking in terms of strategy, long-term implications, and customer journey.
Strategic skills are primarily built and honed by experience, external learning sources like books & industry reports, and building skin in the game.
Skill 1) Consumer Psychology & Empathy
In 2011, Google released an eye-opening resource called "Winning the Zero Moment of Truth" that described the new buying journey, putting the customer in control.
It described the way consumers found and shared information about products in their own way, in their own time.
This new, evolving breed of customers were "research-savvy" and used search + social platforms to identify their problems, look for possible solutions, analyze the best available options and then make their ultimate purchase decision - all by themselves and their sheer research skills.
This evolution in the buyer's journey requires marketers and brands to understand consumer psychology and put themselves in the shoes of their target audience.
That's why I've placed this skill at the top of the marketer skillset pyramid - You can't be a good marketer without understanding your customers in detail.
Empathizing with your customers involves creating marketing strategies that satisfy their queries and eliminate their pain points.
In other words, the key to delighting your customers is understanding them.
Skill 2) Competitive Analysis & Research
The ability to understand your competitors is crucial for marketers. After all, if you don't have your fingers on the pulse of the market, your competitors will end up stealing your customers' hearts.
Competitive analysis and research and goes back way before than you might anticipate.
In fact, Sun Tzu the legendary author of "The Art of War" - the best book on battle & strategy quotes:
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
These powerful 3 lines are a testament to the criticality of competitor intelligence.
Staying abreast of what your competitors are doing—how they’re thinking about the market, what tactics they’re using, how they’re crafting messages and design—can make all the difference in your customer success strategy.
Furthermore, competitive analysis is a goldmine of opportunities for conversion optimizations.
This helps improving the effectiveness of your website, digital media campaigns and so much more!
Skill 3) Social Media Marketing
Social media has transformed the way people interact with brands online.
Subsequently, it’s transformed the way marketers communicate with their target audience.
Marketers use social media to accomplish a number of goals, from brand building to lead generation and revenue growth.
Most marketing teams have a dedicated social media team—but it’s critical that all marketing professionals understand how to effectively use social media.
Platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn allow marketers to network, interact with customers and share valuable content.
Not everyone will be an expert—but it’s no longer acceptable to be oblivious to the power of social media.
Social media is evolving faster than brands are.
That's why having a solid set of social media skills is crucial for marketers - whether you're client-facing or sitting at the agency-side.
Skill 4) Paid Advertising & Pay-per-Click Ads
Although organic (content) marketing is extremely effective, at times, you'll need some paid muscle to give your brand the extra push it needs to get faster results.
If executed well, paid ads can improve the reputation of your company while reaching a wider audience in a short period.
As a marketer, you should perfect the art of running paid ads - also known as PPC (pay-per-click) to help your brand increase its reach and rank higher in search engines.
Paid ads can run on a variety of channels (Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Quora to name a few) and leverage many of the other skills marketers need to know.
These skills include running ads for YouTube videos and creating relevant ads for youth-focused platforms like TikTok or Snapchat.
Running profitable paid ads requires you to have skills like empathy, creativity, strategy and research - to name a few.
You'll pretty much need 90% of the skills mentioned in this article to excel at paid advertising, because it's more than just running ads or boosting posts on social media blindly.
Skill 5) Content Strategy & Content Marketing
93% of B2B marketers use content marketing, but only 42% say they're effective with their content efforts. (Source)
Blogging and creating advanced content like eBooks and infographics isn’t anything new, but how people digest that content is changing (as is Google’s way of ranking it).
Earlier, the advice earlier used to revolve around keeping articles short, and under 500 words.
However with the advent of research-powered customers, long-form content helps in getting all the questions answered while building credibility and helping your website rank higher in searches.
Blog articles nowadays are atleast 3-5 times longer and more in-depth (just like this one) as compared to the ones prevalent earlier.
As a marketer, you should be comfortable with creating content strategies that fulfill specific marketing objectives such as lead generation, moving customers through the sales funnel, getting backlinks, and building brand credibility.
The skills you read about so far were strategic in nature and didn't prioritize creativity.
In the following set, you'll learn the 5 most in-demand creative skills every marketer should have, to manage the creative aspects of their company, and stand out among competitors in a crowded marketplace.
Skill 6) Copywriting
Writing is the soul of content & advertising.
Without strong writing skills, your communication will be weak and unconvincing.
When it comes to writing copy, there's a lot of homework that needs to be done before jotting down your words.
That homework involves understanding who you are writing for, what's the objective of the written piece, where will it be published, what's the action you want people to take after reading it and so on.
Without a thorough understanding of the factors stated above, your chances of becoming an all-rounder, elite marketer are slim.
You need to be able to comprehensively communicate your message at all times.
You can make everything work, but if you can’t make your copy work, everything will fail.
The best form of copywriting engages people.
It talk TO people, and not AT them.
It makes people pay attention to your content.
After all, the ability to hold your target audience's attention is ULTIMATE skill in marketing.
Skill 7) Creative Direction
Creativity is the ability to recognize unseen connections between related or unrelated concepts.
It’s crucial for advertising goods and services in a more memorable and efficient manner.
Creativity in marketing is not just about Adobe, writing, graphics and content.
It's also about the experience -
The experience that'll make your target audience feel valued and delighted.
This need for an experience will never fade away, because people easily get bored by with mundane corporate communication, and aspire to see brands that care for them and walk in their shoes.
To be a superstar marketer, you need to think of concepts you've never thought of before and find fresh, original and creative ideas to showcase your brand in a way that leaves a mark on your customers.
Creative thinking in marketing involves taking risks, and does involve trashing hundreds of ideas before THE ONE is found.
Bold creative direction can take your brand to a whole new level - both in terms of market share as well as in the eyes of your consumers.
As a marketer, your role in creative direction isn't just brainstorming creative ways to sell your brand.
Since you're also partly responsible for sales and revenue, you should be able to answer the following questions:
1. Why Are We Advertising?
2. What Is The Current Situation of the Market?
3. Who Are We Advertising To? (Target Audience)
4. Who Are our Competitors?
5. What Is Our Goal? (Brand awareness, sales, consultations?)
6. What Are The Objectives We Must Achieve To Reach That Goal? (Do your homework about the KPIs involved)
7. What Is Our Unique Selling Proposition? (What makes us different)
8. Why Should Our Customer Believe That? (Do we have a compelling story or proof?)
9. What Is Our Positioning Statement? (What will our customers remember us for?)
10. What Media Do We Need? (The best platforms to be on)
11. What Is The Right Tone Or Attitude of your Marketing? (Should we be bold or polite, empathetic or compelling)
Skill 8) Design Thinking
Brands must find ways to tell absorbing new stories as they look to reach today’s super-empowered consumer—and many parts of these stories are visual.
Companies like IBM have invested heavily in design thinking, where diverse teams put the user at the center of the design process in seeking to turn fresh ideas into impactful outcomes.
IBM’s Design Thinking practice has achieved 2x faster time-to-market and 300% return on investment, according to Forrester’s Total Economic Impact™ Study in 2018.
Design thinking is a methodology to drive innovation.
It brings together what’s alluring to future customers with what’s technically feasible and economically viable for a business.
This method inspires new thinking and develops breakthrough ideas, all while remaining realistic.
Design thinking is a multi-step method for understanding your consumers’ needs better, creating innovative solutions for them and iterating quickly to get it just right.
Design thinking starts by empathizing with a specific need, then learning about it until everyone truly understands it.
The approach helps to properly define the focus or problem.
Consumers have unprecedented choice.
They can make purchase and brand loyalty decisions based on very specific preferences.
Some may care about price, while for others convenience or customer experience matters most.
As a marketer, you can’t promise that your company will offer the best of everything, but you can give them the best of something.
Skill 9) Storytelling
People don’t buy logic; they buy emotions.
As a marketer, you should be creating content that appeals to the emotional side of your readers.
Your product may kill 99.5% of bacteria, but what sells it is the fact that they’ll be able to keep their family healthy and safe from germs or serious illnesses.
As you write any content, find the way to connect your customer’s lives to your product.
Play up the frustrations they are experiencing and tell them the story of how your product is going to make it all better.
Building brand visibility through storytelling is what every marketer needs to focus on.
As the consumer grows more intelligent, smart and effective stories are what will sell the most-catering to different audiences, mindsets and emotions.
Stories can be incorporated into all your forms of content: blogs, e-books, whitepapers, and even your “About us” page to captivate your audience with a compelling brand story.
The value of storytelling can also be transferred to other departments to grow your business – for example training your sales reps to tell the story of your company or product or using your story to captivate investors and bring in the big bucks.
Once you learn to tell a good story, your audience is always going to be wanting more, which will turn your readers into leads, your leads into customers, and your customers into loyal customers.
Skill 10) Video Content
Video marketing is the top choice for marketers (among all content options), and second only to social media marketing among SMB owners.
23 percent of marketers and 30 percent of SMB owners feel “behind” or “way behind” their competition in terms of their video marketing strategy.
Yet, in a world where one in four customers lose interest in companies that don’t use video, and nine out of 10 customers watch at least one online video per week (likely many more than that), now is not the time to shy away from video creation and promotion. It’s the time to embrace it.
It can be daunting. You may think you need a ton of scripts, and storyboards, and equipment to do video right. And in some cases that is true.
But what you may not realize is that for some types of video, it’s a lot easier to create them than you might think.
You don't need to start with expensive, high-calibre production equipment.
For starters, you can even shoot in high-quality, 4K video with your smartphone.
Video marketing is more than hitting “record” and uploading.
As with all aspects of marketing, video marketing begins and ends with strategy.
To be successful at this skill, marketers should be able to:
- Understand the Audience or Buyer;
- Determine the Appropriate Video Style;
- Choose Appropriate Platforms or Apps;
- Manage Time, People and Deliverables;
- Optimize for Search;
Skill 11) Data Interpretation & Digital Analytics
There is a MASSIVE shortage of marketers that are skilled in the art of data analysis.
A recent study found that only 3% of marketers are competent in analyzing data!
In digital marketing, every visitor, view, click and share is tracked.
In fact, there’s so much data now that small business owners get a mountain of it to review each month.
Sifting through it all can be exhausting.
An analytics expert can interpret the data found in platforms like Google Analytics, Marketo, Pardot, and HubSpot.
They can also track things like page views, time on site, bounce rate and conversions over time.
An important part of this involves attribution, or being able to assign credit to buying actions.
For example, did the consumer decide to buy after downloading a white paper, or was it after they visited a specific landing page?
Or was it after they received an email with a specific offer?
After you’ve gleaned all those insights from the analytics, you need to be able to tell the story of your impact in a way that’s visually interesting.
People are going to ask “so what?,” so you need to convince them with insightful reporting that explains why their investment matters.
That’s how you elevate marketing within your organization.
With AI redefining the modern marketer, the tech giant forecasts the rise of full-time data wranglers for customer data platforms.
Marketers need to know how to take the data that you’ve gathered and turn it into a story that explains what happened and why it happened in plain English.
Your marketing campaigns could be massive and the data could be great, but when your boss turns to you and asks,
“So, why did this campaign work?”
Your answer should be more thorough than just,
“Well, we planned a really creative social campaign.”
Skill 12) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Modern customers conduct most business online—whether they’re researching products and potential vendors or simply looking for a piece of content.
As a result, SEO has become ingrained in nearly every digital marketing initiative.
SEO is no longer a specialization for one or several team members to handle—all marketers should have a fundamental understanding of SEO best practices to help garner visibility within Google search results.
While SEO has changed dramatically in recent years, there’s still a great demand for someone grounded in technical SEO.
A digital whiz who can optimize websites by fixing website architecture, delivering an awesome user experience, maximizing page speed, and crafting 10x content - is going to be highly sought-after for his generalist abilities.
The same goes with someone who knows how to perform keyword research, scrape a site with Screaming Frog, and look at backlinks on Link Explorer.
Skill 13) Website Management
The website is the only digital channel that you, as a marketer have 100% control over.
When built well, the website is the place where the real business occurs.
Real business is the conversion of visitors to clients.
That's why, the ability to manage website and perform basic operations and updations is a critical marketing skill.
While there are a number of CMS systems out there, 40% of the internet runs on WordPress and chances are high that the websites you will work with will be running on WordPress.
A marketer who can manage websites can run an advertising campaign and track the campaign better based on his/her analytical preferences.
Without this skill, you'll have to constantly annoy your web developers for tasks that are simple in nature.
The reality is - A lot of marketers seem to shy away from learning content management as they believe that they need to learn to write codes and do other complicated tasks.
However, with technological advancements, it is now easy for anyone to learn website management without writing a single line of code.
What you really need is an ever-learning spirit.
Skill 14) Marketing Automation
Marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for small business to more effectively market on multiple channels online and automate repetitive tasks.
According to the Deloitte’s Connecting Small Businesses in the U.S. report, 80% of small businesses aren’t taking full advantage of digital tools such as data analytics and more sophisticated online tools.
With the right marketing automation tools, you can create behavioural email marketing strategies, auto-update documents containing useful campaign data for easy reference, and do so much more!
By automating mundane marketing activities, you can increase operational efficiency, thereby freeing up more time for strategic and creative tasks that directly impact your brand.
From creating drip-marketing email campaigns to scraping SEO data using Python and integrating apps using Zapier, marketing automation is the best technology a modern marketer could ever ask for.
Skill 15) Digital Project Management
Last but certainly not least is project management—the ability to keep everyone moving in the same direction, hitting deadlines, communicating internally and externally.
Without strong project management skills, you can find yourself unsure of what you’re supposed to be working on, losing sight of upcoming deadlines, or feeling anxious about competing priorities.
As a modern marketer, you should polish your digital project management skills to ensure a smooth transition from the briefing process, all the way to execution, reporting and beyond.
This is the skill that acts like a glue holding everything else together.
Marketers who are proficient at project management are more productive, which helps them be more creative and learn new concepts, helping them grow tremendously as compared to their less-savvy peers.
There are entire schools of thought on how to approach projects from a life cycle perspective.
Formal knowledge of Waterfall, Scrum and Agile are great skills to have.
Projects differ in needs and complexity, but an understanding of the different ways to handle operations will help you streamline each process with near-perfect results.