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Marketable: The 18 Hottest Marketing Skills for 2018

Derek Smith // February 08, 2018

18 hot marketing skills diagram

The marketing technology landscape continues to shift before our eyes. As recently as 2012, this landscape could be viewed on a single, readable page. Not anymore.

Scott Brinker’s annual Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic for 2017 visualizes a dizzying array of martech solutions. It’s dubbed the “Martech 5000,” but it’s actually 5,381 solutions—about 40% more than the previous year.

With such explosive growth in martech, it’s no surprise that digital chops are in hot demand when it comes to hiring agency or in-house marketers. In fact, 95% of marketing leaders surveyed by TEKsystems Digital report they’ve been negatively impacted by the lack of qualified talent.

So here are the 18 most in-demand marketing skills for 2018—many of them digital in nature—along with some thoughts on how to fill any gaps that you may find in yourself or your company.

Digital is in demand.

The digital skills in our list range from research and strategy to project management and reporting, reflecting the wide range of skills needed to excel in digital marketing.

1. Digital strategy

Consumer expectations have never been higher, and they continue to rise. Today’s super-empowered consumer is curious, demanding, and impatient with so much information right at their fingertips. Consequently, the value of digital strategy has grown exponentially as brands look for the best way to reach consumers across a growing and changing array of online channels. The best digital strategists are not only analytical, but also collaborative—able to work with writers, designers, and others to plan, launch, and optimize targeted campaigns.

2. Digital analytics

To craft the best strategy, you need to know how to interpret the data found in platforms such as Google Analytics, BrightEdge, HubSpot, or Kissmetrics. Then you need to be able to track that data—like page views, time on site, bounce rate, and conversions—over time, and report on the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. An important aspect of this involves attribution, or being able to assign credit to buying actions. For example, did the consumer decide to buy when they visited a specific landing page, or was it after downloading a white paper? Or was it after they received an email with a specific offer?

3. Paid digital

Paid digital has grown tremendously in recent years, and an expert in this area can drive impressive results on channels like Google AdWords and Facebook. Whatever the channel, you want someone who knows how to target the right people, entice clicks, and make the most of your spend.

4. Search engine optimization

SERPs. PageRank. Root domains. While SEO has changed dramatically in recent years, there’s still great demand for someone who understands how to optimize websites through things like delivering an awesome user experience, maximizing page speed, fixing site architecture, and crafting 10x content. Someone who knows how to perform keyword research, scrape a site with Screaming Frog, and look at backlinks on Open Site Explorer.

5. Competitive research

Competitive research lies at the heart of an effective marketing strategy. So there’s great value in knowing how to spy on competitors with SEMrush or SpyFu. What keywords are they targeting and what are they ranking for? Another aspect of competitive research involves advertisements; sites like Moat can give you a comprehensive look at what online ads a competitor is running, all in one convenient place.

6. Synthesis

Synthesis helps you distill patterns from a large amount of information. In an agency environment, clients often provide numerous inputs at the beginning of an engagement. And for any given project, there can be a number of brochures, white papers, and other materials to browse, including selected competitor materials. So there’s value in being able to find common themes that can lead to informed recommendations.

7. Digital project management

With all the digital work that’s involved in modern marketing, you need someone who can keep everything moving along on time and on budget. A project manager who’s well versed in both online and offline projects is a valuable part of any team. They help ensure that projects are on pace by holding both internal and external stakeholders accountable to mutually agreed-upon deadlines. Also, the PM keeps a close eye on budgets, and can speak up about scope creep.

Science needs a story to tell…

Digital is just one part of the equation because marketing is both art and science. And the science needs a compelling story to tell. That story involves the interplay of images and words, as well as how the story is experienced.

8. Creative direction

Strong creative direction can take a good story to the next level. While a creative director can come from a copy or design background, they should have the ability to push copywriters and art directors to deliver their best work. That means speaking the language of a writer or designer to help them refine a concept and overcome creative challenges.

9. Design thinking

As they look to reach today’s super-empowered consumer, brands must find ways to tell absorbing new stories—and many parts of these stories are visual. Companies like IBM have invested heavily in design thinking, which IBM describes as a “restless reinvention” where diverse teams look to solve complex problems by shifting from features and functions to user-centered design that’s all about turning fresh ideas into impactful outcomes.

10. UI/UX design

Regardless of your industry, user experience has likely become more important in recent years as companies put more emphasis on how people interact with their products—and, at a higher level, with their brands. So there’s great demand for UX designers who really understand how to incorporate an awesome user experience into websites, apps, presentations, and print collateral.

11. Content strategy

A content strategist considers numerous inputs such as client goals, keyword research, and competitive research in crafting a strategy that makes the best use of a client’s existing assets and any new creative that is being produced. These strategists must also know how to get buy-in for their strategy, incorporate others’ inputs, and work with peers such as writers and designers on how to implement the strategy.

12. Content management

Content management can involve a number of things such as copywriting, managing a blog, and forging relationships with freelance writers. A content manager makes sure that a company’s content is being produced on schedule and is effective in meeting relevant company metrics.

13. Consumer psychology

In 2011, Google released a landmark ebook called Winning the Zero Moment of Truth that described the new consumer journey. The consumer was now in control—finding and sharing information about products in their own way, in their own time. Today we’re in what Google calls “the era of the research-obsessed consumer,” where consumers search on their smartphones anywhere, at any time. With such big changes in consumer behavior, there’s great value in people who can think like the customer, and who can think through potential strategies using that lens.

People to program the story...

Demand for developers is booming as more marketing moves to digital channels, and companies compete for talented developers who can write the code for websites, apps, interactive tools, and the like. Coding schools like Eleven Fifty Academy here in Indianapolis are helping to meet the web dev demand by teaching people new skills like how to code in JavaScript.

14. Front-end web development

Front-end development involves writing code for the part of a website or app that people interact with using programming languages like HTML, JavaScript, or jQuery. At Element Three, our developers collaborate with a number of people on client-facing teams including account executives, project managers, copywriters, designers, and digital strategists to ensure that what we’re building is effective and on strategy.

15. Back-end web development

While users don’t see the back end of your app or website, the functionality and design that make everything run are incredibly important. Backend developers handle the behind-the-scenes functionality of your stack writing in programming languages like PHP, Python, and Ruby. They make sure that everything is integrated, updated, and secure.

And people to bring it to life in video.

You’ve no doubt seen many of the statistics: video has become an increasingly important tactic in telling the story of modern brands. At Element Three, video has been so strategically important that we brought it in-house in 2016, and have continued to invest in our video department ever since.

16. Video strategy

No one likes to watch long salesy videos, so it’s crucial to be able to create relevant videos of an appropriate length. That means clearly articulating the purpose of the video, who the audience is, how that video aligns with other marketing efforts, and the criteria for success. You have to ask the right questions early on—and know who the key stakeholders are—to set your video team up for success.

17. Video production

There are all kinds of things that go into creating a video, such as concepting, writing a script, selecting the location, scheduling shoots, setting up equipment, prepping the talent and site, and of course actually shooting the video. Video producers work with colleagues including a creative director, copywriter, and art director to make sure that a video is on strategy—that it meets the objectives and requirements outlined in the creative brief.

18. Video editing

Once a video is shot, you need someone who knows how to use editing software to enhance the footage, add music and other finishing touches, and make sure that the timing of everything lines up. This can involve polishing an edit supplied by the producer.

Conclusion: Filling the gaps

As you’ve seen, these 18 skills run the gamut from digital wizardry to project management. And with technologies such as virtual reality and machine learning added to the mix, there’s a good chance you’ve got some gaps to fill when it comes to the skill sets in your company.

Here are some helpful resources that can serve as a starting point, whether you’re looking to hire someone, help your existing employees develop, or enhance your own personal skill set.

Broad online learning
Lynda.com: Thousands of courses in areas like design, web development, photography, and business

Digital marketing
E3 blog: What I look for in a digital marketer

Google Analytics Academy

Moz: The Beginner’s Guide to SEO
Whiteboard Friday episodes on the Moz blog
E3's Recipe for an SEO Audit
Sites like Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, and Search Engine Watch

Project management
Project Management Institute: PM Certifications

Competitive and industry research
E3 blog: How to do competitive research
E3 blog: Researching the current situation in your industry

E3 blog: How to hire your next UI/UX expert

Wistia Hub: Blog posts, webinars, and other resources

Web development
Codecademy: Learn to code interactively, for free