Programmatic advertising. Interactive content. Social shopping.
As all the digital disruption continues, marketing technology continues to shift and expand before our eyes. Scott Brinker’s annual Marketing Technology Supergraphic for 2019 lists a dizzying array of 7,040 solutions—enough to fill up an entire office wall.
Then there’s the data itself. 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 we’re consuming it on more than 26 billion smart devices.
With such a mind-boggling amount of raw data and potential tools at our disposal, it’s no surprise that digital marketing skills remain in high demand. Businesses worldwide need analytical people who understand what sort of tools are available in the growing digital toolbox, and know how to dig in and make sense of the deluge of current and historical information.
But even as the science of marketing matures, we can’t lose sight of the art—the top-notch creative that demands our attention, touches our hearts, and compels us to take action. Nor can we lose sight of the strategy that ties it all together. Or the essential skills for keeping everything moving behind the scenes.
So here are the 20 most in-demand marketing skills for 2020, along with some thoughts on how to fill any gaps that you may find in yourself or your company.
You need your share of wizards.
We’ll start with the skills you need for success in the wizarding world of digital—from setting the strategy to executing the plan to reporting on progress.
Regardless of your starting point, effective marketing starts with asking the right questions. You’ve got to understand the business objectives that your marketing strategy needs to support, the metrics that determine your success or failure, and how much you should spend. No two marketing strategies are exactly alike, so you need curious people who love asking “why?” and “what if?” People who can build your roadmap for success, figure out what it’s going to take to get there, and iterate along the way.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SERPs. PageRank. Root domains. 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. Someone who knows how to perform keyword research, scrape a site with Screaming Frog, and look at backlinks on Link Explorer.
3. Paid media
Paid media continues to grow in importance, and expertise here can drive impressive results on channels like Google AdWords and Bing Ads. Whatever the channel, you want someone who knows the right questions to ask, how to build and launch a campaign, how to collaborate with creatives and other colleagues, and the KPIs to track to determine a campaign’s success.
4. Social media
As social continues to change at a breakneck pace, you need to engage prospects on channels like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. As social media stories become more of a mainstay, you need someone who knows the ins and outs of things like hyperlocal search, hashtags, and geofencing.
5. Digital analytics
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?
6. Digital reporting
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.
7. Technology integration
Think back to Brinker’s supergraphic: thousands of technology solutions coming at you from all directions. Your company has systems, your clients and/or customers have systems, everybody has systems. New systems and legacy systems. Systems that might or might not talk to each other. That’s why it’s valuable to have a martech maven who knows how to look under the hood and integrate these different systems—because every organization has its own unique tech stack and its own unique set of integration issues.
Even wizards need words. And design...
As important as digital is, it’s still just one part of the equation. Great creative work elevates your digital marketing, and the creative and digital marketers in your organization should realize how much they need each other—that they make each other better. Every campaign needs both art and science.
8. Consumer psychology
Back in 2011, Google released a landmark ebook called Winning the Zero Moment of Truth that described the new buying journey where the consumer was now in control—finding and sharing information about products in their own way, in their own time. Today, the “research-obsessed consumer” uses search to optimize their life, gain confidence in their decisions, and create the best experience. As consumers search on their smartphones anywhere, at any time, and adopt emerging technologies like augmented reality, there’s great value in people who can think like the consumer, and evaluate potential strategies using that lens.
9. Competitive research
Whether it’s a creative or digital marketer conducting it, competitive research lies at the heart of an effective marketing strategy. So there’s value in knowing how to use Moat to get a comprehensive look at what online ads a competitor is running, or how to spy with SEMrush on what keywords your competitors are targeting, and what they’re ranking for. And, of course, it’s helpful to know how to evaluate competitor websites and get a grasp of their content architecture and key topics.
Synthesis involves distilling patterns from large amounts of information. If you work at an agency, clients often provide numerous inputs at the beginning of an engagement. And for any given project, there can be numerous brochures, white papers, and other materials to browse, including selected competitor materials. So it’s valuable to be able to find common themes that can lead to informed recommendations.
11. Content strategy
Another skill that straddles creative and digital is content strategy. A content strategist considers numerous inputs like business goals, keyword research, and competitive research in crafting a strategy that makes the best use of an organization’s existing assets and any new creative that’s being produced. These strategists must also know how to get buy-in for their strategy, incorporate others’ inputs, and work with peers like designers, copywriters and web developers on how to implement the strategy.
12. Creative direction
Strong creative direction can take your work to a whole new level. While a creative director can come from a copy or design background, they should have the ability to push copywriters, art directors, and designers 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. The creative director ensures the work is not only compelling but also on strategy. Also, the CD serves as an advocate for your creative and can prove invaluable in selling a concept or deliverable through.
13. 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.
14. UX design
No matter what industry you’re in, user experience has likely become more important in recent years. Companies are putting greater 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 know how to incorporate awesome UX into websites, apps, presentations, and print collateral.
Words matter. Regardless of your design or strategy, your campaigns will fall short without strong copy that creates a personal connection and evokes emotion. That’s true whether you’re working on a billboard, PowerPoint presentation, or display ad. Here at E3, our copywriters work closely with creative directors, art directors, digital marketers, web developers, and others to ensure that people can hear the message we’re conveying, loud and clear—and that it compels them to take appropriate action.
And people to bring the story to life…
Just like a Broadway theater production, there are plenty of marketers working hard behind the scenes—people who sometimes don’t get acknowledged for all their hard work. But their web development, video, and project management expertise is critical to the success of your programs.
16. Agile development
One key to winning at marketing is agility—being able to react and course-correct to the inevitability of change. Nowhere is this more evident here at E3 than the standups conducted by our web development team. These daily morning check-ins are where everyone gets on the same page as they talk about what they’re working on that day and any obstacles that could prevent them from getting it done. And it’s when they move sticky notes across their board to visually represent their collective progress.
17. Video production
All kinds of things 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 a creative director, copywriter, and art director to ensure 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 proficient in editing software to enhance the footage, add music and other finishing touches, and make sure the timing of everything lines up. This can involve polishing an edit supplied by the producer.
Admit it. You’ve been embarrassed at some point by a typo or other error that slipped through and ended up in front of an executive, client, or customer; we all have. That’s why quality assurance is so important: because while proofing a document is so often overlooked due to tight timelines, poor planning, lack of resources, or a simple lack of commitment, errors are a brand killer. At E3, Thomas Wachtel serves as our eagle eye proofer who looks closely at projects before they go out the door.
20. Project management
Last but certainly not least is project management—the ability to keep everyone moving in the same direction, hitting our deadlines, communicating internally and externally, and delivering what we’re supposed to. Without a strong PM, 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.
Conclusion: Mind the gaps
As you’ve seen, these 20 skills run the gamut from consulting to project management. And with technologies like programmatic advertising and artificial intelligence 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
LinkedIn Learning: Thousands of business, technology and creative courses taught by instructors with real-world learning
E3 blog: How to do competitive research
E3 blog: Researching the current situation in your industry
HubSpot: How to develop a content strategy
McKinsey & Company: Agile marketing: A step-by-step guide
Codecademy: Learn to code interactively, for free
Wistia Learning Center: Blogs, webinars, and other resources
Project Management Institution: PM certification
Derek Smith's skills as a reporter serve him well as a senior writer here at Element Three—and if you need a coach for your soccer team, he's got you covered. He's worked as a content strategist as well as a copywriter, so he's always thinking about the why behind every word and every piece of every campaign.
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