How to Close Your Marketing Skills Gap

At this point, it’s almost habitual–and a little cliché–to talk about the rapid advancements in marketing. Consumer behavior and technology are difficult to keep up with, we all know that. The real question is–how do you find the talented marketers that will help you stay ahead of the curve? Many brands and agencies alike are trying to answer this question, but more often than not they come up short. In fact, the number of marketing professionals that are having difficulties finding the talent they need has risen 240% since 2014. (AMA)

Though most marketers likely think of technical skills when they hear the term skills gap, the above-stated changes in marketing translate to a diverse set of soft skills and hard skills that are required in the modern marketer.

The Modern Marketer: Collaboration, Teamwork, and Soft Skills

Overall, the traditional structure of the marketing team is shifting and giving old school marketers a run for their money. With the increasingly collaborative nature of marketing as well as the increasing distances between remote teams, the soft skills needed by the new marketer will relate back to teamwork, flexibility, and accountability. Creative collaboration and conflict management across distances and in open work environments will be necessary aspects to look for in new hires and current employees alike.

Plus, the eroding walls between silos may mean that specialist will need to be fast and adaptive learners that can communicate well with those outside of their specialties. In fact, with 64% of marketers actively expecting their roles to change within the next 12 months, openness to change is more important than ever. (AMA) Thanks to the ability to access data in real time, you will need marketers that are capable of making quick decisions and formulating nimble, adaptable strategies.

Finally, marketers will be increasingly responsible for end-to-end customer service. This shift in responsibilities is due to the growing consumer expectation of instantaneous brand responsiveness on social media and other platforms. (The Economist) This will take much of the onus of these duties off of sales representatives and customer service representatives, but will require the development of these skills in marketing and communication specialists.

The Modern Marketer: Data, Marketing Automation, and Coding

When it comes to the hard skills necessary in the modern marketer, the lines are much more clearly drawn. According to The Economist, 39% of marketers are looking for new talent in the areas of digital engagement and marketing operations and technology. Right behind them, another 38% of marketers are looking to fill skills gaps in the areas of strategy and planning.

Along these lines, the rise of nurture marketing and marketing automation has opened a whole world of possibilities when it comes to communicating with audiences. The technology has been slowly developing over the past decade, but marketers haven’t really start paying attention—or properly training for the tool—until recently.

At this point in time, the desire to take full advantage of marketing automation is high for most brands, but the ability to effectively use the tools is sadly low. With a platform like marketing automation, it is necessary to have a Blog 19 - Graphic 1full team to support it with skills ranging from technical implementation to change management to messaging strategy.

Similar gaps exist when it comes to skills associated with programmatic advertising, data analysis, and coding.  In fact, in a Smart Insights survey found that only 9% of marketers felt they had strong digital skills across their marketing team, with the other 91% feeling there was much to be desired. Of those surveyed, the most significant areas of lacking skills included: affiliate marketing, mobile marketing, coding and development, graphic design, PR and influencer outreach, and online advertising and programmatic marketing.

Adapting to the Digital Developments – Balancing External Hires and Internal Developments

Between entrenched, outdated thinking in senior executives and the underlying current of marketing that requires brands to either be at the front of the pack or get left behind, the drive to bring your marketing team up to speed may be a difficult one. Take a step back, though, rethink the skills gap, and recognize that it isn’t a mad dash for new employees — it’s a chance to grow as an organization, build talent from within, and make strategic hires if necessary. Your less experienced employees should be able to learn from your more experienced employees while also offering these more experienced employees a fresh perspective.

When considering the choice to hire a new strategist or specialist, make sure to hire for a team rather than a position and consider how these talents will work together to achieve your end goal. Of course, you likely can’t hire in every specialist, analyst, and what not else that you need to get ahead of digital curve all at once. Instead, identifying what technical areas are most important to your business and making strategic hires that have experience in that area is the most scalable model of closing your skills gap. Don’t always write off a less experienced candidate, though.

In more cases than not, the willingness and ability to learn are more important than anything else for both your internal specialists and external hires. Even highly trained specialists will be behind the curve in a few years if they are not making an effort to keep up. Create a culture of constant improvement and implement regular trainings at your organization to encourage this behavior. By ensuring that you make strategic investments in terms of people and technology while developing an operational structure supports growth in these quickly developing areas, you’ll gain the confidence of both your marketing team and the C-suite.


If you’re like most marketers, you’re looking to fill your organization’s skills gap and you’re looking to do it quickly. Still, make sure that you think strategically and keep your eye on the future. The rate of change in marketing and technology is showing no signs of slowing down, so identifying the soft skills necessary to make your team function while smartly investing in digital will be essential to future success.


Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog The Role of Timeless Literary Device in Reaching Your Audience to find out why even though marketing is always advancing, some tactics will be effective forever.

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