how to close your marketing skills gap

Finding talented marketers today

steve kessen
5-minute read

In brief

  • Problem: The number of marketing leaders struggling to find the right talent has risen 320% since 2014
  • Solution: A diverse mix of soft and hard skills are necessary to bridge the gap facing most marketing teams
  • Response: What skills should I look for in candidates?

The number of marketing leaders that are having difficulties finding the talent they need has risen 320% since 2014 according to the American Marketing Association. As consumer behavior, technology, and burden of accountability facing marketing leaders evolve, how do you find the talent necessary to help you stay ahead of the curve?

Soft skills

The collaborative nature of marketing and the increasing adoption of working remote require teamwork, flexibility, and accountability. Creative partnership and conflict management across distances and in open work environments are pre-requisite skills. Seek specific examples of experience in these areas as you weigh candidates.

64% of marketers expect their roles to actively change within the next 12 months according to the AMA. Find those members of the 64% who not only expect change but embrace it. Marketers that can make quick decisions and formulate agile strategies are critical members of a high functioning team.

Hard skills

39% of marketers are looking for new talent in the areas of digital engagement and marketing operations and technology, according to the Economist. Second to those areas, 38% of marketers are looking to fill skills gaps in the areas of strategy and planning.

Fueling this search is the rise of customer experience marketing, made possible by technologies like marketing automation platforms. The technology has been quickly adopted over the past decade, and if Adobe’s recent acquisition of Marketo for $4.75 billion is any indication, its prevalence will only accelerate.

According to a recent Gartner report, marketing leaders in 2018 spent more on the technology than talent for the first time ever. Still, technology platforms require a talented team to get the most out of them, and well-built teams combine 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, 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 opportunity included mobile marketing, coding and development, graphic design, online advertising, and programmatic marketing.

The most well-rounded marketers possess a strong sense of business acumen. It’s not enough to possess the core skills in an area of expertise; the most successful modern marketers connect the customer experience to business results. An MBA isn’t required, but it is important to have a foundational understanding of what profitable growth looks like.

Deep expertise among team members allows you to deliver customer experiences that differentiate your brand and realize meaningful business outcomes. As you search for talent, consider what’s needed today without failing to plan for what’s around the corner.

Creating your strategic plan

You likely won’t get ahead of the digital curve with a single hire. Instead, create a strategic resource plan focused on expanding experience in the areas most important to your business. Consider supplementing your internal team with experts outside your organization to bridge the skills gap and move your organization forward faster.

The best external partners strike a balance between deep domain expertise and a commitment to understanding what makes your business unique. In that ideal partner, you’ll find a team of individuals who possess the soft and hard skills outlined above and a willingness to complement your team today and as it grows.

If asked to summarize what to look for in an external partner, I would suggest a partner that is committed to understanding what makes your business unique, adds a unique point of view bolstered by their domain expertise, and demonstrates the courage to collaborate and drive real outcomes for your organization.

As you seek to bridge skills gaps on your team, I invite you to reach out. I’m happy to share the skillsets we’ve seen most often in high performers.

Resources

AMA: Rethink the Marketing Skills Gap

The Economist: Rise of the Marketer

Gartner: CMOs and Technology Spend

Smart Insights: The Digital Marketing Skills Gap