Regardless of what role you’re in, there are a handful of skills every marketer needs to succeed. Even a marketing specialist should have a foundation of general skills and an awareness of other disciplines.
So whether you’re setting out to hire a director of marketing, a digital marketing team, or you just want to see if your team measures up, here are some skills to look out for.
On the other hand, if you’re a marketer, these are four key skills you can evaluate yourself on – or set out to gain if you feel weak in these areas.
5 Important Skills Every Marketer Needs
1. Storytelling + Persuasion
If the root of marketing is attracting customers, the ability to tell a narrative is vital to the role of a marketer. Why?
Customers are moved by story.
Storybrand, a popular marketing workshop, has helped thousands of businesses clarify their marketing by “inviting customers into a story.”
Sure, your marketing team doesn’t have to be able to write a historical fiction novella, but if they aren’t able to tell a story around your offering and a customer’s need, then how can they market your brand? They need to know the characters, the conflict, and how your brand offers a solution – and they need to be able to communicate it clearly (more on communication later).
Story is essential to marketing – make sure your team can tell a good one.
Half of marketing is experimentation.
We have access to loads of data on our customers. Heck, some brands know when women are pregnant before their families do – based on their internet browsing patterns.
Because of this, blind trial-and-error marketing is fading away. But that doesn’t mean experimentation is. In other words, throwing every kind of pasta at every kind of wall and seeing what sticks isn’t necessary. But you probably still need to experiment with two specific types of pasta at one style of wall for starters.
Here’s what a modern-day marketing campaign might look like:
“Okay, we know our audience for this service is between 25-35, and spends time on social media. We know they are moved by social causes and enthralled with puppies. So we’ll run social ads and test two messages across three platforms: one around a social movement and one with a big picture of puppies. We’ll run the ads for two weeks to accumulate significant data and if one ad is outperforming another in conversion rate by more than 15%, we’ll put all our resources into it.”
Marketers have to be able to form hypotheses, conduct experiments, and draw conclusions to ensure your team is getting the most out of its marketing dollars.
3. Communication + Soft Skills
Though so much of marketing has become digital (we’ll get to this next), soft skills are still necessary for marketing success. Marketers need to be able to ask great questions, listen well, and market with empathy.
“People who wish to go into the future should have two skills to succeed – the ability to deal with people and the ability to sell.” – Shiv Khera
The ability to ask great questions can truly set a marketer apart – most notably when identifying target audiences and buyer personas. Great marketers are able to poll the sales team, get behind the minds of the leadership team, and at times interview customers directly. And let me tell you from personal experience, “Who is our target audience?” is not the question that will get the job done when in a meeting with your CEO.
Once great questions are asked comes listening. Successful marketers are able to read between the lines and pull out insights from any conversation. If you’re going to market in a way that truly meets customer’s needs, you need to know what they are – even when they can’t explicitly state it.
After customers’ needs are identified, good marketers are able to empathize when creating messaging and crafting marketing campaigns. Not to merely be aware of pain points, but to feel them, and know what kind of answers and relief customers are after.
Finally, marketers must have strong communication skills. After asking good questions, listening, and empathy comes the conveying of the message. All marketers should be able to write and speak in a compelling way—not just the copywriters.
Many marketing tactics find success in clear and defined processes. However, marketing that really moves the needle is the result of impressive problem solving.
Anyone can Google “how to roll out a marketing campaign in x industry,” but the difference between a vanilla marketing effort that leads to 5% increase in sales and the kind of campaign that triples your business lies in creative thinking. The ability to think outside-the-box and generate novel ideas is such a luxury.
So whether you’re hiring a marketer or trying to land a big time job: flex your creative muscles and prioritize divergent thinking.
5. Digital Marketing Basics
15 years ago, digital marketing was only one aspect of marketing and not even a big one. But today, with 51% of the world on the internet, and American adults consuming more than 6 hours of digital media a day, digital marketing has become mainstream marketing. When the majority of your target audience spends 6 hours a day there, you better understand it.
Digital Marketing Technical Skills Needed for Success
So, in what aspects of digital marketing should your team be savvy? Or if you’re wading into the waters of digital marketing, what should you have a general knowledge of?
Data analysis and reporting within digital marketing means knowing where leads/sales are coming from, which channels are most valuable to your growth, and what content users are most interested in. Whether it’s done with Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, or something else, analytics and their analysis are vital.
Ads / PPC
Ads are the best and easiest way to get internet traffic fast. Marketing teams need to know the power of ads and be familiar with the different platforms available.
The beauty of traffic from search engines is that it’s free. It’s hard work, but if you can rank well for a competitive keyword, you can glean traffic at no cost. Marketers need to be aware of search engine rankings and a business’s most valuable keywords.
Modern marketers must know the value of content and how it can attract leads, nurture leads, and assist in closing. One might not need to be able to craft incredible content, but at least strategize and lead a content marketing campaign.
This goes without saying. Because our country spends so much time on it, marketers need to be aware of the different channels and how to use each to market your brand – both organically and through ads.
The ability to get directly into a contact’s inbox remains invaluable. Good marketers realize the importance of this channel while great marketers know how to take advantage of great emails.
Where to Learn Marketing Skills?
The first four skills should be learned through general education. But digital marketing isn’t heavily taught in schools, and how can it be when it’s evolving faster than a book can get written. If anything—digital marketing is glossed over in a 101 class.
So how can one learn these skills?
Often, it’s through on-the-job training or personal experimenting. If you’re hiring specifically for digital roles, hopefully, your candidates have a baseline of digital skills. And if you are a marketer yourself, it’s very helpful to be able to show some tangible proof you can do what you say you can.
However, if you have experience and can excel in the basic skills of storytelling, experimenting, data analysis, and communication, they are prime candidates to hire if you’ve got time/resources to let them learn on the job.
Here are our favorite [mostly free] courses and certifications to check out:
Digital Marketing Courses & Certifications
Google Academy Free
Learn the basics of digital marketing, sales, advertising, mobile, and more. Get certified in Google Analytics and Google Ads.
Hubspot Academy Free
Learn the philosophy of inbound, content marketing, and sales. Get certified in Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing, and more.
SEMRush Academy Free
SEMRush offers great courses on SEO, PPC, and Social Media Marketing. Get certified in SEO Fundamentals, PPC Fundamentals, SMM Fundamentals, and Technical SEO.
Facebook Blueprint Free access to training (Certification is $150)
Facebook Blueprint will walk you through the basics of social media marketing and advertising with Facebook and Instagram.
Moz’s SEO Learning Center Free (Some courses cost)
Moz is a market leader in SEO education. Explore their learning center by topic, attend workshops, or earn their SEO Essentials Certification ($595).
Looking to put your skills to use? Check out our roundup of our favorite free digital marketing tools!