Brands are investing heavily in digital marketing, which makes it a great time to be a digital marketer – especially if you have the right combination of skills to succeed.
In a study by Econsultancy, 92% of marketers felt there was a significant gap in digital marketing skills in their industry. And while they believe these skills are essential to their future career and the success of the industry, in a separate survey by IDM, almost half (49%) of marketers indicated they did not have training in key areas of digital marketing.
This gives marketers who have put the time and effort into honing their digital marketing skills a major head start in standing out in an already crowded and competitive field. Another advantage is having the right soft skills. Nearly all (93.9%) of marketers say so-called soft skills are equally important as technical skills for a successful career in marketing, according to the Econsultancy survey.
The most successful digital marketers will have a well-balanced combination of both digital marketing know-how and soft-skill prowess.
Here's a peek at what this perfect combination of skills looks like:
The goal of a digital marketer is to help a company increase its brand awareness, increase conversions and sales, and grow the company. This is no simple task. It requires the ability to not only execute the work that needs to be done daily but to be able to look at the bigger picture and make a plan for how to achieve long-term goals or better position the company for growth.
"Strategic thinking is the ability to think on a big- and small-scale, long- and short-term, and into the past and the present. While strategic thinking is a valuable skill for everyone in an organization, it becomes increasingly essential as you ascend the ladder. In fact, you may have a difficult time being promoted or succeeding as a leader without it," says Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist and author.
With marketing budgets now hovering at an average of 12% of companies’ overall budgets – the highest percentage in the history of The CMO Survey – there's a growing requirement for those managing the marketing budget to show accountability. Yet, many marketers still lack the financial skills to prove ROI and other key performance indicators and to effectively tie these KPIs to overall business performance.
In Forbes’ latest Marketing Accountability Report, three-quarters of CMOs surveyed reported that their "inability to communicate, quantify, and optimize the value of marketing hurt them both professionally and personally." Top digital marketers, on the other hand, have sharpened their financial acumen. This helps them gain both respect and buy-in from the CEO and CFO because they can speak the language that matters most to these executives – proving ROI.
Marketing has rapidly moved from being about intuition to being all about the data. "Customer data has become the key ingredient in providing a better customer experience," said Tom Davis, Chief Marketing Officer at Forbes Media. "Those who fail to adapt to this will fall behind."
If there is one skill in which marketers say they would "stake their career on," it's data analysis and measurement, according to Econsultancy's survey. It's an area in which all digital marketers should invest. However, for those marketers who want to rise to the highest echelons of digital marketing, having well-honed data analytics and data visualization skills is essential.
Leadership focuses on the human side of marketing. And, it's critical to any digital marketer who is managing a team of marketers.
Strong leaders have the strategies and skills to fully leverage their employees' talents. They also take accountability for their actions, are forward-thinking, and have the ability to be flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances. These traits may come naturally for some, but for most, investing in courses on interpersonal relations and essential leadership skills as well as learning on the job is the best way to become an effective leader.
Top digital marketers also have strong professional networks. According to LinkedIn, almost 80% of professionals believe having a strong professional network is vital to their career. A strong network can also open doors and give you access to industry experts – and can even help you find your dream job.
"Start where you're motivated to meet new people with common professional or personal interests," says Deena Baikowitz, Chief Networking Officer and co-founder of Fireball Network. "Think about what you're passionate about and the types of people with whom you're most comfortable."
There is a high demand for digital marketers who have the right set of skills. So, if you want to be "in demand" and positioned to grow your career rapidly, the best thing you can do is invest the time and effort it takes to develop these attributes.
Online digital marketing courses or an online MBA that lets you learn a combination of skills like business finance, data and analytics, and leadership can be one of the best ways to build these skills. Another smart tactic is to learn what others in your field are doing successfully via peer groups or through a mentor.
Whatever approach you use to acquire these skills doesn't matter as much as getting them under your belt. Because once you possess these specific skills, you'll find you can take your career to a whole new level.