on March 2, 2022 (last modified on July 18, 2022) • 27 minute read
Become a marketer, and you’ll never run out of work. Americans were projected to spend 250 billion USD on marketing in 2021 — and that’s just the United States alone.
But, it’s one thing to become a marketer, and another to master the craft. What skills should you focus on to keep up with the best?
We consulted more than 100 marketing professionals about the skills they consider essential to their jobs. More than 90% have expert or professional knowledge, so you’ll learn how to be a good marketer from the industry’s top minds.
Here are the types of skills the marketing pros covered in our survey:
Let’s jump in.
When we asked marketers what skills they want to improve this year, they valued both hard and soft skills, but three stood out from the rest.
More than 20% named search engine optimization (SEO) as the skill they want to invest in.
A little over 15% chose the next most frequently mentioned skills — social media marketing and automation.
Let’s hear why so many respondents chose these skills.
More than 75% of desktop search traffic in most of the world’s largest countries comes from Google, making SEO skills a must-have for any marketer trying to boost their traffic. But, since Google is always updating its algorithms, it takes constant study for marketers to stay on top of SEO requirements.
Here’s how Andrew Johnston of Ambient Building Products explains it: “I think SEO skills are incredibly important these days – especially their relation to web traffic. Google, especially, rolls out new guidelines regularly. Sometimes, it’s less of a “learning” process and more of a “staying up to date” sort of situation. There’s always room for improvement, and I’d like to better utilize analytics to drive web traffic. Additionally, I would like to better understand the metrics behind site auditing to configure future content in a manner that improves our company’s web standing.”
Sleep Advisor’s Paul Baterina agrees, adding, “I have previous experience as an SEO Analyst, so I know a lot about that industry. With that said, SEO is constantly changing and there are always new technologies and algorithms to research to help my company’s website and social media accounts become more optimally searchable online.”
Milkwhale’s Andre Oentoro explains how adapting to SEO updates leads to the company’s website’s success. “With Google constantly changing its algorithm, we think it’s important for every SME to have basic knowledge in SEO. Today, SEO is vital when it comes to a business’s success since everything is online. Although we rely mainly on our website, with in-depth SEO knowledge and the ability to adapt to the changes, we are able to raise our domain authority and gain traffic to our site,” Oentoro says.
For two marketers, SEO gave them the best return on investment (ROI) in the past, and they plan on continuing to reap those benefits.
WinIt’s Ouriel Lemmel tells us, “SEO has proven incredibly successful for us over the past two years, and I would like to up my skills so I have a better handle on what my marketing team is doing.”
Vasy Kafidoff from Writing Metier uses similar logic: “SEO brings my business the most sales; therefore, I’m unstoppably enhancing this skill to get better and better results.”
Angela Hawkins of Voices brings up another factor that contributes to SEO’s importance — the rise of online services due to COVID-19. “Over the last two years, accelerated by COVID-19, was the need for consumers and businesses to find solutions online. When stores and restaurants closed down, consumers turned online to find what they needed and the companies that invested in their digital presence in search and website experience were rewarded,” Hawkins explains.
“Our business, an online marketplace for voice actors, was a solution for many businesses over the last two years because studios closed and businesses needed an online alternative. Because we’ve invested in search engine optimization for years, we were able to be there when advertisers needed voice over for their projects,” concludes Hawkins.
Social media is another hot channel for marketers to focus on. With so many people connecting with each other and getting information on these platforms, it’s necessary for a lot of brands to market on at least one social media site. Like SEO, social media constantly changes, requiring marketers to stay nimble.
“As more and more features pop up in various social media platforms, we also have to keep up with the trends,” explains Helga Turner from Texas Movers. “Social media marketing skills need to be constantly improved because we learn more and more with these apps as time goes by. Additionally, a lot more people have gone online and so it is helpful to enhance our skills in social media marketing.”
Physicians Thrive’s Azza Shahid points out the impact of the pandemic on social media marketing’s importance. “Social media now has become a great way to promote your product. These past two years have shifted everything online and that’s why social media has become a really important tool to get exposure for your business. Social media marketing has become a way to attract new customers and retain old ones,” Shahid says.
Related: How to Plan a Social Media Content Calendar
Just from looking at the skills explored in this blog post, you’ll see how many tasks you need to perform every aspect of marketing. Most marketers need to use a full stack of marketing tech to handle it all. Automation and third-party integrations connect those tools to save time and improve efficiency.
LuckLuckGo’s Ryan Yount considers automation essential to modern marketing. “Automation Skills have proven necessary for me to sharpen as the world slowly adjusts to become more digital. The rise of automation in many organizations has streamlined work and increased productivity. Therefore, I find it vital to learn automation to handle it better within our company,” Yount explains.
If your business intersects with ecommerce at all, Carl Panepinto of Motion Simulation recommends trying out ecommerce automation tools. “With respect to automation marketing, it is essential to have knowledge about the right tools. Marketers should have a good command of tools that can be integrated with ecommerce platforms and analytics. This will also help you to become familiar with top automation platforms common in the industry. Make sure you have the basic knowledge about these platforms and the tools that can be integrated with them,” Panepinto advises.
For Cocodoc’s Alina Clark, the importance of automation is a matter of business impact and personal experience. “Marketing automation is the current buzz in marketing. Not only does it make marketing more effective, it also creates easier workflows for the marketing team. I don’t have any automation background. This is why I’d love to learn marketing automation,” Clark says.
Moving forward, we’re going to cover the skills that marketers found the most important to know in the past two years. Many of their responses had to do with data analysis and analytical thinking in general.
Regardless of the tools or channels you use, marketing also requires you to use your brain. You’ll need to find patterns in data and customer behavior to optimize your results.
“I think the most important skill is to have an analytical mindset,” says Kyle McCorkel of Safe Home Offer. “Because my business almost exclusively relies on marketing to find deals, we have definitely seen how it grows our business, and how important it is to have an analytical mindset.”
McCorkel explains how analytical thinking helps with running Safe Home Offer: “We spend about $13,000-$15,000 per month on marketing. I keep a breakdown of each method we use, how many leads it generates, how many of those leads turn into deals, and how much money each of those deals makes us. Once I see the numbers laid out, it often becomes very clear where our marketing budget is doing the most work and where we need to scale back. When I hired the head of my marketing team a few months ago, it was really important to me that she was able to see where we had been and what my vision was going forward, and she could look at our numbers and analyze how best to get us there. I have also been impressed with her fresh ideas and broad knowledge of methods.”
This approach paid off for McCorkel. “ I think those linked with the ability to analyze their effectiveness well will get us to where I want to be. I started my business 5 years ago, but have, in the last 18 months, grown from two employees to 7, and from barely breaking even to having our most profitable year in 2021. When I see what our marketing methods have done for us on paper, it is obvious how they help to grow the business,” McCorkel concludes.
Storm Internet’s Carl Panepinto also benefited from analytical thinking in the past two years. “One skill that made me excel in marketing is analytical thinking. Marketing requires a lot of research-based analysis to determine the wants and needs of your audience. Although you get a chance to conduct market research in your university years, it’s not the same as getting first-hand experience in an actual job,” Panepinto says.
Panepinto continues, “Over the past two years, I have conducted countless interviews and focus groups and analyzed a lot of consumer survey data using dashboard software like SPSS Amos and Google Analytics. By using these tools, I was able to gain valuable insights into the buying behavior of our consumers. Using these insights, I developed relevant marketing strategies to grow our sales.”
Related: What Is Data Reporting and How to Create Data Reports for Your Business
Marketers deal with a lot of data. To get results from this data, however, they need to analyze it and put those findings into reports. These data insights tell marketers what steps they should take next to succeed.
“We’ve all heard the phrase ‘content is king.’ On the other hand, analytics reigns supreme in the realm of digital marketing,” says Jeremy Clifford of Router CTRL. “Digital marketers can see precisely how well their marketing is performing, which methods are working and which aren’t. So, make smarter judgments about what to do next time with a bit of analysis.”
Clifford continues, “This doesn’t imply that every digital marketer should be a data analyst by nature or that they need to memorize a list of complex Excel formulas. Still, they should be able to measure the effectiveness of their marketing in a clear and succinct manner. Email marketers may prefer the built-in reports that come with their email marketing suite. Whichever way you analyze data, marketers should be able to measure the success of whatever marketing they do at the end of the day.”
Daniel Gray from Market Media Connect finds plenty of marketing skills important, including reporting and SEO. Another one of these skills is digital data analytics. “Apart from [reporting and SEO], another skill a marketer should acquire is to understand to use marketing data in achieving business goals. Although digital data analytics are quite new in marketing I feel that this side of the marketing will grow massive in upcoming years and will help marketers to achieve massive and measurable results from data analytics,” Gray tells us.
At OGLF (Our Good Living Formula), Anna Nielsen found great success in embracing analytics. “What has proved to be of utmost significance, and a skill which I plan to continually grow and master, is marketing analytics/data analysis. I was able to promote, and simultaneously increase the revenue of OGLF, when I became capable to observe and increase the impact and reach of our website, and our products. Since I mastered Google Analytics a year ago, our website’s reach has gone up by 68%,” Nielsen reports.
Like most marketers and marketing managers, you want to know how your efforts are translating into results each month. How is your website performing? How well are you converting traffic into leads and customers? Which marketing channels are performing best? How does organic search compare to paid campaigns and to previous months? You might have to scramble to put all of this together in a single report, but now you can have it all at your fingertips in a single Databox dashboard.
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Marketing analytics alone don’t drive marketing results, however. You have to apply those results to your marketing strategy to grow your business.
As Public Rec’s Zach Goldstein puts it, “Combining data analytics with a growth-focused marketing strategy is what dictates scale today. Even a mom-and-pop business can grow its marketing capacity nationwide with enough time and data-driven key insights into its consumers.”
Goldstein explains how this combo benefited Public Rec: “At Public Rec in 2017, for example, we used A/B testing with email sign-up pop-ups to increase our visitors into email conversions. That testing improved our visitor-to-email conversions from 3 to 9%, three times the email sign-ups than before. We still use similar strategies & approaches today to increase our marketing power and resources. The data-centric approach has put so much more influence back into business owners’ hands when it comes to knowing the needs of your audience.”
“I imagine the eCommerce industry especially will continue to be dominated by data-centered marketing strategy,” Goldstein predicts.
Take MOS as an example. They’re a banking solution for students who identified through data analytics which topics were the biggest pain points for students, so they created different content verticals with information on how selective service and FAFSA, student grants, loans, or even scholarships work and increased their traffic and conversions.
Once you understand basic data analytics and how to apply them to your strategy, it’s time to try advanced analytical models and methods. Models like data attribution frame your data in ways that give you perspective on why you’re getting the results you have.
“I don’t think any marketer would have been able to hit their KPIs over the last couple of years without exceptional analytical skills,” says Springboard’s Roger Huang. “The complexity of data and the number of variables impacting marketing has exploded in just a few years. Most marketers now make extensive use of attribution modelling to quantify the effect of their marketing efforts, which requires deep knowledge of statistics and predictive algorithms, as well as access to an impressive database infrastructure with enough storage for all your data.”
The marketers we surveyed also touched on skills related to content, copy and branding — specialties that help you communicate with customers.
The words you use on your website, ads and landing pages influence whether your visitors will become customers. When you master copywriting, you learn how to present your brand and product in the best light.
Cocofinder’s Harriet Chan considers copywriting a must-have skill for marketers because of the results the company has seen from it. “Finding a way to speak to our customers has been the most important skill we’ve had to learn, develop and fit to their queries. Investing in copywriting has seen our ROI on marketing hit an amazing 87% across two years,” Chan says.
David Rowland of EcoOnline explains what makes copywriting so important to successful marketing: “The ability to influence and persuade people using the power of language is the skill in demand by nearly every marketing organization today. This ability is termed as copywriting. Copywriting is not just the ability to write persuasive and effective content. It is a highly strategic, artful, and analytical process that can only be mastered by professionals who have the right knowledge and experience. In the past 2 years, copywriting and content marketing has become the most sought-after skillset.”
Marketers who use storytelling interweave it in their content, copy, and branding to humanize their brand and give their arguments an impact. With many brands embracing a human approach to marketing, storytelling can help your marketing connect with customers.
Leanna Serras of FragranceX says, “Storytelling has become an important part of the way we market our brand to our customers. During the challenges of the past two years, we have learned to be more sensitive to the way in which our messaging is perceived by our customers. We have used storytelling to communicate our brand values in a way that is emotional and engaging. Storytelling can convey abstract ideas by humanizing them. Our stories aim to captivate the imaginations of our customers and create a sense of shared community that uplifts and inspires us all.”
Content marketing includes a full spectrum of skills not limited to writing. Marketers who want to learn content marketing must also understand how to manage content by building strategies and bringing new content ideas to the table.
“Content management is a highly valuable skill every marketer should excel in nowadays. Content is still king,” affirms Sarah Walters from The Whit Group. “To make your content marketing successful, it is crucial to post high-quality content that adds value and is relevant. You need to give your audience content that they can relate to and learn from. Great content also engages customers, allowing you to build relationships with them.”
Walters adds, “Also, by creating valuable content, you get to position your company as an expert in your field. This helps boost brand reputation and build trust. When your customers trust your company, you are more likely to retain your customers and improve your customer acquisition.”
The next three important skills for marketing experts will help you understand your audience. By knowing your audience, you’ll be able to create marketing materials that resonate with them.
What are your customers’ interests, behaviors, and product preferences? Researching these consumer insights and relating them to your brand is crucial to increasing sales through marketing.
“Unlocking consumer insights have proven to be the most critical skill to excel in marketing,” declares Maven Road’s Paul Herrera. “Nowadays, the word ‘insight’ is used by many market researchers to describe how companies and brands can understand their customers’ interests, motivations, and needs. These insights allow marketers to develop effective strategies to connect their target audience with their products or services.”
Herrera continues, “Consumer insights interpret customers’ behavior, which is crucial to build and maintain relationships, rather than only making transactions. These insights can help identify the gap between the consumers’ aspirations and what they perceive a brand is offering, which marketers can use to develop effective strategies and inform marketing decisions. It is important for marketing leaders to have a clear vision of the objectives for consumer research in order to obtain valuable insights.”
“For example, marketing strategies can focus on obtaining new customers. Still, if the efforts aren’t tailored towards the customers’ specific interests and needs, they will be unsuccessful. However, marketers can successfully reach current and potential consumers by focusing on the consumer’s specific interests and needs, consequently unlocking actionable consumer insights,” Herrera concludes.
In addition to researching your current audience, you should also research your broader market. By understanding how your market as a whole behaves through market research, you’ll be able to see what your audience options are and if you’re marketing to the right segment in the first place.
According to Brian Lee of Drill and Driver, market research “…is a very important skill to develop because having knowledge gives an edge for you against others, especially when it comes to marketing. n almost all the businesses there are, it’s not always the best products or services that win but those businesses that have very good marketing. Good marketing gives the business more clients, customers, sales, or whatever the business offers.”
Lee relates these principles back to market research. “And by having market researching skills, you can easily determine and understand what will attract the customers and make them decide that they need what your business offers. Persuading customers is not easy as there are different factors such as age, gender, income, occupation, etc. That’s why having this skill is a great plus for marketers to be successful,” Lee concludes.
Audience insights and market research give you the data you need to understand potential customers. But, you’ll also need a healthy dose of emotional intelligence to perform marketing that connects to their wants and needs. This rule is especially true during tough times like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Emotional intelligence is essential to understand your audience’s mood, behavior, and pain points,” says Dean Kaplan of Kaplan Collection Agency. “During the past two years, there has been tremendous upheaval due to the pandemic leading to widespread uncertainty and anxiety. In recent times, brands that have excelled in marketing have done so by showing empathy to strengthen their emotional connections with their customers. The stronger the connection you have with your audience, the higher your conversion rates, and customer satisfaction.”
These last four skills aren’t skills you’ll learn in a course or book. Instead, they’re the approaches and attitudes that make up an effective marketer’s mindset.
With marketing trends, algorithms, and tools always changing, you’ll need to stay agile and adapt to sudden changes. If you can keep up with the fast world of marketing, you’ll improve your results and gain plenty of experience as you go.
As Tim Hill of Social Status puts it, “Agility makes up one of the essential skills that successful social media marketers possess in the past two years. A marketing team should be able to create agile strategies to immediately capture the attention of a brand’s target audience.”
Related: 5 Major Challenges with Agile Marketing That Only Agencies Face (And How One Expert Solves Them)
Hill cites an example from the Social Status team to explain this point. “We had a client with a clothing online business that needed a Facebook presence boost. With distributed tasks, each member of my team played a crucial role in developing content for a winning 30-second social media video ad, including audience segmentation, creating buyer personas, content development, graphic design, and metric monitoring. In this way, everyone was held accountable for the results. Hence, our agility and teamwork paid off with flying colors at a 600% web traffic increase to our client’s site after three months.”
Flycast Media’s Shane McEvoy stresses the importance of agility in understanding and adapting to market trends. “In my opinion, agile trend interpretation was the best skill a marketer could have had in the last two years. What I mean is, as different geographical marketplaces imposed and rescinded restrictions, what users focused on changed very quickly,” McEvoy explains.
McEvoy gives an example from the past few years: “For instance, when “work from home” started there was a very significant and obvious uptick in people focusing on things like new equipment for their home setups, ways to train at home (since the gyms were closed in most areas) and healthy eating. Things that suffered in the same period were searches for upscale office wear (shirts, ties, expensive coats) as well as traffic and journey data. In fact usage of journey planning apps used for commuting plummeted to below 10% of the usual use. When different market sectors started opening up this trend almost flipped (although searches for upscale office wear are still lower than pre-pandemic levels, since there is a change in philosophy in that market).”
“Being able to see these trends forming and being agile enough to take advantage of them as soon as possible made a huge difference to cornering the best marketing real estate and therefore taking advantage of the trend early,” McEvoy concludes.
Ira Gapasangra of SEO Hacker focuses on agility in adapting to trends in marketing itself. “In marketing, you must be able to recognize shifts or changes. Nothing is permanent. What worked for us today may not work tomorrow. Don’t get too attached to your marketing plans for the next quarter. Be open to changes that might happen in the coming months,” Gapasangra advises.
Gapasangra explains how this agility helped SEO Hacker succeed last year: “Back in October 2021, we were given a task to increase our email open rates from 19% to 25%. We did our homework and a few experiments. Fortunately, some of our tests worked. It helped increase our open rates from 25% to 38%. The thing is, we weren’t consistently hitting our KPIs to more than 25%. But, we didn’t stop there. What we did is we took notes of the experiments we applied that worked.”
So, what’s SEO Hacker doing now? “We’re still working on the areas that need improvement, especially our CTRs. We never stop. We thought if we want to keep abreast in marketing, we need to be more vigilant with the changes, and be able to read and analyze the data that’s provided for us,” Gapasangra says.
Marketers need to watch the results they get from their work to figure out what’s working and what isn’t. When you make this monitoring a habit, you’ll be able to catch new marketing opportunities as early as possible. (A data dashboard can help you keep an eye on your data.)
“A good marketing habit for small business owners is to keep track of results constantly,” advises Arthur Iinuma of ISBX. “It is beneficial for small businesses with multiple marketing strategies in place, allowing them to determine the initiatives with ROI and those that do not. This way, small business owners can concentrate their resources on the more effective strategies and cut costs from initiatives that are not working. In our case, it helped us decide on which marketing tasks can be done in-house and which ones need the help of third-party experts in the market.”
We talked a little about applying analytics to your strategy earlier. But, you should consider your marketing strategy in everything you do. By thinking of every marketing action you do as a part of your greater strategy, you’ll be able to perform marketing with intention.
Matt Erickson of National Positions considers “the ability to approach marketing strategically” the most helpful marketing skill from the past two years. “Marketing has changed so much that those in our industry who are fighting to retain their relevance as the world changes around them are up for a rude awakening,” Erickson contends.
“Our agency’s willingness to pivot from strict marketing channel performance to looking at overall strategies and applying what was really needed rather than just ‘what we wanted to sell’ – completely changed our levels of success. We have had to learn and implement new skillsets and remove outdated ones, but all of this has set us up for a brighter future. So, thinking about marketing from a strategic standpoint rather than simply a tactical one has made all the difference,” Erickson says of National Positions’ experience with strategic thinking.
The last skill that helped marketing professionals in the past year was becoming a “T-shaped” marketer — deeply specializing in one area while having a broad understanding of other parts of marketing. These marketers lean on their expertise in their main areas while understanding how it ties back to other marketing domains.
“Going deep than wide is how marketers can excel in today’s economy,” says Matt Lally of MattyAds. “These days, it’s a faux pas to be a marketing generalist. Companies and agencies value deep expertise in marketing channels. Marketers evolve by using that domain knowledge to leverage additional channel, tactical and strategic expertise.”
Lally provides an example: “Take for example if you’re an expert in PPC: it’s an easy pivot into learning SEO or paid social. Your time to learn will be drastically reduced because of the deep foundational knowledge you have from learning PPC. How will you leverage those new skills?”
“Generally, these “T-shaped” marketers will advance into leading teams, building their own companies or being highly desired consultants,” Lally concludes.
In addition to asking marketers about the skills they want to learn and their most useful skills, we polled them about the most helpful tools in their martech stack. You’ll see similar trends to the most popular skills the marketers listed, but there’s not quite a one-to-one match.
In line with the marketers’ focus on SEO and analytics, web analytics tools and SEO tools made the top of the list, with the vast majority of respondents calling them at least somewhat helpful. Social media and automation tools also appeared in the highest-performing results. But, two of the most helpful tool types — email marketing and CRM/sales tools — didn’t come up when marketers talked about skills.
Marketers reported specialized tools like ecommerce software and app statistics as less helpful than more generalized tools, but keep in mind that not all respondents need these kinds of resources. For example, a SaaS marketer might not need ecommerce software.
When you’re learning how to be a good marketer, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed by all the tools and skills you’ll need to learn. Databox pulls data from multiple platforms into one dashboard to help you analyze your data and feel confident in your marketing strategy. Think of it as your assistant as you sharpen your skills.
Even rookies can use Databox for free with three data sources and more than 60 integration. Then, once you become an experienced cookie, you can supercharge your marketing with a more advanced plan. Give it a shot today by signing up for free.
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