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As part of our report titled ‘Marketing Pain Points and How to Overcome Them’ in collaboration with SmartFocus, we surveyed more than 500 client-side marketers earlier this year to find out what their pain points were. 

One of the key points that arose from the survey was a growing concern over the skills gap within the industry. 

When asked to rate issues on a pain scale of one to five (with five being the most painful), 30% of respondents rated ‘finding marketers with the right skills is a nightmare’ as either four of five.

Clearly this is a problem for many marketers. As one of the expert contributors, Anna Lundberg, said:

Despite digital having been around for quite some time now and it being a very exciting area, and in spite of countless would-be experts marketing themselves as gurus on Twitter and elsewhere, there remains a dearth of skilled marketers who combine brand-building experience with technical know-how.

With our clients, we can have several hundred applicants to jobs that we post and yet only a handful will have the right profile to even be considered

So what is causing this skills gap, and how can the industry tackle the problem? Let’s take a look at the issue in more detail.

The skills today’s marketers need

In self-assessing themselves as part of our survey, marketers identified that they need to be open and collaborative and have the ability to respond rapidly to the pace of change. 

Marketing skills

Incidentally, more than two thirds (68%) of respondents believe the job is more stressful than it was five years ago, although given that 82% agreed marketers need to be able to deal with uncertainty the former figure is hardly surprising.

As for other skills, more than half (55%) of respondents identified ‘using data to optimise campaigns’ as one of the three most important abilities needed to perform in their role.

The most important non-digital skill was ‘design know-how and creativity for engaging brand marketing’ (30% of companies identified this), although it was second to the ‘use of marketing technology’ (32%).

The chart below shows the top eight in-demand skills identified by the respondents. 

Marketing skills

We’ve seen the skills that marketers believe they need, so let’s take a look at why the skills gap exists in the first place.

The ‘always on’ consumer

Consumers are continuously connected these days through multiple devices. Their expectations are evolving as a result, particularly when it comes to dealing with companies. 

Modern technology has created a 24-7, ‘always on’ environment in which customers expect brands to treat them as individuals and respond to them consistently across a range of channels. 

This obviously creates a number of challenges that can’t be solved by technology alone, making the job of a marketer much more complex.

Nearly half (49%) of respondents feel that this complexity makes it harder to be effective.

A need for responsive teams

Regardless of technology, it is ultimately people who make decisions, analyse data and build the user experience. Companies need to build teams that can respond dynamically to customers’ needs and expectations.

Marketers not only need to have core skills in areas such as content, mobile and social, but also soft skills such as the ability to deal with change or spot opportunities. 

How to close the gap

Closing such a significant skills gap is never going to be an overnight fix. It requires a cultural change across the industry. 

Part of the problem lies in the fact that marketing is seen as a standalone discipline that should be entirely managed by one team. But everyone in an organisation needs to develop their digital skills. 

Anna Lundberg said:

There is still a lot of work needed to build the digital capabilities of marketers across the organisation, beyond just a few isolated experts here and there

As for how to achieve that, another contributor David Reilly said:

An ‘always be learning’ mindset must be threaded through every organisation right down from the top. Staff need to be equipped with the access to quality training on the move and this must be continuous and consistent

Sharing skills and knowledge

Expertise in one specific channel can be valuable, but sharing skills and knowledge across multiple channels is always going to be more effective way to increase the general marketing capability of your organisation.

Progressive firms are changing the way they operate and creating cross-departmental marketing teams. Working closely with IT, for example, is essential given the technology and the complexity of data involved in marketing today.

To find out more please download the ‘Marketing Pain Points and How to Overcome Them’ report, which is FREE to download for all subscribers.

Jack Simpson

Published 1 July, 2015 by Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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