At Marketing Week Live last week I listened to panellists speak about the skills required for today’s modern marketer and their advice for career progression. 

In today’s business landscape we are witnessing a transforming job market. How are marketing roles and responsibilities going to change and develop in the future? How does the human element of brand building evolve in a world of emerging technology?

These are some of the questions that concern us as modern marketers grappling with a fast-moving and uncertain environment. 

Data from The Marketing Society shows that the average tenure of CMOs in the UK stands at just 18 months. All this means that marketers are having to work even harder to prove their worth to the board. With zero-based budgeting and increasing pressure to prove ROI on marketing spend now commonplace, the onus is on marketers to show how marketing affects the business bottom line and how it ultimately drives a business forward.

A shift in how marketing operates means that finding and nurturing the right talent is often difficult.

Panellists Julia Porter (Origin Housing), Liz Curry (Comic Relief) and Luis Navarrete Gomez (Lego) reflected on this issue at Marketing Week Live and spoke about the challenges and opportunities of the skills gap for the modern marketer.

Here are some of their top tips for aspiring marketers.

Data is your friend

Data is now a central part of marketing for the future, which means that marketers need to be comfortable utilizing it. Creativity is no longer enough; understanding data is essential if a marketer wants to develop their career.

Don’t lose focus on what’s important

Functional skills such as ecommerce and CRM as well as channels skills such as programmatic and social were cited as examples of the type of know-how now in demand.

That being said, while data literacy and a basic knowledge of technology is important, the tech revolution has perhaps resulted in marketers losing sight of what’s really important: the customer.

Porter (Origin Housing) admitted that marketing to people has become a bit frenetic. Instead, marketers must focus on how data can be used to add value and provide a better customer experience.

A hybrid mix of skills

The expectation for marketers to embrace both innovation and data analysis reflects a new reality: marketers need both left and right brains; a competency with numbers but also a creative mindset. In actuality, a combination of skills is essential for marketers to truly progress in their careers.

left and right brains - Marketo

This notion can be extended to the need for marketers to possess both functional and soft skills. Proactivity, adaptability and leadership are increasingly valued. As professionals with more technical backgrounds continue to join the ranks of marketing and the requirement of proving ROI to the board continues to increase, stakeholder management, aligning people with business goals and team building are important capabilities for the modern marketer.

Curiosity never killed the cat

So while recruiting for attitude and behaviour is considered just as important as hiring for skills and qualifications, panellists were in agreement that curiosity is one sought-after characteristic in the search for marketing talent.

With rapid technological advancements demanding more continuous links between education and employment, lifelong learning is an imperative. Reading to keep abreast of the industry, the rising popularity of MOOCs and online classrooms and joining the gig economy are some of the ways in which marketers are taking ownership of their learning and shaping their own career and personal development.  


Panellists offered some other practical tips on staying ahead in the era of modern marketing and how to improve knowledge and skills.

Curry spoke of the benefits of making contacts with people who are at the same level as you in their career and mentioned the data council forum of which she is a member. Networking with peers in such forums is a valuable means of exchanging information and learning from one another.

Finding a mentor was also referred to as a useful step towards boosting professional development. Mentoring schemes are provided by professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing, for example. The Marketing Academy also provides one-to-one mentoring and executive coaching from CMOs through its UK Scholarship Programme.   

But Curry also emphasised the importance of being clear about what it is that you enjoy doing. There’s no point trying to make yourself a data scientist if you hate maths or statistics. It’s important to understand what an organisation needs as well as what you need.

Deciding what you are interested in and building a portfolio of skills around that is a sensible approach to maximising opportunities and getting the most out of your career. 

To benchmark your own digital knowledge, take Econsultancy's Digital Skills Index. And to expand your skills, book yourself onto one of our digital marketing training courses.

Donna-Marie Bohan

Published 20 March, 2017 by Donna-Marie Bohan @ Econsultancy

Donna-Marie is a Research Manager at Econsultancy. You can follow her on LinkedIn:

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Comments (2)

Glenn McWhinney

Glenn McWhinney, Online Marketing Manager at Calendar Club UKSmall Business

One of my preoccupying thoughts is that even when a skills gap can be closed by the right talent, can these left-brain-and-right-brain people juggle the variety of tasks and 'hats' they must wear to be efficient or even useful to the organisation for which they work?

We all know what it is like hopping from one task to another all the time and how that can affect our ability to do a decent job. Add to that a brain hemisphere 'swap over' throughout your busy day and we may all just be due for a seizure some time soon!

But would you want it any other way? I personally love the challenge, get a buzz out of being multi-faceted, and I really do feel as though I am helping to make a difference in a team that needs such a range of experience to pull it all together and succeed.

A techie reborn as a Digital Marketer and loving it,


over 1 year ago

Simone Castello

Simone Castello, Digital consultant and trainer at

What skills gap? In Cambridge digital marketers are two a penny. There is huge competition for jobs. I bet it's the same in London. The problem is that most industries are clustered in a small number of cities and they attract all the talent there.

over 1 year ago

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