You cannot prepare for the future if you are not aware of it.
Marketing departments and companies must focus on acquiring the talent that comes with a wide range of abilities and can also match up to the ever-evolving needs of the future.
Over the next few years, we will see technology playing an increasingly bigger role. Most of the heavy-lifting will be done by the use of technology only, even though humans will continue to control and guide it. This is set to change the structure and composition of the marketing teams over the next decade. In fact, “marketing” itself, as a concept, will evolve as new technologies and methodologies will arrive on the scene.
But that’s not all of it. Andy Dorling, General Manager at The Institute of Data & Marketing in the UK, says that,
“The future of intelligent marketing will… require business leaders that acknowledge the importance of having a diverse, skilled workforce and who are willing to invest in career development for a range of technical and soft skills.”
This task is, for sure, daunting for marketers at all levels.
To this end, CMOs and hiring departments will need to pay attention to (a) fulfilling the current marketing needs, (b) plan for the future years that demand and, (c) help upskill their team with training. This is likely to stay relevant not only for 2020 but beyond as well. To understand this better, let’s take a look at:
- What are the key priorities for marketing in 2020?
- What are the emerging trends for marketing skills in 2020?
- What sort of talent-related challenges marketers will face in 2020?
- How to overcome these challenges?
What are the key priorities for marketing in 2020?
In 2020, consumers are expected to engage with brands digitally more than ever due to the emergence of new platforms and technology shifts. This trend will subsequently impact customer expectations around experience and interaction quality.
A survey of more than 500 marketers around the world carried out by The Economist Group in collaboration with the Digital Marketing Institute found that a significant percentage of respondents (84%) identified customer experience to be very important or somewhat important. This is followed by other key areas like strategy & planning/brand management (79%) and Data analytics (76%).
There’s a clear indication that the line between “digital” and “traditional” no longer exists and that marketers are increasingly focused on CX, UX, and data analytics compared to traditional advertising. This trend is closely tied to changing consumer expectations and how marketers have to realign their strategy to meet those expectations.
Read more: Marketing Technology Trends for 2020
What are the emerging trends for marketing skills in 2020?
Increasing participation of the customer in shaping the marketing narrative, the pace of technological changes, and the need for digital transformation – all have collectively forced businesses and marketing leaders to take a hard look at their digital strategies and capabilities. Marketers are taking up the challenge of creating meaningful and deeper connections with their audience.
Drawing on this change, marketers will need a steady mix of a range of skills in their teams. Here are some skills which are likely to be most in-demand in 2020, bifurcated into strategic, technical and soft skills. Mastering these skills is going to be the key to every modern marketer’s dream job.
1. Digital strategy and planning
Marketers are increasingly being expected to generate long-term measurable goals for the businesses. This requires them to be involved in business decisions, account business goals, and consider future trends & challenges in order to plan the overall marketing strategy and activities.
The Digital Marketing Institute’s research suggests that ‘Digital Strategy and Planning’ is considered as one of the most important skills by the marketing leaders for their organization currently.
2. Data analytics and reporting
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Data analytics is the very fabric of all things digital; without it, you cannot say what’s working and what’s not for your organization.
A range of changes – new and stringent data regulations, the emergence of NLP, unified view of the customer, and the increasing use of AI/ML and many more – are anticipated in the current year.
These changes will require a specialized set of skills from marketers. It is likely that marketing managers will pair technical skills like using SQL or ML algorithms, for instance, with the ability to layout and manage overall data strategy for the organization.
3. Research and insights
Since customers expect brands to provide them with highly personalized experiences, it becomes an utmost important responsibility for the marketing function to understand their target audience and their needs.
Working closely with the data analytics and reporting resources, marketers will need to generate data insights and intelligence that can further be put into the system to conceptualize, iterate, and scale the marketing initiatives. In the absence of this skill, companies are likely to struggle in the face of competition.
4. Leadership and management
Marketing leaders value leadership and management skills as another most valuable skill. Without these skills, it is likely that marketers will find themselves often caught up in dealing with short-term issues. Focusing on the long-term vision and goals is a sign of leadership.
These skills also play a significant role when it comes to driving change, initiating cross-departmental collaborations and also breaking silos in the system. For a brand to be able to operate at the full capacity of its talent model, these skills become necessary.
5. Marketing automation skills
This ‘left-brained skill’ is credited for quantitative planning, tracking, and performance of the various marketing initiatives coupled with a deep working knowledge of the technology.
In this omni-channel and multi-channel customer experience world, this skill becomes even more indispensable as it helps in streamlining and simplifying workflows and processes.
Marketing automation largely impacts the UI (user interface) and CX (customer experience) and remains relevant to the whole customer journey at any point in time.
6. Social media
Social media has become a primary source of communication and information between the content creators and consumers. In fact, it has become deep-rooted in the current fabric of society. Understanding how consumers interact with brands using social media and various influencers, you can maximize the conversions for your business.
Undoubtedly, it is one of the most crucial technical skills required of every professional in the current times. Many universities have recognized this and are helping students acquire valuable skills and practical knowledge to boost customer engagement.
7. Mobile marketing
Mobile-focused marketing strategies are quite critical to today’s businesses. Mobile is both the present and the future – that’s why we need marketers who have the necessary skills and knowledge of optimizing a brand’s experience using apps, social media channels, mobile search, and mobile-optimized websites.
Since the customer is mostly online on their mobile phone, shuffling between various apps, it makes sense to view marketing campaigns from this perspective. And the demand for mobile marketers is not going to die any time soon in the future.
8. Website optimization and design
Website optimization and design encompass all the technical and marketing skills required to acquire, engage and convert visitors into prospects and buyers. In fact, it can be considered an umbrella term that requires the knowledge of content, aesthetics, technical SEO, A/B testing, user experience, measurement, and analytics.
The application of these skills remains relevant at all times for a business. Marketers who have experience in website optimization and design are likely to find themselves in demand in 2020.
9. Content marketing
Unquestionably, content marketing is one of the most important marketing skills and it will remain so in 2020. From brands – big and small – we will see more and more experimentation on creating personalized content that resonates with the audience. While this happens, content marketers will grapple with increasing competition in distribution.
Marketers who have mastered the art of cutting through the noise will find themselves at an advantage in 2020.
Traditionally, creativity in marketing was seen as something alluding to aesthetics, designs, words, and concepts of ad campaigns. However, this has changed significantly with the penetration of technology.
Creativity, now, has become much more complex and demanding. It permeates data analysis, marketing strategy, content, leadership, planning, and many other functions in marketing.
Creativity is also what gives a brand distinct leverage over others. It helps deliver great marketing success even in the face of a challenging and constantly evolving landscape.
11. Agility and adaptability
If there’s one thing that’s not going to stop ever – that is the pace of change. It would be naive to assume that we are going to have a breather from all the technological changes at any time in the future.
It is also true that the skills that are in demand today won’t be needed in five years’ time. Individuals who score high on agility and adaptability will continue to find themselves in a potentially advantageous position in hiring.
It also must be noted that – agility and adaptability are more than just skills. At any given time, they can be a huge asset to company culture and therefore, result in a competitive advantage.
12. Analytical, problem solving and critical thinking
Another skill set organizations are laying the most focus on. Businesses are dealing with an acute shortage of these skills. A 2019 study ‘State of the Workplace’ published by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) recognizes analytical thinking, problem-solving, and critical thinking to be among the top 3 missing soft skills.
In essence, these skills are about the ability to make reasonable judgments with absolute clarity. More than a skillset, it tends to be a mindset that helps you avoid bias, challenge assumptions, reason with logic, and ask the right questions.
13. Broader business knowledge
Going beyond the functions and operations of marketing and connecting the marketing with all facets of an organization brings much value to the businesses.
It helps marketers proceed with confidence in their marketing strategies. Marketers can also use this understanding to reinforce and develop an overall customer-focused culture in the organization.
All these skills fundamentally pinpoint the need to rethink and reflect on the question – what does it mean to be a successful marketer today and in the future? Clearly, the modern marketer needs a fusion of abilities – technical, strategic, and soft skills.
A study by Atrium, a marketing recruitment firm, suggests the following specific positions to be in demand in 2020:
- Content Strategist
- Digital Marketing Manager
- Digital Strategist
- Email Marketing Specialist
- Front-end Web Developer
- Hybrid Designer
- Marketing Analytics Manager
- Project Manager
- SEO/SEM Specialist
- Social Media Manager
- User Interface (UI) Designer
- User Experience (UX) Designer
What sort of talent-related challenges marketers will face in 2020?
Despite the fact that a lot has changed in marketing over the last couple of years, only a few changes are seen in how we approach marketing. There is little to no change in how we assess performance, plan hiring, establish team structure, organize and approach tasks.
As a result, businesses are not able to make full use of the latest technologies and platforms that require them to be agile, and effective.
Research by the Digital Marketing Institute has identified a series of challenges for marketers in 2020. The greatest challenge of all was found to be the pace of technological change followed by recruitment and difficulty in creating engaging content.
These trends highlight the fact that businesses are struggling to keep up with the latest developments, lack of preparedness, creativity, and other fundamental skills for digital transformation.
It poses several risks like losing out on revenue and audience to competitors, lack of innovation, and engagement.
However, that is not all. There is distrust, and lack of confidence among marketers within their teams as well.
According to a survey of more than 1000 executives around the world by The Economist Group, 88% of CMOs are much more likely to be confident of the skills of their marketing team compared to 64% of the non-CMO cohort.
The reason for low-level confidence among relatively younger marketers could be a need for more training as it is their biggest need and they crave it. Another reason could be that marketers feel that their colleagues’ skills are not matching up to the ideal pace of change.
This points us to the direction that marketing leaders need to encourage the implementation of skill training programs to deal with some of these challenges. Also, there is a universal need for pan-industry standardization and qualifications for evaluating talent.
How to overcome these challenges?
Marketing is definitely complicated. It is transforming rapidly. By looking at where we lack in the current times in terms of skills, we can take goal-oriented and specific actions needed for the future.
There are many steps that can be taken to resolve this. Note that the effectiveness of the various remedies can vary from one industry to another across different geographies. And each business or industry might need different solutions altogether depending upon their unique issues. However, some of the broad solutions to these challenges can be:
For the organization
- Recognize that there is a definite skill shortage in the workforce and invest in training both the existing talent and new entrants.
- Promote a culture of upskilling, and reskilling as much as the use of newer technologies – both in technical and soft skills. This will increase employee mobility and help individuals transition to new careers with ease. For example, businesses in Denmark place a strong emphasis on in-work training and the government allocates funding for two weeks of certified skills training per year for adults.
- Uphold talent diversity in all realms whether it is gender, age, race, religion or sexual orientation. Such a systemic change is the need of the hour to attract a larger pool of talent.
- Provide financial support to the systems in the organization while taking into account the new thinking and mindset shifts needed for more agility and upskilling.
For the CMO
- Keep in mind the long-term vision and strategy while planning marketing activities. Doing so will give you a view of the bigger picture and align your marketing talent strategy accordingly.
- Go beyond the four walls of the organization and take cognizance of the huge amount of talent available around you – in terms of freelancers, gig economy workers, influencers, consultants, full-time employees and many more. Use these options to build a talent model that aggregates each person’s capabilities and talent and ultimately creates a stronger team.
- Develop a strong understanding of disruptive changes so as to bring a correlation between perceived priorities and innovation strategy by the top management with the talent strategy.
For others in the marketing team
- Understand how each marketing activity connects itself to the business results. Take it to the level wherein you can explain it to others and yourself also. Doing so will help you develop big picture skills along with technical ones.
- Develop a deeper understanding of your customers’ needs and wants. Use this information to champion their perspective and the use of technology for marketing initiatives.
- Give equal importance to acquiring strategic, technical and soft skills.
In 2020, we need to shift our thinking about ‘digital transformation’. It is not something that is in the future. It is already underway, and will always be. Businesses that are well-run have already taken this into notice and are ‘digitizing’ their culture and customer experience. These businesses have got themselves much enviable competitive advantage.
Hence, marketers would need to prepare themselves to be in a state of readiness for constant change. There is no way they can undergo this change without upskilling and reskilling the current talent pool and cultivating the newer talent. Emerging technologies are only going to push the need for organizations to promote professional development and both in-house and outsourced training.
In addition to this, marketing skills will grow closer to business goals and objectives. Running effective and successful marketing will require a merger of strategic, technical and soft skills. And constant upgrading of one’s skillset is a must.