Andy Dorling, General Manager of the DMA’s Institute of Data & Marketing discusses some of the key skills that marketers and business leaders identified as being important to marketing teams and business success in the future.
The future of intelligent marketing will not just be dependent on organizations investing in the latest technological advancements or adhering to regulations like the GDPR. It will require skilled marketing teams to innovate, interpret data, engage with customers, and communicate the latest trends to senior management to develop effective marketing strategies.
Perhaps even more importantly, it 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.
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Data-related skills continue to grow in significance
It is hard to imagine any marketing role that will not be driven by a need to use data to develop the customer insights that inform every aspect of the customer journey. Employers increasingly need marketers who can think like data analysts and data analysts who can think like marketers.
Marketers surveyed in the ‘Professional Skills Census 2018’ identified a range of technical skills that will become more important in the future. Amongst the data-related skills listed, ‘Analysing customer data/insight (+12%)’, ‘Data analysis & reporting (+10%)’ and ‘Data & database management (+7%)’ were among the most prevalent skills gaps observed out of the 33 included in the survey.
Marketing software and technology, not to mention increasing consumer trust in brands, will only increase the availability and scope of data. This means modern marketers must be able to interpret vast amounts of information effectively, use insights to effectively utilize the latest software and technology, and understand how to communicate findings back to senior management teams so they can adapt marketing strategies accordingly.
The most important data and marketing skills to future business success
The new ‘Business Skills Census 2019’ report from the DMA’s Institute of Data and Marketing asked marketers to identify the skills and challenges facing their organizations today, as well as their importance in the future.
Out of a total of 33 skills listed in the research, three skills were deemed less important to current success by the majority of marketers, ‘Social media’ (46%), ‘Event planning’ (45%), and ‘Direct marketing’ (40%).
However, when asked what skills will be important to the future success of their business, both ‘Direct marketing’ and ‘Social media’ saw the most significant increases noted in the survey, with 86% and 88% respectively, highlighting their importance in the future.
The marketers surveyed believe that several key marketing channels will become increasingly important in the future such as ‘Email marketing’ (up +17% to 83%), ‘Search marketing’ (up +27% to 89%), and ‘Mobile marketing’ (up +13% to 74%).
Most marketers recognize the importance of a multi-channel marketing approach to future business success. Direct marketing also has an important future in the eyes of most marketers, alongside digital channels like social media. As such, marketers must find the right balance between personalization and privacy, using data insights to target consumers with the right opportunities via the right mediums.
An increasing number of marketers believe that ‘Analysing customer data/insight’ will be important to future business success, with 95% stating this – it is also the most cited ‘important skill’ featured in the survey. ‘Producing content or creative work’, the second most cited skill, also increased by 7% to 94%.
If businesses aren’t already doing so, their marketing function must start effectively using a range of digital and traditional marketing channels. For an everyday marketer, developing skills in data analysis, creative thinking, and campaign execution will play a key role in producing successful marketing campaigns.
Soft skills and industry-wide training standards will also be key
The DMA’s ‘Data & Marketing: Attracting the Next Generation’ report asked senior and manager-level marketers within organizations, large and small, what skills they look for when recruiting for entry-level positions. At a collective level, employers consider ‘Personal’ and ‘Social skills (i.e. teamwork, creativity, etc.) and ‘Core’ basic skills (i.e. Reading or understanding instructions, reports, good written and spoken communication, etc.) most essential for entry-level candidates to have. Some 83% named at least one ‘Social’ skill as essential and 76% named at least one ‘Core’ skill as essential for their entry-level marketing employees to have.
Employers are looking for well-rounded marketing candidates, with a good grounding in soft skills – basic skills such as good communication – and also have a desire for key marketing skills. The responsibilities and remit of the marketing function is growing thanks to the GDPR – with data, accountability, software, and technology now intertwined with many marketers’ job roles. This would explain the growing range of key skills now demanded of marketers, from the perspective of both marketers and employers.
The survey also found that there is strong demand for industry-wide training standards. When asked what three industry changes will be most needed to support future entry-level recruitment, industry-wide training standards were the top option – chosen by 38% of employers as one of their top three changes. With employers focused on soft skills at hiring, training young employees with specific technical and soft skills is something employers would like greater support with.
There are two sides to every coin though and if marketers are to be equipped with the right skillsets employers need to be clear about what they are looking for – a generalist or a specialist? They also need to be realistic about the range of skills junior employees will possess. If they don’t necessarily have the ideal skill set, employers must be willing to invest in training and development that aligns itself with the long-term marketing strategy and marketing channels that the business uses to engage with its customers.
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The future marketer toolkit
Marketers believe that data and marketing teams of the future will need an expanding skillset, but there is also a strong consensus about what skills are the most important. Not only are data skills becoming increasingly important within our industry, but they are also essential for executing successful marketing strategies that use both digital and traditional marketing channels in conjunction with one another – direct marketing, social media, email and search marketing are key channels of the future in the eyes of most marketers.
The importance of soft skills within the data and marketing function cannot be overstated - teamwork and creativity, in terms of data analysis and content generation, are imperative to not only the future success of businesses but also the industry as a whole.
Andrew Dorling has over 15 years of experience developing and managing organizations, specializing in the training and consulting industry. In that time he’s worked across a range of sectors with clients in the EMEA region, including Barclays, BP, HSBC, Shell, and Whitbread - to name a few. He is passionate about staff development and believes any organization that is aiming for long-term growth must put education, learning and development at the heart of its strategy.