Between a hard and a soft space: What makes modern marketers more employable
It is not just Covid-19 that has turned the marketing sector inside out. The pervasive need for businesses to gather and analyse data and then use the resulting insights effectively is a much sought after skill, says AMELIA JACOB. At the same time, soft skills are essential too.
Marketing is one of the fastest growing functions in companies today. According to Career Junction’s Index for March 2021, despite an overall uptake in hiring activity, demand is volatile for marketing professionals.
So what is it businesses are looking for when it comes to the skills needed for modern marketing? What makes one marketer more employable or valued over another?
Data literacy, for one. It is one of the key technical skills and knowledge gaps that exist within marketing teams. It’s important for marketers to build new capabilities and skills in order to tackle the next challenges they face. Data literacy will help marketing professionals demonstrate their commercial ability and better influence business decisions and outcomes.
Professionals with a talent for turning vast swathes of data into meaningful and actionable insights will be in huge demand in the future. The evolution of data adoption and usage will continue to drive the marketing sector forward. The proper utilisation and analysis of this information allow businesses to create more specific and better-targeted marketing campaigns.
The problem is, despite knowing that data and analytics are vital, and a key area for them to build their capabilities, marketers still struggle to do so. This must be addressed urgently.
It’s not only hard skills such as data analysis that are essential in the current marketing space. Soft skills are equally important.
Even before Covid-19, the world of marketing was experiencing significant shifts. But now, the pandemic has placed new demands that marketers must grapple with. One crucial factor that will help future-proof marketing careers is to possess key soft skills that will enable marketers to more effectively navigate and operate in a changing landscape.
Driving and embedding a focus on the customer and improving customer experience can’t be achieved in silos. Marketing leaders need to lead by example and drive cross-functional alignment, engagement and collaboration – sometimes even act as facilitators. In particular, relationships with IT, sales, finance and customer service are really important.
Environments of change are far more volatile so businesses are continually adapting to a changing external environment. The path is less clear so knowing how to operate in ambiguity is a skill we all need. If you lead a team, it’s important to create clarity amongst the chaos and being able to move forward without having all the answers.
The best marketers and marketing leaders know what drives the business and how to best link marketing performance with business outcomes. Marketers need to demonstrate they have commercial acumen if they are to have greater ownership of the profit and loss within companies.
Organisations will speak of their focus on the customer but often they don’t know what it means or how to get there. Marketers need to bridge the gap and bring that vision to life. In order to do this, they should be experts in the needs and wants of customers, not channels.
Marketers are being given greater accountability but not authority – this makes influence vital for marketing leaders. Changing perceptions about marketing, embedding purpose and customer focus all require greater levels of influence across the organisation at peer, C-Suite and board levels.
To do so, marketers need to more actively contribute to strategic discussions that span beyond the marketing department, demonstrate an enterprise mindset when making decisions and speak the common language of the C-suite.
Hiring trends for marketing
- Customer insights
Professionals who are skilled in analysing customer insights are becoming an integral part of the marketing function. Having the ability to understand, translate and manipulate customer insights can help to build a comprehensive customer strategy, as well as provide actionable insights to boost your business offering. Further to this, category analysis and in-depth knowledge of the market ensures that everyone across your business understands their stakeholders better, which makes for a more efficient approach.
- Clearly communicating ROI
ROI is a crucial metric in the marketing department, where results and reporting is key. Professionals with the skills to analyse marketing metrics and report on trends, help drive business growth and development. This not only means being able to decipher results, but also knowing which tools are the best to use. Once the results are in, communicating back to senior leaders to get buy-in on any new ventures is critical to maintaining momentum. The delivery of ROI communications is essential to ensure marketing teams can develop their strategies successfully.
- Brand management
Brand managers are responsible for the management of your company brand, or your clients’ brands. In today’s market, where competition is fierce, these professionals can make or break a brand’s reputation through the management of and speed at which they move the brand forward. Brand managers should be proficient across a variety of functions, including running campaigns (sometimes multiple at once), new product development, and social media management. Brand managers are becoming increasingly important in 2020, as they affect brand performance and success.
- PR and social media
The way your company is represented in both the media and on social media platforms has become a core focus for most businesses. As brand reputation becomes ever more crucial in today’s competitive market, professionals who can manage your brand image are key. Those who possess the skills to support brand messaging across social media and PR channels are important in ensuring that your company voice is delivered correctly and that your messaging resonates with your target audience. A combination of these professionals in your teams will help to identify new opportunities for your business.
Content teams in the marketing department help bring ideas to life, can develop engaging campaigns, and create thought-provoking designs. You should be looking for skilled copywriters to refresh your old copy, and create new content for your website and advertising materials. It’s also important to hire skilled designers who can produce different types of content suited to your project or campaign in the form of eBooks, whitepapers, infographics, and more. Talented copywriters and content professionals pride themselves on creating collateral that stands out in the market and beats the competition.
- Stakeholder relations
Working with others is integral in most business functions. However, in marketing, it could be argued that it is even more pertinent to be able to work effectively with stakeholders, as there is so much cross-collaboration within teams – both internally and externally. Indeed, effective stakeholder management can be the difference between the success and failure of a multi-faceted project. Professionals skilled in stakeholder relations will enable your organisation to communicate more effectively, which will facilitate better working practices, now and in the future.
- Ecommerce analytics
Ecommerce is now the primary battleground in the world of retail. With the online retail sector growing substantially, skills in ecommerce are becoming ever more sought after. Given that ecommerce is a multi-channel operation, it is important that professionals are versatile and have a solid understanding of the digital marketing mix. They should also have a keen eye for spotting trends in data and devising action plans to drive further growth.
- UX development
Creating a unique user experience (UX) that is easy to follow and satisfying for your customers is the key to repeat business and a happy client. Not only should you look for skills in UX development, but combining this with integrated design and digital skills will mean that you have a professional that can take your processes to the next level. Consistency in your user experience and brand representation in this space will keep up conversion rates and encourage completions.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process by which the visibility of a website or webpage is improved in the rankings of search engines like Google, to increase traffic. Broadly, there are three key areas of SEO: technical/onsite, content, and link building. Professionals with a proven track record in one, or ideally all, of these areas have been in ever-increasing demand over the past decade or so. As Google’s rules on best practice change regularly, SEO professionals need to be adaptable and ready to find new strategies to improve website visibility.
- CRM strategy and execution
Customer relationship management (CRM) continues to be a key skill in any marketing function. Not only to ensure you are communicating with your customers effectively, but also ensuring that you are making the most out of your audiences and targeting them correctly with your communications. CRM involves the management of many systems. However, CRM professionals must be able to analyse this data across multiple channels and use their findings to implement positive change across the organisation.
Amelia Jacob is Senior Manager of Sales & Marketing for Michael Page Africa. She recruits for marketing roles across Africa.
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