5 Skills Every Marketer Should Develop and Social Media Savvy isn't One of Them (Specifically)

While the fundamentals of marketing remain intact, the field is evolving rapidly. The skills that once made marketers well equipped for success have shifted. Here are five competencies those entering the marketing field should possess and that leaders should be adding to their marketing organization.

1. Navigate Complex Technical Issues

This Ad Age article proclaims, “CMOs, meet your new BFF, the CIO,” a statement that seems amazingly prophetic. The proliferation of new devices, complexities of tracking customer activities, and integration of social media channels means marketers are spending more time on technical issues. In the past, companies might have embarked on a large-scale technology migration once a decade, but now a continuous stream of involved upgrades and changes, albeit on a smaller scale, is the norm.

Marketers need to answer questions like, “Should we build a mobile website, a mobile app, or redesign our desktop site so that it renders well on mobile devices?” This requires understanding the pros and cons of various approaches and, most importantly, what will work within your organization’s current technical reality. Marketers should be comfortable dealing with IT professionals, whether internal or external. And since that’s going to be an increasing aspect of the job, they should enjoy doing so.

2. Live for Rapid Change

While social media is not specifically listed as a top competency here, adaptability and comfort with rapid change is crucial. And certainly, social media is an area that is quickly and constantly evolving. It’s probably unrealistic for most small- to mid-size marketing departments to have cutting-edge experts in every aspect of marketing. However, it is important to hire talented people who are natural trend watchers, enjoy following technical and social gurus’ opinions on what is on the horizon, and can think about how that applies to your business.

In the same vein, the viral nature of communications speeds everything up. A tweet or blog post can quickly be disseminated across the world, and marketers need to be comfortable making good decisions quickly (and have the authority to do so).

3. Data Savvy and Skilled Interpretation

This is not just about the ability to collect data, though at times tracking customers’ activity across a number of disparate systems and platforms is like traveling from New York to Los Angeles by way of Brazil—it’s not always straightforward. Most organizations don’t suffer from a lack of data. Rather, they suffer from a sometimes paralyzing amount of data and lack ability to draw actionable insights from the data.

It’s important to make sure you are interpreting the data correctly; inexperienced professionals can draw incorrect conclusions. Having a solid background in strategy will help marketers avoid mistakes and enable them to use the data to gain competitive advantage. While so much about marketing is changing, most of the fundamentals (e.g., segmentation, targeting, positioning) remain the same.

4. Creative Ways to Engage

Content is king and content marketing can be an important element of the marketing plan for every organization. The key is to publish timely, helpful, and engaging information that is related to what you are selling and of interest to prospective customers. Finding creative ways to gather content and keep the conversation going is a relatively new and important skill for most marketing organizations.

We all can probably think of five topics of content related to our work that could be used in things like blog posts, podcasts, and videos. But how about generating 500 ideas? Adding new authors to the mix and referencing works written by others can help, but it usually becomes increasingly difficult to think of new ideas. Thus, keeping your content fresh can be a challenge.

5. Influence Without Authority

While this phrase has been used so much that it has perhaps become cliché, in the marketing world there may be no greater skill than the ability to influence peers across the organization. Customers expect you to have a presence and expect a quick response. Often marketers aren’t equipped to answer detailed questions posed in social media about policies or customer accounts. Therefore, you may have a number of people within your organization who are active within social media, and that means less centralized control of the brand.

For marketers, the task becomes more about building organizational allies, gathering buy-in for using new channels, and establishing social media guidelines for others to follow. This ability to communicate and influence others in functions such as sales and customer service is important for marketing leaders.

The practice of marketing is changing at an unprecedented pace, creating opportunities for smart people with good skills to do interesting work that makes a contribution to the bottom line. And really, what’s more fun than that?

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