Marketers are struggling to reinvent themselves

Marketers know that the swift-moving business world demands them to be agile and able to react to changes both in their market and in technology at rapid speed.

Ashley Friedlein

Econsultancy’s recent ‘Skills of the Modern Marketer’ report highlights this, with 75 per cent of respondents regarding ‘the ability to embrace change’ as ‘very important’. Other vital soft skills identified in the report were ‘the ability to spot opportunities and adapt strategies quickly’ (63 per cent) and ‘being passionate, hungry to learn and curious’ (61 per cent).

We’re not the only ones to identify these characteristics expected of the modern marketer. Laszlo Bock, the senior vice-president of people operations at Google, named similar key attributes that Google looks for when hiring staff in a recent interview with the New York Times. “For every job, the number one thing we look for is general cognitive ability, and it’s not IQ. It’s learning ability. It’s the ability to process on the fly. It’s the ability to pull together disparate bits of information,” he said.

But as well as the need for softer skills, more than two-thirds of respondents strongly agreed that a good understanding of tech is critical for senior marketing leaders. Capability with data emerged as a chief concern in our research, as did aptitude for content and a broad understanding of digital channels.

As client-side roles with digital responsibility continue to proliferate, it is obvious there is a skills shortage. Tech companies are draining the brightest and best from the talent pool and digital agencies are still thriving on a vacuum of client expertise.

That said, the maturing of digital has left companies clearer on what to outsource and what to bring in-house, something borne out in our ‘Insourcing and Outsourcing: Striking the Right Balance for Digital Success’ research.

The trend for integration of marketing channels, the move towards so-called ‘omnichannel’, makes it more important for marketing teams to work closely together and with the rest of the business. Agencies are increasingly embedding themselves within client teams to strike a balance between bringing in valuable skills and knowledge, up-skilling internal teams and working with other channels. Of the skills being brought back in-house, digital production is prominent.

The challenge of up-skilling teams is very real and, from discussion with our subscribers, it is clear many companies are embarking on widespread training. This might be training a traditional customer service function, comms team or PR department to use social media effectively; it could be training entire marketing departments to bring digital knowledge up to scratch; or it might entail smaller scale training with software such as CRM systems, email marketing providers or analytics packages in an effort to establish champions within teams.

Adobe’s recent Digital Roadblock study highlighted marketers’ struggle to reinvent themselves. Forty per cent of those surveyed stated that they want to reinvent themselves but only 14 per cent said they know how to achieve this. This is a slightly worrying statistic and lends credence to the responses in Econsultancy’s own study. Soft skills such as collaboration and agility to some extent cannot be taught. Technical knowledge can still be learnt on the job if employees are given the right time and support.

Perhaps the overarching theme is that business leaders need increasingly to be knowledgeable in technology and data, and need to be bolder than ever in employing the people prepared for, and creating the best culture for, rapid and effective change.