Just starting out your marketing career or feel the need to step up your marketing skills? We’re going to help you out with 7 skills that all new—and not so new—marketing pros need to have in their toolboxes. Some of these skills need practice to master, others are more technical, but all of them are essential to building a strong foundation for a career in marketing.
1. Data-Driven Persona Marketing
Marketing personas are encapsulated descriptions of your target customers. They can be high level (IT executive with a medium sized company, responsible for maintaining the company’s ecommerce systems) or extremely detailed (Patty is the CMO of a retail brand. She has an MBA. She reads the Wall Street Journal. Avoids Facebook and other social media. Prefers emails to chat…), but they all paint a picture of who that person is, what their job is, what challenges they have, and what success looks like to them. All your marketing should be centered around solving their challenges and making them successful. Being comfortable developing and working with personas is a skill that never goes out of style.
We’ll discuss this some more later on, but one of the more interesting areas of work in marketing is around data driven persona marketing. In the past, persona research was primarily subjective – however, nowadays with the advent of tools like Amplitude, MadKudu & ClearBit, you can actually use the data to tell you who your customers are. Moreover, you can use tools like Intercom or AppCues to deliver targeted messaging on a very granular persona based level.
Want to be an invaluable modern-age marketer? Dig into these data enrichment tools and learn how to drive marketing results with them.
2. Value-driven Marketing
Hand-in-hand with personas are developing value propositions for your product or service. Value propositions are not lists of features. Features are what make a value proposition possible, but not the value of the product. A value proposition is what real, tangible value your customers get from using your product or service. It’s bigger than what your product does, it’s what your product allows to happen better than before.
The famous example is people buying a drill. People don’t buy a drill, they are buying the ability to drill a hole. If you expand on this you can think about things like trade offs (corded drills have more power, but you’re tethered to a cord, cordless gives you freedom of movement, but sacrifices power) and benefits (Is the drill light? Is it small enough to do double duty as light drill and power screwdriver?). All of this feeds into your clear, succinct value proposition.
To excel at value-driven marketing, you need to learn how to deliver value. This means deriving and expressing value from the product/service itself, but also learning to understand your customer on a deeper level. Go beyond what brought them to your website or ad – who are they? What do they value? What are their other problems in life?
To market a product effectively at scale, you need to understand your customers inside and out and find ways to deliver true value to their lives.
3. Analytics & Data
We spoke about this a bit earlier, but the modern marketer must have some data analytics chops to stay at the leading edge. Gone are the days where a basic knowledge of Google Analytics & GTM are enough to get by – as we mentioned in point 1, the number of analysis tools are growing, and you need to be the front person on deriving value from them.
You can get numbers for nearly everything you do in marketing: the trick is making sense of the numbers to understand what is and isn’t working. Building this marketing skill goes beyond pulling reports from Google or your website or social media, it’s finding the metrics to you see if your strategies and tactics are working. Page views alone (increasing or decreasing) don’t tell you if your website is successful. If you are generating marketing qualified leads from your website, it’s the number of leads you generate that matters. If traffic is going down, but leads are going up, things aren’t just working—they are working very efficiently. It means more of your visitors are becoming potential customers even with less traffic. It shows you might not need a lot of traffic to meet your goals. It could also mean that if you did increase traffic, your leads might also increase as well.
The best marketers are the ones who can derive useful, actionable insights from the data that their customers can’t – util you’re comfortable going into the nitty gritty, you’ll be outclassed. You might even want to consider some Foundations courses on data analytics at Udemy. There used to be a time where knowing HTML/CSS is what set you apart as a marketer – that has now changed to data analysis.
4. SEO and keyword research
Traditional SEO is making a comeback. It seems the age-old SEO strategy of latching on to a big traffic rock and catching some of the waves – particularly in local – is actually becoming viable again. As PPC costs continue to skyrocket, SEO & content are becoming the only reliable means of growing a business – and you need to know the ins, outs & arounds of it all.
While understanding how to leverage social media is still and essential skill, the social media landscape—Facebook especially—is changing. Understanding how to research keywords and turn those into content that people can easily find is a crucial, and sought after, skill. When we mean traditional SEO, we mean writing keyword-rich, but not stuffed, content with smart titles and links to supporting pages.
This isn’t about SEO people are often sold to game the system, these are the old-school techniques that have proved the test of time and are seeing a resurgence. Learn the fundamentals.
5. Artificial Intelligence
Chatbots might not have measured up to the type – however, that doesn’t mean AI isn’t still becoming a central component of marketing. Those who stay ahead of the curve are the ones who’ll win at the end of the day. Marketing academies around the world are beginning to feature courses exclusively focused on AI in marketing – that’s how much the field is booming.
6. Lead generation tools
The acquisition stage of the funnel is the most difficult nowadays, and therefore the most important to excel at as a marketer.
Avoiding the overused term “growth hacking”, developing lead generation skills is one of the most sought-after marketing skills today. This isn’t just one skill or tool here, it’s a mindset, toolkit, and methodology that you need to learn. Lead generation combines blog posts, landing pages, email campaigns, digital advertising, and website copy to get sales the right potential buyers at the right stages of the buying cycle.
More emphasis is placed nowadays on collecting intent from users, and then driving email campaigns to convert them. You need to understand CRO in and out so you can maximize your conversion events, and then you need to learn which conversion events to focus on (sale, provide email, request demo, etc.).
It’s understanding the measurements you need to track and how to leverage the right social networks to be where your target customers are. It’s weaponizing social, search & CRO in one wonderful cadence to scaleable drive your lead-generation efforts and turn them into customers. This isn’t quick hack and requires understanding the entire funnel, mastering scaleable lead-generation & acquisition will benefit your entire career.
The last, and most essential, marketing skill is writing.
Gone are the days where shoddy content & stale copy are enough to drive business. Your communication points are all absolutely essential in the customer journey – how you speak on social media, the way the words flow on your website, the way the messaging resonates on your advertising & SEO descriptions – these will, now more than ever, make or break your success as a marketer.
To be a great marketer you must be a better-than-average writer. You need to know how to write everything from website copy to blog posts to social media to landing pages to press releases. This isn’t award winning writing, but it’s good, competent writing. It’s also writing far different than what you might have learned in school. Of all the marketing skills, writing is the one many people find the hardest and the one that takes the most practice.
The payoff, however, is more than worth it. Good writing, solid writing, will serve you well in everything you do in your marketing career.
Learning doesn’t stop here
These are just seven marketing skills to learn and master. There are scores of others you could learn and specialize in. The simplest approach is to strive to become a T-shaped marketer. Develop a generalist background, and then find the areas you have a knack for and deep dive. Stay on top of AI & the latest technologies, and never stop learning.
I’m a 20 year veteran of digital marketing & the owner and founder of Socialistics, a social media agency based in Seattle. My spare time is filled with writing, baseball, my boys and everything Seattle has to offer.