In December 2013, I wrote a by-lined piece for MarketingProfs on the top digital marketing skills that employers would be looking for in digital marketers in 2014. It went on to receive thousands of views and became a blueprint for many smaller companies that were relatively new to the online world and looking for guidance on how to qualify candidates for their digital marketing opportunities. I’ve tweaked it a bit, but here’s my 2015 version. This list of sought after digital marketing skills is not all-inclusive, of course. For this, I’d like to encourage comments from experienced digital marketing leaders themselves who’ve done the hiring, and who know from personal experience what it takes for a digital marketer to succeed.
When you think about it, digital marketing is the antithesis of many professions in which you go to school or get training and perform basically the same job throughout your entire career. How many careers are so measurable and immediate? How many careers let you play with the latest cutting-edge technology? How many careers encourage you to try something one day, then scrap it and try something entirely different the next? How many careers allow you to participate in an ever-changing multitude of client projects and campaigns?
Aside from the hands-on, nuts-and-bolts knowledge and digital marketing skills that are required for success in ecommerce, SEM, display, mobile marketing, web analytics, social media and email, expect employers in 2015 to put increasing emphasis on these eight key qualities when sizing up candidates.
This one sits at the top of the list, and for good reason: Companies have never faced so much uncertainty and risk. In the space of only a few months they can slip from market leader to follower. The ability to deal with major changes in the workplace, to complete projects with very little direction, endure stress, handle multiple priorities, these are among the most highly sought-after competencies that employers look for in all of their hires, but it’s especially true in the online space. What might have been considered a crazy idea one day might be the next day’s most anticipated experiment. Companies can test new ideas and try out new features on websites and get almost instantaneous results. All businesses want their marketers to be adaptable, but in digital marketing that’s especially important because the only thing that doesn’t change is, well, change, so expect change to continue to be the norm in 2015.
2. Collecting and Analyzing Data and Converting It Into Actionable Knowledge
Big data is getting even bigger. Digital marketers pour through mountains of data to understand consumer behavior and identify opportunities. They translate those insights into integrated marketing strategies across channels, with clear and measurable goals. They use advanced analytics to identify the media and audiences that will best help them achieve those goals. They analyze results and optimize to deliver more of what’s working and less of what isn’t. If all of this sounds familiar, expect even more of it in 2015.
3. Creative Thinking
Some might describe this as “thinking outside the box.” Taco Bell distinctively called it “outside the bun.” However you wish to define it, I can’t think of too many other professions where this applies more than in digital marketing where new technologies and methodologies are emerging at breakneck pace and where standardized approaches for solving problems often go out the window. It’s not always on the job description, but trust me: Creative thinking will be a high priority in the digital marketing skills employers will be looking for in 2015.
4. Comfortable With Technology
Companies have a very strong preference for marketers who are also fluent in the technical aspects of digital marketing. That does not mean that you need to be proficient in writing code; that’s what programmers do. But technology is to digital marketing as a tailwind is to pilots: It’s always pushing you forward, and the best digital marketers (just like good pilots) know how it works and they use it to their advantage. Knowing technology also fosters greater collaboration with IT. You’ll be using it even more in 2015.
5. Intellectual Curiosity
In 2015, digital marketers will continue to be the trailblazers, the ones often among the first to boldly go where no marketer has gone before. Author Mark Goldblatt, who has researched the subject of intellectual curiosity, states that what you know is not always as important as what you want to know. Look for more emphasis on not just the “what” and the “how,” but also the “why.” Knowing why some tactics work and why others don’t, and learning from it to do it better the next time. That’s what makes good digital marketers great.
6. Thirst for Knowledge
Digital marketing is, by definition, an exercise in lifelong learning, and there will be plenty more to learn in 2015. The day you quit learning is the day you should leave digital marketing as a career. Technologies and solutions that work today could be outdated tomorrow, and those very same innovations have never made it easier for learners to keep informed about the latest advancements with the help of media options like blogs, video, and social networks.
7. Bridging the Business and Technical Divide
I call these individuals the “techno-marketing hybrid.” Can you stand comfortably with your feet in two different buckets—marketing and technology? Everything you do in digital marketing is made possible by the technology that takes place behind the pixels, but it’s a theme you’ll hear more of in 2015. This ability to bridge the gap between business and IT and communicate technical ideas clearly and effectively to non-technical people cannot be overstated. In the coming year, those who have that ability as part of their digital marketing skills will be at a distinct advantage over those who don’t.
8. Business Acumen
Usually when you think of business acumen, you think of senior executives or other managers whose daily decisions and actions leave a direct impact on the operation and performance of the business. But it’s becoming more than just a critical competency for leaders. Companies want all employees to understand that everything they do in some way affects the bottom line. Even for lower-level positions, employers expect candidates to be able to connect the dots between their day-to-day responsibilities and departmental or organizational goals. In 2015, employers will be looking for digital marketers, at all levels, who are more business-savvy and who have a better understanding of how their job descriptions support the company’s overall strategy.
Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is one of the nation’s preeminent and veteran executive recruiters in ecommerce, digital and multichannel marketing, and CRM. With nearly 100 published LinkedIn articles, Jerry is the “voice” of best practices in the recruitment and hiring of ecommerce and digital marketing professionals. Jerry is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” on Amazon, and participates in many leading digital marketing and ecommerce conferences. Jerry has been recruiting and placing marketing professionals for more than 28 years. Check out Jerry’s other insights on the Thought Leadership section of the Bernhart Associates website.
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