Insights / Strategy

PUBLISHED: May 7, 2021 6 min read

5 Critical Skills That Keep Marketers Competitive

We take a look at some rules of thumb and key questions to assess marketing skills.

Getting into marketing is easy. Making it big and driving results is a completely different beast altogether. Projected growth rates for the sector look to increase by up to 7 percent by 2026 — that number may sound small, but it’s faster than the average for all occupations. Marketers will continue to be in demand as a wide range of organizations will look to expand their market share[amsive_tooltip term=”market-share”] to meet that demand. 

Growth is good! But that means new challenges for beginners and tried-and-true veterans alike. Here are some foundational — if not unique — skills that every marketer should have for the road ahead. Also, throughout each, we’ll throw out some thought starters that every marketer should ask themselves to get the creative — and effective — solutions flowing. 

1. Presentation and Storytelling

Here’s a point that’s surely come up in any marketer’s career: You’re sitting in a meeting listening to someone present some extremely important information, but the execution was so poor that your mind started wandering. Your grocery list, sports practice at 7 o’clock, that after-work appointment that’s been on your calendar for months — anything but the presentation at hand. 

The worst thing in the world is to have really good insights to share, only to be diminished by weak presenting skills. Don’t fret, the easiest way to pinpoint a good presentation is to refine and practice, but dig down into the client’s specific pain points to make the natural storytelling narrative come alive.

Takeaway Thought Starters: 

  • Have you identified who the audience is and are you talking about content that your audience cares about?
  • Do you have enough knowledge about your audience to know what points are most important to them, and do you know where to go deep and where to keep it high-level?
  • How can you build excitement and demonstrate passion around the subject while credentialing yourself on the topic at hand? 
2. Technology and Tools

According to ChiefMarTec blog editor Scott Brinker there are upwards of 8,000 technology vendors in the marketing space. That’s not only a lot of pieces of technology to go through, it’s a nearly impossible task to vet the ones that will work for you. 

So, how do you get a handle on what to use and for what ends? Not only that — how do you use these tools effectively? The biggest and best step is to get up to speed on ways you can automate[amsive_tooltip term=”marketing-automation”] and integrate your marketing ecosystem, and roll with it from there. Lean into what comes naturally, but also rely on that handy automation to fill in and learn from the informative blanks. 

Takeaway Thought Starters: 

  • How do you measure inbound and outbound marketing today?
  • Do you have good collaboration tools in-house that integrate with your CRM? Quip, Slack, or a similar program can be the communications lifesaver in the future of in-office and remote work.?
  • Have your current technological capabilities driven desired results?
3. The Contrarian View

How much of your personal and professional career have you been told that being a contrarian is not a strength but a weakness? Well, by definition, contrarians subtract from the conversation rather than add to it. But what about smartly embracing a bit of the spirit of contrarianism to pressure test ideas to make them the best they can be? Somewhat controversial, against-the-grain ideas can have a ripple effect, and more people will notice.

Marketers shouldn’t necessarily want to do what other marketers are doing just because it’s deemed a “best practice.” Take a step back for a second: if it’s a best practice then everyone is doing it. Relying too much on what works for everyone makes it difficult for brands to be different and think differently. If marketing strategies are based on consensus, you’re setting yourself up to fail. By zagging when others are zigging, you advertently raise your standards to foster better results. 

Takeaway Thought Starters: 

  • As a customer, do we want to continue to receive the same communications using the same channels in the same format from multiple service providers? 
  • What is your take on a test-and-learn approach? 
  • Can you get real-time insights from a customer on how they perceive your marketing approach?
4. Customer Intimacy

When was the last time you had a conversation with a customer on the direction of their strategic focus? Marketers need to have a handle on all of the upstream and downstream inputs and outputs that customers face. Having a tight strategic relationship with customers allows you to be a true partner, and have an active seat at the strategy table.

The more we understand and can empathize with a customer’s pains and gains, the better we can align our solutions to the outcomes they need to drive.

Takeaway Thought Starters: 

  • How do your customers consume content, and what resonates most with them? 
  • What other methods beyond data do you use to understand what customers are reading and downloading?
  • Do you have a good understanding of the five details your customer is responsible for?
  • Can you identify the customer’s top pain point? 

These are thought-starters that every marketer should ask themselves to get the creative — and effective — solutions flowing. 

5. Dynamic Industry Knowledge

Marketers need to strive to be subject matter experts of the entire industry, the customers they serve, and the challenges those specific customers face. The phrase we like to use is providing “second or third-level insights” that go the extra mile. It’s admittedly a lot of work, but the rewards outweigh the extra effort. 

First-level insights generally consist of reading and interpreting research you find online. But second and third-level insights mean taking what you learn, and either actively applying it to your client or sense-check it with real customers. This way, you validate what you understand to be true, and then present your own perspective and specificity to what industry knowledge says.

Takeaway Thought Starters: 

  • How much time do you spend digging into social professional groups to collaborate and generate new ideas?
  • What is your point of view and framework for analyzing the market so that you are perceived as a thought leader?
  • What are some innovations in various vertical segments you’ve seen recently? If you haven’t, what can you do to foster that curiosity?
  • Do you synthesize what you read or learn in the market and test against your customers’ perspectives?