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8 In-Demand Skills for Marketing Candidates

Three professionals in a creative meeting working on marketing strategies pointing at a notepad with graphs

The marketing industry has been hard hit by the Coronavirus, with ad executives anticipating a 20% decline in advertising and marketing spending between 2019 and 2020 due to the pandemic’s economic impact. However, companies are still spending on marketing, with many choosing to divert budgets away from traditional marketing mediums like print and TV ads in favor of digital channels as consumer attention shifts more heavily online. 

This shift brings a need for skilled, creative marketing professionals who can help companies find new ways to succeed in the uncharted business territory. If you’re in the early stages of your career, this may mean shifting course to a different, more in-demand area of marketing. If you’re already established in the marketing field, it may mean upskilling to expand your resume with attractive skills that will broaden your career options. 

Top Skills for Marketing Jobs Employers Will Be Looking for in Candidates  

1. Creativity

In the words of Stephan Vogel, chief creative officer for Ogilvy & Mather Germany, “nothing is more efficient than creative advertising. Creative advertising is more memorable, longer-lasting, works with less media spending, and builds a fan community faster.” All of these are compelling business arguments for hiring strong creative talent. 

Research backs up Vogel’s words; a European study found that every euro invested in a highly creative ad campaign (measured via scoring on a series of five creative factors) resulted in nearly double the sales impact of a euro spent on a more basic campaign. Ads that elaborated to reveal unexpected details within a simple concept and ads that had a high level of visual artistic creativity performed best. 

Companies will be more focused on attracting candidates who can bring these creative aspects to their marketing, finding new ways to capture attention, get ideas across and reach audience members in different, unconventional ways. 

2. Data Analytics

As we mentioned earlier, not all aspects of marketing are shrinking. Data analytics is one area that’s expected to experience exponential growth in the coming years. The amount of data humans create is growing at a mind-boggling pace, and with that growth comes an exploding demand for professionals who can use it to draw meaningful conclusions. 

According to a post-pandemic analysis by Frost & Sullivan, the global market for big data analytics is expected to grow four-and-a-half times over the next five years, generating revenues of $68.09 billion by 2025. 

In terms of hiring, companies will be competing heavily for professionals who can help them harness the often-confusing array of available tools to access the data they need and use it to make calculated business decisions. Candidates looking to sell their skills in this area should highlight their abilities to track marketing results on multiple channels, access information in real-time, use it to analyze the effectiveness of sales funnels, and make accurate projections about sales and purchasing behavior.

3. UX Design

As business becomes more fully integrated across all available channels, finding new ways to bridge the gap between the physical world and the digital one (and the many grey areas in between) becomes paramount. The user experience, or UX, is a huge factor in a company’s success in this area. For example, 60% of consumers are likely to abandon a website and never return if they have a negative UX experience. 

Aesthetic design is one component of good UX, but seamless, intuitive functionality is even more important in the connected marketplace. As a result, job listings will see a greater focus on UX skills in personalization, responsiveness and omnichannel strategies. 

4. Storytelling

Not every item on the next-gen marketing skills list is new to the 21st century. Some, like storytelling, have been around as long as humans themselves. Despite living in a world filled with screens and shiny gadgets, research shows consumers are more responsive than ever to simple, well-crafted stories. 

One eye-opening example of the power of storytelling to get people to open their wallets comes from the world of philanthropy. It’s a well-documented phenomenon that telling the compelling story of one individual results in twice the charitable donations as sharing facts and figures that point to a much larger societal problem (i.e. focusing a fund drive on one woman’s struggle with breast cancer versus highlighting the fact that it affects one in eight women). 

Marketers do well when harnessing this phenomenon to sell products. Though the tactic of storytelling has been the same for centuries, the medium has changed dramatically. In light of this, forward-thinking businesses will be in search of candidates who can help them craft provocative, engaging stories that come alive on video, social media, and other contemporary marketing channels. 

5. Search Engine Optimization

Once a niche strategy reserved for technical specialists, SEO has become a mainstream marketing must-have. The techniques and best practices have evolved with the times, changing almost as fast as the content of the internet itself. 

These days, companies that want to rank on the first page of Google results—a critical component for acquiring customers—must do more than just fill their site’s pages with a few strategically selected keywords. They must employ SEO professionals that can help them win in mobile search and local search while keeping up with the week-to-week updates required by search engine algorithms.

SEM Rush analyzed more than 4,000 search-related vacancies posted to online job boards and found that the most in-demand SEO skills for marketing in 2020 included knowledge of Google tools (like Google Analytics and Google Search Console), HTML and CSS (for SEO markup), and keyword research. 

6. Social Media

Social media is one of the areas of marketing that’s growing in spite of shrinking post-pandemic marketing budgets. As of August, spending on social media accounted for nearly a quarter of total US marketing spend, up from just 13% in February. More Americans staying home means greater attention on social channels, making it a prime time for social media professionals to showcase and promote their skills to companies looking to jump on the opportunity. 

The most successful social media candidates heading into 2021 will be those who can help companies create ultra-timely, audience-specific content that builds connections and fosters brand trust during a tumultuous time. Being able to help a brand capitalize quickly on emerging platforms, like TikTok, will also be key on the most-wanted social media marketing skills list.  

7. Automation 

Even the strongest marketing team in the business can’t be everywhere at once on behalf of a brand. Serving customers the right content on the right channel at the right time relies on automation, which allows marketers to deliver a consistent, personalized experience across different platforms. More than ever, automation defines a company’s ability to keep pace with the breakneck speed of the digital world and serve customer needs at scale while keeping costs manageable. 

Marketing professionals looking to forge a path in automation should be well-versed in the tools of the trade, including those for lead generation, content management, data gathering and content distribution. Another unexpected skill that’s key to automation success is organization; candidates in this area must be able to map clear and logical paths their systems will follow to deliver the intended end result. 

8. Communication

The high-tech tools for a successful marketing career may change with each passing month, but communication will always be at the core of the industry. Successful marketers have a gift for drilling down to the heart of why a product or service matters to the customer, then communicating that message clearly in written and verbal form. Without impeccable communication skills, the message—and the potential revenue—of the marketing campaign will be lost. 

But exchanging information with customers is just one aspect of communication a strong marketing candidate needs. They must also have a knack for communicating with colleagues. Marketing is a highly collaborative field that relies on a number of different disciplines all working together toward a shared goal. Without strong internal communications, the mission can’t be achieved. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly in this area, is client communication. Most positions in marketing will require some level of interfacing with important clients and vendors who write checks every month, keeping the operation running, so an empathetic ear and a responsive nature will serve you well in the field.