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Marketing Skills: The 11 Skills Essential to a Successful Marketing Career

Over the last few years, we’ve spent tens of thousands of hours working with hundreds of different marketers. When you spend this much time with people in a certain role, one of the more interesting things you can do is try to determine the skills that make someone successful in that role. This is particularly interesting for the field of marketing simply because marketing has changed so much in the last decade. While successful marketers can exhibit a wide variety of traits, we’ve identified 11 marketing skills that really stand out today.

Today’s essential marketing skills

In general, today’s highly successful marketers:

    1. Are revenue-driven marketers
    2. Know their customers and markets
    3. Create remarkable customer experiences
    4. Are great storytellers
    5. Test everything and assume nothing
    6. Never stop acquiring new marketing tricks
    7. Use data to make decisions
    8. Enjoy working with technology
    9. Manage their work according to a schedule
    10. Write very, very well
    11. Deliver specific, identifiable results

Revenue-driven marketing

Marketers who are capable of driving revenue tend to thrive in their careers. That’s because most CEOs believe that marketers are detached from corporate business objectives. A recent survey by the Fournaise Marketing Group highlights this problem – 78% of CEOs think marketing isn’t focused on generating topline revenue growth. And 80% of CEOs believe marketers are disconnected from short and long-term financial objectives. Marketers who can tie their efforts to improving revenue thrive in an environment like this.

Know your market

The success of a marketing organization depends on its ability to understand its target market. The marketer who can understand and effectively articulate what customers and competitors are doing has a foundational marketing skill. Becoming the voice of the customer is particularly valuable to a business. Marketers who can collect both quantitative and qualitative data about customers and present that data to executives in a strategic manner are very valuable. One other point – this isn’t just about gathering data via surveys. Direct conversations with customers are critical to this effort and usually more valuable than survey data.

Create remarkable customer experiences

Today’s most successful marketers create remarkable experiences for customers. Thanks to the internet, there are now many more points of interaction between a customer and brand today. These interactions are growing richer and richer and it’s marketing’s job to create and manage these experiences. Marketers who can create experiences that truly resonate with customers are rare, but those that can deliver business results that far exceed the norm.

Marketing skills

Become a storyteller

A big part of creating a remarkable customer experience is telling a good story. It’s harder than ever to get a customer’s attention. That’s why marketers such as Seth Godin believe that storytelling is critical to successful marketing. Marketers must be good storytellers for the simple reason that customers identify with compelling stories more than anything else. Most successful marketing campaigns tell a story that customers identify with on an emotional level. Marketers who can tell great stories to customers via a variety of marketing campaigns are indispensable in a world where attracting a customer’s attention can be challenging.

Test everything; assume nothing

Many marketers make decisions based on their gut instincts, but with the wealth of data available to them, this doesn’t need to be the case. Good marketers are continuously testing things like new marketing campaigns, ad copy, and pricing to turn data into business results. Fortunately, a number of tools, such as online advertising platforms and SaaS tools, are now available, making testing easier than ever. For example, simple A/B tests will help you test the effectiveness of relative offers, copy, and designs.

Never stop learning

Marketing is changing at a rapid pace thanks to dynamics like the internet and the changing customer behavior. That means that marketers have to learn faster than ever. Something as simple as learning has become an essential marketing skill. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of information available online that can help marketers learn about new marketing trends. Many of the world’s best marketers are actively blogging and tweeting the latest data and information. LinkedIn is another powerful tool for acquiring marketing knowledge . Examples of topics to learn about now include social media, content marketing, big data, and mobile marketing. My co-founder, Craig Rosenberg, puts the importance of continuous learning this way, “Self-educate as much as you can. The marketing you learn in school or in books is much different than how marketing actually works. You should read blogs, white papers, attend webinars, go to online and offline training… Even CMO’s spend a lot of time self-educating on marketing. You can never know enough.”

Use customer data to make decisions

Marketers now have access to a tremendous amount of data. As a result, companies are able to understand their customers much better than before. Marketers who learn how to collect and analyze customer data in an effort to make better decisions will be in extremely high demand for decades to come. Whether this data is used to simply understand the market or to create and optimize more effective marketing campaigns, most employers are looking for people who are adept at using data. A background in statistics, deep knowledge of excel, and an understanding of analytics tools are useful skills in this area. And don’t forget that some of the valuable customer data comes in the form of one-on-one conversations with customers.

Become a marketing technologist

Gartner predicts that by 2017 marketing will spend more on technology than the information technology group itself. That means that marketers who are proficient with common marketing applications and systems will thrive. This doesn’t mean that you have to be an engineer to succeed, but you do need to be able to use many of these applications as a business user. Commonly used marketing technologies include CRM, marketing automation, email marketing, marketing analytics, and a plethora of emerging, online marketing technologies.

Manage to a schedule

Successful marketers use schedules and project plans to ensure that they complete their work in a timely fashion. Most of the work in a marketing organization is deadline-driven. For example, marketing campaigns have launch dates that everyone working on the campaign focuses on. Good marketers work backwards from the launch date and develop a schedule that governs the work they do. They also treat those launch dates like scripture, doing everything they can to make sure they launch on time.

Learn how to write

Many marketers underestimate the importance of writing, but copywriting is one of the most important skills that a marketer can have. It’s the foundation of almost every marketing campaign. From ad copy, to emails, to landing pages, copywriting is a relatively basic skill that can have an outsized impact on conversion rates. It also happens to be the foundation of the enormous amount of internal communication that marketers must manage inside of their company.

Deliver specific, identifiable results

Finally, marketing has evolved into a field where marketers must deliver results. Whether it’s a lift in brand awareness, generating a certain number of qualified leads, or delivering revenue, marketing is now on the hook to perform. Successful marketers focus on delivering results that share three characteristics. First, the results they deliver can be easily identified and understood by the business. Second, they deliver results that have an impact on the business, usually on the revenue side of things. Third, they deliver these results on a monthly basis.

Those are the 11 marketing skills that we’ve identified in working hundreds of marketers over the last few years. By the way, we also recently identified 18 sales skills that sales reps should possess. And ff you want to learn more about how these skills can help you have a long, productive career in marketing, check out our recent post on marketing careers. What skills do you think marketers should possess today? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author:  Scott Albro is the CEO and founder of TOPO. TOPO is a research, advisory, and consulting firm that believes in a really simple, but powerful idea – that all revenue can be distilled down to a series of conversions. By connecting everything we do back to this core idea, we help sales and marketing organizations exceed their revenue targets. You can connect with Scott on Twitter.

  • Jack

    Let’s talk about how one can actually leverage these ‘abstract’ ideas (except for writing), into a marketable skill in order to get that first job.

    • King

      Holy hell your telling me Jack. It seems like I can’t find a bit of advice on what actual skills are needed to succeed in the sales and marketing space. Platitudes like, “be resilient” and “work hard” seem to make up the bulk of the banter. I get, thoroughly, that sales specifically is about the soft skills but certainly there must exist something one can do to become better in this space beyond going to your local bar and practicing pick up artistry or some derivative.

      • Jack

        That load of fluff and terrible advice is why I got out of marketing around the time of my first comment. Super happy to have been programming for almost a year now. Super straightforward, with quantifiable improvement.

  • great knowledge i really like and appreciate your blog. thank you thank you very much for this kinds skills… 🙂

  • Sharma Sam

    It is really a useful information about marketing. I have learnt many things from those sentences. Thank you for sharing this valuable information with.

  • Taffy Zambezi

    Thank you for sharing great information

  • Chris Rodgers

    Thanks a bunch for sharing such an informative article.

  • Amazing article, really appreciate the effort put behind this informative piece.

  • Jay Wong

    Great marketing tips, keep it up with this amazing article!

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