A Sneak Peek at 2020’s Hottest Marketing Skills

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You love the creativity and innovation of marketing. Maybe you’re an aspiring leader in your field or maybe you’re just starting out. Either way, you want to know what’s next.

So, what’s new for marketing in 2020? You’ve come to right place. We’ve paired expert opinion from marketing professionals with helpful information from The Creative Group’s 2020 Creative & Marketing Salary Guide to identify some of the top specialized marketing skills.

8 Top marketing skills for 2020 and beyond

Whether you’re looking for a niche skill to boost your resume or just doing a little future career planning, it won’t hurt to take note of the following marketing skills and consider what you can do to add them to your repertoire. 

1. Artificial intelligence and machine learning

You may not have noticed, but “artificial intelligence” and machine learning systems are becoming more and more common. Websites like Google®, Netflix® and Amazon® all rely heavily on these technologies to provide better user experiences and ultimately drive their businesses. Part of the reason this may have flown under your radar is because they work so seamlessly! Have you used facial-recognition technology to sort through the hundreds of photos on your phone? That’s AI. Have you loved a show or movie that Netflix recommended for you? That’s AI. Have you been helped by an automated chat bot? You got it—that’s AI.

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning can help marketers become more efficient and more effective in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Analyzing and optimizing paid ad campaigns
  • Optimizing advertisement layout and copywriting
  • Creating content like profit and loss summaries, business reports, hotel descriptions, etc.
  • Determining the best keywords to use in copywriting or in an article
  • Map a user’s web experience and curate email content

Simply put, these technologies can open the door to amazing experiences that users aren’t going to forgot soon.

“A core part of marketing is using words, imagery and timing to create emotion and interaction,” says Alan LaFrance, marketing strategy manager at LawnStarter. So does that mean marketers need to be able to write machine-learning algorithms? Not likely—but they can help identify areas where machine learning and automation can be used to its full potential in the field.

2. Content marketing

Almost every business can benefit from content marketing and not just for the sake of increased website traffic. Content creation provides truly relevant and useful information to your prospective and current costumers that they will come back to again and again. Content marketing also helps marketers learn more about who they are marketing to by monitoring which blog articles, videos, white pages and other materials readers are engaging with. This knowledge can boost an organization’s current content strategy and, in turn, earn them even more traffic, engagement and sales.

Well-planned content strategies are best executed in conjunction with search engine optimization (SEO) best practices and a social media calendar.

“Content is still king, but context is queen,” says Jackie Rednour-Bruckman, CMO of MyWorkDrive. This means it’s not just a matter of creating content, but also meeting customers where they’re at in a buying process and providing helpful answers. SEO and content specialists sees search queries becoming more specific and more natural-sounding in this coming year. Creating content that can key in to the reader’s true intent leads to experiences that will stick with them.

In 2020, SEO practices will become even more engrained in content marketing. Besides possessing strong writing skills, content marketers should be able to analyze and make changes based on their content’s performance.

3. Data analytics

Data-savvy marketing professionals use data points and trends to help strategize and tweak content to meet consumer demand. They use data to determine who exactly their consumer is with demographic information, locations, responses and mood, helping to paint a clearer picture of their target audience. They can also measure the success of tactics and customize customer experiences according to the revealed data.

These data professionals help marketers set realistic goals going forward and dive into questions like,

  • Who are our real competitors?
  • Are we using our resources efficiently?
  • What should our main priorities be?

Those looking to succeed in data analytics need to go beyond just the numbers they have. “Data analysts will have to become expert at asking the questions around what data they're missing — not just what's hidden in the data they have, says Ed Marsh, chief revenue officer at intentdata.io.

Marketing professionals who are able to interpret data findings and apply this information to the psychological factors driving consumer decisions and trends will be well-positioned for the future.

“People who are data driven often tend to overlook emotive factors,” says Mark Webster, Co-Founder of Authority Hacker. “I believe having this skill will be incredibly in demand in the future. Particularly as companies begin to focus on ethics and sustainability, it's important to have someone who can see the bigger picture.”

4. SEM (search engine marketing) and SEO (search engine optimization)

Millions of searches are logged every day on search engines—and most users click on one of the top five suggestions. Because of this, it should come as no surprise that the tactics and skills needed to capture the attention of these searchers have become a point of emphasis for marketing teams. Search engine marketing is essentially the umbrella term for the skills and tactics used to ensure your organization’s website is found at or near the top of results pages for relevant searches. This can include paid advertising or “organic,” SEO-driven results. When executed well, SEO best practices can improve user experiences and the usability of a website through strong copy or content.

SEO is an exciting specialization where strategies can change quickly as search engines evolve and become more intelligent. In 2020, SEO experts should continue to focus on high-quality, long-form content with headers, bullets or numbering and scannable features, while also learning and implementing new strategies around zero-click searches and voice search, two of 2020’s biggest changes in SEO.

The rise of voice search through virtual assistants will change the way SEO specialists think about keywords. Searchers using virtual assistants are more likely to ask longer, more specific questions compared to one-to-two word searches. These more precise searches will require more focus on understanding exactly what the searcher is looking for and catering results to match their intent.

“If an SEO [specialist] is to survive in the future, they will need to work on understanding the user intent rather than over-optimizing the content with keywords,” says Faizan Ali, SEO specialist at WPBeginner.

5. Social media management

Social media isn’t exactly new in marketing—but that doesn’t mean social media skills are less valuable in the eyes of marketers. The social media marketing community has become even more sophisticated in recent years—it’s not just about engaging with customers and promoting your brand anymore. Bethany Spence, content marketing specialist at Exposure Ninja, says social media managers will need to be better equipped to deal with live interactions and handling of negative comments.

“Increasingly, social media is being used to “call out” companies,” Spence says. “Large corporations are still figuring out how best—or if—to respond.”

In addition to the need for competent professionals equipped to handle challenging social media questions, tactics like influencer marketing where brands work with social media personalities to promote their products have become mainstream. Spence suspects that this explosive growth in influencer marketing means we will see a rise in “middleman” agencies who will negotiate fair pay for influencers and set standards for compliance. Building relationships and negotiating with influencers will be important for social media marketers, whether they choose to specialize in influencer marketing or not.

Additionally, visually-based social media platforms like Snapchat®, TikTok®, Instagram® and YouTube® have opened the door for crafting social media marketing strategies that rely on user-generated content. These strategies need skilled social media professionals who understand exactly what will—or won’t—resonate with their respective audiences.

6. Video production

It’s become apparent that video is a huge part of the marketing mix, but how will it change in 2020? In the rush to make video part of their marketing strategy, many brands created videos that were not up to their audience’s standards.

“It’s simple,” says Hunter Smith, content manager, at Slate and Main. “Have good content or don’t have anything, because viral has inverted.” Videos and all media consumption is so high that poor-quality videos are being exposed and, often, made fun of.

For many brands, this means they can’t just make video to make video. “You have to have excellent, focused content that knows its lane and can succeed there. The age of sloppy digital is over,” says Smith.

Tyler Brooks, founder at Analytive, believes that as video continues to grow, being able to make basic video edits, write scripts or brainstorm innovative concepts will make you a more appealing candidate in this fast-moving industry

7. UX and UI Design

Consumers have high expectations. It’s not enough to have a website or app—it needs to be engaging and easy to use or else you run the risk of losing their business. That’s partially why UX design is so valuable. UX designers are skilled in all of the areas that make an app or website appealing and easy to use—visual design, information architecture, interaction design and content strategy.

Marketers who can take a big-picture view of user experience are key. It’s not just a matter of whether an individual component of a campaign is a solid experience—how does it all fit together? Are your users forced to fill out repetitive forms? Does the overall look and feel of a marketing campaign seem disjointed? Understanding UX principals and placing the needs of the consumer first continues to be important.

Working in UX and UI requires specific experiences and skills: If you’re truly interested in UX or UI check out these jobs titles:

  • UX director
  • UX designer
  • UX researcher
  • UI designer

8. Front-end web development

Front-end web development will continue to be instrumental for brands in 2020. Clean, functional and impressive websites are a must to appeal and sustain reader interest. Consumers are becoming more and more sophisticated when it comes to design, so websites that consider psychology and usability while adhering to web optimization best practices will draw interest.

Front-end web development requires an eye for layout and design. Rednour-Bruckman says marketers—even those with no interest in building web development skills—should still strive to have a working knowledge of graphic design and be able to speak the language of design in order to direct elements and priorities clearly. These skills, plus an understanding of what front-end developers are capable of doing, will help facilitate web-focused marketing projects and improve your collaborative abilities.

Master these cutting edge marketing skills

Now that you have the rundown, are you ready for 2020? No matter where you’d like your marketing career to take you, gaining some of those digital skills will increase your marketability. Remember, you don’t have to be an expert at every one of these to be a valuable member of a marketing team—any familiarity and ability you have related to these is a plus. So, roll up those sleeves and start learning!

Looking to set a goal for yourself? If you’re intrigued by the world of marketing, check out the impressive marketing job titles that you can aim for in our article, “11 Impressive Marketing Job Titles to Strive for in Your Career.”

Google is a registered trademark of Google, Inc.
Netflix is a registered trademark of Netflix, Inc.
Amazon is a registered trademark of Amazon Technologies, Inc.
Snapchat is a registered trademark of Snap, Inc.
Facebook is a registered trademark of Facebook, Inc.
TikTok is a registered trademark of ByteDance Technology Co. Ltd.
Instagram is a registered trademark of Instagram, Inc.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2018. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2020.

Kirsten Slyter

Kirsten is a Content Writer at Collegis Education where she enjoys researching and writing on behalf of Rasmussen College. She understands the difference that education can make and hopes to inspire readers at every stage of their education journey.

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