16 Critical Marketing Skills You'll Need to Succeed
The marketing field is an intriguing career starting point for many. The field combines psychology, strategy, analytical thinking, creativity and more in the pursuit of driving sales and increasing profits. That’s a mix of disciplines that can form a very engaging career path for the right person.
If you’re looking to get started in a marketing career, you’re probably wondering what it takes to be successful. While it’s true the field covers a lot of ground with a wide variety of specialized marketing roles, there are certainly some widely applicable marketing skills, traits and tendencies that can provide a solid foundation to grow from.
To help you get a better sense of the skill set needed to be an effective marketing professional, we’ve paired analysis data from over 232,000 marketing job postings with the input of established marketing professionals. This combination can provide you with a comparison point and a roadmap for further development.
10 sought-after technical marketing skills
To begin, let’s start with taking a closer look at the clear-cut, easier-to-quantify skills identified in our analysis of job postings. While this is not a comprehensive list, it should provide a strong overview of some of the most commonly sought-after technical marketing skills. Here’s what we found:1
1. Analytics tools
Marketing professionals, particularly those focused on digital marketing efforts, need to be able to gauge how effective these efforts are. Knowledge of how to use tools like Google Analytics® helps make that possible.
2. Social media
Whether you love it or hate it, social media plays an important role in modern marketing efforts. Marketers need to understand the differences between platforms and what tactics may be effective for the medium.
3. Digital marketing
Digital marketing encompasses a wide range of tactics and strategies enabled by the internet and electronic devices. This runs the gamut from paid search engine advertising to website optimization efforts and much more.
Marketing strategies and tactics require careful management of an allotted budget. This means marketing professionals need to be comfortable making plans for when, where and how to spend their budgets—and how to adjust them when needed.
5. Copywriting and design ability
This skill group will depend heavily on the role, but many marketing professionals take a hands-on approach when developing the creative elements used in their campaigns. Having a solid grasp of copywriting, layout and design principles—as well as the tools used for creating these materials—is still beneficial for marketers whose role is more focused on informing and reviewing creative materials.
6. Project management
Not every organization has a dedicated project management team available to shepherd new strategies and initiatives to completion. Knowing how to map out what needs to be done by when in a project and how those steps connect is a valuable skill—particularly when leading a collaborative effort.
7. Email marketing
Another widely used strategy you’ll find in a marketer’s toolkit, email marketing involves creating (often automated) campaigns with targeted messaging designed to drive sales. This is widely used in retail—for example, when you leave items in your online cart without completing a purchase and then a week later, you receive an email with a five percent discount code to help push you across the purchasing finish line.
8. Market research
Effective marketing is built on information. Whether that’s tracking consumer preferences, understanding purchasing trends or an analysis of the competition, market research skills are key to finding this critical information and making good use of it.
9. Content development
Content development covers a broad range of potential formats ranging from graphics for social media and long-form blog articles to informative web pages and video series built for YouTube®. This skill requires understanding what your audience would like to know more about and how to provide that information in a compelling manner.
The internet, and the accompanying rise of E-commerce, has fundamentally changed the way most retailers operate. Marketing professionals need to understand online consumer behavior, the tactical opportunities available in an online retail space and what can be done to encourage customers to complete a purchase.
What do you need to be an effective marketer?
Of course, there’s more to a job than being able to check off a list of technical skills and knowledge. There are also plenty of hard-to-quantify characteristics, traits and tendencies that are valued in a marketing professional. We’ve asked marketing professionals to identify what they’d ideally like to see in a marketing colleague—and here’s what we found.
Whether you’re working to manage client expectations or figuring out what’s the best way to appeal to a target demographic, being able to empathize with your audience is a valuable trait.
“Marketing professionals must be able to look at their work from a consumer's point of view,” says Shelley Grieshop, creative writer for Totally Promotional. “If you're viewing it only from a creator's perspective, you're bound to miss key opportunities to engage and impress your target audience.”
Having an intuitive feel for others’ potential frustrations allows marketers to easily tailor their approach, message and tone.
12. An eye for analysis
Marketing is part art and part science. The “science” portion is where analytical ability is key. Good marketers don’t just try something new without measuring results, drawing conclusions and hypothesizing what their next best step is.
“Digital marketers have access to so much data, they need to be more data-driven than ever before,” says Kathryn Smithson, chief marketing officer at PathSocial. “In order to make important decisions, such as which campaigns to fund, which target audiences to target and retarget, and how to allocate budget across channels, they must be able to find and comprehend relevant data.”
“Marketing is always changing,” says Luke Rothschild, head of marketing for StreetLeap. “Learning new tools, trends and approaches is non-negotiable.”
The marketing field, like life in general, is prone to throwing you a curveball. Strategies and tactics that have historically performed amazingly can suddenly fall through. New competitors, platforms, regulations and algorithm updates can quickly turn the tried-and-true into treading water. The best marketers are able to take these changes in stride and adjust their approach as needed.
Sometimes even the best, most sure-fire ideas and strategies will just fall flat. Feeling like you’ve done seemingly everything right only to have the universe hand you an unexpected headwind or sudden change in the market can be a frustrating experience—but the best marketers know how to stick with it and learn from the experience.
“What worked in January might not produce the same results in May. You can't be a quitter,” says Greishop. “While monitoring past work, you must always have an eye on the future.”
An inquisitive mind is an important asset for marketers. It helps them glean insight from past campaigns, evaluate what’s driving marketing trends and learn more about how to best use the latest-and-greatest platforms and technology.
“They should ask questions all day long, whether they're talking to customers, prospective customers or other departments,” says Patrick Dever, owner of Coupon Ninja. “They should always be looking for answers and insights that will either validate what they're doing or lead them to something better.”
There’s a seemingly endless stream of advertisements and marketing campaigns out there competing for your attention. With a “sea of same” to contend with, marketers need to lean into their creative side to come up with novel ways to get your attention.
“Creativity is a no-brainer,” says Rothschild. “Being able to present ideas in new and interesting ways is what makes them stand out and be heard over the din of our noisy digital ecosystem.”
Do you have the skills?
Now that you’ve learned more about the foundation of skills needed to be an effective marketer—how do you stack up? The good news is that even if your skill set is in need of rounding out, a Marketing Bachelor’s degree from Rasmussen University can help. If you’d like to learn more about where a marketing degree could take you, check out our article “What Can You Do With a Marketing Degree? 10 Potential Options.”
1Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 232,460 marketing job postings, January 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021)
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