Want to be a Great Marketer in 5 Years? Master These 4 Skills

October 5, 2017

Marketers looking at computer

Marketing has gone through a tremendous transformation over the past few decades, and by all indications, that’ll continue.

Not that long ago, it was very much the Mad Men approach: make something beautiful and splatter it across on one of three channels (TV, print, mail). It was very difficult to tie specific campaigns to revenue, so creativity and “it feels right” were often common KPIs.

Today, that’s almost never the case. Even something as innocuous as subject lines are ruthlessly tracked to see what people clicked on, which didn’t. The amount of channels has exploded, from traditional TV to sponsored content on Buzzfeed to Snapchat ads. More and more, companies are creating their own content for inbound marketing, only increasing the noise out there.

So how do you stand out? How do you build marketing campaigns that get the attention of the right people, while meeting the (always increasing) demands of sales?

To find out, we consulted with these four marketing leaders:

The four highlighted several skills that – thanks to changes in both market conditions and demographics – will become increasingly more important to marketers over the next five years. They are:

1. Strategy

There are so many different channels marketers can use today and so many different forms of content they can produce for those channels. While that’s empowering, it also requires marketers to be even more strategic on where they spend their time and resources.

“The capacity to understand the drivers of a company’s business performance and the judgement on how to impact business results will be even more essential,” Molloy said. “Successful marketers have always been strategic business leaders. While channels have evolved and the pace of business has accelerated, the need to be strategic and understand the market remains constant.”

Bigger picture, marketing has such a bigger role than just creative today. It’s as data-driven as any function, and therefore needs to provide results like any other function would.

“Marketing is no longer just about advertising - it’s also about driving business growth,” Brayton said. “Critical attributes to be a successful marketing leader include making sure you ask the right questions and then being able to take those answers to solve problems quickly.”

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach this skill:

2. Relationship-focused

One thing all four experts highlighted is the increased importance of marketing forming cross-functional partnerships with product and – most importantly – sales to better accomplish strategic goals.

“Because of this continued integration of sales and marketing, I believe that marketers need to have a more in-depth understanding of the sales process,” Rothman said. “Marketers should understand lead handoff and bottom-funnel sales motions in order for them to better assist the sales team in closing deals.”

What’s key here is marketing not just bowing to sales and product, doing whatever is asked to them from both departments. Rothman and Berger both stressed the importance of acting as strategic partners to both, and helping inform product and sales strategies with the unique data marketing has access to.

Additionally, because marketing often finds itself between product, sales and customers, it’s critical they lead by example. Molloy said marketers should act as “diplomats”, and lead by example by personifying the value “relationships matter.” 

“It will be incumbent on marketers to drive influence across the organization,” Molloy said. “In many respects, marketers need to be culture carriers representing the values and behaviors of their companies internally across the company and externally across their relevant ecosystems.”

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach this skill:

3. Data-driven

This is really two-fold. First off, marketers need to be data-driven when measuring their own campaigns, to continually optimize and assess.

“Not only will marketers need to understand the ROI of their marketing programs, but they will also need to understand data analytics across the entire sales and marketing funnel – creating revenue models, forecasting, etc.,” Rothman said. “I see the future marketer being the CFO's right-hand person.”

But it’s more than that. Berger said marketers need to better use data to inform other departments’ strategies. What product features should be prioritized first? What customers should we target next? What should the sales cycle look like?

Marketing can answer all those questions through the data they collect.

“Whether online or off, customers now generate a huge amount of data that marketers can mine for insight,” Berger said. “How can we measure customer lifetime value to figure out which customers deserve more attention? What does the customer journey look like, how can we track where people are along the way, and how can we use that to figure out which aspects of the marketing mix to target them with?”

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach this skill:

4. Storytelling

Much of what we covered so far has been analytical, like being data-driven and being more strategic, or relationship-bound. But, have no fear – the need for creativity is as acute as ever in marketing.

Yes, you need to be strategic with your creativity so it clicks with your audience and data-driven to understand what’s working and what’s not. But, the organizations that’ll differentiate themselves from the pack will be ones who can tell unique, gripping stories that ladder up to their brand.

And this goes for both B2C and B2B marketers, Brayton – primarily a B2B marketer herself – said.

“As the lines between marketing, communications and sales becomes increasingly blurred, brands need to be more inspiring, accessible and human,” Brayton said. “In a B2B world in particular, content marketing sits at the heart of storytelling.”

LinkedIn Learning courses that teach this skill:

The takeaway

Marketers will very much face the challenge of more over the next five years.

More channels. More content types. More demands from sales, product and customers. More data to base decisions on.

To overcome all that, marketing teams need to be master the four following skills. And teams is the key word there, as it’s highly unlikely a single person will possess all four characteristics. Instead, the highest performing marketing teams will combine the highly strategic, the highly analytical and the highly creative (relationship-builder is a constant for all).

So yes, the challenges over the next five years for marketers is real. But so is the opportunity – if marketing teams can excel at all four of these skills, they’ll transcend merely responding to an organization’s strategy and start leading it.

This article is part of a series on the future of skills that you and your team will need to succeed moving forward. Our other articles cover: