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  • Writer's pictureNat Sharp

What skills do you need for marketing?

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

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The marketing skills gap

There is a lot more to marketing than meets the eye and over the last decade, the role of marketing has changed dramatically.

Marketing is a lot more than just ‘let’s create a brochure’ or ‘we need a website’. It is about understanding your customer and placing them at the heart of your business, then selecting the optimal channels and technologies to connect and nurture them. As I talk about in my what is marketing blog, marketing is as management function that combines applying the science and art of creating and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit.

This requires a lot of different skillsets and ensuring your organisation has the right marketing skill set in place is essential. But it isn't that easy. There is an industry shortage of marketers with the right skills and experience.

A Marketing Week survey revealed five skills gaps exist in marketing departments today, and all of these are digital marketing. In order of importance:

  • Data and analytics (33%)

  • Content and copywriting (18%)

  • Performance marketing (17%)

  • Social media (16%)

  • Ecommerce (15%)

Data and analytics

Having the ability to analyse and manipulate data and then draw insight from it is a vital part of any marketers role. A good marketing executive should proactively be looking at your marketing performance across all your marketing channels. They should be able to join up the dots and tell you what it all means. Digital marketing has advanced analytics and allows us to have data at our fingertips, in real time. Whether this be looking at social media insights, or Google Analytics, or examining sales data in a CRM system.

Content and copywriting

Content is king. You would have heard the phrase, but it is true. A marketing executive needs to be able to come up with ideas for generating blogs, social media posts and newsletters, as well as write and execute them using different formats (long blog posts, videos and infographics for example). They need to be good at creative writing, whilst understand the fundamentals of search engine optimisation to ensure content is fully optimised.

Performance marketing

A marketer needs to have strong business acumen and continually weigh up effort versus reward to determine if something is worthwhile pursuing or continuing. They need to be able to test and refine different strategies and tactics. Having the ability to calculate the return on investment of different media and activities are vital, yet so often this is neglected in a small business and budget and resources are wasted. A marketing agency or marketing consultant should automatically do this before you commit to any investment.

Social media

We all understand that having a social media strategy is a prerequisite for any business. However, having a sound social media strategy and successfully deploying it are much harder than it initially seems. Social media also requires strong analytical skills, technical skills as well as creative writing.


The pandemic has accelerated digital transformation and in particular, e-commerce within small businesses. This means many marketers are now managing vital income generating, multi-million pound websites, but don't necessarily have the skills or experience to do so. Whilst the technical skills are important, equally are understanding the user and customer journey and fine tuning this to deliver a seamless customer experience.

How to determine what level of in-house marketing support you might need?

Getting a priority list of what tasks and projects are required for your business is a good place to start. From here you can determine if you need someone with specialist skills like strategy, copywriting, digital marketing or running campaigns.

Once you’ve established you want to recruit a marketing specialist and you have your marketing strategy in place you should be able to identify what the person will be required to do and crucially what skills are needed.

If you’ve not been able to do this and you envisage the marketing role to encompass both setting the strategy and implementing it, then you'll need a highly experienced marketing manager or director. The reality is it is very difficult to do both. Thinking time is extremely time-consuming and impossible once you get engrained into the daily tasks.

Even a marketing manager role varies so much and could be someone with 5 years experience or 15 years experience, so decide what you can afford to pay and what your maximum budget is. Marketing Manager salaries vary enormously from £30k to £60k. To look at industry be benchmarks, have a look at the Marketing Week career and salary survey 2022. Another option would be to get someone with more experience, but on a part time basis.

Preferably the ideal candidate should come with a mix of planning and execution experience. Digital marketing experience is an absolute must including understanding the basics of SEO, data analytics, marketing automation and being able to navigate various social media platforms. Other important skills include creativity, communication, analytics, project management and technical skills. It is a long list of requirements and finding the perfect person and fit for your business can take a long time which is why outsourcing and using a freelance marketing consultant can be the perfect interim solution. Alternatively, a marketing consultant can also provide coaching on a more permanent basis to mentor a less experienced recruit or provide some additional support whilst the new marketer is being on-boarded.

Ensure you put a detailed job spec together listing everything the person will be required to do. Hubspot has some useful examples of various marketing roles you could use to get the ball rolling and LinkedIn has recently published research on the digital marketing skills currently in high demand.

We have a clear marketing strategy and we need someone to implement it now

If you know what skills and experience you need, and the new marketing role will be straight forward implementation, then hiring someone should be relatively easy and quick. You could recruit from a marketing exec level and request a couple of years’ experience. Today’s graduates who've been through university often come with the latest knowledge combined with work experience achieved during their degree or from their first few years in work. Eager and hungry to do well will come as standard.

However, if your needs mean taking a look at your marketing strategy, a more experienced, seasoned marketeer should be considered. A Senior Marketing Manager is likely to be a better fit and they will come with experience in managing multiple and complex multi- channel projects and also managing agencies should you already have one. Plus they should have strong business acumen and commercial understanding to advise on marketing return on investment.

Alternatively, you can find a good freelance marketing expert to come in and provide a service on a retained basis i.e. 1 or 2 days a week per month. It all depends on your cashflow circumstances and what you want to achieve. As marketing covers so many disciplines, from strategy to planning to advertising and PR for example, you should consider if a specialist is required for particular areas of marketing you want to focus on.

Find the right option for your business

More businesses are turning to outsourced freelance marketing consultancy which can be a more flexible arrangement and doesn't carry the overheads. It is also something you could get up and running within weeks.

If you're not sure whether to want to keep your marketing in-house or to outsource then read my frequently asked questions. Alternatively, feel free to contact Sharp Thinking to discuss marketing operations for your business.

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