Nov 25, 2016

Does Your Organization Have the Right Digital Skills for 2017?

by Digital Marketing Institute

On reviewing the jobs advertised on recruitment sites today, it feels like we have passed the tipping point where there are more specific digital marketing roles than traditional ones. In the pre-digital era, Marketing Manager and Marketing Executive were common roles, whereas today you’re more likely to see ads for Digital Marketing Manager or specialist positions like Content Marketing Manager, Search Marketing or Marketing Automation Manager.

According to a global survey by Robert Walters, these roles are becoming more common across the world, while shortages in talent are set to intensify. For many organizations looking to source digital expertise while 81% have a digital strategy, only 74% have the right structure and internal skills needed to deliver that strategy leaving many of them way behind on the skills front. So in today’s increasingly competitive market, what digital skills are most in demand?

Skills assessment

With CIO’s expecting digital revenues to grow from 16% to 37% in the next five years, it’s essential that a business knows the digital skill levels within their workforce. When skills were examined on a global scale, recent research found that strategy and planning emerged as the leading skills gap in organizations according to 58% of marketing professionals in the USA, 55% in the UK and 42% in Ireland. For the USA in particular, a staggering 63% of respondents working in digital marketing roles struggle with strategy and planning skills.

With a clear-cut digital skills shortage posing the biggest obstacle to the adoption of digital tools and techniques, assessing in-house skills can go some way to uncovering talents you didn’t realize existed in the business, and filling the gaps that become evident.

A recent survey by Smart Insights aimed to help businesses review their skill needs by defining the full range required in a modern marketing organization. The capabilities were assessed by defining the activities needed to manage digital marketing across the customer lifecycle which includes both planning activities needed to make the business case for investment by reviewing the opportunity and strategy for digital marketing and the tactics involved.

As a result, 20 practical ‘hands-on’ and management skills or marketing techniques were identified that someone involved with digital marketing may need week-by-week. Clearly, specialists like an SEO, Social Media or Email Marketing Manager won’t need all these skills.

However, team leaders or organizations working in collaboration with an agency will need to achieve upskilling through specialists that have the know-how and in-house expertise.

To help give focus, below are 8 core digital skills that your workforce will need to develop a minimum level of competence through training and qualifications to become a digital marketing leader.

Skills assessment | Does Your Organization Have the Right Digital Skills for 2017?

What Are the Most Sought After Skills?

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, more and more consumers are empowered by digital technologies and platforms at every stage of their customer journey. Such is the impact that 81% of consumers conduct online research before making a purchase while 70% of their journey is complete before they reach out to a sales rep. To adapt to this environment, organizations require the right skillsets to engage with their audiences across mediums and channels.

While the most sought after skills vary over time, the past 3 or 4 years has seen a core set that are viewed by businesses as the most important for growth. Each year we identify the most important digital marketing techniques for marketers and business owners. In 2016 the top three rated techniques for gaining incremental revenue for a business are:

1. Big Data (including market and customer insight and predictive analytics)

2. Content Marketing

3. Marketing Automation

Note that ‘Big Data’ includes practical insight-based techniques since the scope of it isn’t clear otherwise. The Top 3 are a little surprising since some of the techniques shown in the visual above such as paid and natural search, persuasive design and social media marketing are important core disciplines for driving awareness.

When it comes to assessing the demand for digital marketing skills, many marketers demonstrated a good level of knowledge of some core digital marketing activities for those rating themselves positively such as strategy development, customer service, social media, content and email marketing.

In terms of skills marketers most wanted to improve, 38% cited digital strategy and integrated planning followed by data insight and analytics and mobile marketing. This ties in with research from the Digital Marketing Institute that found strategy and planning to be the leading skills gap in organizations while mobile marketing skills (when tested) scored below the competency level amongst US and UK marketing professionals.

These mirror the responses to questions about skills required by employers with the top 5 roles covering strategy, insight, mobile, automation, social media and SEO.

Skills Development

One of the success factors for growing a business is the value placed on skill development. When it comes to the bottom line, companies that invest in training for their employees enjoy a 24% higher profit margin than those who don’t.

Despite this profit on offer, analysis showed that there is a large difference between the ratings for the ideal situation and the actual practice in businesses. This discrepancy is marked for planning approaches with just 32% rating their planning, analysis and optimization as adequate compared to 77% who felt this was a success factor.

Within the skills development area, there was a huge difference between those rating budget as adequate (just 19%) and the vast majority (57%) who saw this as important. This is perhaps unsurprising given commercial pressures but suggests budget allocation to learning and development is viewed negatively in many organizations. On a more positive note, there was less of a mismatch between encouraging a culture of personal development and sharing and processes for developing collaboration and integrating between teams.

Skills Development | Does Your Organization Have the Right Digital Skills for 2017?

All of these insights provide wider learnings on how organizations can support skills development and encourage a ‘test-learn-refine’ process. To encourage team development skills, managers can:

* Create the right culture for improvement based on learning by ring-fencing time for reflection and learning and defining processes to support sharing on insight. Specific techniques we have seen work well are:

  1. Define time for reviewing analytics and campaign results and sharing positive and negative aspects of the campaign to identify ideas for the future
  2. Post campaign reviews presented by team members
  3. Encourage use of collaboration tools which enable sharing of insights gleaned by team members.

Dr Dave Chaffey is CEO and co-founder of digital marketing advice site Smart Insights. Dave is the author of 5 bestselling books on Ecommerce including Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. He has been recognised as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have shaped the future of Marketing by the Chartered Institute of Marketing and in 2015 was rated as the top UK influencer on social media for Marketing and Advertising in a top 50 compilation by (a portal of publisher Haymarket brands Campaign, Marketing and Media Week).

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