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The Talent Gap: 5 Skills Every Agency Pro Needs to Develop in 2015

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The continuous evolution of digital technology has completely revolutionized the marketing industry, not only changing how consumers purchase but also how marketers advertise. This rapid shift has left those in the marketing industry scrambling to catch up.

Get this: By 2018, the U.S. is predicted to lack around 1.5 million managers and analysts with sufficient technical and digital know-how to make effective decisions.

So, what’s causing this huge talent gap?

The Evolution of Technology

These days, we live and breathe technology. Here are just a few marketing tech innovations from 2014 that will become even more sophisticated in 2015:

  • Location-based mobile commerce
  • Wearable technology
  • Marketing automation
  • Advanced analytics
  • Omnichannel advertising
  • Adaptive content technology

However, as we grow to rely on tech for even the simplest of tasks, it also becomes more complex and difficult to understand, particularly if you don’t have the know-how.

Although some business executives may push back and argue that the fundamentals of marketing remain the same, I would argue that the continuous evolution of the web and the emergence of marketing technology have completely revolutionized the industry. 

Sure, your marketing major will teach you basic principles, but the latest digital developments have rendered a marketing degree a bonus instead of a necessity.

Although most colleges are now offering a digital marketing component in their curriculum, very few undergraduate universities actually offer a degree just in digital marketing. Therefore, most people who go into the digital marketing industry tend to learn on the job, with their managers as their professors and blogs as their textbooks.

However, herein lies the discrepancy. In a survey of companies that were asked which qualities they look for when hiring new employees, 45% claimed that previous hands-on digital work experience was a critical factor. But another survey showed that 30% of hiring managers have difficulty finding capable digital talent.

It seems, therefore, that the current talent gap is a catch-22. Businesses desire new hires to have prior digital experience; however, it’s hard to gain the experience needed to land the job when you don't have a formal training program through school. Even when businesses hire inexperienced people, they cite the lack of time and budget to effectively train an individual as a barrier to success.

Bridging the Gap Between Talent and Technology

If you want to have a shot at surviving -- and succeeding -- in the digital marketing realm, you need to hone the following skills:

1) Analytical

While 2 out of 3 U.S. CMOs say they feel pressure from the top to prove the value of marketing, 42% of B2B marketing execs say they can calculate ROI only some of the time, rarely, or not at all. 

It always astounds me to learn how so few people actually understand their sales pipeline well enough to accurately attribute their marketing efforts to the right channel.

Without proper analysis and attribution, how do you learn how to improve your mistakes and repeat your successes? And if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, aren’t you just wasting your hours and dollars? 

Being able to understand and analyze data is one of the most important skill sets good marketers should have. A great marketer must then be able to create an actionable strategy from that data to optimize current cross-channel marketing efforts.

2) Mobile Marketing

74% of agency executives say that mobile is a very important skill to have, but only 31% believe that their talent is stronger than their competition.

With the constant evolution of mobile technology, are you even surprised that I’m including mobile in this list? The increasing emphasis on mobile apps and mobile UX requires marketers to understand how to analyze and optimize mobile performance.

How different is mobile marketing from web marketing? Short answer: very different. It’s like comparing apples to bananas. Sure, both may be considered fruit, but the two are fundamentally different from each other.

Mobile advertising on search and social is slightly more complex, requiring different tracking codes, set-ups, and software. Mobile app optimization also differs from website SEO because the rules vary depending on whether you’re optimizing for the Play Store or iTunes.

As mobile and wearable technology become more sophisticated, knowing how to create and implement a mobile strategy will become all the more important.

3) Technical

Starting in 2013, 50% of new marketing hires will have technical backgrounds.

If you think having technical skills was important in 2013, it’s even more so now.

It’s true that digital marketers will probably never develop their own software or have to code an entire website. However, marketers should know how to do basic front-end coding with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and jQuery, and they need to understand the basics of back-end coding enough to troubleshoot a simple coding problem. 

Here are just a few fancy things you can do with coding that will make you a better marketer:

  • Design and code landing pages, email templates, and blogs without having to bother your developers.
  • Guide developers about how to create or improve a website or app from a marketing standpoint without things getting lost in translation.
  • Understand and implement codes for tracking and third-party marketing technology yourself without breaking the site.

4) Writing

Though more than 90% of marketers now use content marketing, just 42% of B2B marketers and 34% of B2C marketers believe they are effective at this. 

Content is everywhere -- literally. From social posts to the emails we receive daily, content permeates our entire digital experience, whether we classify it as “content” or not.

Although many agencies attempted to adopt content marketing into their strategy in 2014, the gap in talent lies in the fact that marketing and writing exists as two separate skill sets. However, businesses can no longer afford to publish shoddy content, lest they risk losing credibility with their consumers. Having quality website content is absolutely essential.

To fully implement a successful content inbound marketing strategy, agencies must find a hybrid with the writing skills of a journalist and the analytical mind of a marketer. Said hybrid should not only be able to capture the reader’s attention but also understand the client’s buyer persona to create an editorial calendar that nurtures leads and generates conversions.

5) Communication (PR/Client Relations)

When the top skills worldwide were analyzed, customer relationship management is down by 3%. 

The need for excellent communication skills is real, particularly for digital marketing managers. A manager’s job is to establish a good relationship with clients so that they trust the agency’s marketing tactics. To establish this trust, managers must have a good rapport with the clients and effectively explain and justify the agency’s decisions.

Which skills do you think agency professionals need in 2015?

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