Martech Skills 2020: 10 Top Skills Your Digital Marketing Team Needs

Martech Skills 2020: 10 Top Skills Your Digital Marketing Team Needs

Martech Skills 2020: 10 Top Skills Your Digital Marketing Team Needs

Want to reach all of your 2020 marketing goals? You’ll need more than great martech; you’ll need your people to have the right skills. That might mean bringing new team members aboard, linking up with outside partners, or investing in training and professional education for the team you already have.

So beyond the fundamentals, what advanced skills are likely to give your team the edge over competitors in 2020? Certain technical and analytical skills continue to soar in importance, reflecting advances in data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and other technologies. At the same time, new creative, interpersonal, and strategic abilities may be necessary to turn digital marketers’ growing technical knowhow into real marketing impact.

We took a look at the changing digital marketing landscape and talked with experts to learn how these skill sets are evolving. While entire books have been written on the subject, we’ve rounded up the top 10 skills your team may want to consider acquiring or upgrading in the year ahead.

1. Data Analytics

The ability to gather and deploy deep, data-driven insights is becoming essential for any digital marketing program. To get there, organizations need data analysts who understand business and marketing, as well as marketers who know how to read and act on data.

Fortunately for small or midsize businesses, new technologies are lightening the burden of investing in such capabilities in 2020, says Tom Pick, B2B digital marketing consultant at Webbiquity.

“Data analytics will get more sophisticated at every level,” Pick predicts. “Smaller companies that can’t afford to hire the ‘unicorns’ (individuals with a combination of data analytics and strategic business understanding) that enterprises employ can take advantage of newer dashboarding and analytics tools that utilize AI technology. They will still need ‘marketing technologists’ but perhaps not full time or with the same level of sophistication as in large enterprises.”

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Mobile marketing analytics, predictive lead scoring and multi-touch attribution modeling, for example, are maturing as tools for data-savvy marketers. Companies risk losing out to their competitors unless their personnel can use such techniques to increase engagement, segment audiences, and develop more effective campaigns.

2. Customer Experience Marketing and Insights

Marketers are increasingly concerned with creating customer experiences that sell—and bring customers back again and again. Part of engendering customer loyalty is understanding how to use customer data to analyze customer wants and needs, and target them for personalized customer experiences that are a good match for the behavior they’ve already exhibited. Famous shoe retailers, for example, use customer data from social media, past purchases, and other sources to decide who is most likely to buy if offered a chance to go to a ticket-scarce sporting event or VIP meet-and-greet. And gamemakers such as Mobilityware—best known for its uber-popular solitaire game—have used a customer data platform (CDP) to figure out how to keep players playing.

3. AI and Machine Learning

Expectations surrounding AI in digital marketing reached new heights this past year, according to Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing and Advertising. While the full impact of AI has yet to arrive, Gartner recommends that marketers experiment and invest in it now, as it’s poised to transform how marketers do their jobs over the next couple of decades.

To make the most of AI, marketing teams need analysts with expertise in using techniques such as machine learning to achieve marketing-specific objectives, such as optimizing real-time customer experiences and spending across channels. Meanwhile, teams may look to master AI-based tools to aid in automated content tagging, conversational experiences, real-time personalization, content creation, and augmented marketing analytics (all areas where Gartner sees AI playing a productive role for marketers). At a higher managerial level, the most valuable skills may include the ability to understand when and where to deploy AI, assess the cost-effectiveness of possible solutions and devise a strategy for harnessing them to business goals.

4. Customer Data Security, Privacy, Data Governance, and Stewardship

A series of highly publicized breaches have undermined trust in businesses’ ability to protect customers’ personal information: only 25 percent of consumers believe companies handle their sensitive personal data responsibly, according a recent survey by PwC, and 69 percent of consumers believe companies are vulnerable to hacks and cyberattacks. As a result, privacy and security have become major marketing challenges—and digital marketing teams are finding themselves on the front lines, given their growing reliance on user data and all the vulnerabilities that come with it.

Increasingly, digital marketing teams thus need the skills and knowledge to act as effective guardians of their customers’ personal information. Among other things, this entails learning proper cybersecurity hygiene and best practices for handling and using customer data in marketing. Digital marketers also need to understand how to comply with the legal requirements imposed by tough new privacy laws such as the California Consumer Privacy Act, which came into effect in January 2020. Ideally, such knowledge should be widely distributed throughout your team, so everyone who works with personal data understands how to minimize the risks.

5. Social Video Marketing

Video is becoming an even more indispensable tool for driving engagement, especially on social media—and its growth shows no sign of stopping. For example, U.S. marketers will increase their spending on social network video ads by 23 percent to $13.44 billion in 2020, according to eMarketer.

So what skills should marketing teams be looking to add or improve? For one thing, you might want to beef up your skills on the creative side: advanced video production and script writing skills are required to create videos that actually engage users and leads to conversions. In addition, digital marketers have to understand how video works on different social media platforms and how to use paid ads to promote and target their content effectively. Digital marketers also need to be able to optimize videos for search and use analytics to evaluate and improve campaigns.

The major platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube continue to be vital, but in 2020, digital marketers may want to expand their capabilities beyond these well-established options. If your business is targeting a younger audience, for instance, it may be a good time to master the ins and outs of advertising on TikTok, which surpassed 1.5 billion downloads in 2019.

6. Visual Content Creation

In 2020, the importance of visual media for marketing continues to rise, along with visual content consumption. The explosion in video is just one aspect of this trend, as visual formats of every type are growing in sophistication and interactivity.

With such fierce competition for users’ time and attention, it’s not enough to create large amounts of mediocre content. Instead, high-quality visual storytelling is the price of entry for digital marketers hoping to generate engagement and conversions online. In this context, design and creative skills are as essential as ever, according to Pick.

“Content formats like interactive infographics and mixed-media video—not just ‘talking heads’ or animated slide shows—will become more popular and help set brands apart in 2020,” Pick says. “The tools for these are getting simultaneously more powerful and more affordable, but they still need to be put into the hands of marketers with visual design skills.”

7. AR, VR, and Wearables

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (AR) are becoming more potent tools for digital marketers, as companies explore new ways to create immersive experiences with these technologies. Meanwhile, wearable tech devices are growing in their potential to enhance marketing campaigns and programs, although the use of wearables for marketing is still only in its early stages.

“What has changed in the past six months is that we are not just talking AI, machine learning, and automation, we are building out marketing programs that incorporate AR, VR, and the use of wearable devices,” says Mellissah Smith, founder of Robotic Marketer and founder and managing director of Marketing Eye. “From an internal perspective, marketers need to get used to using wearable devices themselves to do their jobs at a level not yet achieved.”

Specialized technical and creative skills will be vital for marketing teams looking to take advantage of these technologies. The development of AR branded experiences, for example, requires software developers and engineers with skills in 3D modeling and AR development platforms such as ARKit, ARCore, Unity, and Unreal Engine.

In addition, successful AR marketing projects may require artists, designers and UX specialists with experience in 3D modeling and animation, using software such as Maya and 3ds Max. And digital marketing managers need to be conversant with the technical, creative and business sides of AR to oversee projects and ensure such efforts align with marketing goals.

8. Social Digital Marketing

Acquiring customers online has become a pricy endeavor, as advertising costs for major platforms such as Instagram, Google, and Facebook have ballooned in recent years. In such an environment, it makes more sense than ever to turn your existing customer base into a marketing engine through referrals and advocacy.

“Customer marketing is ascendant—getting customers to tell your story for you,” says Erica Seidel, founder of The Connective Good, a boutique executive search practice focused entirely on marketing. “That’s always been the case, but I’m seeing a greater focus on that because as the cost of acquiring a customer goes up, you want to make the value last longer—for the customer, of course, but also for the company in the long run.”

To succeed in customer marketing, digital marketing teams may need to augment their existing skills and knowhow. This effort may include mastering dedicated customer advocacy platforms such as Influitive or Crowdly. Beyond adding such technical skills, digital marketers need to understand the differences between customer acquisition and customer marketing strategies and learn how to use digital media to encourage reviews, referrals, user-generated content, and advocacy. With this goal in mind, digital marketing teams may benefit from adding personnel with a background in customer success, not just marketing.

9. Cross-Functional Collaboration Skills

Roles in any field tend to grow more specialized as technical complexity increases, and digital marketing is no exception. At the same time, specialization comes with its own downside, as marketing success in 2020 often depends on overcoming barriers between different departments, people, and organizational roles.

In this context, collaboration is becoming an even more vital skill than before, notes Tom Pick:

“As more and more basic skills and tasks become automated, more of the marketing professional’s day is spent collaborating with an increasingly diverse workforce in terms of race, religion, age, and functional expertise. The best business strategies can fail if marketers, sales people, and employees in other functional areas can’t communicate and collaborate effectively as a team.”

Fortunately, collaboration is a skill that digital marketing teams can actively build—for example, by training in new best practices and tools for teamwork and collaboration. Cross-functional training may help, with staff in more technical or analytical roles learning more about the creative side, and vice versa. And digital marketing teams may even enhance their staff’s ability to work across organizational silos through temporary secondments to other departments, such as sales or customer service.

10. Holistic Digital Marketing

Finally, today’s digital marketers increasingly need to be able to see how their efforts fit into the business as a whole, and create and execute strategies to match.

“Holistic is the one word I see resonating in 2020, says Seidel from The Connective Good. “The past few years have seen such a focus on marketing delivering tangible revenue results, and that is still important, but now CEOs are realizing they don’t just need their marketing leaders to ‘shoot’ blindly but rather to point in the right direction and then shoot.”

“I’ve seen greater interest not just in ‘we need leads, or we need revenue,’ but ‘we need to tell a better story, and position and message differently.’ I also see marketing increasingly intertwined with—and in more and more cases owning—the strategy and product functions.”

Holistic thinking can be more challenging than ever in a world of proliferating marketing technologies, tactics and roles. Yet it’s also growing more essential to have someone on your digital marketing team with this skill. Digital marketing, sales, user experience, IT, and other business functions are increasingly converging. In 2020, the ability to grasp the big picture could be the skill that ties everything together and sets your team apart from the rest.

Lisa Stapleton
Lisa Stapleton
Lisa Stapleton is a former editorial director at IDG and former senior editor for InfoWorld and InformationWeek. She has written extensively about enterprise IT, business and environmental topics, and now serves as a senior marketing content manager for Treasure Data. She holds an MBA from Santa Clara, an Applied Math undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley, and an MA in journalism from Mizzou. She also enjoys being a Toastmaster.
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