5 Skills To Help You Stand Out Now as a Marketer

If I had £10 for every email I get asking for my advice on how to get into marketing, I wouldn’t need to do marketing. No I joke, but marketing (along with ‘Blogger’, ‘Social Media Expert’ and so on) seems to have become a pretty popular career choice over the last few years.

Perhaps this is linked to the difficulty of getting a job straight out of uni or an internship. Marketing is a career that fits well to a multitude of degrees – English, Journalism, Film Studies, Media etc. It’s also a career choice that can be done on a contract or freelance basis, allowing those who long for that self-employed life a good shot at being their own boss.

As a freelancer, I potentially get a better insight into what skills people want from a marketer right now. Mainly because I speak to multiple clients each week, from an array of industries. When you work in-house you can easily get stuck in the mud of meetings over true marketing and when you’re with an agency you become an expert in the skills they themselves specialise in.

I brand myself under the ‘digital marketing’ headline (more on this soon), primarily because this is high-up in the Google list of desirable skills. As we all know, ‘digital marketing’ isn’t really a thing it’s the CIM-level ‘Marketing Communications’ rebranded into a fancy title, but hey if that’s what people are searching for we’ll roll with it. In terms of skills, I’ve been getting many of the same type of enquiries/emails/questions from prospective and existing clients recently and it’s clear which bullet points are becoming most highly prized.

Now these aren’t ‘way out there’ skills, they’re probably things you’ve dabbled in or that have been on your ‘must learn’ list for a while. They’re skills that many marketers will already know and consider old-hat. However, if you’re looking to up-level your game even slightly or take the plunge into the freelance path, here are my thoughts on the skills which are going to give you the edge over the next six months or so.

  1. Video creation and editing

One of my most terrifying career moments to date was babysitting my younger sisters and seeing them create a video on their iPad. It had zoom, music, captions, subtitles – at one point they placed it on the floor in order to get an arty shot of their feet. The execution was seamless. It took them all of about 15 minutes.

Now while I resisted the urge to hide the iPad and beg them to not take my job away I was also awed. Give it another 10-15 years and these are the types of creatives who we will be competing against as marketers. Not just digital natives but kids who have literally grown up creating brands and video content, channelling insights to social media and understanding the power of digital communications.

YouTube brings in nearly 4,950,000,000 video views daily. Facebook video is growing exponentially, Twitter too, is dabbling. According to studies a one-minute video is worth 1.8 million words.

Businesses are looking for marketers who can not only create marketing content in the forms of words, guides and social media content but also those who can create video. This can fall into a few categories – storyboarding and scripting, through to actual filming and production, through to SEO optimisation, uploading and distributing. Most marketers will at least have some of these skills already (script and voiceover writing and SEO optimisation came fairly natural to me) but don’t sell yourself short – acquiring the rest of the video portfolio may be easier than you think.

For example, a few years back I created this short video on How To: Use Twitter Keyword Search Effectively using the free trial of Camtasia and Fiverr for the voiceover. Now it isn’t the slickest of videos but it does get the job done and fulfil the aim, which was to help guide customers into the different nuances of keyword search on Twitter.

I certainly aim to up-level my video skills this year and begin creating more video content for clients – particularly that which doesn’t require a film studio or anything more sophisticated than a lamp off of Amazon. If you already work in the content creation or social media fields, I 100% think adding video to your skills list will make you stand out.

If you need a little help, this Buffer guide to creating video is awesome. This article also has a great paragraph which discusses how to develop the right video content based on where your customer is in the buying cycle because we are still marketers after all.

2. Community building

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the human need for connection and how brands can facilitate this in order to build brand-led communities. Good examples include the Pokemon Go phenomenon, which had groups out and about, talking on Reddit and sharing Pokestops in order to catch them all. Put simply, it’s creating a community that links together everyone who is doing the same thing at the same time. Watching GBBO and tweeting about Mary Berry’s excellent facial expressions. The feeling you get when you’re watching the World Cup, or the Olympics, and everyone’s in a good mood and riding off the high.

As Kevin Slavin (founder of Playful Systems at the MIT Media) puts it:

“There’s a totally unmet demand for feeling present with other people. I don’t mean connected to them. You know what is happening in their life. I mean to feel they are there.”

This is community building in its future sense and it requires a lot more thought and direction then just taking a picture or joining a Twitter chat.

This can be anything from creating a non-promotional community to discuss issues in your industry (which is what Hubspot has done with inbound.org – the community for marketers). It could also be about building an army of followers on social media who follow you because they enjoy your updates and the message translates naturally (see Benefit, Kim Kardashian and Innocent).

The reason most marketers don’t have community building on lock-down is because it takes a lot of effort and unlike other, more agile marketing methods, it takes a long-term commitment. Communities don’t build overnight and this is what bosses and clients can often have difficulty understanding.

Here are some great examples of brand communities that have worked – if you can get the backing to run with something similar that builds true value and leads to long-time results you’ll be seriously winning in the marketing stakes.

3. Content writing

According to this study out of all marketing jobs advertised on LinkedIn, there is 10x more demand for content marketers than there is for those supplying it. This really, really surprised me.

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Coming from a background in English Lit, writing has always been a huge part of my work in marketing (time to up the rates no?). However, this does break down into more than just writing skills. Content marketing covers editorial calendars, managing outsourced writers, editing, sourcing images and quotes, researching examples plus the actual writing of course.

If you do have content writing already in your locker, some of the skills I’ve seen a demand for in this area are creating graphics, guest writing and online PR skills. This means writing articles which can become accepted as guest posts on big publications, therefore leading to increased exposure, nice weighty backlinks and often social media traction too.

Also, many companies want you to take full control of their blog and content presence, from conversion optimisation, to lead capture and user experience – so a little knowledge in this area (which you can often gain from blogs and Podcasts) can go a long way.

If you can write, you can also compliment this nicely by upping your design skills. This can be as simple as knowing how to source images, create headers and even having a list of illustrators on call for when the content needs something more interesting.

4. Methodology and tools

If you’ve heard the term ‘Marketing Stack’ it’s a fancy way of talking about the tools you use to plan, automate and deploy your marketing. This can be anything from Buffer for social media, to Hubspot for marketing automation and Optimisely for A/B testing. The marketing stack concept is becoming more popular and I’ll bet it’s a conversation that will come up in future marketing job interviews.

Adroll's marketing stack

What Adroll’s marketing stack looks like

As a result, my advice would be to try as many tools and learn the pros and cons of each (which you can largely do through free trials). All marketers have their favourites, but if you can be aware of at least a few of the different main ones it will help you to understand how they fit together – and make you the best person for the job when it comes to recommending them.

Secondly, something which can help marketers to stand out (and again, which may be asked in interviews) is your preferred marketing strategy or methodology. This can be as simple as inbound marketing methods, relationship marketing, ‘viral marketing’, digital marketing and so.

The ‘trendiest’ methodology right now is probably agile marketing. Stolen from agile methodology in project management, it relates to focusing hard on one campaign or idea and using all of your resources to deploy it quickly, through a short, sharp ‘sprint’. The benefit of agile marketing is that it allows you to fail (or succeed) fast, learn quickly and reiterate your offering.

Many of the companies I get bought in to help are struggling because they don’t have a marketing strategy, or because the methodology they do have doesn’t tie in with the rest of the company. For example, you can’t use the agile method if your sign-off process on ideas and campaigns takes four weeks. There’s no point doing digital marketing if your audience aren’t looking for you online.

This is all pretty simple stuff, but actually working out what you do and how you do it can really help set you apart from the rest of the noise.

5. Data and tracking

Once upon a time, you could deploy any type of marketing and put it down to ‘brand awareness’ without having to prove anything from it. In some companies you still can do this!

But let’s be honest, you don’t want to work in those types of companies.

Something which is received well by almost every client I work with is a focus on the data, aims and outcomes of each piece of activity. In its most basic form, this is what it looks like:

In more detail…

  1. Set aims – list your goals for this piece of work or marketing campaign. Are you trying to attract new clients, provide something useful to existing clients, get investors to notice you? What are the aims of your client or company?
  2. Measure aims – before you begin the campaign decide how you will measure it. Making sure everyone is in agreement here will stop problems from occurring further down the line.
  3. Deploy campaign – do the work! Send your shit out into the world!
  4. Measure campaign against original aims – did you get as many click throughs/sign-ups/tweets/sales as you thought? No, if not then why not? What went well and what went badly? Most importantly, what did you learn?
  5. Reiterate – something I see time and time again is that no one minds if things don’t work first time. As long as you’re honest and you learn from it, marketing is about testing and reiteration. Where this falls down is when marketers keep doing the same thing over and over again, rather than holding their hands up and saying this doesn’t work, but hey let’s try this other thing instead.

As well as tracking each and every campaign you measure, one of the most highly desired skills for today’s marketer is data crunching. We’re privy to a ton of data that tells us what customers are doing and how they find us. Marketers who can make sense of it are always in demand.

You don’t have to be a complete statistics whizz – start by getting to grips with ExCel and basic analytics platforms. You can also use qualitative research (talking to customers) and find out how to test assumptions through areas such as landing pages, email marketing and other data-driven practices.

Don’t forget –

Most marketing skills come full circle – Venture Beat labels Content Creation, PPC, SEO, Web Design and Data Analysis as essential skills for 2016 and the years to follow even though ‘PPC’ has been a marketing practice for many years (notice the absence of ‘growth hacking’ here people).

The same article also mentions that while marketing is evolving, marketers are not. So while you may be able to create an awesome campaign idea, if you can’t plan it, execute it (preferably in-house), measure the data, track the analytics and distribute it across online channels – you probably aren’t going to be first pick for the job.

Personally, I love the fast pace of marketing and how rapidly it changes. Five years ago I was lunching with press contacts and the company blog was an ‘out there’ thing to do. Now I can be part of a UX review, planning a whitepaper, organising an event and digging deep into user conversion all in the same day.

There aren’t many other industries you can say that for and if you’re willing to embrace it, the variety is not just the spice of life, it’s seriously exhilarating and fulfilling too.

Further reading:

Marketing Skills 2016: Are you qualified?
How we designed our marketing stack
How to move towards a marketing methodology
Community building is the secret to success