If you're considering a career in marketing, you may be wondering if your skillset and professional strengths are a good fit for the field.
Modern marketing is a very different world from the marketing of even just a few years ago, with digital strategies playing a significant role and traditional methods (such as print) becoming less relevant and less effective. That means that while certain skills associated with the field (such as creativity and communication) are certainly still important and applicable, there are a whole host of other, newer skills that employers are now looking for in their marketing hires.
What Skills Do You Need for Marketing?
Key marketing skills can be broken down into two categories - soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills are broader and more widely applicable, and are useful (or necessary) in many different career paths. Hard skills are more focused on technical abilities and familiarity with specific tools and strategies. Given that marketing is a very broad field, the hard skills you'll need to get hired will vary tremendously from role to role, but for the purposes of this article, we're focusing on some of the most common skills employers are looking for when hiring an entry-level marketing generalist (typically a coordinator or assistant role).
Top Marketing Soft Skills
At its core, marketing is about communicating to an audience, so it's no surprise that communication is the top skill those in the field need to have! Being able to express yourself and convey concepts to others in a clear, engaging way will be essential to your work as a marketer.
Creativity and Problem-Solving
Marketing is all about cutting through the noise and delivering a message that resonates with your target customer. Creativity and thinking outside the box to find new ways of doing things is one of the trademarks of a successful marketing professional. Even if you're not someone who thinks of themselves as creative (for example, if you're more of a data person), marketing still requires the ability to tackle problems from new angles and come up with innovative solutions to rising challenges.
Attention to Detail
As a marketer, your work will be seen by many eyes, whether it's a blog post, a social media graphic, or a printed piece of promotional material. Accuracy is essential - both to ensure your company's image is maintained, and so that your customers are getting the right information.
Working in marketing often means working closely with a broader marketing team, colleagues in other departments, clients, and/or vendors. Given that you'll be interacting frequently with all kinds of different people, it's important that you have good interpersonal skills and can build strong working relationships with others.
While your first marketing role probably won't be in management, leadership is still an important skill to build and develop over time, and can be put into use at any point in your career. Depending on your role, this could mean taking charge on a specific project, acting as a point person for a vendor or client, or helping junior members of the team in their work.
Marketing is a fast-changing field, with new best practices, tools, and standards emerging constantly. Additionally, marketing teams often have to work under tight deadlines and may be assigned last-minute projects or find priorities shifting with little notice. A successful marketer will enjoy this kind of fast-paced environment, and will be able to adapt to changing circumstances with ease.
Top Marketing Hard Skills
Writing is a highly sought-after skill no matter what field you're in, but it's particularly important in marketing, where (as noted above) communication is a critical part of your day-to-day work.
Data Analysis & Analytics
Marketing is nothing without measurement: you need to be able to calculate the success and ROI of your marketing efforts. Being comfortable working with data from a variety of sources and campaigns, understanding what's relevant and what's not, and using your analysis to inform future actions will be a key part of your role as a marketer.
Project management is an essential piece of every marketer's world: whether you're juggling multiple campaigns, clients, or projects, you'll need to have a strong set of project management skills to keep track of everything that's going on and to get things done in an efficient way. This means being able to work to deadlines, prioritize your work, keep track of others' contributions - all while delivering an excellent end product!
As a marketer, you'll often need to do research to build out campaigns, inform strategy, and create content. This research could take a variety of forms, such as looking into competitors' marketing campaigns, learning more about a topic relevant to the services or products your organization provides, or building out a list of contacts in a specific industry. Knowing how to conduct effective research from reputable sources is an underrated but important skill that will increase the quality of your work.
Search engines are some of the most prominent marketing tools used today - knowing how to use them to your organization's advantage, whether through paid or organic strategies is critical. The world of search engine marketing is huge and ever-changing, and many marketers work solely in this space. As a marketing generalist, you won't be expected to know the ins and outs of paid search and search engine optimization, but knowing - and being able to execute - the basics is important.
Social Media Marketing
Social media continues to be one of the most effective ways for organizations to reach their customers - both more established platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and newer, emerging platforms like TikTok. Knowing how to adapt a brand's voice and messaging to social media and connect authentically with your audience is an essential part of modern marketing.
Although other forms of marketing have grown tremendously in recent years, email remains an important mode of communication. All marketers should understand the basics of email marketing, including voice and tone, engaging subject lines, and strong calls to action.
Design is a scary term for those who don't think of themselves as artistic - you by no means need to be an expert graphic designer to be a successful marketer! Typically, marketing departments will have a dedicated designer on-staff, or you'll outsource bigger design projects to an agency or contractor. However, you should be comfortable with the basics of visual marketing - selecting images for a website or to accompany a social media post, for example, or taking pictures at an event. It can also be really useful to know the basics of the Adobe Creative Suite (particularly Photoshop and InDesign) and free design tools such as Adobe Spark or Canva to help you do your work more efficiently - it's nice to be able to create a quick graphic on your own!
Finally, being comfortable working in the back end of a website is an important marketing skill. Again, you don't have to worry about your capabilities here - you don't need to be a developer or web designer if that's not what you're interested in! Most marketers, however, will need to know how to make updates to pages, build out landing pages, and other basic web functions. (Keep in mind that every website will be different, so this is less about knowing the nitty-gritty of every content management system out there and more being comfortable diving in and learning if your organization uses a platform you're not familiar with).
How to Build Marketing Skills
You might be looking at the list above and worrying that you don't have what it takes to be a marketer. But not to worry - all of these skills can be built through dedicated training and education. A marketing degree is a great way to learn the most important marketing skills today's employers are looking for, both the core soft skills and the key technical skills. You'll emerge from a degree program with a well-rounded, up-to-date marketing skillset that will poise you for success in your first role in the field.
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