Oct 4, 2016

Here’s why Millennials aren’t as skilled at digital as you might think

by Digital Marketing Institute

The rate of digital transformation impacting organizations at a global level continues to intensify. According to Gartner, in the next five years, Chief Information Officers expect digital revenues to grow from 16% to 37%.

It has already been well documented that a clear-cut digital skills shortage poses the biggest obstacle to the successful adoption of digital tools and techniques – in our 2016 Digital Skills Report we tested marketing professionals across a variety of industries in the USA, UK and Ireland and found that while 59% of marketers in the US, 47% in the UK and 51% in Ireland perceived themselves as very or fairly competent in digital marketing, the reality is quite different.

The actual skill level of these marketing professionals, when assessed, is equally low across all three countries – 38% on average. To add to this substandard result, only 8% of the marketers tested achieved entry level skills.

The demand for skilled digital professionals continues to rise and there isn’t a sufficient supply of experts to meet this widespread organizational need. Not only that – there is a fundamental misunderstanding surrounding who exactly the most competent, qualified candidates are.

Digital natives don’t necessarily know best

From instant communication via social media channels, to self-sufficient research through search engines, digital is a dominant and empowering force, and one that has become synonymous with the millennial generation (for context, the oldest millennial is defined as an individual born in 1981, the youngest is someone born in 1997).

Millennials have already surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest living generation, and because of their predominance in an age defined by digital, it is a common assumption that their ability to construct and execute a comprehensive is innate.

Interestingly, this isn’t the case!

Our report also found that despite being digital natives, millennials are the least skilled digital marketers of all age groups, scoring 38% in the USA, 34% in Ireland and 31% in the UK. Employees aged between 18 and 34 overall struggled most with analytics and reporting skills, compared to their older counterparts. In all three countries, the 35-49 years old age group is the most skilled.

So, if you’re a millennial marketer, how you can regain your competitive edge and start realizing your full potential? We’ve outlined three simple steps to restore the generational balance below!

1. Gain insights from traditional techniques

It’s largely accepted that traditional sales and marketing techniques are no longer enough to keep pace with the competition, particularly when digital marketing strategies cost less and are easier to measure and optimize. In fact, many millennial digital marketers will have little to no experience in traditional techniques and marketing models.

Despite this, there is a value to be gained from blending traditional and digital approaches. While TV advertising might not work for one brand, it could be highly effective for another. Case in point is Pepsi’s “Refresh” project, which encompassed a pop-cultured infused digital marketing campaign that redirected millions of dollars from TV into social media. This move lost Pepsi both revenue and market share, as they dropped to third place behind Coke and Diet Coke.

Using traditional marketing strategy principles such as the 4 P’s as a starting point on which to build a marketing mix that comprises the channels that best suit your organization’s purpose, be they email marketing or billboard advertising.

Setting high level objectives, defining your target customer personas, and having an awareness of the length of your average sales cycle will all help to define which methods and mediums you should be using. Millennial marketers should also look to find traditional marketers, or professionals with a traditional marketing background from whom they can learn some well-established foundational practices that they can seek to infuse with digital techniques.

2. Take a T-shaped approach

Digital marketing has evolved massively since its initial inception, most notably in the establishment of streamlined specialisms within the greater practice. Because of this, many millennial marketers can start their digital career by specializing in one particular field, sometimes with very little knowledge of any other area. This unawareness can limit a marketer’s skill set significantly. The term “T-Shaped marketer” describes an individual who has an extensive knowledge of a variety of digital specialisms, but can also drill down and exercise deeper expertise in a small number of fields. Arguably, this model is one that will guarantee better performance and success, and will prevent siloes in the profession.

Though composed of a variety of different areas, all digital practices complement and coalesce with one another – an understanding of these interwoven relationships and how each practice works as part of a cohesive digital strategy is essential. T-shaped marketers will be more adaptable, inventive, and able to find solutions a lot more instinctively than the professionals that are strict specialists confined to one strand of digital marketing.

By developing foundational abilities in areas that aren’t necessarily points of strength, you can nurture a more inclusive skillset that will cement your status as a better and faster digital marketer.

3. Invest in digital skills training

You’re never too old to learn something new. And you’re never too young either! Though millennials may be more adept at adapting to technological advancements, it doesn’t mean they can instinctively build and deploy a search marketing campaign as a result.

A survey conducted by Marketing Profs found that 7 in 10 executives at large companies and agencies said their digital marketing teams are strong in some areas but mediocre or weak in others. 21% said their employees are mediocre or weak across all areas. The easiest and most effective solution is to consider all-inclusive digital skills training. A digital marketing qualification, particularly one developed or validated by industry experts will enable you to practically and instantly apply your learning in the workplace. It’s a foolproof way to not only cover the foundational components of a digital marketing skillset, but keep up-to-date with the latest industry techniques.

Many of the digital marketing courses developed by industry professionals benefit from their practical experience and knowledge and provide a valuable first-hand perspective that more conventional academic syllabuses that are less frequently updated can’t provide.

The most important thing is to conduct thorough research before investing in your chosen training option to make sure it caters sufficiently to your needs and preferences. Look for offerings that provide practical activities to complement any theoretical content – the best way to learn digital, is to do digital!

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