Feb 19, 2019

The Skills Gap in Digital Marketing: What It Means for Candidates and How to Position Yourself

by Digital Marketing Institute

Winning Habits to Help Stand Out from the Crowd

With the ever-expanding digital marketplace, business is booming for those who can take advantage of riding that wave. That means being properly trained and positioning yourself for career growth!

In terms of professions, digital marketing is relatively young. And it has been identified as a growth area. However, formal education at undergraduate and graduate levels and training have lagged behind its growth, which presents problems both for hopeful candidates and their hiring managers – creating a skills gap. To win out on digital marketing opportunities, focus on closing that skills gap by arming yourself with the necessary digital marketing skills, presenting them most beneficially to prospective employers, and making yourself stand out among the competition.

Harnessing the power of qualified individuals in digital marketing is only going to enrich the industry as a whole and move innovation forward dynamically.

The Skills Gap, as Seen by Employers

The Google Skills Academy commissioned a study that outlined some of the specifics around the skills gap in digital marketing called Talent Revolution, which measured the progress in terms of closing that gap. The research from the study was useful for establishing a framework for determining and sharing best practices. Industry-wide collaboration is even more crucial when formalized education around the industry has been emerging, yet the jobs are growing steadily.

Some key findings from the study include a serious lag time in digital marketers’ efforts to support video and mobile, despite indications of a voracious appetite from consumers for these mediums. Some companies struggle with adopting new technologies and testing. They have fallen short in engaging with consumers throughout their experience by integrating adequate touchpoints.

From a corporate standpoint, there has been some resistance from senior management to implementing the tools and making the necessary changes to really leverage digital marketing and support directional growth. As with new technologies and ideologies, there is often resistance among early adopters. However, it was discovered that while many companies recognize the importance of digital marketing, they aren’t investing as much money as they should for training and recruitment, electing instead to invest money in areas where companies have already had success.

What all of this drives home is that, for those companies that are inclined to tap into the potential here, they will be much further ahead of the competition. It is helpful to understand where some of the corporate deficiencies may be with digital marketing and how you can strengthen your own value to them by filling in those gaps.

Here are some suggestions on how candidates can position themselves for success with companies that are looking to push forward with digital marketing.

What Is Your Personal Skill Gap?

Given that digital marketing requires a holistic approach to marketing, you’ll need to be adept in many different areas. Think about your areas of weakness. How are you with social media? And content marketing? What about mobile or search engine optimization (SEO)?

Identify your areas of weakness and commit to making these your strengths! That will push you ahead of the competition. With your marketing training, aim to gain some knowledge of all the marketing channels, but take steps to become an expert in just a few.

Focus on Skills and Personality

Given that this is an industry that’s really still in its infancy, you can’t really fill your resumé with lengthy education and experience for this burgeoning area. Instead, you need to promote the full variety of your skills, coupled with what you have learned ‘on the job’. This makes you an ideal candidate to grow the digital marketing department at whatever company you work for.

Remember, it’s not about the length of your experience (because this is an industry in its early years) but the quality and variety of your experiences. Recruiters cannot compare ‘apples to apples’ for experience amongst candidates. Recognize that and use it as a platform to promote yourself.

Are you an out-of-the-box thinker who can creatively solve problems and see challenges as opportunities? Can you apply high-level theory into a strategy that works? Are you the consummate team player? Can you rely both on left and right brain (i.e. logical versus creative thinking)? These so-called ‘soft skills’ are attributes that will serve you well.

Specific Skills

Beyond soft skills that will set you apart from other candidates, there are a number of marketing skills that are excellent to have in digital marketing. Must-haves include social media strategy, content creation and curation, SEO know-how, knowledge of marketing technology, and knowledge of user experience (UX) design.

Given that digital marketers need to wear so many different hats, it’s good to have a broad range of knowledge to draw on.


It goes without saying that one of the challenges with early adoption is a lack of leadership. It is hard because not only do you have to identify the direction for the way forward, but you also need to convince others that this is the right way to go. Believe in the momentum of the digital movement and support followers by communicating success, collaborating on best practices, and having open discussions about the best path ahead.

Be Incredibly Versatile

One key difference between digital marketing and traditional marketing is that you can’t follow a set formula for success. Planning isn’t linear, such as identifying your target market, doing A/B testing, formulating a brand proposition, and then developing and rolling out a media plan. With digital marketing, you need to be both proactive in building your brand and then reactive as the market and customer needs shift.

Be open to change and committed to adapting constantly to stay on course. One of the major bonuses of digital marketing is that data is produced on a regular basis, and much faster than with traditional marketing campaigns. The challenge is to react quickly enough.

Be Innovative

When you lack an industry roadmap, you need to be very innovative and creative. You don’t need to push all the boundaries, but you need to be tuned in to the criteria and strategy that will make your marketing compelling, relevant, and better than your competitors’. Tune in to what messages your customers want to hear, how they want to receive them, and then repackage your brand in that context.

Learn Constantly

As this industry is in its infancy, there will be an ongoing need for tools and training. Develop a voracious appetite to consume information that will deepen your knowledge. What’s different here is that you must also be open to re-learning some things that you already thought that you knew.

You also need to be a tireless advocate in your workplace about sharing your knowledge with your colleagues.

Be Data Driven and User Centric

One of the common skills gaps in digital marketing is understanding data and measurement. This really is an essential skill to have. Not only do you need to rely on it to guide your marketing decisions and help with return on investment (ROI), but it can also help you understand where you stand in relation to your competitors.

The best digital marketing begins with data and analytics, rather than random ‘guesses’. Intuition does factor into digital marketing, but data should drive decisions. After all, your digital marketing campaign is stronger when you do in-depth research into your target market. You also need to be able to distinguish data that is actually important, as digital marketing produces so much of it. It’s all about relevancy.

You may want to brush up on your math skills too. It’s not uncommon for those working in digital marketing to have trouble combining data calculations with applying marketing strategy.

Be Willing to Delegate and Collaborate

One common thread with hiring for digital marketing is that hiring managers are encouraged to hire different people with different skills sets and strengths to form a team because digital marketing is very much a right-brain and left-brain activity. There is the opportunity for several skilled people to apply their individual perspectives to a strategy to drive the evolution. Sometimes, hiring managers even consider hiring two part-timers instead of a full-time employee just to have different voices and different experiences in place to shape the strategy.

Given the utmost importance of variety when it comes to developing a digital marketing strategy, be an employee who is more than willing to collaborate and to delegate work to someone who may have a different approach.

Consider what is at stake here. With the industry really just beginning, think of the opportunity to chart your own course if you can harness the momentum. You will create your own route up the career ladder, improve your job security, and have the chance to really impact an organization on multiple levels. Can you close the gap?


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