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Remember the good old days when getting a job just required years of experience or a trusty education to nail you the best positions in your chosen industry? Things were simple then, with clearly defined skills that made sense to the average HR person, not to mention to the people applying for the jobs.
However, today’s digital influences and technologies are changing the way we look at skills. A new landscape now dictates a new set of skills affectionately referred to as “soft skills.” In fact, soft skills have become a more valued skill set when it comes to digital marketing professionals. So just what are these high demand soft skills and what is the ideal mindset employers value in the modern marketer? Let’s take a look.
Hard versus Soft Skills: Who Wins?
The truth of the matter is that hard and soft skills work alongside each other to create a completely symbiotic set of qualifications the modern marketer needs.
For a while, there was a strong pull towards technical skills as digital marketing began to grow. These skills included understanding how to work social media platforms, figuring out effective SEO tactics (white hat only please), and of course, understanding the cryptic world of PPC.
However, as content started to influence digital marketing more and more, the hard skills from the technical side of the industry became less important. Instead, a new string of skills began to dominate the most effective digital marketers’ talents including:
- Creativity: It is no longer enough to know how to work technology, digital marketers are now required to have a more creative mindset that will allow them to contribute new ideas and effectively interpret situations to better overcome the many challenges of modern marketing. This also means having a creative spirit that can turn a phrase with a keen understanding of the power of the well-written word.
- Resourcefulness: Analytic minds thrive when they are more creative. Resourcefulness adds to this creative mindset allowing people to become more forward-thinking in their approach to access and use accurate sources of data for in-depth analysis that is more informed and insightful.
- Adaptability: Today’s marketer never knows what might be coming down the pike and therefore the ability to make quick changes and adapt to new demands is a must. This is both for marketing strategies and marketing tactics.
- Collaboration: The new mindset of the marketer has to understand the importance of collaboration. Many departments now work together to gain revenue, market share and the almighty followers who help generate leads. From sales to R&D and advertising to high-level executives, buy-in, teamwork, and shared insight are the new name of the game.
- Leadership: Thought leaders must exist within organizations to lead effectively and inspire peers with new insights, shared valuable experiences and a hunger for innovation.
A New Complexity
This new mindset is arousing curiosity, leading to research across many different industries. According to Econsultancy their study on the new Skills of the Modern Marketer found that marketers are acknowledging the complexity of their roles. They are also seeing the value of soft skills and their importance in providing the right mix to work in hand with traditional expertise.
This can be unsettling for both traditional marketers and marketers who have carved out a niche thanks to their hard skills. They are being out-skilled by marketers who combine the best of both worlds balancing hard skills with soft.
According to recent research by creative software icons Adobe, 40% of the marketers surveyed wanted to “reinvent” themselves. However, only 14% felt they knew how to accomplish this goal. This new complexity would suggest that the best way to achieve this would be to develop soft skills.
Opportunities and Challenges
These changes to the industry offer opportunities for growth and learning. They also provide challenges to marketing professionals who find themselves lacking the skills required, but then don’t know how to improve.
As well, these soft skills are less tangible and cannot necessarily be learned, especially if it’s being an intuitive writer or having a more creative mind. This calls for people who are self-motivated learners with a hunger to adapt their skills to work more effectively in a changing environment.
The opportunity you must embrace today is learning itself, as it allows you to be better equipped to focus on developing your own soft skills. Developing appreciation for the creative process and learning to integrate this new way of thinking into your strategy will allow you to become more adaptable. This adaptability will, in turn, allow you to embrace out of the box thinking to attack digital marketing with a more curious view.
Adaptable Thinking and Creativity
Life-long learners hone their personal and professional knowledge to develop and evolve their skills. The hunger to know more about emerging trends and the latest technology provides a broad view of what is happening in the industry without the need to try and be an expert at everything. More importantly, constant learning allows you to become a better communicator so you can present your ideas and strategies in a manner that is clear to people of all different levels and backgrounds.
You become an authority who is sought after as a problem solver, thought leader and trusted peer who people rely on to get results and meet goals.
Effective Marketing in the Modern World
According to Econsultancy, there are broader skill areas that are also becoming significant for marketers in this modern world. The emphasis once again is on soft skills. Those interviewed stressed the need to combine the varying approaches and marketing expertise that are more qualities than qualifications. Those qualities included:
- Articulation and persuasion
- Hunger to learn
- Data-driven decision making
Many of these qualities might sound familiar as they re-emphasize common themes including creativity, adaptability, learning, and collaboration.
In a New York Times article, Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google stated that the number one thing they look for when hiring staff was "learning ability." This hunger to learn is a very real but less tangible skill. It allows people to adapt on-the-job and identify value from a mess of information. This is the new thinking that creates self-motivated learning.
The Skill of Articulation and Persuasion
The Econsultancy study also found that articulation and persuasion seemed to be the skill that came up most often. Participants found that marketers who are able to communicate their value clearly to others within an organization can be more effective in their positions.
This is because they not only know what they have to do but also understand the business requirements, allowing them to come up with digital solutions that meet business goals. They can collaborate with other people in the business including non-digital teams and traditional marketers so that these collaborators understand the importance of digital strategies. This gets all the important players on-board with their digital plans.
The Skill of Being Human
AI provides a valuable tool to marketers which is data. It can target data, collect data and sort data. However, no matter how sophisticated new technology becomes, it is human instinct and creative thinking by human minds that harness that information and use it to target customers. Humans come up with the content and digital marketing strategy that will create trust, nurture loyalty and earn brand love.
Emotion is needed to resonate with the prospects AI might send a sales team. Modern marketers have to learn to trust their instincts and find ways to leverage everything AI sends them. It is leveraging emotions to find value in data and personalize it to reach customers in meaningful ways.
Technical skills change too frequently to hold value any more. Instead, soft skills have a longer life cycle keeping adaptability and learning at the top of the soft skills list.
Most of us secretly wonder what the future will bring. How can we remain relevant in a world where technology changes at the drop of a hat? What will the skill set of tomorrow look like?
According to LinkedIn’s Emerging Jobs Report of the 20 fastest growing jobs in 2018, the top skills required to fill them included Marketing, Management, Sales, and Communication. This might come as a surprise. However, although technology might make mundane tasks redundant, it cannot replace soft skills.
The ideal mindset of a modern marketer requires the soft skills that can’t be automated. This is supported by LinkedIn’s data which listed the same soft skills we have mentioned again and again including creativity, persuasion, and adaptability. These are human qualities that have transitioned into skills.
Although science has shown that machines can learn, they can't combine technical and emotional skills. This adaptability allows us to be empathetic, emotional, and logical, using each of these skills to be results driven by knowing when and how to use each. Learning in hand with human emotion and marketing instincts create a super marketer who will always remain relevant and never become redundant.