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Clare Kemsley Managing Director of UK&I Marketing, Hays


In many ways, it seems like there’s never been a more exciting time than the present to be working in marketing, or, indeed, to be embarking on a career as a marketeer. Why? Well, we all know that the world around us is changing, and it’s changing at what sometimes feels like breakneck speed. And you, as a marketeer, have the best seats in the house.

As a marketeer, the proverbial front row seats are reserved for you. As a marketeer, you’re uniquely positioned to witness, and indeed, anticipate all the change going on in the world. As a marketeer, you’re uniquely positioned to guide your business to adapt. As a marketeer, you’re uniquely positioned to be the voice of your brand in an evolving world, and, importantly, speak to your audience how, when and where they’d like to be spoken to.

Today, the role of the marketeer as we know it has evolved in so many ways to be unrecognisable from what it once was just a few short years ago. And, to put it bluntly, without the support and expertise of skilled, innovative and forward-thinking marketeers, many organisations will struggle to survive in this era of constant change and disruption.

Which technical skills are most important for a successful career in marketing?


These changing times have bought great opportunity, but also great challenge to the world of marketing. As such, there’s never been more pressure on marketeers to keep their current skills and knowledge fresh. Whether you’re a generalist or a specialist, junior or senior, working in-house, or agency-side, you must commit to develop your understanding of the most important developments going on in the industry right now.

So, in this blog, I’d like to share my thoughts on some of technical, or hard skills I believe marketeers must master – or at least, enhance their knowledge in –  to secure a successful, long-term career in marketing:

1. Data analysis

According to the 2019 Altimeter/Prophet State of Digital Marketing report, the most desired skill in digital marketing hires for 2019-2020 is data analysis (cited by 41%). The strong emphasis on analytics as an in-demand skill isn’t a great surprise, given the commercial benefits of a data-driven approach, like those outlined by McKinsey.

The global management consultancy’s report found that companies making intensive use of customer analytics were “23 times more likely to clearly outperform their competitors in terms of new customer acquisition than non-intensive users, and nine times more likely to surpass them in customer loyalty.” Not only that, but according to HubSpot, proving the return on investment (ROI) of marketing activities is the second most-cited marketing challenge among companies.

You may be reading this thinking to yourself, “that’s all well and good, but data analysis isn’t relevant for my role.” If so, I’d urge to you think again. As a marketeer, you should be using all the data available to you to ensure you’re making the right decisions – whether you’re planning an advertising campaign, optimising a website or creating video content. Key to long-term career success as a marketeer is the ability to really understand the story the data you have access to, is telling you, and then make the right decisions from there.

As Hays Group Data Marketing Director, Brendan O’Donovan says: “It may seem like an analytics mindset and a marketing mindset are opposites, but what makes the difference between average analysis and great analysis is creativity, and that’s something that the marketing community has in great supply. If you can combine curiosity about people, and creativity in asking the right questions with the ability to structure them effectively for an analyst, or even better, the ability to answer them yourself, you’ll find yourself in high demand from employers.”

So, brush up on your data analytics skills, and you’ll be on your way to supercharging your marketing career in 2020 and beyond. Some excellent learning sources are:

2. Marketing automation expertise

Continuing with the theme of technology, the second most sought-after area, according to the Altimeter/Prophet report is skill in marketing automation. In a nutshell, this software serves the purpose of automating marketing actions – for example, sending email campaigns or publishing social media posts – without the need for manual effort. Such platforms can help to nurture prospects with personalised and useful content that is designed to make converting them into loyal customers simpler. Marketing automation technologies are also incredibly valuable in improving efficiency of marketing teams.

Many businesses feel frustrated by the fact that they aren’t yet able to fully benefit from the range and sophistication of marketing automation tools out there, mainly due to a lack of skills in this area. Plus, according to the Digital Marketing Institute, 44% of marketing leaders believe that marketing automation is set to become a more important skill in 2020. So, by building your knowledge and skill in this area, you can be confident that you are proactively taking the steps which will help set you apart and future-proof your career.

3. Programmatic marketing

Sometimes also referred to as programmatic advertising, is, according to Kenneth Kulbock, former head of programmatic EMEA at LinkedIn, “…buying digital advertising space automatically, with computers using data to decide which ads to buy and how much to pay for them.”

So, programmatic marketing involves the use of data to buy digital advertising. Rather than using a single platform, or multiple platforms simultaneously, and trying to target their advertisements effectively, marketeers using programmatic marketing software to get real-time insight into where their ads are best positioned. This can help you to not only get your ads seen by the right people at the right time, but also make better use of your marketing budget by identifying cost-effective opportunities.

While it doesn’t represent the complete automation of the process of buying ads, with people still heavily involved, it’s nonetheless expected to be central to the future of online advertising. In fact, Forrester expects it to account for the majority of digital advertising expenditure over the next few years. So, now is the time to brush up on your knowledge of programmatic marketing, even if it doesn’t directly relate to your current role.

4. User experience design

You might imagine that skills in User Experience (UX) design – the process of designing a product, such as a website or app, so that it provides the best possible experience for the customer – will only really be of real relevance to professional UX or web designers, not so much to marketeers.

However, as a marketing professional, it’s the customer, their needs, their behaviours, and their expectations which should always stay at the forefront of your mind, especially as their expectations are changing all the time. So, the development your UX skills and adopting a customer centric mindset, should be a key priority for you if you really want to stand out.

After all, if you think about it, UX plays a central role in the copy you create, the events you organise, and the advertising campaign you’re running. Customers now expect highly personalised and even hyperconnected experiences, going well beyond simply being referred to by name in a marketing email – and UX is key to providing this.

Keeping abreast of the latest developments in the emerging field of personalisation and UX, including the intelligent use of data to provide customers with relevant and unique experiences that hold their interest for longer, may therefore go a long way to enhancing your own employability as a marketing professional.

5. Coding and development

The continuing ‘digitalisation’ of the marketing space, as well as the tendency for many jobs to become more interdisciplinary in nature, may have already convinced you of the merits of adding at least some basic knowledge in HTML, CSS and even JavaScript to your existing marketing skill set. Even if you don’t become an out-and-out professional in coding, possessing some fundamental programming skills could give you a better understanding of the capabilities and applicability of this technology, further setting you apart from the competition.

As our CIO, Steve Weston explains in his blog, there’s never been an easier time to learn to code, “Once limited to those undertaking a three-year degree, coding is now available to all. There are loads of free resources online, but if you want to step it up to another level, businesses like Le Wagon can see you going from zero knowledge to being well equipped to take on multiple coding challenges in as little as three months.”

6. Search engine optimisation

“Just Google it” – it’s a common turn of phrase in most of our homes and workplaces. After all, we’ve all come to know and love the search engine as our ‘go-to’ place to find any information we might be looking for in any given moment. In fact, Google now processes, on average, over 40,000 search queries every second – that’s 3.5 billion searches per day, and 1.2 trillion searches per year.

No matter what size business you work for, no matter what industry you work in, and no matter what your specific area of expertise, at least a basic understanding of search engine optimisation (SEO) is crucial. As explained in this Digital Marketing Podcast, SEO is often seen by many as somewhat of a ‘dark art’, but the basics are relatively easy to grasp.

Developing technical SEO as a hard skill involves being able to understand how search engines index the pages of your website – and adapting your site accordingly as search engine algorithms change. Also, the rise in popularity of voice search on your search marketing efforts, will become more and more important for you to gain some understanding of. Any brand with a significant online presence will need marketing professionals who are up to speed with the changing fundamentals of SEO – so boosting your knowledge in this area could be extremely beneficial for your career.

7. Video production and editing

There are plenty of statistics pointing to the ever-increasing importance of video as part of a marketeer’s wider arsenal. After all, video is a versatile, easy-to-digest and engaging medium that helps break the mindless scroll and catch your audience’s attention. It’s no surprise, then, that according to HubSpot, 85% of businesses now use video as a marketing tool, and 92% of marketeers using it regard it as an important part of their marketing strategy.

So, as video is not looking likely to go anywhere, anytime soon (Cisco have even stating that it expects more than 80% of all Internet traffic to consist of video by 2022), equipping yourself with greater expertise in creating bitesize videos for social media, as well as explainer videos, live videos, brand-led videos and even webinar videos, could well help boost your own employability as a marketing professional in 2020 and beyond.

Sean Collins, Owner and Director of The Like Minded, an award-winning animation and film studio shares his thoughts: “We continue to see significant growth in the audiences for video content, the variety of channels on which they view it and the style of content that they will best engage with. The key for all marketeers is to master the principles that work for any type of content creation. These would include a core understanding of writing with purpose and the craft of storytelling; storyboarding and composition. In addition, marketeers need to commit to researching new trends and thinking about the quality rather than quantity of what they produce. A good example of developing lateral thinking skills would be to identify the growth in the long form content appeal of podcasts and to identify opportunities that match these audiences such as long form video. Videos longer than 15 minutes account for 50% of all video engagement but only 8% of all video content produced is this length. The development of core skills and the commitment to be a curious risk taker is central to the highest quality video production”.

8. Conversational marketing

This form of marketing is all about interactions between companies and customers that mimic day-to-day human dialogue, in an era increasingly characterised by a marked rise use of smart speakers, virtual assistants and mobile voice search – with 67% of consumers worldwide stating they have used a chatbot for customer support in the past year.

In a broader sense, conversational marketing involves tapping into the power of one-to-one conversation, communicating with the customer in their own time, meeting them where they are, at the time they need you. All manner of new ‘conversational’ technology has therefore arisen to cater to customers in this way, including the likes of ‘live chat’ features, chatbots and social messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Your skills as a conversational marketer lie in telling these programs what to say, how to respond, and when to connect a customer with a human. You’ll need to be able to put yourself into the mind of your customer and anticipate questions they may have, problems they could encounter, and what they’ll expect from your brand in response. It may, then, be well worth keeping up-to-date with these developments if you are to be more effective as a marketeer in 2020.

9. Legal knowledge

Of course, as a marketing professional, you may not be reasonably expected to keep up with every minor legal development of potential relevance to your brand’s marketing activities. However, a broad awareness of the law in your business’s jurisdiction could help your firm to minimise risk in relation to such key areas as advertising standards, copyright, social media, direct marketing, and data protection. Naturally, many areas of marketing involve creativity and innovation, but the mastery of your profession is all about precision, awareness, and in maintaining a knowledge bank of what your company can and cannot legally do across its marketing strategies.

As Mark Blayney Stuart, head of research at the Chartered Institute of Marketing explains in this Guardian article, “Knowledge of the law is not seen by many marketers as a top priority in developing their careers. Yet, a working knowledge of the statutory and self-regulatory environment in which marketers operate could make your CV stand out.”

Commit to your continuous learning as a marketing professional


Never has it been more important for marketeers to take ownership of their own learning – no matter how senior that marketeer might be. Interestingly, according to Target Internet’s Benchmarking Report, in association with the Chartered Institute of Marketing, different seniorities tend to have different gaps in knowledge and expertise.

The report found that senior marketeers often find themselves lacking the understanding of emerging new channels and could ultimately risk becoming deficient in the tactical knowledge they need to help guide their teams, and, indeed, their business to success: “Those in more senior roles lacked practical working knowledge of subjects like SEO, content marketing, social media and display advertising.” The report goes on to explain that, “Although they wouldn’t be expected to apply these in practice, a working knowledge would allow for better strategic planning and internal communication.” Similarly, the same report also found that those in more junior roles lacked some knowledge and understanding of core marketing principles.

As I explained in the introduction, the marketing industry is changing as every day passes, and, of course, it’s impossible to be across all these changes, all the time. However, I would recommend you make a concerted effort to build your basic knowledge and understanding of the key emerging areas, and, also, to refresh yourself from time-to-time on the core principles of marketing. If you do, you’ll become a well-rounded, and highly employable marketeer for decades to come.


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Clare Kemsley is the MD of UK&I for Hays Marketing, with over 30 years professional recruitment experience. She works closely with organisations and Hays specialist consultant teams, to support recruitment strategies that effectively deliver great candidates and enhance an organisation.

She has previously held positions at a Director level within various Hays specialisms including Finance, Office support and PA/Secretarial where she has been instrumental in restructuring, initiating growth plans and extensive client development.

Clare believes firmly that great behaviour drives the culture of a business and allows the customer experience to be one of the highest quality.

She is a passionate advocate of sharing marketing knowledge and careers support with all stakeholders, chairing regular roundtable events and supporting professional bodies such as CIM and CIPR with joint training sessions.

She actively participates in many University careers events and presents to many students every year in support of their future careers.



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