Key points:

  •   The skills gap in marketing teams is widening in digital, particularly mobile, video and use of ad tech
  •   The growth of marketing channels is putting more pressure on marketing teams to build and distribute content. Martech can solve this issue, but it requires a rethink.
  •   Training is key to retaining staff, but investment is not in step with the needs, according to Teresa Sperti at Arctic Fox. 

Is the great Marketing skills gap solvable?

Marketing ain’t what it used to be. The proliferation of media channels and complex science/dark art of digital has irreversibly changed the discipline forever. Imagine being an HR Manager these days looking for a budding digital marketer. Meaningful academic qualifications are hard to pinpoint, Key Performance Indicators are tricky to shape up and good quality people are just too damn hard to find. This is a skills gap that is not going away any time soon.

So exactly where is this skills gap and what does it look like? The Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) says there is a clear gap between senior and junior ranks in marketing.

ADMA CEO, Andrea Martens believes that while marketing skills are changing rapidly “often due to technology – core marketing capabilities such as insights, strategy and innovation are timeless.” ADMA’s Marketing Skills Assessment reveals that at senior levels, discovery and strategy elements are the focus, while execution and planning skills dominate the day-to-day for junior level marketers.

To make matters worse, Martens believes that the level of knowledge shared between senior and junior level marketers is lower than expected and attributes this to the extent that tech is driving planning and execution.

It’s moving at such a pace that for senior leaders to be across all of that to the degree their team needs to be across is probably really difficult.

Andrea Martens, ADMA CEO


Cue problem number two – The Beast.

Apart from this widening gulf in skills for the new world order of digital, the modern marketing team faces completely different challenges to those faced by teams less than a handful of years ago.

While almost every element of the brand experience has transformed, the core challenge of matching up to what the customer wants is as relevant today as it has ever been. Some things have changed. Others haven’t.

What has seriously complicated things is a fundamental shift in the way customers consume messaging. In a previous world, it was fed to them in a narrow media channel band using strategies that were largely unchanged for decades. But everything’s been turned on its head.

The digital era has transferred the balance of power to the customer in how they consume their media. Customers now have it squarely on their own terms and there’s a galaxy of choice out there for them on multiple devices within easy reach.

The demand for content to appear in front of these roaming eyeballs has never been greater. For marketers, this has severely impacted resources, with teams frantically trying to feed the content beast while desperately searching for time to understand the rapidly shifting landscape leaving little time to plan and develop bigger picture marketing strategies.


And the gulf widens even further.

It’s the very people in marketing teams in charge of content that are most likely to possess digital skillsets, but have little time to demonstrate their capabilities nor advance their learnings – because they’re swamped.

Swamped managing and distributing digital assets to demanding networks. Swamped rolling out campaigns for complicated media plans and becoming lost in a sea of unrelenting LAM approvals trails.

The content development to-do-list is not something a CMO looks at.  This is the realm of younger members of the team. It’s throughput-oriented work – dealing with agency production and getting the myriad of campaign executions required, lined up to roll out across a sales network.

These young people have the capacity to build on their emerging digital strengths and start developing strategic marketing skills – they are the future of every marketing team. But there’s no time for this because the content beast is hungry.

Making time for strategic marketing.

So is the skills gap solvable? It is if CMOs can think outside the box and invest in the development of their team. Arctic Fox notes that “despite the rapid rate of change occurring within organizations today (and marketing teams for that matter), many marketing teams are investing in upskilling and development as they historically have.”

In fact, a study in the US found that more than 60% of marketing teams are investing little more than $500 on upskilling their teams and 1 in 5 are not investing at all.

In her recent CMS Wire article Marketing Is Facing Down a Skills Shortage and Capability Gap: Here’s How to Fix It  Chitra Iyer observed that “with the pace of change in marketing being what it is, marketing leaders need to focus on honing capabilities” Iyer sees streamlining operations as central to the future of marketing teams.

The key to having a skilled marketing team is to invest in personalized learning experience journeys for team members to not just learn what’s current, but to learn and apply what’s new as it comes, assuming they can be retained for long enough for the investment to pay off.

Chitra Iyer

And this final point “… assuming they can be retained for long enough…” is critical. This is where streamlining operations will pay dividends.

Investing in Martech like Brand Management platforms is a proven time-saver for marketing teams. This kind of technology solves the huge burden of feeding the content beast instantly, whilst simultaneously removing the drudgery of managing digital assets. The productivity benefits are beyond 30% providing modern marketing teams with the time and space to become more involved in strategic marketing and developing their digital skillsets.

The return on investment calculations around Brand Management platforms almost always focus on the time and cost efficiencies yielded for marketing teams. However the additional benefit of being able to draw the team together to identify the skills gaps and set the right training in place is hugely important in times where people shift roles more readily than ever.

Keeping good people and keeping them happy with a great platform that makes marketing painless is a big step forward.