Savvy Snapchatters need not apply? The skills marketers are really looking for

Do you know your Snapchat from your Salesforce Engage? Can you make a VR compatible ad?

It’s hard to keep up, and the continuous evolution of technologies, platforms and digital channels is creating a nationwide skills gap in marketing. Nothing new so far.

What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is that employers are addressing the issue by targeting more junior professionals with specific technical skills. The downside of this approach is that core marketing skills, such as analytical and project management skills, have been neglected, impacting their ability to embrace the very opportunities they had their eyes on.

This skills imbalance is already affecting the industry and teeing up even more problems for marketing employers in the future.

Where has all the creativity gone?

The big question on the lips of employers is: what is the right mix of core and technical skills my company needs to succeed?

As you can imagine there is no one size fits all answer. What is common, however, is a recognition that your technical wizards are impotent without a solid foundation of core marketing skills. At the same time, digital needs to be treated as a standard operating model, not an optional bolt on extra.

This view was backed up by recent Hays Marketing research conducted amongst 300 marketing professionals. We asked what their most sought after core skills are, and it was no surprise that analytical and data interpretation topped the table. The ability to effectively demonstrate ROI, secure budgets and identify business opportunities, in an environment in which it’s hard to keep up with the proliferation of channels, is clearly essential.

Creativity’s placing at number three on the list certainly raised my eyebrows. You can know everything about your target customer and reach them on every channel all the time. Yet without creativity you are unlikely to delight, inspire or engage them.

According to Specsavers' deputy chief creative officer Stephen Reed, demand for in-house creative teams is only set to grow and there certainly appears to be a creative battle brewing for both brands and agencies. An inside-out knowledge of Instagram is useless if your content simply isn’t compelling.

Where are the leaders of tomorrow?

Most worryingly, some of the most significant core skills gaps are in the middle and at the top of marketing organisations and departments. 14% of respondents identified analytical skills as a significant skills gap within middle management, the widest gap for this skill across all seniority levels.

Meanwhile, nearly a quarter (21%) of respondents said the biggest skills gaps for senior managers are strategic-thinking followed by creativity (16%), without which an organisation may struggle to apply their team’s technical skills in the most effective way and fully deliver on marketing campaigns.

These skills now lie at the heart of today’s marketing campaigns and this research points to a potential immediate shortage of leadership with the right skills. But the long term impact is even more concerning – it appears as though our future leaders are not receiving training in the skills they need to succeed. As Hannah Mirza, global head of media partnerships at MediaCom, recently wrote in a post on LinkedIn: “While agencies focused on educating offline experts about digital, they overlooked the fact that many digital natives have a limited knowledge of marketing overall.”

Start from within

The focus on technical skills is really just a plaster over the bigger, long term problem. Brands and agencies need to start by first having an honest look at where the problems are and build development plans and training to address them. When hiring they should look to test not only core skills but their application to digital, using behavioral questioning techniques and practical assessments.

Candidates taking the lead on identifying their own gaps and addressing them will increase their chances of getting a job, command higher salaries and broaden their career options.

It’s all too easy to be bowled over by a candidate’s mastery of the latest hot platform – particularly as upper management are becoming increasingly bamboozled by the sheer breadth of channels now on offer. Management without the time to upskill themselves believe they can plug this specific knowledge gap with a new hire. Your team may gain an immediate advantage by improving your Periscope content, but does your latest addition arrive armed with the full marketing skills toolkit and can you see yourself eventually trusting them to manage?

The organisations set to prosper will be those that tackle this issue head on, are honest about their short and long term gaps, and are brave enough to action change. If the only thing that gets you excited about a new candidate is that they’re a Snapchat wizard, it may be time to get back to the drawing board.

Clare Kemsley is a director at Hays Marketing

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