Marketing is more than brainstorming the next advertising idea—it’s the process of communicating key brand messages and delivering value.1 It requires an understanding of how people work and the ability to bring creative concepts to life. To succeed in this dynamic field, professionals need a diverse skill set and up-to-date knowledge of consumer behavior, persuasive techniques, and professional technology.
This article will introduce you to the most essential marketing skills and qualifications for a successful career. Use these lists as guidelines to help you develop as a skilled and in-demand professional.
Some people perceive marketing as vague, compared to fields like accounting, but it actually requires frequent, clear, and consistent communication to make it work. Marketing is the art of communicating with a broad audience while simultaneously connecting with each individual. This requires a strong working knowledge of personalization, the process by which marketers tailor offerings to customers’ interests and circumstances. According to recent McKinsey & Company research, companies with excellent targeting drive 40% more revenue from personalization efforts, versus when they opt for mass appeal instead.2
To reach that level, marketers need to create material that empathizes and connects. Each piece must speak to the target audience’s unique needs and a solution to those needs, either directly or indirectly. The marketer must choose the best possible approach and present it using language that matches the brand’s voice.
For example, peanut butter company Jif has a globally appealing product that could be marketed pretty simply. However, they homed in on moms with younger children with their “Choosy moms choose Jif,” campaign, speaking to moms who won’t feed their children just anything. Moms who have the option to choose between brands based on preference often want healthy, well-made food for their kids, so highlighting Jif as the brand for “choosy” moms speaks to their unique mindset and needs.
Aside from external-facing work, marketers must have sufficiently developed communication skills to work with colleagues, clients, and decision-makers at multiple levels. From pitching campaign ideas to a new client, to explaining marketing analytics to executives, to brainstorming with peers, there is a lot of collaboration and teamwork required in successful marketing.
Marketing isn’t always fun TV ads and hosting events. To validate and improve their work, marketers interpret consumer behavior and determine where audiences engage meaningfully with content. This information allows marketing teams to evaluate the success of each campaign and make adjustments as necessary.
For example, teams will use analytical skills to dissect demographic data and narrow their audience focus. Then, they’ll create ads and content to match that. Once those have run, they’ll analyze their performance: how often and where did people click on the ads, how long did they spend looking at them, what did they do after that, and what does that say about their purchasing behavior?
Today’s marketers must integrate data from various sources, including campaign platforms, customer relationship management systems, and account managers. Collecting and interpreting this information is critical to performing well in today’s market. To stay current with best practices and tools, consider marketing analytics courses that include key software like Salesforce, Marketo, Braze, Google AdWords, Unbounce, and Sprout Social.
A 2023 investigation showed that people see hundreds of banner ads daily and likely thousands of ads.4 To impact such a crowded market, professional marketers need to think outside the box and offer something uniquely memorable. Creativity comes in many forms: an eye-catching headline, a distinctive graphic, an usual approach to a seemingly common problem. Wherever you work in marketing, creativity is usually at the heart of every project.
Attention to Detail
Every word and image communicates something to an audience. Marketers must design each detail carefully to make the desired impression and convince customers to take action. This involves constant attention to customer profiles, brand preferences, and campaign data. This is especially important in creating a smooth user experience (UX)—one erroneous link can cause a user to leave and never come back.
Effective marketing requires a team of no fewer than two employees or one employee and an outsourced team.5 In other words, marketing is certainly a team sport. Mid-sized and larger companies typically require more than a dozen individual contributors, each with their own skills that need to work alongside and complement their teammates’.
Consumer needs are ever-changing, and marketing teams must adapt accordingly. Marketers must be aware of shifts in consumer mindsets to keep messages relevant, regardless of the shift's scale. A great example of this is working with celebrity sponsors or influencers; if a major scandal breaks with a brand celebrity at the heart of it, marketing teams must work quickly to address and assess the situation.
Qualifications for a Career in Marketing
Unlike other fields, marketing attracts professionals from various backgrounds and disciplines. But marking requires skills that may be difficult to measure and evaluate, so hiring managers look at each candidate's background and accomplishments.
According to Indeed, employers generally prefer candidates with associate or bachelor’s degrees.6 Some organizations will consider non-degreed candidates for entry-level positions if a candidate has completed a certification course or quality stand-alone course. Roles that fit into this category include graphic designer, search engine optimization (SEO) specialist, social media coordinator, and copywriter.
However, even for these roles, a degree is the best way to make yourself competitive and increase your earning potential. Management positions traditionally require at least a bachelor's degree, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates on its website.7 Those with a master's earn almost 16% more per year than those with only a bachelor's degree.8
Even with a degree, staying up to date is essential. Best practices change frequently and marketing technology tools are constantly developing. Tomorrow's marketing careers will rely on marketing technology (MarTech) tools, such as content management systems and customer relationship management, to stay relevant and resilient.9
A marketing certification is a credential that indicates expertise in a specific skill set, such as digital marketing or SEO. Some marketers obtain certifications in addition to a bachelor’s or master’s degree, but a degree usually isn’t required to earn a certification.
Most certifications require you to complete a specific course or series of courses.10 These courses are available through colleges and universities, industry organizations, private-sector training providers, and marketing companies. A high-quality course demonstrates your grasp of in-demand skills, such as audience segmentation or market research, and can make you a more competitive job candidate.
Results are everything in marketing. Your resume should highlight your career accomplishments with accompanying statistics and case studies whenever possible. Even if you haven't held a professional position, you can demonstrate your expertise via community or personal projects.
For example, suppose you volunteer to do publicity for your child’s school fundraiser. You have to develop a marketing strategy (What will you say about the fundraiser? What is its main goal? Who benefits from it?), choose platforms (e.g., email, text, Facebook, etc.), and manage a budget. You may need to oversee other volunteers’ work. All of those skills can prepare you for marketing project management.
Marketing Soft Skills
A successful marketing career requires a diverse and continuously refreshed skill set. As mentioned above, you need to be a versatile communicator, a keen analyst, and a people person. It’s also important that you demonstrate interpersonal and self-management abilities, such as professionalism, verbal and written communication, teamwork, time management and critical thinking.11
Prepare to Lead With an Online MSM
Stay one step ahead with an Online Master of Science (MS) in Marketing from Santa Clara University, designed for ongoing change in the 21st century. Shaped by global marketing powerhouses in Silicon Valley, this novel master’s degree will arm you with the latest skills in digital marketing, marketing analytics, MarTech, and more in as little as one year. With a full suite of tools at your disposal, as well as the industry experts who will train you in them, you’ll be ready for the next level in your career.
- Retrieved on July 28, 2023, from ama.org/the-definition-of-marketing-what-is-marketing/
- Retrieved on July 28, 2023, from mckinsey.com/capabilities/growth-marketing-and-sales/our-insights/the-value-of-getting-personalization-right-or-wrong-is-multiplying
- Retrieved on July 28, 2023, from frictionless-commerce.com/blog/how-many-ads-do-we-see-in-a-day/
- Retrieved on July 28, 2023, from forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2022/03/04/scaling-your-marketing-team-for-success/
- Retrieved on July 28, 2023, from indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/how-to-get-marketing-job-without-degree
- Retrieved on July 28, 2023, from bls.gov/ooh/management/advertising-promotions-and-marketing-managers.htm#tab-4
- Retrieved on July 28, 2023, from https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-education.htm
- Retrieved on July 28, 2023, from onlinedegrees.scu.edu/media/blog/martech-the-future-of-marketing
- Retrieved on July 28, 2023, from ama.org/faq-professional-marketing-certifications/
- Retrieved on July 28, 2023, from dol.gov/agencies/odep/publications/fact-sheets/soft-skills-the-competitive-edge
- Retrieved on July 28, 2023, from onlinedegrees.scu.edu/academics/marketing-masters