If you were looking for a new job in the marketing world tomorrow would you have the skills to be hired? Probably not, myself included. Mostly because marketing career path is ever evolving and it is diversifying faster than it ever has before. There are new topics, ideas and hacks on almost a monthly basis.
Although the landscape continues to change, many marketers refuse to update their skills to keep up. That has led to a massive disconnect between what hiring managers want and what marketers have to offer.
But the big question we want to answer with this project is not if there is a marketing skills gap, but how big is that skill gap? And also, what skills are demanded by companies and what can make a new marketer invaluable to them?
Based on our internal findings and some outside sources, there is a MASSIVE SKILLS GAP. There is currently the largest skill gap in marketing compared to any other industry. And it is not only hurting the marketers, with 90% of them feeling underskilled in marketing, but also the hiring managers, marketing directors and companies, with 41% of them finding it very hard to find quality talent.
If you are a marketer, there is no reason to fret; unlike other articles that list the “HOT” industry skills of the year, we will use cold data to find the real valuable tools. This article will cover:
- How we got to this point.
- How marketing is evolving, while marketers are not.
- Advice for what you can do.
Below is a simple visualization of what we found. As you can see, there is a HUGE skills shortage in the Data Analysis and Code section. But we have also found that there is a surplus in core marketing skills, including digital marketing, social media and others.
To find the supply skills that most marketers currently offer, we looked at a sample of 436k marketers on LinkedIn. All people included in the sample were actively looking for a job or were open to taking on a new job if the opportunity was right. We selected active job seekers because those are the people who are the most likely to have an updated resume.
We analyzed exactly 100 marketing skills, ranging from traditional skills like “Social Media Marketing” and “Public Speaking” to less popular ones like “Java Programming.” Each skill was chosen based on its relation to and popularity within the marketing field and similar professions. Additionally, others were selected based on the overall demand from the job posts.
To find out what skills were actually demanded in marketing positions, we turned to the trendy The Muse job boards. We selected 150+ recent and random marketing job postings from each level designated by Muse: Entry Level (0-2 Years), Mid Level (3-6 Years) and High Level (7+ Years).
We did this all by hand to make sure no skills were omitted or misread. For every job post, we cataloged the Job Title, Job Location, Type of Job, Company Sector, Minimum/Maximum Experience Levels, Degrees, Majors, and All Past Job Experience.
To find the most over-demanded and over-supplied skills, we directly compared the percentages for both sets of skills to find the difference. The comparison between supply and demand was calculated at each job level, experience level and company size.
For example, the supply for Social Media skills was 44% but the demand was only around 20%, meaning the skill had a surplus of more than 20%. In the long run, the surplus will drive down the overall value of Social Media skills.
Part 1: How we got to this point.
Marketing is an evolving skill, with hot topics and technologies changing on a yearly basis. Every year, experts peddle the latest top tricks to increase revenue and site traffic. Some of those trendy tricks fall and some rise like phoenixes. One of the big ones, Content Marketing, has caused the following shift in the field:
- 78% of all CMOs think content is the future of marketing.
- Well written long form content it set to dominate short form content.
- Companies are set to seek out specialized content marketers and creators in 2017.
- Content marketers will receive bigger budgets for production in the next year.
But popular and easy to gain skills lead to an oversupply of marketers with those skills. Which, after a few years of being a hot skill, leads to the diminishment of its value and a drop in the average salary for people specializing in that skill.
Marketing is always changing but it seems like a lot of marketers are not keeping up with some of those changes, based on what we have found. Below are some outside thoughts on what was popular in the past, as well as what thought leaders think will dominate the rest of 2017 and beyond.
Popular Marketing Skills Over The Past 5 Years
To illustrate how we got to this points where there is a shortage of skills in demand for marketers, it’s important to first look at what the most popular skills were for marketers in the past. For example, “Social Media” was the number one skill companies hired for in 2014. Now, two years later, it does not even crack the top 25.
But certain skills, like “HTML,” have been a popular recommended skill for five years now. Yet, in 2019, only 3.31% of marketers were competent enough to list it in their skills on LinkedIn.
Here are the most popular skills from thought leaders for the past 5 years, just for posterity:
Popular Marketing Skills in 2017
Let’s start with LinkedIn, a hub for awkward interactions and some workplace networking. For 2019 and beyond, LinkedIn recommended marketing professionals excel in “Data Analysis,” “Marketing Campaign Management,” and “Business Intelligence.” In fact, “Data Analysis” was the top skill recommended for all professions by LinkedIn in 2015, and only moved down one spot in 2019. This indicates that it would still be a prevalent skill in 2017, unlike some fad skills we have seen in the past.
Venture Beat says “Content Creation,” “Web Design,” “Data Analysis,” “SEO” and “PPC” are all essential skills, and that there will be over four million data-related jobs in 2017 and in the years to follow. The good people at HubSpot say that analytics will be one of the most sought after skills and that there will be a shortage of 1.5 million skilled data marketers by 2018. Plus, 50% of all marketing hires will require technical skills like HTML or CSS.
The American Marketing Association also recommends “SEO,” “Writing,” “PPC,” “Email Marketing,” “Social Media” and “Analytics.”
So the landscape for marketers is different from what it was five year ago. Now that we got all of that out of the way, it’s time to analyze some massive numbers and help you become a better marketer!
Part 2: Marketing is evolving, marketers are not.
Many marketers may be incredibly talented in a few of the traditional skills that have been around for a while. Those include email marketing, social media, communications, public relations or even writing. But in the past few years, those traditional skills have become the baseline, with many employers now looking for more from prospective hires.
This has led to a surplus of these baseline skills that make it hard to stand out. Now, top oversupplied skills are things like social media, digital marketing, advertising and marketing communications. In fact, the supply for those skills range from at least 25% to 50% of marketers. Thought leaders are not pushing these baseline skills and instead opt for more technical skills as we saw above.
With that said, these are the skills you need to have and those you need to avoid to succeed in the future:
Data skills are a golden opportunity.
Instead of the usual creative skills that many marketers possess, the sought after skills for current job posting are much more technical.
The most popularly demanded skills by marketing directors and hiring managers include: “Data Analysis,” “SEO,” “SQL,” “Google Analytics” and “HTML.”
Each of those skills are demanded in up to one third of jobs we looked at. For example, half of all entry and mid-level, and over one third of all high-level jobs, requested data analysis/analytics skills.
Now, for the bad news–or good news, depending on how you look at it. There is a MASSIVE shortage of marketers that are skilled in the art of data analysis. In fact, only 3% of all marketers are competent in crunching large sets of data at every job level.
And the number of marketers with analytics skills is DECREASING as the job levels increase toward CxO. This discrepancy between the demand and supply is the most in all of the experiment, at over 10x for every level! Wow.
Supporting technical skills like “Excel,” “Google Analytics” and “SQL” follow a similar pattern. “Excel” skills are being demanded by companies at a rate of 3x more than the supply, even though it is a highly supplied skill for marketers.
“Google Analytics” has 1.5x more demand than supply (only 7% of marketers have it), but that is still better than <1% of the general working population who understand it. “SQL” skills have 5x more demand than supply at entry and high levels, and up to 10x more demand at mid level. Companies need people that can wade through the gigabytes or terabytes of data they collect each day.
And finally, the favorite skill of many marketers: SEO. Demand for this skill at the entry and mid-level jobs extend 2x the supply. As long as “Content Marketing” is a top skill, “SEO “will be right beside it, especially when content creation is the top SEO tactic for 72% of marketers.
Why don’t more marketers have data analytics skills?
- I believe those that are truly skilled in data analysis leave the marketing field for greener pastures and better pay. They either become strictly analysts or data scientists. It’s the compartmentalization that some of these big companies can afford to have.
- Those who pursue traditional marketing degrees do not get exposed to data science. The only reason I have that particular knowledge is because of my economics degree.
- People skilled in data analytics never enter the marketing field in the first place; they go directly into more technical jobs and never leave. If someone can use their technically wired brain to code and make double the salary, they will do it.
Social Media is slowing down.
For those who don’t remember, a few years ago, social media was what VR is today. It was full of potential, startups were making millions off it, and every company needed to be on it. This led to a hiring and spending spree for the sake trying to be the best on every platform. Now, social media has become a baseline marketing skill, like so many hot skills before it.
“Social Media” was the most supplied skill for marketers in our study, well over 2x more than other traditional marketing skills. Also, when compared to all other professions, marketers had 7x the social media and social media marketing skills than their demand. That means there’s an oversupply of at least 2x the demand across all job levels we studied!
Thought leaders seem to agree, with only a few promoting “Social Media” as a top skill. LinkedIn saw “Social Media” drop from the top skill in 2014 to not even mentioned in 2015 or 2019.
Why have Social Media skills dropped in value?
- From what I have seen, there are two types of people with social media skills: those who use it personally and think it is not that hard, so they claim they have it; and true social media pros who can make a business grow with their shares. Because of the first group, there has been an oversupply of social media skills compared to the demand.
- EVERYONE can say they have some social media experience, and it is relatively easy skill to learn compared to some of the other top skills, like HTML.
- While it may still be in relative demand, social media skills will not stand out to many hiring managers or companies.
Content is still king.
Content marketing has been a popular skill since 2011 and will continue to be for as long as the internet exist in its current ad-driven format. Content marketing has definitely evolved from simply creating listicles into a true art that is attracting all types of creatives to its ranks. Well, some sites have evolved (don’t tell BuzzFeed).
In fact, businesses were using an average of 16 different combinations of content marketing tactics in 2016. And 50% of B2C companies have increased content marketing in 2016 and will continue to increase it in the near future.
Also many are calling content marketing the answer to a thorn in the side of traditional marketing: ad blocking. In 2016, there were almost 300 million mobile devices with ad blocking software. The use of ad blockers increased drastically over the past year, with many seeing the number of users doubling within a few years.
This aversion to traditional ads will help content marketing grow. Instead of finding ads next to our content, we just want great content. We have accepted the middle ground that some of this content is going to sell us something, but we know it is a lot better than the alternative.
Also, as ad revenue-driven sites look for other options for revenue, sponsored content is going to fill that gap and indirectly drive more demand for great content marketing skills.
When we ran the numbers, we found that “Content Marketing” and “Content Creation” is demanded in at least 25% of all entry and mid-level job postings, with 33% of all high-level job posts requesting it. But just like with “Data Analysis,” a small number of marketers actually possess the skill; in this case, less than 2% of marketers listed “Content Marketing” and “Content Creation” skills, across all job levels–almost 10x the demand.
Supporting skills like blogging, graphic design, and social media were also reviewed and showed a similar pattern of undersupply, except for social media. This indicates that there is an opportunity for marketers to grow in all stages of content marketing, from idea to execution.
Why is Content Marketing still in such high demand?
- Content Marketing is always evolving, and it is evolving faster than other types of marketing. Content Marketing in early 2012 was a completely different than what we are seeing today. While it started as a mostly writing-centric skill, it has become an umbrella term for all content creation.
- Content marketing is also reactionary to other outside forces like the rise of SEO and the fall of traditional ads.
- It is one type of marketing that almost every company can execute. It is a quick and scalable way to find new customers. One great piece of content can do more than the long, slow burn of other types of marketing.
Video may be popular now, but don’t bother mastering it.
Over 74% of content on the internet being will be video this year, and 93% of marketers will use video in their online marketing campaigns. But just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s useful to learn. This could be a skill that we look back at in a few years as being severely oversupplied, like social media skills.
For example, less than 1% of all job postings mention video or video production. Now, most marketers will be sharing the videos, not creating them. And if they have to create video content, it will not be very elaborate.
If we look at the supply of video skills, there is no difference in the amount of marketers that have it compared to all professions. Only 2.12% of marketers have it, compared to 2.16% of other professions who do.
Why aren’t true video skills in demand?
- Marketers are not tasked with creating videos. Companies with the capacity to create worthwhile videos will have the resources to have someone else do it.
- Although it is a form of content marketing, it is still a very intensive skill to master.
- But as short form content like Snapchat, Vine and Instagram continue to dominate, there will be an increase in demand for a few very skilled marketers to take on the challenge.
Basic coding skills will set you apart.
As we briefly touched upon above, “HTML” skills have been in demand since 2011, but only 3% of marketers have it. Unsurprisingly, the ability to understand and use HTML decreases as the job level increases because HTML is still a relatively new concept for some of the older marketers.
Yet, the demand for HTML skills at entry and mid-level jobs is requested in 20% of job postings. This leaves basic HTML skills in a shortage, with demand being at least 5x more than the supply across job levels.
To put this into context, compared to marketers with HTML skills, 177k more marketers have “Social Media” skills, 45k more have “SEO” skills and about 15k more are skilled in InDesign. Hmm, that looks like a great opportunity to set yourself apart from the other job seekers!
We also see a very similar undersupply problem with other languages. Marketers have about the same CSS supply as the general population, at between 1-2%. But the demand for other languages in low and mid-level jobs is about 10x that. Even with SQL, which is a data-heavy language, there is about a 5x difference between supply and demand.
As a side note, almost all of the companies we looked at who requested HTML as a skill have their own development team. So most of those jobs will not require a built-from-scratch website. But they want people familiar enough with HTML that having to deal with it won’t ruin their workflow.
Additionally, most marketing or blogging platforms require rudimentary HTML skills to be understood, meaning that even writers and content creators should familiarize themselves with HTML!
Why is this?
- “HTML” is not a core marketing skill that marketing majors are taught in college. Even with my economics degree, I did not even think about learning HTML until a year after I graduated. But as we see more people coming out of school with computer science degrees, like many hiring managers are hoping, this may correct itself.
Master marketing automation.
As marketing automation tools continue to take over the marketing world, it would behoove any new marketer to be well versed in them. If you are the best at using a certain software like HubSpot or Marketo, you become almost indispensable to some companies.
Plus, the marketing automation industry is growing exponentially each year, with the marketing tech business topping a yearly valuation of $20 billion. In one year, the companies in the space doubled to almost 2000 firms in 2015-2016. And there were more than 4000 marketing solutions or tools in 2016, compared to around 150 in 2011.
That leads us to two of the most popular marketing automation tools: Salesforce and Marketo. Both were moderately demanded across all job levels but were severely undersupplied, although Salesforce was a relatively well-supplied skill, it still covered only half of the demand.
Marketo had it much worse: the supply was so low it did not actually make it into the 100 skills data set. Let’s just say it was closer to 0% than 1%. Even if this was under-reported, the demand immensely outpaced the supply. The exact same can be said for HubSpot!
Why should you care?
- There are thousands of marketing tech tools. Take this as a recommendation to become more familiar with the tools in your particular niche. If you are in an email marketing role, master MailChimp, and it never hurts to learn HubSpot. Even I got certified on HubSpot after a week or so!
- Additionally, Salesforce, Marketo, and HubSpot all have free certification courses that could help you stand out from the crowd. Marketing tech and automation is not going away, so learn it before others catch on.
Part 3: Advice & Final Notes
Want to enter the marketing field? Start at the bottom.
The top skills at the lower level jobs are things that you can gain experience with at other jobs. “Excel,” “Writing,” “HTML,” “Social Media” and “Microsoft Office,” are highly requested at entry and mid level jobs. Those types of skills can be learned at almost any other kind of job and can be used from day one at any marketing position.
But when you look at the skills requested by higher level jobs, they become very specific. Skills like “Management,” “Product Marketing,” “B2B Marketing” and “Digital Marketing” are prevalent.
Those skills can only be gained by taking an entry or mid-level job and working your way up. Because there is not very much overlap between other professions. For example, a high-level finance person is not going to be able to jump into a high-level marketing position. They may have the management acumen but that is about all.
Differ from the pack.
We tried to be very diverse with the marketers we looked at, all 430k+ of them. But we did not expect the top and bottom supplied skills to be so concentrated. Across job levels, five out of the top seven supplied skills were the same, with the top three being exactly the same.
And any skill with the word “Marketing” in it means marketers have it at least 15x more than the general population.
When you look at the most supplied skills they are mostly Core Marketing skills like “Marketing Communications” or “Social Networking.” Additionally, all of the most supplied are not only hard to test the proficiency, they all overlap significantly. For example:
- Social Media = Social Media Marketing = Social Networking
- Marketing = Digital Marketing = Online Marketing = Advertising = Online Advertising
- Leadership = Team Leadership = Management
Those 12 skills can be consolidated into three real-world skills without much effort. The only others in the top 20 supplied skills were Support Skills like Customer Service or Event Planning.
Why is it like this? It could be the simple reason that people simply claim to have all skills that relate to marketing to try to look very skilled.
We think that the homogeneity of popular skills is bad for marketers and businesses. Instead of the top supplied skills being differentiated skills they are all extremely overlapping and similar. Those skills become the new baseline that each marketer should have and we learn nothing about the real skills that set them apart.
Where to go to acquire top skills for 2017:
Here are the skills that we think all marketers should focus on perfecting in the next year. With links to start today:
1. Data Analysis – For Managers.
2. Basic HTML/CSS – Start here.
3. Diversify Your Content Marketing – Here are 8 options.
4. Data Driven Long Form Writing – From Neil Patel.
5. Become a Microsoft Excel Expert –This is great.
We know that there are thousands of ways to learn those skills but we think that is a good spot to begin. And today is the best time to start! There is still time to catch up before you are left behind by the next generation of marketing. Be proactive instead of reactive and you will never be out of a job.