Top 7 digital skills for marketers in 2021
Digital marketing is increasingly layered in its complexity. As it continues to evolve rapidly, marketers must try to keep up by continually developing their knowledge and capabilities. Here are the top skills you will need in 2021 – and the digital marketing courses to get you there.
2020 has been about all agility and remote engagement for businesses. Digital has played a leading role in enabling business continuity and activity this year. And the new ways of working, selling, buying and marketing we’ve adapted are likely here to stay. Gartner expects new digital commerce trends like live and contactless commerce to continue post-pandemic.
The ‘new normal’ has forced organisations to take stock of their digital capabilities. And the coming year will likely focus on ensuring these capabilities all work together seamlessly, says Mike Zeederberg, managing director at Zuni and instructor at ADMA IQ.
“This also means a strong focus on digital enablement and strategy, with a clear roadmap to improving all aspects of digital capability. Making sure businesses can thrive in a range of scenarios – from complete lock-down, to restored freedom.”
Simone Blakers, customer experience consultant at LiquidCX and fellow instructor at ADMA IQ, agrees.
“The focus for businesses should now be shifting from change management to strategic planning, with particular consideration of the long-term impacts of Covid,” she says. “Future success requires businesses to hold onto the agility they practiced during the height of the pandemic and really lead with their brand values – whilst ensuring they are accessible to customers in ways that meet the new digital expectations.”
Digital marketing and its technologies are an ever-evolving beast. As it becomes more powerful and effective, it also continues to grow in complexity – requiring new skills to unlock its full potential.
ADMA and B&T’s recent Professional Skills Census found that 75% of respondents ranked digital marketing as among the top five most important skills they need now and in the future. Yet 59% of respondents feel they have gaps in this area.
“We are seeing a much broader range of digital skills needed, so nearly everyone will have gaps. It's understanding whether or not those gaps are material to the role they are fulfilling within their organisation that is important,” Zeederberg says.
“The pace of technology evolution means we will continue to need to train and upskill marketers as the landscape changes.”
There are two key skillsets when it comes to digital marketing, according to Zeederberg.
“The first is being able to develop the strategy that will be enabled by technology – from strategic thinking and understanding the customer to an in-depth knowledge of the martech stack’s capabilities.”
The second, he says, is all about the technology itself.
“It’s about operating the platforms and getting them to perform in the way that the sales hype and global conference in Vegas promised it would.”
It’s a highly product-focused skillset. And with an increasing range of components in organisations’ martech stacks, this role is becoming highly specialised.
And then there’s the customer.
Marketers are in a unique position, where they can be the voice of the customer at the boardroom table. They need to put customers at the heart of the product or service to be more effective, says Blakers.
But to truly represent the customer, you need to develop a deep understanding of who they are, their needs and pain points. You need to know how customers use channels, tools and technologies to solve problems – and how you can be part of the solution.
“Then you can develop engagement activities across every channel to help enhance their problem-solving journey,” adds Zeederberg.
So what are the key skills you need to get you there? Let’s explore.
7 top skills you need in 2021 (and the digital marketing courses to get you there)
1. Customer journey mapping
If you want to get to know your audience better, customer journey mapping is a great way to dive deeper. Exploring every touch point along their path to purchase, journey mapping helps you identify gaps and opportunities, and empowers you to create engaging and compelling customer experiences.
2. Digital strategy
Digital marketing without strategy is like driving blindfolded. You know the fundamentals (steer, hit the gas to go and the brake to slow), but if you can’t see the road, you’ll likely crash before you arrive at your destination.
“Digital marketing starts with broad strategic thinking, which needs to turn into a clear set of audience segmentation rules, a content plan, channel strategies and response rules based on segment, behaviour and reaction,” Zeederberg says.
If you can develop a robust strategy – a roadmap for your business – you’re much more likely to get to where you want to be.
3. Channel planning
Digital channels, like social media have seen exponential growth this year. As new channels also continue to emerge and gain popularity, marketers need to be able to plan and optimise them for maximum impact. But first you need to understand the role of each channel and how it fits into your overall strategy to be able to create engaging experiences.
4. Data literacy
Digital marketing relies heavily on data and insights, so developing skills in this area is crucial to effectiveness.
“Marketers need to understand how to connect data streams, and more importantly, interpret this data into insights that are actionable from a marketing perspective,” Zeederberg says.
5. Social media
Social media has become an integral part of our lives – even more so since the onset of the pandemic. It’s also become one of the most effective tools in a marketer’s arsenal. But, like other aspects of digital marketing, social media is multi-faceted.
“There are three core areas within social media that are really important,” says Tim Hill, co-founder and CEO of Social Status and instructor at ADMA IQ. “The first is content – creating engaging posts that capture audience attention. Then there’s listening and data analytics – pulling important insights that inform content creation. Finally, there’s community management – providing front line customer service.
“Practitioners need to understand how these parts are all interconnected.”
People are spending more time online than ever before, consuming more and more content every day. Being able develop an effective content strategy and plan that focuses on customer needs at each touchpoint of their journey is critical for engaging customers.
It’s also helpful to understand the role of content across each channel, be able to measure the effectiveness of campaigns and know your way around words.
7. Voice enabled devices and search
500 million people use Google Assistant every month. Voice enabled devices are gaining ground fast and marketers need to prepare for the new way customers will use search.
“Marketers need to start imagining a world where their customers are connecting with them via virtual assistants and voice search. With particular impact on your content strategy, customer service solutions and your nudge marketing.”
Being able to develop a strategy for voice will allow you to set up a unique and optimised customer experience across these devices.
Recommended courses: Digital Marketing Certificate
Want to know it all? ADMA IQ’s Digital Marketing Certificate will teach you these skills and more – getting you ready for whatever the future looks like.