Why are so many marketers so under-skilled?

A few months ago, I wrote a couple of posts around the worrying lack of digital marketing skills and where marketers can go to start upskilling.

Since then, a number of in-depth reports and articles on the topic have come across my desk. They’re saying that the digital marketing skills gap is even wider than many expected, and it looks like it’s only going to widen in 2017 and beyond.


  1. Because the industry is evolving so quickly – it’s the nature of the beast
  2. Because traditional marketers were never taught these new skills – and sadly neither were many graduates
  3. Because those with these skills can earn more outside of marketing – you don’t see too many data analysts in marketing teams despite the fact data analytics is one of the most sought-after skills right now

So, what does this mean for marketers trying to progress their careers? And what does it mean for the leaders of these marketing teams?

Let’s start by looking at what the gaps really are.

My own experience, along with the information I have gathered from in-house and agency hiring managers, says that it’s not so much the breadth of digital marketing skills that’s missing as the depth of those skills. For example, most of the candidates I work with have listed skills like content marketing, marketing automation, and social media on their resumes. But when pressed for practical examples, a large number struggle to really show evidence of a deep understanding for each of the disciplines.

I have also found that more technical marketing skills, including SEO, are still very rare – despite the high earning potential and the fact that the industry has been touting SEO for years now.

Other research, including from Venngage has found that content creation, marketing automation, data analytics and even coding, are all skills that are under-supplied.


Caption: Research by Ryan McCready at Venngage surveyed the skills listed by 436k marketers on LinkedIn and compared them to the top 100 skills listed by job posters.

What does it mean for marketers?

It very clearly means that you need to be learning and growing all the time. I know that this isn’t easy for the average marketer, who often has so much on his/her plate that after-hours training is very unappealing, but as the year comes to an end, I’d suggest that you use your time wisely. Read, think and talk about the various digital marketing disciplines open to you, and pick one or two that are interesting. Then sit down and draft a plan to gain those skills in 2017 – ideally through a combination of courses, events and work-related projects.

It wouldn’t hurt to subscribe to a couple of high-quality industry blogs (or this one and we’ll keep you in the loop) to keep abreast of all the changes.

What does it mean for marketing leaders?

In my mind, there are two key lessons for marketing leaders:

a) You need to be in the know – always

Too many business leaders are reluctant to accept the fact that embracing digital marketing is no longer optional. The bottom line is that you can be certain that your biggest competitors are using digital marketing to try and gain an advantage over you. Whether you respond proactively or reactively is entirely up to you, but so are the consequences.

If you feel that you haven’t given all this enough thought, this report by the Digital Marketing Institute is a good place to get started.

Events are also a fantastic resource. Marketing conferences – including the Inbound and Dreamforceconferences in the US – are great for seeing digital marketing innovation at its best and networking with leaders who are seeing the results of embracing digital marketing.

b) It’s no good investing in marketing software if your team isn’t properly trained

In the IT world, it’s well known that a piece of software will only be as effective as the people who use it – and that getting people to use it properly is often the hardest part. An entire science, change management, has developed around it.

Marketing software doesn’t come cheap, so you want to make sure you have the best chance of success with your chosen solution. It would be unwise to expect your team to master things like content marketing, data analysis or SEO without proper training on the tools they’ll need to use – e.g. Eloqua, Salesforce, HubSpot or Google Analytics.

At the end of the day, you’ll need to either recruit marketers with these new digital skills, invest in upskilling your current team, or better yet, build a long-term recruitment plan that combines both strategies.

How can Invoke help?

Invoke helps businesses build first-class marketing and business development teams. We have been where you are now, and we understand how difficult it is to lead a marketing team today.

We have a world of experience, a huge network, and the desire to see your marketing team reach new heights.

If you’ve found this post helpful and would like to chat or if you’d like help with your marketing team, please get in touch! Feel free to pop Jo a mail at or give us a call +44 (0)1525 290 870

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