7 Skills New Marketers Must Master

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Experts outline specific concepts, skills, and traits aspiring marketers must possess to build a successful career today.

Skills to pay the (marketing) bills
Skills to pay the (marketing) bills

Marketers often ponder what success requires in today's data and technology-driven environment. Top marketers are agile, they listen, and they've put the customer at the fore. But how?

Industry advice often points toward conceptual tools for success. In no way is this negative; conceptual nuance can make or break a CMO's career, but it takes time to get enough experience to understand those nuances.

However, aspiring marketers have an immediate need to cultivate specific attributes and skills. Fortunately, newly minted marketers have a wealth of educational opportunity. For instance, with the lines between functional departments blurring, marketers can tap into the expertise of sales and tech teams to build their skills. Students are even better poised to cultivate unconventional marketing knowledge through their access to various courses.

Whether student or new grad, today's aspiring marketer has an unprecedented level of access to resources that can help nurture the suite of attributes companies pay top dollar for. Here, this year's winners of the MarketingEDGE Rising Star Award highlight some of these specific skills, what value they have in today's market, and how to learn them.

Stay curious

Successful professionals in any creative field must maintain a strong sense of curiosity. This is especially true in marketing, where math, writing, and visual art must meld seamlessly in unique ways—emphasis on unique. The ever-curious marketer can stay ahead of the industry trends, and perhaps even start them. “You have to be really curious about all the different ways you can connect your customer and what delights them,” says Yvette Lui, director of global data and audience partnerships, Facebook. “Not only that, but you need to have a voracious appetite for all the new forms of marketing and communication.”

Test, and test again

“Many years ago I heard the term ABT, always be testing. You must be comfortable with this,” explains Guillermo Novillo, head of global acquisition marketing, Microsoft. “You always need to be testing and trying new things because there's always room for improvement.”

Indeed, all of that curiosity means little if the theories it births aren't tested. Marketing has always heavily emphasized the importance of gain insight from data, and one way to do so is through testing. Marketers must develop and maintain a habit for testing as early as possible.

Understand finance and accounting

Whether or not the Great Recession is truly over, many companies have yet to loosen marketing budgets. Marketers who have difficulty executing campaigns or implementing strategies that  align with their organization's financial goals are doomed to fail. Aspiring marketers should be as familiar as possible with financing and accounting. “If you're in college I highly recommend taking a financing or accounting course so you can learn to manage a marketing budget,” says Emily Riley, chief operating officer, Ghostery.


Generally speaking, the more varied and… general a marketer's interests are the more agile and successful that marketer will be. However, mastery can go a long way in the budding stages of a marketer's career. “Don't try to be a generalist too early,” OgilvyOne New York's president Dimitri Maex advises. “The first couple of years you need to specialize. Be patient in the beginning and focus on building a strong set of tools early on.”

Fail fast

Marketing requires guts. Not necessarily because the work is arduous, but because failure happens often. Marketers must maintain a thick skin and be ready for criticism; be it of the constructive variant from colleagues or the more hostile kinds often found on the Web. “You have to be willing to fail fast and recover,” says Chris Paradysz, co-CEO of Paradysz. “In a world of indecision, what often happens is no choice is made. As opposed to making decisions that feel all-or-nothing (and they rarely are) learn how to fail. Otherwise, you never stretch.”

Think like your customer

“You have to think like [the] target. You have to put yourself in their shoes. You have to understand what problems your customer is trying to solve. It's really like a muscle you just have to use over time,” explains Carrie Parker, director, American Express OPEN Forum.

Like physical muscles, the earlier marketing conditioning starts and the more consistently it's used, the stronger the muscle becomes. Amid all of the data, analysis, creative, and the other elements of the craft, marketers must work diligently at keeping the focus on the customer. In today's omnichannel world, this is paramount.

Learn design

Marketers with even a basic understanding of design concepts, elements, and technology have a leg up in today's increasingly visual world. Savvy marketers are familiar with the capabilities and potential of creative software such as Photoshop. With creative continuing to factor so heavily in marketing, marketers who ignore these tools risk their careers. “The younger generation needs design skills. They need to know how to work in Photoshop and they must understand design principles,” says Alex Wasserman, co-founder and CEO, TapFwd. “Bridging the gap between user interface and user experience design in marketing is crucial from a product perspective.”

DMNotes is DMN's around-the-clock blog. Yes, a blog in 2016.

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