4 Skills Every Marketing Executive Should Have
What’s funny is that if you ask anyone to describe the skills that a marketing executive should have, the first response these days might be something like “digital.” And after that, you might hear marketing strategy, brand development, communications, and any number of “skills.” In fact, look up skills for a typical Vice President of Marketing or Chief Marketing Officer and you might come across charts like this one, which we found from doing a simple Google search. It comes from ZipRecruiter.
And yes, the list is certainly helpful. But it also begs the question: What about other areas? Shouldn’t an executive know about website UX and design? How about mobile? How about marketing automation and email? E-Commerce? SEO? AI and new technologies? Content marketing? Analytics? This list can go on for a long time as you can imagine. Also, how deeply should an executive understand the different areas? Does it need to be understood by the executive’s direct reports? By team members? Someone has to know this well.
That’s the problem with just listing the traditional skills. The factors for success also depend on a lot of other things – an understanding of the industries you’re working in, the business models, audience challenges, the buying cycles, and the core brand of the companies you market for.
That’s one of the many reasons why top jobs in marketing are never easy.
So, for our list – instead of simply listing channel skills or more traditional ones that executives should know, which we don’t think provides a ton of value – we suggest a different way to look at any modern marketing executive’s approach and practice. (The point here is to focus on marketing-specific skills not broader ones – emotional intelligence, budgeting, managing employees etc.)
Without further ado, here are 4 skills we think every marketing executive should demonstrate that they have:
- Understand the Capabilities and Best Practices of the Marketing Channels You’re Using
As an example, let’s take paid search. It’s one thing for your team to know how to, say, place an ad but it’s another thing entirely to do it well and to have a solid strategy and approach for using the tool to reach customers. We’ve seen businesses of all sizes, for instance, mess up on simple basics: implementing poor campaign structures or not paying attention to core metrics (impression share and quality score). As a result, they unwittingly are wasting huge amounts of dollars and potential opportunities.
The same could be said for the resources allocated to any of the channels too. As marketing leader, your team needs to hear from you about how to approach those channels strategically. If you don’t know the capabilities (or are confident that your direct reports know the successful practices in the channel), how will your team execute and do it well? The challenging part today is that each of the channels have unique nuances – and you absolutely need individuals to specialize in those areas. But they too need guidance.
That doesn’t mean you personally have to know the ins and outs of every single platform or channel but you do have to understand what the capabilities are (in the ideal sense) – how the channel or platform is typically used in the buying journey, and also have a standard for what “good” looks like. If you or your direct reports can’t articulate the realistic benchmark of “good,” then you personally need to dig in more.
- Find and Hire People Who Implement the Little Details (and Care About Them)
We get it. Your time is limited. You likely spend at least half your time in meetings with other executives or dealing with crises and/or administrative issues. That’s why if you can’t be present to guide your team, you need to have your direct reports or other team members who understand and care about the implementing your marketing campaigns and efforts to the letter. And let’s face it. Those teams that pay attention to the little marketing details will triumph over those who are sloppier in their approach. That’s just the truth in today’s digital world. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about SEO, content, email, paid search, e-commerce, lead generation or any other marketing area. One small mistake or oversight can cripple your entire campaign, no matter how good the rest of it is.
Many of you may have gotten to the executive suite by being bigger-picture thinkers or great communicators. And maybe that’s where you know you excel too. But if you or your direct reports don’t get more into the weeds these days, it can also hurt your team’s performance. In lieu of hiring an additional director, one thing you can do here is to hire an agency (like Marketing Nice Guys) which specializes in detailed implementations, or one that can help you review campaign best practices through a help desk of some kind.
- Be Able to Articulate a Strategy for How Your Activities Match Your Buyer Journey Goals
The difference between the digital era of marketing and previous incarnations is that you can now measure how well you’re doing at every stage of the buyer journey. You can literally see the effectiveness of your different efforts. With such data, are you able to articulate how your content strategy contributes to different areas of the marketing funnel – from the awareness to acquisition and engagement to conversion? Could you talk about where you want paid search to play a role in that journey? Or email?
One of the big knocks on marketing departments is that they often “just do it” rather than having a plan that cohesively weaves together the different elements of a buyer’s journey toward purchase. Your team needs to understand how you’re approach the marketing with a clear idea of what goals and what KPIs in different parts of the funnel they are measuring.
Similarly, once you have a set benchmark, great marketing executives continue to press their teams to optimize the results and test. They look at data and continually adjust their approach.
- Challenge Yourself to Continue to Learn the Best Practices in Different Channels
No one is suggesting you should “know it all.” In fact, over the years, we’ve met very few marketing executives that could even place an ad themselves in Google Ads or send an email to the right people through the marketing automation platform. But one thing really good executives do is they continue to learn about the capabilities and go into the platforms themselves to see how things really work. Some might claim this gets them into the weeds. But how can you manage people unless you know how systems work? Part of the job as an executive is to show empathy for how much work it takes to produce a good result. If you don’t go into the systems yourself, how can you ever challenge employees to be their best?
Similarly, how can you guide them on targeting or strategy if you don’t know what a system can do or what the best practices are. One thing that we’ve found helpful: Listen to the people who work for you. If you talk to them, they will tell you a lot about how various systems work, what they do day-to-day. Ask them how long it takes them to complete task and then give it a try yourself. Also, don’t be afraid to tag along to the marketing training you might order up for you team. It might be enlightening in ways for new strategies to try or new tactics you can use in different channels.
For many marketing executives, the days of you remaining aloof, focusing on high-level strategy are generally gone. That’s because there’s too much data now – data that you can’t ignore and the same information used by competitors to beat you in terms of optimization. If you’re not paying attention to (at least more of) the little things more closely, you may not be evolving fast enough to focus on the most optimal channels or opportunities. It’s a reason many CMOs find their tenures cut short. We hope that doesn’t happen to you.
At Marketing Nice Guys, we focus on helping individuals and businesses excel in digital marketing. We offer audits of your website for SEO best practices and your current activities in paid media. We also implement or help guide your implementation of all the little details so your campaigns are a success. Learn more about our various services or contact us.