5 top skills for marketing professionals

Business Trends

5 Must-have skills for marketing professionals

Posted 18 May

Marketing is about meeting client needs in such a way that you or your organisation manage to make an acceptable profit when you sell your goods and services to your customers. The more you can improve your own skills, the more successful a marketing professional you’ll become, and by extension, the more effectively you’ll be able to run marketing campaigns, plans and projects to the financial benefit of your organisation.

You’ll learn plenty about the wide palette of marketing tools and tricks on any good marketing course. What we’re looking at here is something else – it’s the must-have skills for marketing professionals which will make the day-in and day-out of your marketing job more successful, and more enjoyable.

For the purposes of this article, our definition of professional marketing skills is the range of personal skills you need to bring to the table in order to be a successful marketing professional, as opposed to the marketing theory or knowledge you could acquire by reading a book or following a marketing course.

Galway Business School

Galway Business School

Marketing skill #1: Flexibility and adaptability

The first marketing skill is your ability to stay flexible and adaptable to the world around you. Your clients are, at best, fickle. Almost as soon as you think you’ve understood your clients well enough to be able to market your product or services to them, they’ll begin to change. If you consider change to be more of an evolution, you’ll see that client needs are simply always in a state of flux. By being flexible and adaptable, you’ll accept that change itself is the only constant. Think of it as keeping you on your toes, and not getting complacent. The real skill as a marketing professional, especially if you’re in a marketing manager or marketing director role, will be to ensure that when there is a shift in demand, preference, distribution channel, or some other element of your marketing mix, that not only you but the whole organisation can flex and adapt quickly enough to keep your customers and stay ahead of the competition. One obvious example of this during the COVID-19 crisis is the varying rates with which companies have switched to online ordering and home delivery of goods and services.

Marketing skill #2: Managing stakeholder expectations

The second marketing skill is being able to manage expectations and keep control by knowing the most and having the confidence to know when to deviate from your marketing plan, or stick to your guns and carefully put people in their place! By ‘stakeholders’ we mean anyone who may have a connection to (and an opinion about) your organisation, your product or service, and the way you are currently marketing it. More often than not though, we’re talking about other colleagues and superiors. As a professional marketer in your organisation, you need to know undeniably more than anyone else about the product or service you’re offering, the marketplace (supply, demand, competitors, innovations), different consumer markets (segments, niches, geographical, demographic) and exactly where you fit in, and where you’re trying to get to. Your own basic marketing skills will provide you with your own checklist of what is important to your own particular market and context.

The reason you need to absolutely outstrip your colleagues when it comes to marketing information is that as a marketing professional you will, on a daily basis, be bombarded with other people’s great ideas.

The biggest culprits tend to be general managers, CEOs, board members and other managers on your level, who have time to read the news every morning and will not hesitate to send you daily links and insights intended to influence your thinking. Worse still is when it’s unclear why they’re sending you the latest idea or thought, and you’re not sure whether you need to act on it, or just thank them for their contribution.

This is a problem because their great ideas (which are only rarely any better than anyone else’s great ideas) may carry with them a hierarchical weight and an expectation that you will definitely be incorporating their great ideas into your new marketing plan, or heaven help us, you’ll need to essentially stop the marketing campaign you all agreed on 4 weeks ago, to do the new shiny thing.

Your skill and dexterity in managing expectations is critical. If you keep abandoning one idea, marketing plan and strategy for the next one, you’ll never complete anything, and the risk is that you will be judged as having not achieved anything. So your marketing skill, or superpower will be to have your finger on all of the information, report your insights upwards on a regular basis, and provide those above you with clear information as to what the new information means, and how it will affect your approach.

GBS Guest Speaker delivering a marketing presentation

GBS Guest Speaker delivering a marketing presentation

Marketing skill #3: Project management

The third marketing skill to work on is your ability to manage a project effectively. Project management is a whole skillset in its own right, and if your organisation is big enough, you may have one or many project managers whose full time job it is to keep checking on the progress of carefully specified tasks. Good project management ensures you’re delivering your marketing campaign/website project/brochure launch/product update/comms strategy/Google Ad campaign smoothly, on time and on budget.

If you don’t have that scale of operation, now is a great time to read up on project management so it becomes a part of your basic marketing skillset. This will also help you manage internal expectations too, as generally, your line manager will always want to know how you’re progressing an any given project at any random time that you happen to pass each other in the corridor. Be armed and ready to answer those questions – because, honestly, the more in control you are, the more they’ll leave you to it. Top tip, if you use a piece of software to manage your marketing project – popular ones include Asana, Trello, Monday, ClickUp, Microsoft Project - you can give your senior leaders read-only access to all of your projects. This way, you put the onus on them to stay up to date on the many different projects you’re working on, and only a few will ever actually take the time to look in detail. If they do, they will almost certainly add value to your work by questioning certain aspects, and helping you to tweak the delivery.

Marketing skill #4: Communication skills

Has anyone ever told you that you should be more confident? It’s the easiest thing to say, and the hardest thing to do, but in sales and marketing, you need to lay down strategies to ensure you communicate effectively. You might end up attending a course, but you might also just want to read up on effective communication skills and strategies, and see what you can pull out of the bag.

If you tend to be more introverted, you can still be a skilful marketing executive. Simply let your systems and processes take the strain. You don’t have to be the mouthpiece of the entire organisation, just ensure that regular communications are taking place, and that someone is doing it. Think about all of your stakeholders, use some of your own basic marketing skills to segment those stakeholders, and develop personas for each. What are your board members like? What do they want to know? How often and in what format? What about other people in the marketing team? What would it be helpful for them to know each week? How do you communicate your fears and concerns and your uncertainties around a certain project? How do you communicate your marketing successes to your superiors and the wider organisation? What do you need to be telling your customers on a regular basis? How should you be using social media to reach your target groups.

International Marketing Lecture at GBS

International Marketing Lecture at GBS

Marketing skill #5: Resilience

As we write this, we’re in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, probably the biggest crisis in your living memory. Companies are falling apart and failing left, right and centre, and in spite of everyone’s best efforts, there may simply be no successful outcome for many organisations.

Sometimes called the school of hard knocks, or the school of life, resilience is about your ability to bounce back from difficult situations, mistakes, conditions beyond your control, surprise competitor moves and more besides.

Whilst the best way to develop the skill of resilience is to spend 20 years in a marketing job, there are other ways too! You can develop your brain to cope better with knock backs and adversity. You can read articles on developing resilience and you can request training and development as part of your annual training budget. You can also develop this important skill through your free time activities, including things like team sports and adventure activities which will help you to put into perspective some of the issues you encounter in your marketing day job.

Whether you have been in a senior marketing position for some time, or you’re new to marketing and you’re looking to develop your skills for the first time, remember that you’re not alone. Marketing has a critical role to play in any organisation, but as with all functions in a company, marketing works best of all when it’s fully integrated into the organisation.

By being flexible and adaptable to change, aware of stakeholder needs, a great project manager, and skillful communicator and resilient to setbacks, you will have a great set of tools to heighten your chances of success. Good luck and keep us posted on how you get on. What other marketing skills do you think are important? Let us know on social media or via the contact form.

Galway Business School is located in Galway, Ireland so you’ll be studying not only at one of Ireland’s leading private business colleges, but also in one of most beautiful coastal locations. We offer a wide range of business programmes, from undergraduate business degree to short certificate programmes. 

Our semester-long certificate programmes are accredited by QQI and on completion, you’ll receive a QQI Certificate at level 6 or 7 on the National Framework of Qualifications and the associated ECTS (European Credit Transfer Scheme).

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