7 vital skills for today’s marketers

Your responsibilities have grown and morphed significantly over the past decade, and that momentum will continue. Here are key areas to address now and for the future.

It’s downright staggering how marketing’s best practices have changed in the past 10 years.

Consumers aren’t using catalogues, radio advertising, direct mail or trade shows to make decisions any longer—at least, not at nearly the rate they once did. Social media, content marketing, apps and personalized advertising are in.

The trove of data isn’t a mysterious asset closely guarded by the IT department any longer, either. Big data is a necessary and accessible element for making marketing and other business decisions.

Whether you’re a seasoned marketer, small-business owner or aspiring practitioner, you need the skills listed below to bring your career up to date. We’ve also gathered expert insights on the skills that will serve you best in the years to come. If building relationships and revenue today and tomorrow is what you’re after, read on:

1. Social media

Social media is still the most popular online activity. However, social media in 2015 looks significantly different from the way it did in 2011, or even in 2013. Facebook once reigned supreme, and it’s still supremely popular, with around 56 percent of adults participating.

However, multi-platform use is on the rise. Consumers are now more likely to divide their time among Facebook and other platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. Sharp marketers are doing the same.

Between recent changes in Facebook’s algorithm, an increase in paid social advertising and shifts in consumer behavior, today’s marketers do not focus solely on how to create a great Facebook post. They’re also savvy researchers who know how to discover the platforms their customers are using and build a presence there.

Focus less on platform-specific skill sets and more on the authentic, interpersonal aspects of social media marketing, and your campaigns are likely to shine.

2. Content marketing

Several years ago, blogging was a potent element of marketers’ efforts to see success. Today, blogging is still a remarkably effective tool, and HubSpot reports there are 31 percent more bloggers today than in 2012.

However, blogging is just one form of content, and great marketers take a comprehensive view toward building a content marketing strategy.

Marketers with a passion for content must be able to write, edit and articulate concepts well. They should have a capacity for conceptualizing and creating visual content, creating relevant stories off breaking events (news-jacking) and taking a cross-platform approach to telling brand stories.

Download the free white paper, “How to be a brand journalist,” to learn how to tell your organization’s compelling stories.

3. Lead generation

Marketers can’t focus solely on driving Web traffic or gaining a social media following. The art of lead generation is crucial for exceptional inbound marketing, and it can’t be overlooked in today’s highly competitive atmosphere.

What does exceptional lead generation look like in 2015 and beyond? It could encompass e-books, white papers, webinars or other on-demand resources. It will probably include well-designed landing pages, too.

However, the most essential aspect of lead generation is the concept of give and take. You ask your prospects for just enough information that they’re comfortable opting in to your email list; in exchange, you offer them valuable, relevant information.

4. Email marketing

Email marketing is not dead. Spam and obnoxiously aggressive email marketing campaigns should have died years ago, but truly great email marketing is here to stay.

Exact Target reports that nearly half of consumers make at least one purchase per year based on email marketing, and some 56 percent of marketers plan to increase their email marketing budget in the year to come.

Though best practices are likely to change, exceptional email marketing campaigns are always highly informative, personalized and relevant to the recipients. Developing the ability to intelligently segment a list and target messages accordingly will serve inbound marketers well.

5. Relationship building and networking

Marketers are essentially connectors: They connect consumers with desired products or service solutions and connect their employers with a steady stream of new revenue. Marketers’ success hinges on their ability build relationships both on- and offline.

Marketers must develop and project a consistent personal and professional brand online through social media and content marketing. They need the customer service skills to engage professionally with prospects and customers in online forums.

Perhaps most important, marketers shouldn’t overlook offline events for marketing their brands, which Content Marketing Institute reports are still among the most effective marketing methods.

6. Web technologies and user experience

Nearly all consumers (97percent) look up a product or service online before making their final purchase. A company’s website is its online calling card.

Must all inbound marketers be able to code a beautiful, mobile-responsive website from the ground up? Not really, especially if they can outsource their Web design to an agency or on-staff IT professional.

However, every marketer must distinguish between good and bad Web design and be able to articulate the differences in a more detailed manner than simply stating, “That is one ugly website.”

Understand a bit about the behavioral psychology principles behind user experience. Know how humans and technology interact, as well as how this should affect your site’s design, layout and load times. Keep up to date on best practices, and your brand will probably not inflict a terrible website on visitors.

7. Customer service

If there is a single aspect of marketing that will never, ever change, it would be customer service. Organizations that put consumers first, such as Whole Foods and Nordstrom, experience growth and high customer satisfaction year over year. The focus on your marketing campaign should be to make your prospects happy and reward your established customer base.

Regardless of whether you’ve been marketing for 20 years or you’re just breaking into the field, remember that you are ultimately a customer service professional. As a public-facing member of your enterprise, your primary role is to represent your brand and ensure high satisfaction with your organization. Every single marketer can benefit from continual attention to their customer service skills. This applies to every professional.

What skills do you think are crucial to inbound marketers in 2015 and beyond? How do you feel they’ve changed over in recent years?

Jasmine Henry is a digital marketer at Inbound Marketing Agents. A version of this article originally appeared on the Inbound Marketing Blog.

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