Core Marketing Skills for 2021


By Jessica Houston – School of Marketing Ambassador

As we head into a new year, people and skills remain a key talking point for senior marketing leaders.

We know that continuous learning and development is a must-have for businesses in the modern world. Just look at the effect the global pandemic has had on organisations in such a short space of time. We’ve seen companies pivot to digital, completely changing the way they operate and serve customers, and with it, comes a need for a different strategy. Companies should be thinking about upskilling and reskilling their employees going into the new year to cope with these organisational changes. 

Adopting a training programme that allows staff to remain at the forefront of any industry changes will help marketers stay agile and improve company productivity. So, what are the core skills needed in today's world for marketers to thrive? 


Upskilling your marketing team 

A typical marketing team will likely consist of marketers with a mixture of training, including those with some professional training level and those who have landed a marketing role and learned on-the-job. On the one hand, this stark difference makes this industry so great to work in - there are people with many talents and bring diversity in thought and ideas. However, this does mean that there's a gap in professional marketing training. 

Therefore, it is essential for marketing leaders to first understand the makeup of skills within their team to assess training needs at each level of the organisation and make decisions on where and how to invest. 

There are broadly two marketing routes: becoming a generalist marketer or a specialist in a chosen area. Getting the balance right is essential, but there is a broad level of marketing knowledge needed at every level to create successful strategies and campaigns.  


The generalist marketer

Understanding the fundamentals of marketing strategy and planning is crucial to becoming a successful marketer. It is the baseline for all great marketers, and this stuff doesn't change. The industry's theories and models have proven to work time after time - and so having this toolkit is essential. 

"People say that everything in marketing is changing. They are wrong. The marketing fundamentals don't change, how they are executed changes. It's time we recognise the difference to become true and dynamic marketers who are ready to take on the future" Ritchie Mehta, CEO at School of Marketing.

The fundamentals of marketing cover: 

  • Market research and insights 

  • Segmentation and targeting 

  • Positioning 

  • Marketing strategy 

  • Product development 

  • The role of integrated communications and digital 

  • Brand

This training should be the priority for marketers, particularly marketers who are working with senior stakeholders to set business and marketing strategies. By undergoing quality training in these areas, marketers should feel more confident having conversations and making strategic decisions. 

But, it's not just about knowing the fundamentals. The way we deliver marketing campaigns today is very different from 10 years ago, and will also be different in even two years. So, keeping a finger on the pulse of innovation in the industry is equally important. 


The specialist marketer 

When we talk about specialist marketing expertise, we are talking mainly about digital. Marketing automation, advertising, and media require technical expertise to plan and execute, making it difficult for generalist marketers to dive into the details. This is where marketing leaders need to understand the business's objectives and requirements and identify where they have talent gaps. From here, they can consider putting individual team members onto a training course, recruit new talent or work with a specialist agency to ensure they have the relevant skills to do the job. 

Specialist marketing skills include:

  • Marketing automation 

  • Content marketing

  • Social media 

  • Media planning and buying 

  • SEO (search engine optimisation) 

  • Analytics

We see many young people starting their marketing careers in the digital area, which is a brilliant opportunity for their development and the organisation. Many specialist skills require in-depth knowledge and time to execute on so empowering more junior members of the team to upskill in these areas, will free up more time for senior marketers to focus on strategy. 


Changing the way education is delivered

The delivery of training is also an important consideration. It's not all about being in a classroom and learning. Over the last year, we've seen how education is evolving at a rapid pace to suit the needs of the consumer. Providers are switching to virtual learning with various class styles and content used to keep courses engaging. There are many advantages to this. Offering virtual learning opens up accessibility, removing the need for people to travel and reducing costs. We also know that a proportion of learning happens on the job. That's why training providers must make the learning practical to take what students learn in the classroom and action it in their organisation. 

At the School of Marketing, we have developed modern marketing practices to educate marketers in their careers.

Download our digital marketing apprenticeship brochure to learn more about our upcoming apprenticeship scheme.