The Essential Skills and Knowledge
for a Successful Career in Marketing

See also: What are Soft Skills?

The ultimate aim of marketing is to give a hard competitive edge to any company’s products or services.

Reading between the lines, that means you’re in the business of building reputations to make money.

So, it is no surprise that the market for jobs in this popular, demanding and fast-moving industry can be among the most competitive of all.

However, the key to marketing success is neither a hunger for cash nor old-fashioned blarney.

To attain a mastery in the delicate science of persuasion, you’ll need expertise in business, psychology and technology, with an appreciation of the political machinations that can be so important behind the scenes in commerce. And then, just when you suspect you’re on top of it all, the whole marketing landscape will change overnight due to shifting trends and technical innovations.

Above all, if you’re interested in a career in any of the industry’s main specialist areas – Digital Marketing, Social Media & Content Marketing, PR & Communications, Sales or Brand Management – you need to get ahead of the game and the competition.

In order to move forward once you’re in a marketing career, the same rule applies. This is not an industry where you’re encouraged to stand still.

With all that in mind, here’s a reminder of the some of the soft skills and knowledge you should brush up on in order to speed your rise to the top.

Know Your Audience

Organisations and marketing teams all have different areas of specialisation so the majority of your marketing could either be targeted towards B2B or B2C.

You’re likely to end up with experience in both. When it comes to B2C there are core commercial skills to develop. Understanding consumer behaviour, sociodemographic targeting and profiling is fundamental. Increasingly important is the need to keep up with legislation and regulation, especially in regard to digital data. When marketing products and services to other businesses and with such fierce competition out there, you're most likely to increase your brand's recognition when you follow a high-quality B2B SEO strategy with help from professional experts.

Commercial Skills and Awareness

Because you need to understand the requirements of customers, when working at an agency, market research is all-important.

Know your/their products/services and key staff, their company history and industry issues. Read trade publications and company press releases, and watch the financial markets. Also follow them on social media – Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook feeds can all reveal a great deal, as well as subtly demonstrating your genuine interest in their affairs. Knowledge is, of course, not really synonymous with power; but it helps.

See our page on Commercial Awareness for more.

Know how it Feels to be a Mover/Shaker

Test your commercial skills by putting yourself in the shoes of a marketing manager – or company CEO – behind a major recent campaign in your specialist field.

Develop a feeling for the market; work out the motivations and methodology; understand and judge the chosen strategy – and when you discover a potential weakness, come up with a better alternative solution. Whenever you’re assigned a new marketing task, make a point of studying the company’s previous campaigns and discover how they were judged in retrospect. Learn from the successes and mistakes of others.

Technical Skills and Awareness

Anyone on the way to the top in marketing will consider new tech their friend rather than as an unknown, lurking threat.

You can use the latest technology to collate and present market data in new ways, offering gains in efficiency and new potential insights. The analysis of customer data can provide the information needed to make vital decisions; but most importantly technology will provide ever-changing channels for future campaigns.

Know how New Technology will Change the Market

You need to be aware of new online trends before they happen, so that you can offer all the available options for customer engagement, for delivering services and information.

New user-friendly apps and relationship-building tools are constantly changing markets and strategies: best find out about them from their IT innovators rather than from rival companies. Remember, the tools you’re using every day today probably seemed like science fiction only a couple of years ago. In another two years – or just two months – they might appear positively prehistoric.

Critical and Creative Skills

Critical thinking is the cornerstone of any successful career in marketing. This is the ability to analyse ideas and arguments in order to determine their validity.

Critical thinking is well worth studying because it encourages the development of the tools you need to approach problems systematically, and ultimately enables you to consider the justification for your own assumptions, values and beliefs. Once you’re thinking critically, you can then respond to any situation in a creative manner – and contribute to a solution.

Know how to Tell a Great Story

Develop your copywriting skills in order to communicate your ideas as clearly, concisely and consistently as possible.

Building on this creative platform, you next need to attract the attention of a customer with a good story. Any marketing campaign needs to appeal on an emotional level, engaging your audience in way that they will be unable to resist. If you know your customer’s needs, you can create a story that they will find compelling – and persuade them to take action.

Interpersonal and Communication Skills

Marketing demands that you need to understand both the needs of your client, business, and it’s teams, along with the demands of the consumer.

You need to build an empathy for the way other people feel, and learn to communicate thoughtfully and effectively as part of a team. Treat colleagues old and new with the same respect and awareness. Every marketing campaign involves working closely with others, and needs to be perfectly coordinated to ensure effective results.

Know how to Listen and Learn

You can learn about new marketing trends, customer behaviour and available tech by accessing online blogs, tweets and webinars produced by the world’s best marketers.

Why are they willing to share their information and data? In order to demonstrate that they’re the best. Listen and learn. Take on board all the advice and ideas of a respected marketing manager, but don’t be afraid to think for yourself and offer a strategic contribution.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Leadership

The Skills You Need Guide to Leadership eBooks

Learn more about the skills you need to be an effective leader.

Our eBooks are ideal for new and experienced leaders and are full of easy-to-follow practical information to help you to develop your leadership skills.

About the Author

Ruth Jacobs, Managing Director of Randstad Business Support and Randstad Technologies, joined the global recruiting business in 2004.

The Randstad Group is one of the leading HR services providers in the world.