Marketers today are at a serious crossroads. Take this recent Gartner report, which shows that CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs by 2017. Few marketers are technologists or IT specialists, but technology is changing everything about what they do and how they do it. The 21st century marketing landscape requires a whole new way of thinking about interacting with customers, adapting to technologies and translating insights into a return on investment for the entire organization. How can marketing professionals supplement their existing skill sets and get up to speed quickly and dynamically?

Before we delve into how marketers should plan for success, let’s discuss some of the priority skills that are becoming predominant in the marketing field. While CMO’s may not have the time to take a deep dive into every area, they’ll need to be familiar enough to trust and verify the strategy of experts who are handling. Here are five crucial ones, in order of their importance.

1. Analytics

Analytics represent one of the biggest “skills gaps” in marketing. A recent study by OMI identified that the most desired skill in online marketing is analytics, with 37 percent of companies needing data-savvy staff. However, another study from the American Management Association showed that only 26 percent of companies feel they can meet anticipated analytics needs. Analytics are crucial to driving profitable revenue growth -- which is why it’s one of the most important skills gaps to recognize. A common error that marketers make is measuring everything, without knowing what actually impacts revenue. To be successful in analytics, marketers need to research what does and doesn’t matter.

Why do you need it? Analytics are now a routine part of marketing campaigns

How much should you learn? Enough to manage the tools you are using, but you don’t need to become an expert.

2. Mobile

Mobile provides an immediate, contextual channel to reach consumers and has exploded in usage over the past few years. A recent ComScore report shows that 60 percent of “digital time” is spent on smart phones and tablets, and forecasts estimate this number is only growing. Inherent in implementing mobile solutions to your organization is examining the effectiveness of each given channel. For example, mobile apps can be very beneficial to some companies, while others have no need to spend money here. The key is to approach each mobile ad vendor and channel in a highly test-driven, iterative and incremental fashion, and then using analytics to understand what’s working and what’s not.

Why do you need it? People are spending more time on their phones, and making more purchasing decisions than ever. It’s now a primary channel to reach customers.

How much should you learn? Know enough to talk with your in-house team and outsourced vendors effectively -- including the value of mobile for your organization and key terms.

3. Social Media

Social media is a necessary channel for all companies -- not just B2C. We’re all consumers, whether we’re at home or at work. How can a marketer ensure they are reaching the consumers with whom they want to develop a relationship? Watch first, instead of jumping in, and observe pages you like. Make recommendations based on content you find appealing. Once you’ve determined where your audience is interacting, be community-centric. Create a VIP insider feeling for your brand or service by providing “behind the scenes” looks, information about events, promotions, special offers or discounts. With so many alternatives, marketers need to be pragmatic and selective to be successful in social media campaigns.

Why do you need it? Social media is where all types of people go to engage with and learn about brands.

How much should you learn? The ins-and-outs. Social media is simple enough to grasp, and something all marketing pros should be aware of. Even if the responsibilities of posting aren’t yours, you should know how to take control since it’s so dynamic and public-facing.

4. Automation

Being that there are several vital skills to familiarize yourself with -- including analytics, mobile and social --it becomes even more imperative to be efficient. When possible, marketers should look to automation. Marketing automation enables brands to engage prospects with personalized, useful content and execute campaigns on a larger scale through technology. Marketers face a tactical problem in delivering segmented messages to each target audience when audiences become so fragmented. While it may take some time, automation should fit into an organization’s larger sales and revenue strategy. If you’re not thinking about it now, you should be starting to.

Why do you need it? Campaigns are growing in complexity, driving the need for marketers to use automation for efficiency.

How much should you learn? Like with analytics, you should learn enough to manage the tools you are using, but you don’t need to become an expert.

5. Content Marketing

As discussed, analytics help marketers learn more about their audiences, segmentation and the effectiveness of their campaigns. But segmentation brings up a new problem: a lack of segment-specific content. Take this recent New York Times piece from Ashley Parker and Nick Corasaniti, “Data-Driven Campaigns Zero In on Voters, but Messages Are Lacking.” The key learning is that for analytics to be truly useful, you’ll need to be thinking about creative content across all channels, from social to print and online to television. Today’s customers expect and demand a personalized approach.

Why do you need it? With such a strong understanding of customer segments, a tailored content program is important to make sure the right content is being crafted for different groups.

How much should you learn? There are content marketing agencies out there that can handle the heavy lifting, but marketers should have a baseline understanding of the ideas and technologies behind content marketing.

So, how do you get up to speed to succeed?

Marketing is in flux and will only continue to grow more complex. With advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, the successful marketers of tomorrow will be experts in leveraging technology and new marketing tools to remain relevant.

Every marketer should be making ongoing learning and training a priority in their careers. From taking a look into each of the five critical areas above to staying on top of others that may arise, here are a few ways marketers can stay relevant and be prepared for what’s ahead:

  • Be an eager learner of these new technologies. There are a multitude of resources from online learning tools and videos to local meet-ups and expert blogs. The people who are most successful at this are ones who actually roll up their sleeves to learn these technologies. You can start your own blog, build your own brand on Twitter, etc.
  • Interact with the platforms you need. From automation and analytics software to free social media, you can take demos of nearly anything to learn more. Familiarize yourself first-hand. You’re on the right track, reading articles like this one!
  • Ask your HR team for help. Your HR colleagues are in a position to help drive new training programs, but are likely at a loss for what everyone in the organization needs to know. Tap them to see what sort of resources they can provide.
  • Network! It seems simple, but if you just hop on LinkedIn, you’re bound to have connections that have tackled some of these technologies before. Reach out to them to see who might have the information you need.