7 Essential Skills for Great Marketers

Marketers need technology skills — or at least a keen understanding of the technologies that make them better marketers.

“If you're not a digital native, you're not going to go far,” Jim Durbin, vice president of digital marketing at Plano, Texas-based Brandstorming.com told CMSWire. “Technology is already moving faster than any of us can adjust to, so if you can't use technology to make yourself more productive, you're no good to anyone.”

Bennet James Bayer, Global CMO and vice president of strategy for Huawei Carrier Software, also based in Plano, Texas, said technology skills are not the “end-all” for marketers.

But he noted that even someone as experienced as his wife, who managed $6 billion in brands for consumer food products during her career, would probably not be able to work at a junior level without a basic understanding of mobile, social, search and email marketing. 

“I don’t believe it is necessarily technology skills so much as an understanding of the related technologies, how and when to employ them,” Bayer said. “That has changed dramatically.”

Marketers’ Checklist 

Technology, though, isn’t the only skill necessary to survive as a marketer, the practitioners told CMSWire. Here are seven things that successful marketers, marketing managers and marketing departments do:

1. Show, Don’t Tell 

Talking only gets you so far. What sounds great in a meeting means little in the practical world.

“It's not about talking about what can be done, it's about showing people how to do more,” Durbin said. “That's what you can do well. Your future boss already thinks you know more than him, but do you know enough to make him better?”

2. Open the Door for Improvement

While you’re tending to massive requests from vendors and looking at ways to get your department moving better, don’t forget one immutable truth:

The biggest investment you make should be with your talent – your junior marketers, for instance.

“You don't improve companies. You improve people,” Durbin said. “If you don't get that, you won't be able to sell them. How do you improve their career? Give them the opportunity to improve. Show them what you can do.”

You can even empower prospective marketers during the interview process -- as a test. Ask the marketer to dig up information using Twitter, LinkedIn, Sitemeter, etc. “Watch them practice their metrics,” Durbin said. “You'll get a sense for their curiosity.”

3. Be Willing to Learn

What about attitude, willingness and ability to learn? Passion?

“I believe this is a part of what drives a person to come to work each day,” Bayer said. “If you don’t feel passion it is rather hard to be an advocate for your business. To me, marketing is about building bridges between the different constituents within an organization and then communicating out. Knowing when to be a peace-maker, when to stand firm and when you might be wrong is a significant part of the domain.”

Always question yourself and every aspect of the business. Make it an internal, daily “continuous process improvement” goal.

4. Learn to Sell

Ask questions. Learn while engaging others.

“I feel every young marketer showing promise should spend at least a year in the field doing sales,” Bayer said. “Few things teach you what works, how to do it and what needs to be done like being out there in front of customers. At the end of the day, marketing is helping sales work smart.”

How many pure online marketers spend time talking to users?

“My guess from asking those I meet is few,” Bayer said. “This attitude and willingness to learn is what separates the leaders from the herd.”

5. Get Out of Dodge

Bayer's best lesson, he says, came early on in his career while working with the Japanese.

"They teach marketing people simply to ask 'why' fives times and then 'go and see.''' Learn. Don't sit in your cubicle reading a report. 

6. Connect with People

So how important are people skills in marketing? 

"The most important aspect," Bayer said. "Being an advocate while being able to listen really engages people."

“I believe listening is all about asking questions,” he said. “Engaged people provide you with actionable feedback. You will not get a project approved, gain the funding, launch the solution or win the client’s trust without people skills.”

7. Challenge Everything

Getting marketing right is a “never-ending process,” Bayer said.

“I always tell my team: I am wrong half the time, you just need to figure out which half. Which I hope inspires them to question everything we are doing, the results of which are usually much better.”