Five Important Marketing Skills You Need for the Digital Age

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Thanks to the rise of digital, perhaps no industry has changed more in the past decade than the field of marketing.  Once the exclusive domain of witty wordsmiths and clever storytellers, today’s most successful marketers are tech-savvy, data-driven and always innovating to meet the ever-changing expectations of their customers.

To thrive in this new information age, here are the tools I believe every modern marketer must have:

Passion for digital media

It is difficult to be an effective marketer without knowing your channel and there is only one channel that is growing: digital. The challenge with digital is it is constantly evolving, and a good 21st century marketer needs to put in a lot of effort just to stay on top. Keeping up with the industry is not just a nice-to-have; you need it to make informed decisions on budget allocation, vendor selection and project prioritization.

You don’t want to invest in a vendor platform that will be useless in a few years, or design web only journeys if consumer media consumption is dramatically shifting to mobile. After being in digital marketing for more than a decade now, I still spend three to four hours reading about the industry every weekend just to keep up.  Needless to say, I have a passion and interest in digital media and I believe that has been essential to my success.

Comfort with analytics

With the shift to digital channels, the amount of data that marketers need to make sense of has grown exponentially. Therefore, companies are looking for people who have the capabilities required to harness this data and put it in a user-friendly format. You also need highly analytical business people who can work with the data and generate actionable insights.

When hiring analysts into our customer acquisition team, one of my opening questions is “how long can you stare at an excel sheet?” If it is anything less than four hours, the person is likely not right for the job, and probably the job is not right for the person.  In the data-rich environment we live in today, and with increasing pressure on demonstrating value on every single dollar of spend, analytical skills are must-have for the modern marketer.

Scientific mindset

Perhaps it was acceptable in the past for marketers to go with their gut. It is no longer acceptable in today’s world, where we can test and measure almost everything. While creativity is still important when making decisions such as which banner to keep or what landing page to launch, we now leave the decision to the ultimate boss – the consumer.

And this requires scientific rigour: Carefully formulate a hypothesis to test, properly set up the test, respect statistical significance when measuring results, leave aside personal biases when making final decisions, and most importantly, go back and iterate. To the uninitiated, this process may seem boring or unglamorous, but it’s now the backbone of what successful marketers do.

Knowledge of behavioral economics

Marketing, at the end of the day, is about changing people’s mind. So, it should come as no surprise that Behavioral Economics, a powerful field that applies psychological insights into human behavior to explain economic decision-making, has emerged in recent decades. After all, it is important to understand how the mind works if you want to be able to change it.

At Amex, we are passionate about behavioral economics and its potential to make us better marketers. And when seeking new blood for our team, we put a premium on applicants who share this passion.

Project management skills

Admittedly, it doesn’t sound as cutting-edge as big data, behavioral economics or multi-variant testing, but project management remains an indispensable skill for the modern marketer. Ideas mean nothing without rigorous execution, and execution needs careful planning, coordinating, monitoring, reporting, testing, etc. Fortunately project management skills are highly transferable and if someone gained this skill set in a different setting, it will most likely transfer well into a digital marketing environment.

Even if you don’t tick all the boxes above, the most important thing is having a “Growth Mindset.” I believe if people have the willingness to change and grow, they can do it. And at my organization we try to provide our talent with ample opportunity to learn and grow.  We also strive to create an environment where brilliant people from different walks of life bring their best to the table, help one another and lift each other up.

Einstein once said “Nothing truly valuable can be achieved except by the unselfish cooperation of many individuals.” We are firm believers in this. As much as we value individual talents, marketing is a team effort and we want team players. In a collaborative environment, the sum is always greater than the parts and this is what we need to continue to be successful in today’s competitive world.

Suat Alaybeyoglu is the Vice President of Consumer Acquisition and Management for American Express Canada.

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