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The need for digital skills

Written by Daniel Rowles on Tuesday, 07 July 2020. Posted in Online, Sales & Marketing

How can SMEs, entrepreneurs and start-ups compete against global organisations with bigger teams and resources?

The need for digital skills

How can SMEs, entrepreneurs and start-ups compete against global organisations with bigger teams and resources? Digital marketing is a great battleground to start in, but we need to work out the weaknesses of our competitors and take a serious look at our own abilities to get the most from the opportunities on offer.

So how can we understand those weaknesses and opportunities? A new piece of research, the Digital Marketing Skills Benchmark, provides some helpful insight.

The Digital Marketing Skills Benchmark is the first study of its type and scale that looks at skills across such a wide range of industries and levels of seniority. Rather than being opinion based like many other studies, the core of the benchmark actually assesses the skills of thousands of individuals.

This approach allows for a frank look at digital marketing skills and identifies a range of skills gaps and challenges that need to be overcome in order for businesses to thrive.

Why does this matter? Well, digital marketing is increasingly critical to business success and spend is increasing year on year. Figures from the Advertising Association (AA) and Warc show spending on search and online display grew by 17.8% and 17.4% respectively in 2019, while TV advertising fell by 3.5%.

Meanwhile, the skills needed for successful digital marketing are changing all the time. One of the central findings of this research is that digital marketing is constantly and rapidly developing and many people are failing to keep up.

In short, if businesses are to succeed in the digital world then they need to make sure they have the right skills in their marketing teams. So what are the central findings of our research into those skills and and what do they mean for business?

Lack of progress in the last two years (which hides a deeper problem)

When we look at a comparison of knowledge levels now against two years ago, when the Digital Skills Benchmark was first compiled, we can see only small percentage increases in some areas, and no change at all in others. Skills have plateaued, but, the story is more complicated than that.

Mid-senior level management knowledge has drifted across many digital disciplines

In many head of department level roles, knowledge has slipped over the last two years. Thus indicating that in many organisations there may be a growing mid/senior-management level skills gap. This should really be a wake-up call for many organisations, as the very people they rely on to manage the teams implementing their digital plans, are seeing their skills worsen.

This also suggests that small and agile businesses, with highly skilled marketers but fewer management roles, may be able to outdo their larger rivals.

Social, SEO and Usability are getting more complex

Social Media, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Usability have all seen slight decreases in scores since the initial report two years ago. This is indicative of the increasing complexity of these disciplines. User expectations of our apps, websites and social interactions are increasing and therefore the technologies that allow us to create these experiences have become more complex.

Without continually improving skills in these areas an organisation’s position in the market will move backwards.

Junior roles have significantly increased their knowledge levels

At the intern, assistant and executive levels we have seen very significant levels of improvement across a wide range of digital disciplines. This shows considerable improvement in training and education for entry and junior level positions and potentially a clearer knowledge of the importance of these skills in this group.

There has been an expectation that the next generation of “digital natives” will enter the job market already highly skilled in digital technology and this research does seem to bear this out.

So what can business learn from these results?

The most pressing finding is that if we don’t continually update our skills they will become out of date very quickly. The businesses that succeed will be those who invest in the skills of their marketers. We need to develop a culture of ongoing learning within our organisations, at all levels of seniority.

Our research also suggests that very few organisations are doing this. Despite businesses increasing their spend on digital marketing, the skills in their marketing teams have, at best, plateaued.

There is a big risk, therefore, that businesses are not getting the bang for their digital marketing buck. On the other side of the coin, there is a clear opportunity for those businesses that do invest in training.

Finally, it’s a good sign that the next generation are coming through more highly skilled than the last. But it is nonetheless essential that the people who manage them have a strong enough understanding to be able to shape their organisation’s strategic marketing approach.

Digital marketing is a rapidly changing area; the only way to keep up is to adopt an equally agile approach to training and development.

To download the report or benchmark yourself click here: targetinternet.com/benchmark.

About the Author

Daniel Rowles

Daniel Rowles

Daniel has been working in Digital Marketing for the past 19 years, with extensive experience working both client side and within the agency environment. He is a Course Director for the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), a certified Google Squared trainer and a lecturer at Imperial College and Cranfield School of Management.

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