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Friday, August 1, 2008

Are Marketing and Hard Skills Oxymorons?

I attended SocialMediaCamp Austin this week (and the Mashable Summer Mash party afterwards). This was perfect timing after my recent move to Austin I've been wanting to meet people down here. And did I ever. Lots of great people here in Austin with some interesting things going on.

But, the point of this post is to examine something I heard in one of the morning sessions at SMCamp by Scott Allen. Unfortunately, my notes are sketchy because I was trying (fruitlessly) to connect to the (nonexistant) WiFi. But, his topic was on developing stronger 'soft' skills in Marketing, specifically around building strong relationships with prospects and customers through online media.

He made some good points about as communicators we need to make sure that we're able to get through to people, especially as these channels become more common for personal and business use. It's has always been important for marketers to understand people generally, now we are going to need to be able to understand people individually.

And the point about soft skills has finally spurred me to write a post that I've had kicking around my head for a while.
Marketers should also cultivate some hard skills. My definition for 'hard skill' is something that must be formally studied, learned, and practiced to be usable. (Like most of these 10 skills.)

The question then are what kinds of skills should marketers be developing?

The answer is that there are plenty of areas in marketing that having actual skillsets will help you shine. A few of the ones that affect my work are:

  1. Writing -- Seriously, if you aren't practicing your writing skills often, and preferably more than just long-winded emails, then you should get cracking. The ability to write well, on deadline, and about diverse topics puts you ahead of many people, even in this industry.
  2. Search Engines -- I have a confession. When I interviewed for my current job 3.5 years ago and was asked if I knew about search engine marketing, my response was "Oh yes, I use Google for searching all the time." As I have learned in the past 3 years, there are technical, tactical, and strategic aspects to SEM/SEO that require much more than typing words into the search box.
  3. Web Analytics -- With analytics becoming more and more common, and simple to set-up, having even a basic understanding is within anyone's grasp. And, if you're a nerd like me, you can dig past general traffic numbers and start looking at the deeper patterns. Analytics are a great way to dust off your critical thinking skills, if you need to.
  4. Email -- To be specific, I don't just mean putting together the layout. I mean understanding how clients render emails differently. Knowing what CSS is supported (or not, thanks for nothing Outlook '07). Knowing what 'deliverability' means and how it affects your mailings.
  5. HTML/CSS -- I write a lot of our Web content (there's that writing again) and will occasionally have to wrestle with our CMS to get things looking just right. Because I work for a small business, I'm also responsible for our site templates. And believe me, even knowing what I'm doing it's scary to go mess around with those.
  6. Advertising -- This can go two ways. Either honing your visual creative skills with programs like Photoshop, or understanding the back-end of how ads are sold, delivered and tracked.
  7. Other Departments -- Learn something about the other departments in your company. When I worked in direct mail, I was on the client services side but found it very valuable to my job to learn about the production processes, even working on the line for some of our machines. That experience was invaluable as I tried to plan the most efficient ways to complete projects for my clients.
I'm sure that there are plenty of other skills, especially if you're more on the business side, that you can develop. But the point that I want to make is that as relationships become more important, and as communication between customers and companies continues to open, marketers will have a huge opportunity to be facilitators.

The best way to position ourselves to be ready for that transition is to learn skills outside our specific job functions. We need to be, if not fluent than at least conversational, in the languages of other departments that will be interacting with our potential customers.

Please leave your comments on any other skills, either in marketing or out, that you have learned, or feel would be important to learn.


cynthia said...

Social media is a terms for the tools and platforms people use to publish, converse and share content online. The tools include blogs, wikis,and sites to share photos and bookmarks.Social networks and social media are the dynamics of social media increasingly visible at the event level.It is a model evaluation can move from aggregate statistics over snapshots.
cynthia jacquline

Social Media Marketing