Digital marketing skills outpace professional development in the South East

New research published by training body Target Internet, in association with the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), reveals that the core digital skills marketers rely on have improved but the growing demands of new and evolving technologies are contributing to a skills gap.

This year’s report analyses data from more than 10,000 marketing professionals, gathered between 2018 to 2023, and highlights key short and medium-term trends, opportunities and challenges across the marketing sector.

Rapidly changing marketing landscape impacts skills required by marketers

A separate study carried out by CIM highlighted the complex environment in which marketers operate. Worryingly, one in five respondents (19%) stated they felt they only had some of the required skills to successfully carry out their roles, whilst almost four fifths (79%) believed the skill set required for the job had changed completely over the past decade. 

With many marketers in the South East being forced to adapt to a variety of emerging technologies, including generative AI, Google Analytics 4, Web3, an ever-growing Martech stack and an increasing number of social media platforms, it comes as little surprise that the range of skills expected from marketing professionals continues to expand.

The pace of development in the sector means that as the range of skills expected from marketing professionals continues to increase, businesses have to dig deep and continue to invest in training and development in times of economic uncertainty.

Marketing skills see growth but skills gaps remain

The report found that there has been a general upward trend amongst key marketing disciplines with social media (+8%), e-commerce & lead generation (+5%) and email marketing (+5%) seeing the greatest average improvements, whilst content marketing (+1%), analytics & data (+2%) and PPC (+2%) saw more modest increases.

However, despite a general upward trend, improvements in most digital marketing areas remain relatively low, and are still far from universal. There is clearly a marketing skills gap with several disciplines only seeing slight increases from pre-pandemic levels and some areas having still not recovered.

The rapid pace of change in the marketing sector means it can be difficult for marketers to remain up-to-date and relevant, which impacts a team’s ability to meet business objectives, thus impacting the bottom line. Sustained investment in training is needed to ensure that teams have the requisite skills they need to compete in the crowded marketing space.

Skill gaps vary across levels

The research found that marketers have generally improved their skills over the past 12 months but that some of the more junior roles had regressed, demonstrating a clear case for skills to be updated through continuous training.

Interns’ skill levels have seen a general upward trend compared to last year with the most significant increase in general marketing (+18%).

Assistant/graduate-level roles have seen the least amount of progress, with scores drifting back in four of twelve areas, with the only area of significant progress being social media (+9%). 

In contrast, marketers in head of department roles report progress in all but one area of capability in the benchmark tests, while those at director level demonstrated progress in all twelve areas of competency, taking these groups in line with, or above, the all-seniority average. 

Confidence vs ability

The benchmark also suggests a gap exists between confidence and actual skill levels across the majority of tech-driven marketing disciplines. With the exception of marketing theory, email, e-commerce and lead generation, confidence levels consistently outstrip actual ability. This was most evident in content marketing, usability and social media. 

Daniel Rowles, CEO of Target Internet, said: “This year’s benchmark outcomes underscore significant opportunities as well as notable risks for businesses of all kinds.

“Companies and individuals that adopt a culture of continuous professional development have a genuine chance to distinguish themselves, especially as technology continues to develop at pace.

“Moreover, it emphasises that reducing investments in training proves to be an ineffective strategy for increasing productivity and driving growth.”

Chris Daly, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, added: “Despite the challenges we’ve all experienced over the past couple of years, I’m pleased to see that skills are increasing.

“However, the report’s findings should act as a wake-up call for marketers to invest in their training and development.

“The range of skills expected from marketing professionals continues to expand, which gives us new opportunities to drive change and demonstrate our industry’s value.

“But to do this, it is vital marketers remain cognisant of the rapidly changing marketing landscape and keep up to date with professional development – or risk getting left behind.”

To read the full 2023 benchmarking report, click here.

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