I am always fascinated with amount and diversity of marketing skills required, advised and recommended as Must-Have’s. There are plenty of articles listing the skills (like the recent one in published in Martech Advisor), there is even a new concept for that – Hybrid Marketer, introduced by LinkedIn in e-book “The New Era of the Hybrid Marketer”. The main message for marketers is that they can’t stay focused just on one narrow dimension of the professional expertise – they need to use old and new channels, be both creative and strategic, deals with numbers and content, social media and ads.
Of course, all these materials might be pretty helpful and insightful. Particularly, the e-book turned out a great collection of tutorials on marketing technologies, “how-to” links to multiple resources. The authors definitely did a great job picking up the most interesting and accessible training materials, structuring and compiling everything together. It is for sure promoting LinkedIn services but in a reasonable and fair proportion with overall content. So the e-book is worthy to keep it handy – I would not say printed as its greatest value is hyperlinks.
But when I am reading such articles, I can’t help asking: Are you serious? Do you really believe that anyone under the sun can become an expert in every aspect of digital marketing (which nowadays means marketing at all)?
Let me bring a parallel. Can you imagine an article like “10 must have skills for every doctor” and listing gastroenterology, cardiology together with pediatrics and surgery? If you need it all, there is a General Practitioner, but by all means she won’t consult on ophthalmology – she would just direct a patient to the right professional. Why are marketers supposed to be everything?
The more matured and diverse an industry becomes, the more specialized and focused professionals have to be. The bigger marketing department, the more granular roles it has. You can learn whatever you want, but if you do marketing analytics, it’s probably better to master MS Access and statistics, instead of fancy social media tools. If you are an event marketer, it would be more reasonable to get an event management certification and do not spin your wheels grasping advanced nurturing techniques or elevated content strategies. Why? Your coworkers will do it faster, cheaper and better. The efficiency of division of labor is a historically proven fact.
Indeed, we need to learn as much as we could, stay informed, keep track of new technologies and innovations, but by all means stick to our core specialty – boost and sharpen our hard skills and competencies. Or become a generalist, which usually means working for a small or middle-size companies. Large companies not only looking for very specialized professionals, but they also want to have industry experience. So it’s even squared, doubled specialty.
Of course, there are two important assumptions. First, you are a team player. A group of generalists would never achieve what a team of diverse professionals can do.
Second, you always learn, expand knowledge and skills, though not diffusing them. You have a solid understanding of everything related to marketing, but the closer you are getting to your core skills, the sharper your knowledge is. Rushing from side to side and learning everything in most cases is just losing focus, competitive advantages, strategic approach to our careers.
If you believe that you need to know it all at a leadership level, again, you are wrong. Leaders need totally different competencies. They are not hard skills professionals; their success mostly depends on their soft skills – communication, vision, ability to motivate and drive, strategy building. So knowing tiny pay-per-clicks nuisances is even more useless for them, though certainly they need to know what pay-per-click is.
One more comment on trying to learn everything. You can pin a whole wall with diplomas and certifications, but at the end of the day you need to have stuff done. Your company is not idealistic ad banner where smiling white collar workers are looking at a beautiful chart symbolizing constant revenue growth. The reality is different, isn’t it? You need coworkers getting on board with your ideas, you need approvals and technical support, you have urgent projects and reports, you have an avalanche of phone calls, calendar invites, and text messages. To learn something fancy and cool might be just fun, while finding a way to approve, adjust to a situation you have, maneuver around your corporate processes is a real challenge.
So in majority cases, you are starving communication, self-management, and leadership skills much harder, than tips on transactional emails or podcasting. So think twice about what to learn.