Digital is great for us marketeers right?  It’s (in the main) cheap, flexible and above all, measurable.  I don’t suppose there are many of us that would argue with that.  However, according the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), it seems there is trouble in them there digital hills….

The CIM is a membership based organisation with a global reach, so when they decided to conduct some research on the state of the marketing nation, they had immediate access to an audience of engaged professionals willing to contribute.  At the recent Marketing Capabilities seminar, there were several data points that would be interesting to follow up but discussion about digital driving a skills gap, particularly caught my attention.

First of all, 50%* of us don’t truly understand digital.  Which is not hard to believe really, because even if you understand it on Monday, there is a good chance that by a week next Tuesday, things will have moved on and you won’t have the same level skills that you had before.  And I’m sure the continual increase of digital marketing opportunities, is driven by the advance of the software (and hardware) behind it – so the pace of change is unlikely to be slowing down any time soon.  In short then, the relevance of your skills is a constant moving target.

Recruiting for this environment is challenging and many organisations have chosen to focus on employing specialists.  Nowadays you’ll find roles like eMail Marketing Manager, Paid Search Manager or Social Media Manager, and I would argue that even 5 years ago, your average “Marketing Manager” role encompassed all these activities.  But being a Social Media Manager for example, means that the change you need to worry about is focused, and staying ahead is more manageable.

But, here’s the rub.  Organisations are just now beginning to see they have issues fulfilling senior roles like Marketing Director and Chief Marketing Officer.  These roles traditionally have engagement at board level so they require a credible understanding of the whole business and need to deliver a marketing strategy that supports the wider business perspective – skills that are gradually being specialized out of the marketing department.  So why not select candidates internally and move them through the ranks to gain the required experience?  Well because apparently, there can be a reluctance among specialists to embrace a world beyond their focus area.  And it seems Millennials don’t chase salary – they are motivated by things like personal development and investment, and work-life balance. So you can’t assume there is anyone that would even aspire to be the CMO.

Doing nothing is not an option – one of the other points coming from the research was that 95% agreed marketing needs a much stronger influence throughout the business* (because of our understanding of the customer experience), so the role of CMO is likely to become critical.  Whilst I do not doubt marketing specialists will remain, surely corporations are going to have to start developing graduate marketing schemes that appeal to the bright young things and incentivise, develop and train for the wider business perspective.  Smaller organisations with more limited resources and budgets will have a bigger challenge.  Will they have to prioritise execution over strategy, or vice versa, and contract the outstanding skills into the business?  And if so will that model be robust enough to drive the business forward?  Change is a-coming (again) so what is your view?

*CIM Marketing Capabilities Study 2017