9 skills every marketing manager needs to look for


In the past eighteen months as a marketing organization, we have spent a significant amount of time realigning strategy, reallocating resources, and in some cases hiring new marketing employees. So what’s driving this recent hiring and shifting? The dramatic changes and the rate of change that is happening in the field of marketing.

This is not a surprise to most of you. ‘Marketing’, as a concept and discipline, is evolving a new meaning—with new channels, new approaches, new drivers, and new expectations. And, marketing being marketing, there’s no shortage of new ‘buzz words’ to go along with it… All this ‘new’ makes life tough for marketers and marketing managers alike. How do you hire, and get hired, in this environment?

It’s clear that marketing managers must look for evidence of different skills and experience, when evaluating applicants. But just what to look for is open to debate. Recently I came across a blog post from Kathleen Schaub, Vice President of Marketing, Sybase, which succinctly captures this in a way I can agree with. Of the eight skills mentioned in Kathleen’s post, “Eight Skills for Tomorrow’s Marketers”, the following six, taken almost directly from her post, are vital for our B2B tech environment:

  1. Sales Skills: Now that 100% of B2B buyers repeatedly touch the web (both vendor's sites and those of 3rd parties) throughout the buying process, marketing must stay active from "cold to close". No more filling the top of the funnel and passing leads off to sales.
  2. Social Media Skills: It's no secret that social media dramatically changes the buyer-seller-influencer dynamic. But only those actively participating in social media tangibly appreciate the differences between old-style one-way media conversations and the group interactivity.
  3. Journalism/ Storytelling Skills: With buyers getting the majority of their information from the web and with sales enablement increasing in priority, there's no end to the need for juicy, targeted content. And, that storytelling also comes into play in campaign design.
  4. Process Design Skills: Marketing automation is just beginning to penetrate its market. Forrester says it's less than 5% adopted. As anyone who has been part of a re-engineering effort can attest, it's not the automation that increases productivity. It's the process changes that automation enables and enforces. Deploying marketing automation will require skills such as process modeling, project management, the ability to train and manage change, as well as ease with technology.
  5. Data/ Analytics Skills: Technology captures and makes available enormous amounts of data about buyer and seller behavior.
  6. Domain Expertise: Customers don't care about our products. They care about themselves and their problems. Building a bridge between our products and the customer's care-abouts requires knowledge of both realms.

To this great list I would add these three ‘softer’ skills that are critical…including:

  1. Collaboration AND exceptional communication—NOT mutually exclusive. On every job posting, you will see that ‘communication’ skills are a must… Communication has a different meaning for marketers in our world. While the traditional communication skills are needed, they need to be supplemented with an intense focus on collaborating through effective communication. There are no ‘one-man/woman bands’—only full orchestras with very clear objectives and constant interaction.
  2. Creativity/Innovation—reaching for the next idea. The term ‘creativity’ is no longer just for the agencies or the designers. Today’s channels and digital approaches enable and encourage creativity at all stages of marketing and the marketing process. Creativity is at the heart of innovation, which is not only required, its rewarded.
  3. Leadership—taking risks, driving change, & building trust. At a recent conference a panelist, Dr. Linda Combs, former US Government official with five presidential appointments, talked about ‘leadership at every level’ to fully empower an organization’s success. Today’s marketers, regardless of their role, have an unique opportunity to demonstrate leadership in their field and across their business for maximum impact.

While not exhaustive, this list of skills confirms that we are no longer looking for traditional marketing skills. Marketing managers need evidence of different skills and experience—and the good marketers will leave a well lighted trail, to make sure such evidence is easy to find.


About Author

Adele Sweetwood

Former VP of Global Marketing & Shared Services

The author of The Analytical Marketer, Adele empowers her employees with data and analytics to grow revenues and optimize customer interactions. Her 30 years of marketing leadership feed her passion for connecting with customers on their own terms. Currently, Adele is VP, Global Demand Generation and Customer Experience Marketing at Splunk. Before that, she led marketing strategy and go-to-market programs for SAS. Her responsibilities spanned field and digital marketing, demand generation and marketing sciences, as well as retention and event marketing. She oversaw digital investments in advertising, content, search and social media.


  1. I love this article!
    I learned a lot from this article about marketing, it seems i am also marketing student. It adds more thoughts, ideas and techniques on becoming a good marketing manager as well.
    thanks for sharing.

  2. I would also add executive sponsorship. This is best achieved by understanding that any online marketing effort must by in sync with the corporate marketing strategy NOT a paralell effort.

  3. Kathleen Schaub on

    Justin and Adele,
    Thanks for highlighting this post from my blog and for your additional insights. The Eight Skills post was very popular. I particularly like the addition you made of "collaboration". Leadership is a constant need. Creativity in marking - absolutely. But collaboration is not as intuitive. We're going to see more about this soft skill as more marketers start to think about sales enablement and agile marketing.
    /Kathleen Schaub

  4. Franz Reinthaler on

    Leadership is a constant need. Creativity in marking - absolutely. But collaboration is not as intuitive

  5. Judy Allenby on

    Marketing as everything, is changing so rapidly it's hard to keep up. Thank you for your work creating the eight skills especially your concentration on collaboration...it is so often the forgotten skill.

  6. Subodh Gupta on

    Very good write, people have the skill but some time they don't not aware of terms. it also help to design the resume or appearing for interview

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