marketing manager

Today’s marketing leadership appears quite a bit different than it might have a decade ago. Marketers today are required to be more agile, analytical, and customer focused than ever before. According to recent study by Heidrick & Struggles, CMO candidates hired in the past 18 months are far more likely to:

  • Have direct experience managing digital media projects

  • Possess analytical experience

  • Understand CRM; customer loyalty, or retention strategies

  • Hold an MBA

In order to become competitive as a top-level marketing executive at a large organization in the years to come, it’s critical for today’s marketing to take a hybrid approach to strengthening their inbound marketing skill sets. It’s clear that a broad range of experiences and competencies can only benefit both your career and the brands you serve as a professional.

Inspired in part by Heidrick’s research on today’s Chief Marketing Officer, we’ve addressed several types of skills and abilities upwardly mobile marketing managers should focus on in the years to come:

  1. Brand Storytelling

Marketing managers don’t just need the ability to create compelling content, or act as an in-house managing editor for a content brand. They need the ability to understand the overarching themes that connect a brand’s past, present, and future. Truly exceptional brand storytellers are individuals with the ability to weave strategy and brand values into compelling, cross-platform narratives that move organizations closer to their goals.

Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal, writes that storytelling actually has a fundamental ability to affect the psychology of the human mind. In fact, a narrative is the single most effective way to communicate a message. While platforms for content distribution in the year 2017 could look far different than they do today, the ability to translate marketing strategy into narrative is here to stay.

2. Analytics Experience

One of the more surprising findings from Heidrick’s research highlighted the criticality of analytics for marketing programs of the future. While only 48% of the CMOs replaced in the past 18 months have analytics experience, 80% of their replacements have worked with data and analytics.

3. Agile Methodology

Marketing departments can no longer afford to perform quarterly or monthly reviews of marketing results. And honestly, period review is simply not a reasonable tactic in an age where marketers can access real-time metrics reports via HubSpot, Google Analytics and other tools.

For marketing managers, agility means providing their teams with room to fail, and having the sense to quickly maneuver a department away from a plan that simply isn’t working. This requires shrewdness and strong leadership skills.

4. Desire to Break Down Silos

More than half of your marketing peers struggle to perform at the level they need to, based on silos within their marketing departments. Not only are silos hostile to collaboration, they can lead to poor outcomes. Forbes Insights and Teradata report that organizations who eliminate silos can actually improve revenue and customer satisfaction.

Understanding the potential issues associated with silos isn’t necessarily sufficient for aspiring CMOs. It can only be to your benefit to take on projects and initiatives that require true cross-silo collaboration.

5. Customer Retention

Sharp organizations have always placed a strong focus on customer retention and loyalty programs. The very smartest organizations of today are also focusing on implementing technologies which will enhance existing customer retention efforts and programs.

Between the explosion of big data and associated technologies and fiercer competition for customer revenue, CMOs need to understand the intersection of “hard” analytics and the “soft” skills required to maintain happy customers. Maintaining a competitive edge in the future could mean effective mining of big data insights to provide personalized marketing and solutions for each and every client.

6. Leadership and Higher Education

CMOs hired today are 15% more likely than their predecessors to hold an MBA. It’s clear that large organizations are willing to invest in skilled leadership. As the lines between information technology and marketing blur increasingly at large companies, marketing executives must be capable of intensive collaboration. Additionally, highly-trained leadership can possess the competencies to effectively maneuver larger and more agile teams.

However, the benefits of an MBA aren’t simply the leadership aspects of the training. As Heidrick points out, a CMO candidate who brings MBA experience has training in more than just strategy and soft skills. Many graduate business programs are beginning to add analytics and data science options to their programs, and may require candidates to complete extensive coursework in statistical modeling, predictive analytics, and other quantitative classes.

Is an MBA required for a marketing manager to become highly competitive in their job market? Clearly not. While further education and professional development can only be to your benefit, it’s likely possible to also demonstrate the right skills in other areas. Professional education and experience that spans management, strategy, analytics, and business communications could be considered equivalent by certain hiring committees.

Consider External Opportunities

Due to the intense revolution in the skill sets required to effectively manage the marketing department of a large organization today, companies are increasingly considering outside candidates for C-level leadership positions. 98% of CMOs hired today are external applicants, and only 2% are internal promotions.

Aspiring marketing leaders ought to consider external work opportunities, in addition to working tirelessly to improve their own roster of skills. According to Heidrick, “mastery” of the various skill sets required to balance analytics, content marketing, SEO, and more is ultimately more important than direct familiarity with an organization. While industry expertise can only benefit an external candidate’s application, it’s clear that hard competencies are in high enough demand to sway the job market significantly toward highly skilled external candidates.

How will you be strengthening your professional skill set to move into marketing management positions in the years to come? Share your thoughts on tomorrow’s CMO in the comments!

Read More: Three Requirements for CMO Longevity.