From The Editor | September 7, 2022

Are Your Marketing Team's Skills Keeping Pace With The Real World?

Headshot1

By Perry Rearick, Chief Editor, Follow Your Buyer

GettyImages-1357130238

I’ve referenced Marketing Week’s 2022 Career and Salary Survey several times in the past couple of months because it contains some troubling data related to the high turn-over rate among marketers.1

I know what you’re thinking! That’s just the way it is, but I don’t accept that. Employee turnover is disruptive and bad for business, we should do our best to retain quality personnel.

What’s behind the high turn-over rate for marketing pros?

The survey found that 27.9% of marketers changed jobs in the past year, and nearly 1/3 of them were seeking roles to learn new skills. That’s it? They wanted to learn something new? Sadly, they concluded they needed a new job to achieve that.  

The best B2B organizations, and their marketing teams, intentionally invest time and resources in upskilling personnel. I’m not referring to on-boarding a new piece of technology and conducting limited functional familiarization. Far too many organizations identify problems, introduce some process changes, but don’t equip their employees with the skills needed to address the real problems.  

There’s a B2B marketing skills gap!

According to Kate Bravery, Senior Partner and Global Advisory Solutions and Insight Leader at Mercer, on the surface it looks like we’ve done an admirable job in upskilling our employees over the past few years. Nearly 89% of businesses reported invested in digital learning platforms. However, Bravery adds that skill shortages at the same time increased and it became harder to get people into roles that matched their abilities. This means that companies have a gap between the skills they need for their business and the skills their employees possess.  

What we must do, says Bravery, is align our upskilling agenda with our future work agenda. Our goal should be to train people for real jobs, keeping them marketable and employable. And this isn’t just an HR issue, but a critical business issue.2

What is upskilling?

I don’t intend to insult your intelligence, but to understand upskilling, it is important to understand the relationship between knowledge, experience, and skill. Knowledge is gained through information acquisition, skill is the ability to apply knowledge to specific situations, and skill is acquired through experience.

Upskilling is different than reskilling and training. Of course, there is some overlap, but “upskilling is a longer-term investment in augmenting the knowledge, skills and competencies that help employees advance their careers” according to Susan Vroman and Tiffany Danko, authors of How to Build a Successful Upskilling Program.3

But upskilling doesn’t just benefit employees, it is good for business too. Vroman and Danko note that employees that participate in upskilling are more engaged in their work and have higher retention rates.

Tips for Upskilling Your B2B Marketing Team

One, Bravery encourages us to challenge the traditional ways we define marketing roles. B2B marketing has undergone significant, disruptive changes over the past decade or two. B2B marketing departments have and will continue to embrace new strategies and tactics. Attempting them with a team that doesn’t have the necessary skills will lead to disappointment. Business leaders must be open to setting aside traditional titles and redefine the roles you need on your team to support your marketing and business strategies.

Two, visualize the future and what your company will need from your marketing team in terms of output. Note that I didn’t say visualize the future roles you need. First define what your marketing team needs to produce, and you cannot accept leads as an answer.

Let’s apply this to content marketing which has been adopted by most B2B solution providers. If you are engaging prospects throughout their buyer’s journey, you’re going to need a lot of high quality, non-promotional content. How much content will you need to produce each week, and what kind of content will it be? Long form articles, blogs, presentations, infographics?

Three, define in as much detail as possible, the skills required for your future marketing output. Let’s stay with the content marketing example. Spurred by global pandemic and the absence of tradeshows, companies rapidly adopted content marketing strategies and significantly increased the amount of content they produced.  

This led to a glut of poor content because traditional marketing teams lack the skills needed to understand the early buyer’s journey, select the right subject matter experts in the organization, interview them, and write long-form, non-promotional articles. Content marketing in the digital era also delivers a lot of data, that when effectively analyzed by someone, provides insights into specific buyer’s journeys.

With this simple example we’ve uncovered skills related to developing writing guides, creating editorial calendars, preparing and interviewing subjects, writing, and analyzing engagement behavior.      

Four, perform a gap analysis of the skills possessed by your current team. Pull out those old personnel records that captured candidate skills during their interview process, update them with your team, and compare them to the future skills you will need. The gaps are upskilling opportunities.

Five, Vroman and Danko recommend empowering your team members to take responsibility for their upskilling and work with them to develop a roadmap. Upskilling is not about delivering a standard, one-size-fits-all program of instruction. It is expanding your team members’ knowledge and skills making them more capable to meet your organization’s needs.

  1. Marketing Week 2022 Career and Salary Survey. Charlotte Rogers, More than half of marketers want to quit their job (marketingweek.com)
  2. Follow Your Buyer interview with Kate Bravery on July 7, 2022 and the Global Talent Trends 2022, Mercer, Rise of the relatable organization (mercer.com)
  3. Susan R. Vroman and Tiffany Danko, Harvard Business Review, Jan 8, 2022, How to Build a Successful Upskilling Program (hbr.org)