Has the market for marketers heated up?

Short answer: Yes.

Slightly longer answer: Yes, absolutely!

For a more complete answer, read on …

We all know that the marketing industry is changing quickly — so quickly that most organizations are having a hard time keeping up. So it’s no surprise that companies everywhere are looking to hire marketers, especially those with modern skills.

Last year, I got up on stage at the INBOUND conference in front of 10,000 people and made a bold statement.

“Marketing salaries for great marketers will double over the next 5 years.”

Unsurprisingly, my CMO and CFO asked me about it: Why would I make such a bold prediction? Because I’ve seen first hand what an acute asymmetry in the supply and demand of talent can do to salaries. Case in point: engineering salaries. I don’t have to convince you that the opportunity for software developers over the past decade has skyrocketed. Why is that?  Because software developers have the ability to create amazing leverage. They can write code one time, which then has the potential to make thousands (or millions) of happy customers. My argument is that marketers have that same potential. The best marketers have the ability to create immense leverage for their organizations. As such, the demand for these kinds of marketers is rising quickly — and supply is not catching up. Result: Marketing salaries are going to go up.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, marketing jobs are not only expected to grow from now to 2022, but the creative and marketing sector is seeing an average starting salary growth of 3.9 percent. Even more encouraging, US News reports that the two careers topping the charts in business-related jobs are market research analyst and marketing manager. With a median salary of $60,800 and $123,220 respectively, both are also seeing a rather low unemployment rate of between 3 and 3.9 percent, with an estimated 131,500 new market research analyst jobs opening this year, and another 22,900 openings anticipated for marketing managers.

Want even more evidence that marketing skills are hot? LinkedIn did a study of the skills that got people jobs in 2014. Of the top 25 skills, four of them were directly marketing related.

#5 — SEO/SEM marketing

#12 — Marketing Campaign Management

#16 — Digital and Online Marketing

#20 — Channel Marketing.

Here’s the full list, if you’re curious.

I like numbers, but I also have a healthy respect for a good hunch — so let’s put those numbers aside for a moment. Here’s my hunch:

The unemployment rate for marketers with the right mix of skills is trending towards zero.

OK, so what are these magical marketing skills that can land you one of these great career opportunities? I’m glad you asked…

The Most In-Demand Marketing Skills in 2015

Here’s what makes employers fight hard for a specific candidate:

1. Content Creation / Content Marketing

Although not new, this is way, way up there in the list of skills that will likely get you a job — if you’re really good.

Most savvy marketing organizations know that you can’t really have long-term success without investing in content marketing. If you have the ability to create content that is helpful — and convincing — you will be far, far ahead of the pack. Whether it’s writing, videography, design or deep research, anything that demonstrates you can create remarkable content is a sure-fire way to marketing career success.

Extra credit: Inbound marketing (of which content marketing is a key pillar) has been on the rise and is a broader role. This consists of a set of marketing activities that are non-interruptive and help drive growth. Other inbound marketing related skills include SEO and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO).

2. Web Design and UX

The future belongs to those organizations that can build exceptional experiences for their customers. Increasingly, these experiences involve technology (websites, mobile applications, etc.). If you have design skills combined with some business intuition and an empathy for the user/customer, you are golden. In my mind, this is one of the key skills, and very hard to find.

3. Data Science / Data Analysis

With newer tools and technologies coming into play, businesses have access to a lot of data. From social media interactions to activities on the app, the quantity of big data available is not just mind boggling but also disorganized. If you can help a company sort, organize, and extract meaningful information that can up its sales, you’re very valuable. Of course, not everyone has the analytical chops to be a data scientist — which is why they are arguably even more in-demand than software developers.

What the heck is a data scientist anyway? It’s someone who uses a combination of math, programming, and analysis skills to extract insights and value from data.

By the way, this need is so accute that McKinsey estimates there will be 4 million big-data related positions in the U.S. alone. That’s a lot of jobs.

4. Growth Engineering / Hacking

This is all the rage in the marketing sector these days. Quite simply, growth engineering is taking a disciplined, data-informed approach to hitting growth goals. It involves understanding deeply how users are engaging with you, creating experiments with concrete hypotheses, and testing them.

I like this quote from Sean Ellis, who coined the term “growth hacking”: “A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.”

Note: This is not about deceptive tactics that trick people. It’s about a scientific and sustainable approach to growth. It’s part art and part science. These marketers are some of the highest demand people out there today. (In fact, we’re looking for one for the inbound.org team itself; if you’re interested, please check us out).

5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Predictions of the death of SEO are highly exaggerated. What’s true is the slow death of old-school, ineffective SEO tactics that try to trick search engines instead of working with them to delight searchers.

The modern SEO recognizes that succeeding at search is not about just optimizing for search engines, but optimizing for humans.

The nice thing about SEO, which is still true to this day, is that it’s an investment that pays off over the long haul.

6. Pay-Per-Click (PPC)

This has long been a mainstay of marketing departments everywhere, and there’s no evidence that PPC skills are going to be less in demand anytime soon.

The key here is not just being able to use tools like Google AdWords but also having a deeper understanding of keyword selection, content strategy — and perhaps most importantly, how to measure the effectiveness of PPC campaigns. It’s a competitive channel, so the deeper your expertise, the more valuable you are.

7. Agile Marketing

This may be a new one to you — because it didn’t show up on the scene until relatively recently.

Agile marketing borrows the practices of word-class software development and applies them to the world of marketing. Agile approaches favor quick release cycles and an iterative approach. In marketing, this means shorter campaigns (because unless you’re totally different from other organizations, you’re probably learning that many times, things need to be done like … yesterday).  

8. Email Marketing / Marketing Automation

Contrary to some of the things you may read online, email is most definitely not dead. As old as it may be, email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to market products and services. But email marketing has gotten increasingly sophisticated — and has evolved into marketing automation, which consists of segmented, automated workflows that send emails to the right group of people at the right time with the right message.

9. Marketing Technology (MarTech)

This is a bit of a weird one. Turns out, as the marketing industry has been evolving, there are (literally) hundreds of tools, many in categories that didn’t exist 5 or 10 years ago. This is best exemplified by the widely cited and frighteningly detailed marketing technology super graphic from my friend Scott Brinker (@chiefmartec).

OK, so what does the fact that there are 2,000 marketing tech products out there have to do with you getting a job? Answer: Thousands of organizations are going through the process of trying to figure out what their “marketing stack” should be. You don’t have to know all of these products intimately (it’s humanly impossible to do so), but if you have a point of view on how to put together a workable platform for an organization and speak intelligently about some of the tradeoffs (there are always tradeoffs), people will pay for your expertise.

SNEAK PEEK:  Here’s an early preview of a project I’m working on right now: It’s a list of the top marketing technology vendors ranked by their marketing prowess. (This is still very much in alpha, so please don’t spread the word just yet — I’m cranking away on it, and when I officially launch it, you’ll know.)

10. Social Media Marketing / Advertising

In a day and age when the whole world is present on social media, the competition to garner attention is constantly increasing. Social media can be an effective way to take the content you’re producing and amplify its reach. All three of the major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) have the ability to reach target audiences in ways that weren’t possible just a few years ago. If you can build some expertise with running effective (ROI-positive) campaigns using these new tools, you’ll likely have hiring managers chomping at the bit to bring you on board.

The tricky part of this (which is good news for you) is that the social ad platforms are changing quickly. This means that if you have the wherewithal to keep up with what’s going on, your skills and expertise will constantly be in demand.

Related note: In 2014, social media marketing was the #1 job skill on LinkedIn’s list. This year, it’s not anywhere in the top 25.

11. Video Production / Marketing

Once again, back to content. Video is becoming an increasingly effective channel — even in a B2B context. Videos help you tell a story and engage an audience like few other channels can. The useful skill here is not just the ability to produce videos but also an understanding of how to properly market and promote them. This means understanding how the primary video distribution channels work, knowing where to host your video, and figuring out how to analyze the data so that you know what’s working and what’s not.

12. Basic HTML / CSS

Accept it. In today’s world, some basic understanding of HTML and CSS is a basic requirement. I know you may be thinking: “Damn it, Jim! I’m a marketer not a developer!” But, in 2015, HTML/CSS is the new Excel for marketers. You have to know at least a little bit of it, or life gets hard. You don’t need to be able to create the next great web app — but you do need to be able to tweak your content, fix some simple styling issues, and generally know the difference between anchor text and a boat anchor.

13. Web Development

This goes beyond the basic HTML/CSS skills and means you have the ability to build full-fledged web applications. Common languages/platforms include PHP, Python/Django, and Ruby On Rails. You’ll also usually need some database knowledge (like MySQL) and just enough tech savvy to be able to host your app somewhere (like Amazon Web Services).

The reason web development falls into the marketing skill category is that web applications/tools are some of the best performing pieces of content you’ll find. You can build applications that will help you attract new visitors, convert visitors to leads — or even leads to customers.

14. Community Management

I’m finding that more and more companies are building out communities to better serve their industries. (Case in point, inbound.org is sponsored by HubSpot). Building communities is a great way to build long-term relationships. It’s one of the most defensible marketing channels out there.

Being a community manager requires a mix of skills, including the ability to empathize, moderate, communicate, and nurture.

So there you have it. If you’re in the marketing industry, these are not just good times, they’re great times. But, if you haven’t brushed up on some of the core skills of the modern marketer, you should start doing so now.

If you’re an employer hiring marketers, what are you looking for? If you’re a marketing professional, what have you observed in terms of industry needs. Would love to read your thoughts in the comments.

Dharmesh Shah is founder and CTO at HubSpot and co-creator of inbound.org, an online community for marketers.

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