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The five skills marketers of the future will need

The marketing world is about to get even more competitive. Here’s what marketing professionals can do to stand out

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(Thomas Barwick/Getty)

Marketers are starting to play a more prominent role within their organizations and their job description keeps growing more and more complex. They’re now expected to have expertise in many different areas and the field is poised to become even more competitive according to a recent report from Deloitte.

Marketing professionals who went to business school or and learned their trade in marketing departments and agencies will soon find themselves joined by colleagues with very different backgrounds, including engineers, data scientists and mathematicians — bringing with them a fresh perspective to solving business problems.

“All of these channels have collapsed into one,” says Jennifer Lee, national retail leader for Deloitte. “Marketers have to work with all the stakeholders to get the job done. And they have to have their pulse on innovation.”

Where does that leave marketers who don’t have a STEM background? Of course, traditional marketing skills form the foundation the job. But, says Lee, there are five key things marketers should start doing now to be prepared for the future.

1. Show initiative—take a course

Don’t wait for your organization to offer training, says Lee. “If I were in their shoes I would be starting to think, ‘Over the next three to five years, what certifications can I go get? What courses can I take to begin the journey?’” That doesn’t mean you have to quit working and take on a full-time masters program. “It’s hard because you’re working at the same time but if you take up one night  course a term or on a Saturday and did that over a period of time you’d start to hone those skills,” says Lee. She recommends courses in analytics, financial modelling, information design and data mapping.

2. Get technical

Investing in learning how to code, being able to analyze data to find meaningful patterns and then being able to visualize it will pay off in the long term, according to Lee, adding that her own company is hiring more and more new hires have a technical background, especially in data visualization. “Our clients can’t digest reams and reams of information,” says Lee. “When the data come out, how do you actually share that with the client or the stakeholder. That’s a skill set.” Learning Tableau, a popular data visualization program (there’s a free version for individual users), is a good start.

3. Volunteer at a startup

Startups love it when professionals with a marketing background make their services available, says Lee. “Tech startups are technically very good [but] they don’t know how to get to market. Marketers have that ability to spend that time with them and offer them that time.”

4. Surround yourself with highly technical people

Don’t assume that you need to become a wizard at everything—it’s impossible. “If you have a colleague who is highly technical and they needed that arts side, marketing skill set, you can swap,” says Lee. “I used to be highly tied to the analytics team. We would be working back and forth and he would be showing me the data sets that were coming out and why it was that way so I understood the methodology and how they were calculating it. But you have to have that interest.”

If you don’t have support at work, taking continuing education courses is an opportunity to build community of new people who have the skills you covet. “Then the community will start to help you either as you start to make career decisions or you put yourself forward for a job that requires technical background. That’s how you start laying the foundations,” says Lee.

5. Don’t ditch your arts background

“I don’t want your readers to think they have to ditch their creative arts background and take an engineering degree,” says Lee. “I think it’s a balance. More and more, the proportion of technical expertise will start to increase. It’s that balance of arts and tech that makes the ideal marketer moving forward.”

And of course, don’t give up hope. “You’re not going to be left behind,” says Lee. “It’s all about: how are you using the tools that are in the marketplace to learn a skill set?”