I’ll be honest, when I first started working at Capterra as the Marketing Automation Assistant, I had no idea what marketing automation software was, let alone how to effectively use it! Now, I consider myself a pretty savvy user, and can’t imagine our marketing strategy without it.
My story isn’t unique; since marketing automation software is still a fairly new technology, marketers are forced to play catch-up. But it’s definitely worth the time and effort, since there are over 4,000 current job openings in marketing automation. After over a year and a half, here are my thoughts on the most important marketing automation skills and why you should develop them.
Which skills should I have to be successful with marketing automation?
The biggest challenge with marketing automation for most professionals is that you need use both the analytical and creative sides of the brain. Most people lean towards one more than the other, but few are strong in both areas.
When I asked other marketing professionals which skills they thought were most important for marketing automation, their answers conveyed the same idea: a mix of analytics and creativity is critical in order to effectively use marketing automation software.
I think Megan Langley, Director of Marketing at OutMarket, says it best:
“Marketers should have an understanding of demand generation and recognize the importance of combining the art and science of marketing. The art and science of marketing involves using data to personalize interactions that lead a prospect more effectively through the buying cycle.”
So which skills make up the “art and science of marketing”?
When someone mentions the science behind marketing, they are most likely referring to all of the numbers and data behind the campaigns and strategies. Most of us understand what the numbers represent, but can you interpret the data and apply it to future campaigns? What can you actually learn from the data presented through your marketing automation efforts?
According to Nicholas Ward, Co-Founder and President of Koddi, marketers need to ask and answer questions with data. They can’t “align to a strategy or call something a success until they’ve broken it down and built it back up, ensuring it really stands up to thoughtful analysis.”
Basic mathematical skills are also necessary for both tracking and reporting. Marketing automation has analytics functionality, but sometimes it doesn’t show the exact data you need. Using the numbers it provides, you should be able to convert it into the data you need. What is our average open rate across all campaigns? How did you come up with that conversion rate? How much better did Subject Line A do over Subject Line B?
Without a basic understanding of data analysis, you can’t expect to effectively utilize marketing automation in your business.
Marketing automation is more than sending a few emails once a month; you need to be able to come up with the right strategy to fulfill your business’s goals.
Businesses have many marketing goals, which means you’ll need to have different campaigns to achieve those goals. For example, let’s say you want to create a nurture track. Who will be on the track? What kind of emails will they receive? What actions do they need to take to stay on/take off the track? Based on your end-goals, each question will have a different answer, which means you’ll need multiple nurture tracks to complete each goal.
As Emily Maxie, the Marketing Director at SIGNiX, says, marketing automation software will provide you with many tools to achieve your goals, “but it’s up to each individual marketer to figure out how to best reach their target market.”
This skill may seem a little obvious, but I do want to clarify. You don’t need to be a world-class coder or developer to use marketing automation software, but you do need to understand how software works and the basics to using a web-based tool.
The marketer should feel comfortable with technology, especially marketing technology, before diving into marketing automation. “You can’t be afraid to click around and explore a tool to familiarize yourself with it,” according to Kari Rippetoe, Director of Content and Marketing Services for Marketing Mojo. “Plus, having experience working with other marketing tech tools (like email marketing platforms or analytics) will give you the foundational knowledge for understanding marketing automation.”
Technology is constantly changing, so it’s also important to be able to adapt quickly to whatever new developments may occur with marketing automation software. To keep with their competition, marketing automation software vendors are always working on the latest feature or improved capabilities for their product. When the new functionality rolls out, the marketer must be able to learn and apply it to their strategy as soon as possible, so their campaigns don’t miss a beat due to slow implementation.
It also doesn’t hurt to have some basic HTML and design knowledge for creating and edit landing pages or email templates. Though it’s not mandatory, since most systems have a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, glitches are inevitable, and it’s easier to work through the problem yourself instead of running to the Tech team 10 times a day.
Marketing and sales work hand in hand in the business world. Nothing is more true when you put marketing automation software in the mix. The marketing team uses the software to generate, nurture, and qualify leads to send over to the sales team, who then take over and close the deal.
However, I think I speak for most sales and marketing professionals when I say, that’s easier said than done! Implementing marketing automation helps, but it’s up to the person managing it to really unite the two teams.
Ryan Schefke, Founder of Lead Liaison, explains:
“The marketing automation lead should know the capabilities of the software and lead the discussion between sales and marketing to help them understand what’s possible. The marketing automation lead should suggest strategies to the organization to then implement in the software. For example, when to nurture, how to nurture, how to use responsive marketing, how to qualify leads and much more.”
A huge part of developing a marketing automation campaign is creating copy for emails and landing pages, so if your writing skills aren’t up to par, your campaigns won’t succeed.
“Marketing automation will fall flat if it doesn’t feel human,” says Brittany Berger, Digital Content Supervisor at eZanga.com. “Writing content going out to thousands (or more) of different people, at different times, is difficult. You need to make the recipient feel like you wrote them a personal email, which takes skill. You need to be able to nail the tone and voice so that you’re informational, but still personal.”
Creating effective copy is an important skill all marketers should have across all aspects of marketing, but when you potentially have seconds to leave your mark, the messaging needs to be spot-on and well-written.
Why should I care about developing marketing automation skills?
Apart from adding to your resume or LinkedIn profile, if you have marketing automation skills, you’re at a competitive advantage over other marketing professionals.
With thousands of job openings for Marketing Automation Managers, it is one of the most in-demand skills in digital marketing. However, there’s a 24% talent gap between how much marketing executives say they value marketing automation skills and how much marketing automation talent their teams actually possess.
This means there’s no better time to hone the skills I listed above to become a marketing automation guru! While no one person can handle ALL of the marketing automation responsibilities, everyone on the marketing team should have a strong understanding of the system and the strategy behind it.
And why wouldn’t you want to develop your marketing skills? Unless you want to stay in one position forever, you need to develop and improve yourself as a professional to experience growth in your career. All of these skills will help you achieve your goals, whatever they may be!
What other skills do you think marketers need to be successful with marketing automation? If you use marketing automation software, please feel free to leave a review!