With customer needs growing, marketers are expected to deliver excellence across dozens of services, but this just isn’t possible for any singular human or even most teams. Between social media, analytics, data science, search engine optimization and other increasingly digital skill sets, modern marketers must wear more hats than any one head can balance. The industry now needs more than just human intelligence to provide value.
When job requirements exceed human capability, it makes sense to look to technology for solutions. Artificial intelligence (AI), in particular, can fill these gaps by automating the right skills and freeing up time for others, leading to the rise of the “citizen marketing scientist” — marketers equipped with the tools and abilities they need in this evolving industry.
If your company is experiencing this skills gap, rest assured you’re not alone. It can feel like an uphill battle to continue hiring and training to rise above every obstacle emerging on the horizon, threatening your company’s momentum.
Here’s what to do about the marketing skills gap and how AI can help.
1. Understanding The Skills Gap
The first step to tackling the skills gap, with AI or otherwise, is understanding what it is and how it affects your company.
When Boston Consulting Group partnered with Google to conduct a study about the skill gap’s effect on digital marketers, the results were striking. 1,100 digital marketers were asked to rank themselves from zero to 100 on a Digital Capabilities Index, and the average digital marketer ranked themselves at 57.
Why? With the pace for agencies set by Silicon Valley’s constant innovation, new tools, skills, specialties and requirements are surfacing every year. The challenge of meeting this pace has caused a gap, which is hurting agencies and brands.
More research confirms this. A study conducted by Forrester Research (registration required) on behalf of Oracle, suggests that “the adoption of modern marketing capabilities is lagging,” according to John Ellett writing for Forbes. Callum Adamson writes in an article for Digital Marketing Magazine that this puts marketers between a rock and a hard place. “On one hand, [agencies] face rapidly shrinking proﬁt margins (down to 9% in 2017 from 36% in 2014),” Adamson writes. “On the other, they ﬁnd themselves with a need to up-skill in emerging channels.”
Data analytics is the most in-demand skill, but few are confident that their teams are keeping up. In another recent study of marketers, 81% sought employees with data management skills and cite a lack of analytics and data science skills as reasons they fail to deliver effectively.
2. Minding The Gap
What, then, is the solution? What marketers need are “T-shaped” skills that offer breadth and depth in the right places, plus accessible technology that can help get the job done. According to the online marketing agency Distilled, “T-shaped individuals can tackle diverse projects with creativity and agility while maintaining high effectiveness because they know enough to implement the knowledge of experts and know when to bring them to the table.”
Some of these so-called “experts” will be machines soon enough — already, automation in marketing has brought new tools to market that can send emails, schedule posts and analyze data. The T-shaped marketers of tomorrow, then, must be technology gurus with a depth of social and emotional intelligence to complement their abilities.
AI can come into the picture when hiring and training aren’t enough, as I believe may already be the case. Brands can explore AI support options like Drift and Conversica to incorporate machine learning into their roles to round out their services.
3. Empowering Citizen Marketing Scientists
Information technology (IT), marketing and data science skills are blending together, and for good reason: all have become essential for modern marketers to do their jobs efficiently. As I mentioned previously, good marketers have human skills like creativity and emotional intelligence alongside well-rounded tech skills. Requiring the latter, though, may seem like a high bar, especially if it means marketers must be full-fledged data scientists and IT professionals on top of their marketing expertise.
The only way for marketers to close the skills gap is to democratize tech skills so that everyone can perform decently. Regarding analytic needs, Big Data consultant Bernard Marr describes one solution as the rise of the “citizen data scientist” in Forbes. “Businesses, particularly larger ones with more mature Big Data analytical operations,” Marr writes, “are finding that it is too important to be left solely in the hands of the data scientists.”
When applied to marketing and AI, this idea could be applied to a “citizen marketing scientist” — in other words, a person who can use and interpret machine learning and AI tools without having the background required to, say, create and program them.
AI makes data easier and less time-consuming for people to interpret, allowing for this digital democratization to take place in the marketing field. While technology experts will still be important, making tech tools more accessible and user-friendly will empower workers through talent augmentation.
Get Started Now
Whether investing in AI, hiring or training, marketers need to take the skills gap seriously. The first step is to examine your assets and figure out what you’re missing by auditing your services for deficiencies. Next, troubleshoot solutions and implement what works in order to move the needle forward. Expect that the gap will continue to widen even as you fill in negative space.
If you find it’s too much to keep your team up-to-date, consider outsourcing some skills to specialists on a freelance basis or automating them with AI. The future of marketing will require human-computer cooperation, and there is no time like the present to foster this collaboration.
The skills gap will not close on its own: Smart leaders will need to push constantly to get there or be left on the wrong end of a colossal chasm. As this issue becomes more and more apparent, I have no doubt more AI solutions will materialize to keep marketers at the top of their game, even as the rules of the industry change.[“Source-forbes”]