The top marketing and CMO skills in demand in 2015

CMO speaks to recruitment specialists to find out what digital and data skills are in demand across the marketing function this year, as well as why CMOs need to hone in on ROI

We all know marketing as a function has undergone substantial change in recent years, largely thanks to the rise of digital connectivity and the ever-demanding customer. So as organisations look to improve their customer game plan this year, what are the top skills in demand in 2015?

To find out, CMO spoke to several specialist marketing recruiters in the Australian market about the specific skillsets being sought this year, what CEOs and organisations are looking for in their next CMO, and where they’re placing their bets in terms of recruitment for 2015.

It’s all about digital

Across the recruitment leaders we spoke to, marketing roles cropping up on their client briefs this year are all about digital and data. Positions most in demand, according to Firebrand Talent’s general manager for Melbourne, Alex Kenning, include digital product managers and content specialists, digital acquisition and retention specialists, data and insights analysts, and digital marketing managers.

To this list, Hudson’s executive general manager, Dean Davidson, added social media strategists, communications specialists and product managers.

“Digital roles have become more prevalent in the current climate. Clients who may have used digital agencies in the past are investing in staffing up their internal function to cope with the increasing demand for this type of approach,” he said.

“So rather than general marketing roles covering a broad skill base, clients are hiring specialists in areas of social media and content which is a continuing shift over the last few years. Product is also a major focus, but that is no different to last year – the pool is just getting smaller.”

However, Kenning pointed to an increase in the number of digital marketing manager roles.

“Instead of just needing 'specialists' across specific fields such as social, search or data, mid-to-senior level managers are expected to have an understanding across all these functions,” he claimed. “More and more, we are seeing the demand of mid-to-senior digital marketing managers with a much broader scope of experience and expertise.”

Kenning put the demand for digital product marketers, meanwhile, down to the transition many businesses have now undergone to adopt digital platforms and processes. “The need is now for talent that can drive digital innovation to create products and quick, efficient go-to-market solutions,” he said.

The rise of the data and insights analysts is tied to the rise of the customer-driven economy, Kenning continued. Specific data and digital marketing skills he believed are most in demand include Agile project methodology, SEO and optimising digital content, analytics software tools including Google Analytics, Omniture and Adobe Analytics, and automation tools knowledge.

“There has never been a time where the importance of over exceeding customer expectations has been higher,” he claimed. “Businesses need to understand the profile of their customers, what their buying behaviour is and how to influence and engage with them. Analysts are key to mining this data, analysing results and getting the insights and information required.”

The huge increase in demand for content- and data-led roles in 2014 also reflects the more customer journey-based approach being embraced by marketing teams.

“Content specialists who can plan, curate, create and strategically distribute/broadcast content across an ever wider range of digital [and offline] platforms and channels will be in high demand in 2015,” Kenning predicted.

Aligned to this is the demand for digital acquisition and retention specialists, he said.

“Marketers now need intimate knowledge of marketing automation and analytics tools in order to identify customer acquisition and retention opportunities throughout all stages of the purchasing cycle,” Kenning said.

As the level of upskilling in the digital arena becomes more sophisticated, Davidson saw more candidates from fast-paced digital agencies being sought after to work ‘client side’.

“The clients like the agency experience as it is current and quickly brings their digital offering up to date, and the candidates likes the client side as it rounds off their experience,” he said.

While there will always be product and brand roles, Michael Page director of marketing and digital, David Khadi, said the big push has been in digital, CRM and in particular, skills that move customer data management away from a pure database play and into more of a segmented and marketing-led approach.

“Across the board, and with all marketers from junior to senior, there is that focus on real return on investments,” he added. “Organisations are looking for marketers who can drive results, not historically the ones that wanted to work in big teams and have big budgets to spend above-the-line.”

The expectations around CMOs

It’s not just the marketing managers being asked to step up in terms of data and technology prowess; it’s also expected of CMOs. Kenning said using data to understand customers has become a vital skillset for any marketing leader.

“By using data, CMOs need to be able to know and prove who their customers are and could be, and what their customers want, need and like and therefore know the best way to communicate with them and provide the perfect product/service,” he said.

CMOs also need to understand digital/future trends and ensure they are as ahead of the game as possible, he said.

ROI is another rule, and all recruiters agreed marketing leaders must be able to demonstrate what an organisation will get from their marketing investment in terms of business impact confidently, and right up to a board level.

“With dozens of new measurement and analytics tools coming to the market each month, CMOs need to know what reporting tools to invest in, how to use them and most importantly, know what insights and information to extract to ensure ROI is measured, maximised and communicated across the business,” Kenning said.

“CMOs need to think holistically across the whole marketing space - especially everything digital. A fully integrated marketing approach across every channel is a must.”

Hudson’s clients are looking for strong leadership qualities coupled with excellent communication skills and the ability to manage a range of stakeholders to gain buy-in from both the internal business and external clients, Davidson said.

“Companies are also increasingly looking for candidates who have experience across the Asia-Pacific region; whereas previously we saw a focus on A/NZ, we are now seeing the Australian and New Zealand markets merge with Asia,” he commented.

“Skills in demand for CMOs include business partnering and customer lifecycle management, plus a focus on revenue generation, strategy, the role of digital and an appreciation of brand.”

With many businesses transforming to digital platforms, products, services and communication channels, Kenning believed CMOs are becoming more pivotal to the organisation’s growth and evolution. But they’ll only retain that image if they have the credibility to present at board level, drive digital innovation across the company and then justify the rationale behind decisions, he said.

What is encouraging is that more CEOs and business leaders are looking to CMOs to drive innovation and change management, Khadi said. He cited a number of new CMO roles also being created across different industries, even within more established Australian organisations. One such example is a 30-year old organisation now seeking its first head of marketing.

“At this level, they’re not just bringing in someone to make a change, but who also does things differently,” Khadi claimed. “People have to demonstrate change management and initiatives that have helped drive marketing performance, such as branding. Stakeholder engagement is important, as is understanding and wanting that challenge.

“Most candidates at a CMO level are motivated to move roles for the challenge. They rarely want to hold the steering wheel – most want a fresh challenge.”

Up next: What skills are expected to gain popularity in 2015 plus CMO salary expectations

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