Look inside the heads of great marketers like Seth Godin and Steve Jobs and you’ll be surprised by the number of skills that these guys and gals have that might not necessarily be tied to marketing. You’ll see things like interviewing skills, giving good feedback, and even kissing butt. But you’ll also see things you’d expect like storytelling, a drive for result, and a focus on the sales funnel.
And after nearly a decade working in the SEO industry in various capacities, I’ve absolutely found this to be true. Whether as the founder of Single Grain or in my full-time positions with companies like Oversee.net, I’ve seen first-hand that when I focus on meeting my customers’ needs, I ultimately wind up more successful than when I put my own personal gain first.
With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of 50 skills that you must have as a marketer in order to keep your customers happy and coming back for more. Let’s take a closer look so I can show you what I mean.
The truly great marketer obsesses about the customer: his needs, wants, desires, dreams and problems. Every marketing conversation begins with the customer—and how they will benefit.
A good marketer understands that people love stories. He or she can identify and weave a good narrative. He knows that conflict is at the center of every good story. And he knows that people want to see themselves in those stories.
3. Speed reading
If you want to stay on top of your game, then you need to read every book, magazine article and blog post you can get your hands on. The more information you have at your disposal, the more ideas you will have.
4. Building associations
Great marketers can listen to an advertising idea, scan a business plan or watch a presentation about a client’s campaign goals and eventually bring together a comprehensive plan. They can see how to maximize opportunities across several industries.
Marketers need to think like a journalist. No matter if you are talking to the CEO or a client, you need to know how to ask the right questions to get the best answer, hunt for the best hook and not be afraid to follow up if he has more questions.
6. Describing the end game
What does success look like? How do you know if you are succeeding or failing? What milestones do we have to reach to know we are on track and schedule? These questions define the way a marketer thinks. He’s always thinking about the big picture.
Creativity is really all about the production of unique and useful products. A great marketer spends a good deal of time thinking or and refining these types of products. He’s not afraid to fail (he loves risk) and he’s not afraid to throw away a bad idea. He’s full of ideas.
A lot of marketers are introverts, but that doesn’t excuse you from being a good speaker. You need to be able to handle yourself in both one-on-one situations and in front of a group. I didn’t say you have to love it—you just have to be able to do it well.
In connection with speaking, a great marketer will love to teach. He will love to share all of his knowledge. You can do this through blog posts, podcasts, one-on-one mentorships, workshops or even teaching in an official classroom setting.
A great marketer will know how to craft just about any message. He’ll know the essence of creating an email asking for a favor from a business partner or writing a proposal for a client. He’ll be a decent speller and know the rules of proper grammar. And when to break those rules.
Communication is not all about what you say. True communication occurs when you hear what someone else says and you correctly understand what they say. That comes with good listening skills like asking questions, nodding, paraphrasing and concentrating on what the speaker is saying.
Marketing is one discipline that must play nice with several other disciplines like sales, finance and IT, which won’t happen if you don’t learn how to work with other people. Teamwork is essential to creating great marketing—so be humble and seek the success of other people, and not just your own.
13. Giving feedback
Steve Jobs wasn’t afraid to tell a designer his work sucked. Of course being diplomatic is important. But it is much better that you kill bad ideas quickly, than let them fester and gain momentum, which ultimately will lose you time and money.
14. Live for rapid change
Do you realize how much marketing has changed in the last 50 years? From radio to television to the internet, the changes that have influenced and transform the marketing world have only increased. You need to be comfortable in this environment.
15. Understand data and metrics
As a marketer you should also live for metrics. You don’t have to be a Google Analytics expert or a database mining guru—but you need to understand common terms and you need to know what to ask for.
16. Hard nose for results
Speaking of data, a great marketer thinks that ever thing he does should be tied to performance. This goes back to his love for the endgame, and his belief that without results you can’t tell if you are winning or losing.
17. Direct marketing
He’s developed this hard-nosed quest for results from his exposure to direct response marketing, which is a discipline inside marketing and made famous by the real Mad Men.
You should have a fascination with figuring people out—what are their hot buttons? What makes them tick? What do they want out of life? This campaign? And then figuring out how to get them those things so
Hate it or love it—you got to do it if you want to get things done. So it pays to learn negotiating tactics like “good cop/bad cop,” “deadline” or “be willing to walk away.”
20. Analyzing emotions
Whether it is your client, CEO or customers, understanding how emotions make people buy is an incredibly effective skill to have when it comes to marketing. And it all starts with the belief that people buy on emotions, not logic.
21. Search engine optimization
You don’t have to master the art of SEO, but it helps to know the basics like link building, on-page optimization and the impact social media has upon rankings.
22. Content marketing
This is another sub-set of marketing that should be in every marketer’s toolbox. This includes creating content for videos, conferences, blogging or book-length how-to guides. You will usually be a master of one of these areas, too, but not all.
23. Public relations
This boils down to the exchange of information between you and the public. How much do you tell them about the new product you are creating? How do you respond to a customer service nightmare? How you deal with these issues is all about good public relations.
24. Social media
Are you familiar with the major social media platforms out there? Do you have a general sense of each one’s target audience? Can you tell which corporations that would benefit from a social media program—and which ones that wouldn’t?
24. Manage multiple projects
It would be nice if you could just focus on one campaign or project at a time—but unfortunately that won’t be the case. You’ll need to be able to juggle multiple ideas, plans and end goals if you want to be a good marketer these days.
Marketing is all about studying your market, customer, product and company. And all of that means you have to roll up your sleeves and dig for information.
More than likely as a marketer you will work with a team to accomplish a goal. A great marketer is also a great leader, recruiting and encouraging people to accomplish a goal from the start to the very end.
28. Decision making
Even though you’ll probably have access to a ton of information, you’ll never have enough. Worse, you may get paralyzed by all of that information. Or you may fear making a wrong decision. Analyze the data, make a decision and then learn from your mistakes.
Marketers understand that the more people you know the more opportunities, ideas and help you will have. This is why you should spend a good chunk of your time connecting with people on social media, at conference and lunches.
30. Funnel focused
This is the person who constantly thinks about the systems that gets a suspect to become a prospect who becomes a customer who becomes an advocate.
31. Authority building
The marketer realizes that he’s only as good as what people think of him…so he constantly works to become a master in his field.
32. Anticipating and handling objections
Because of your extensive testing you can zero in on what annoys the client or what will make a customer say no to your product offering—and then adjust to overcome that objection.
33. Closing sales
People usually fail at sales because they are afraid to ask for the order. A great marketer knows that most customers won’t buy unless you tell them that’s exactly what they should do.
34. Sharpen the saw
The DNA in a marketer includes this relentless desire to get better at what they do. They are always trying to improve personally—and they are also trying to help those around them improve, too.
Remember the Hari Krishna’s handing out flowers at airports? That was pure marketing genius. Their donations skyrocketed because giving someone a gift makes other people feel obligated to give them something in return. Marketers understand people don’t like to be in debt to other people.
36. Building scarcity
Another skill the marketer has is the ability to use the concept of scarcity to get people off of their butts to buy. Limited time to buy or limited supply are examples of building scarcity marketers employ.
You understand the impact manufacturing costs, quality, customer expectations, market position and conditions and competition have on your product. And how to test price to reach maximal profitability.
Running tests is one of the things that makes marketing so fun. Whether it’s an A/B on an email headline or a multi-variate on a landing page you get a kick out of learning what will win out.
You love to look at numbers: number of subscribers, traffic, page views and sales.
What I mean by this is the ability to clearly and concisely describe a complex or large idea into a short, easy-to-digest idea. After listening to clients or management ramble for hours, a good marketer will be able to say, “So you want X with Y by Z, right?”
You can study a product, its market and target customer and eventually articulate the benefits that need to be promoted and the best way to craft that message across all channels.
Like Steve Jobs, a great marketer will shave off all fat and pour his concentration into making a handful of products the absolute best they can be.
Whether it’s your desktop or the latest marketing campaign, as a marketer you need to be able to coordinate smaller things into meaningful larger chunks. This includes building a marketing team or a content marketing strategy.
44. Architecting content
What I’m talking about here is how to best layout content like videos, articles and ads on a web page.
45. Planning good usability
Marketers need to be involved in the manufacturing of a product—whether it’s a door handle or website—and you need to determine what makes a product easy to use.
46. Recognizing great design
You don’t have to be a designer to be a marketer. You just have to be able to spot good and bad design, which means you have to know what attracts and repels people.
47. Creating innovation
Are you pushing to stand out from the crowd? Do you strive to create something that competitors can’t copy because they don’t have your resources? Are you always saying, “What if”? Then you are probably a pretty good marketer.
48. Kissing butt
Great marketers aren’t so proud that they aren’t willing to kiss butt to get stuff done. They understand that a little flattery goes a long way—even if the principle on the other side of the table knows he is being flattered. People like their egos stroked.
49. Motivating others
You might be a pretty passionate marketer, but no doubt you’ll run into situations where people you have to work with won’t be as motivated as you. This is why you need to take your passion and rub some of it off on your team.
It’s hard being a marketer—especially if you want to be a great one. You need to have the balls to stick to your ideas and to call crap “crap” when you see it.
Can you see now what I mean when I say all these skills are focused on people, namely customers? It’s that kind of focus on the customer that makes a marketer great.
What other skills should a marketer have?