The Marketing and Digital Talent Gap - the Search for Agility

Most marketers today operate in a multi-dimensional, multi-functional and multi-channel ecosystem. The role of the CMO has changed and the rise of the Digital CMO and CIO are part cause, and part consequence, of the convergence and growth of digital marketing and the rapid transformation of traditional marketing.

The multiple skill sets required within brands to compete in a tough economy has meant that the need for top talent is becoming increasingly centered around hybrid roles.

With this requirement comes great opportunity for a new breed of multi-talented marketers working their way up the ranks, but it also creates a significant challenge for CEOs and HR people who need to attract a rare and agile talent whilst also retaining and nurturing top talent and potential throughout their organization.

The marketing talent gap

Let's start with some statistics:

75 percent of marketers surveyed stated that their lack of skills is impacting revenue
(Source - 2012 Demand Generation Skills Gap Survey)

74 percent of marketers stated this gap contributes to misaligned marketing and sales team
(Source - 2012 Demand Generation Skills Gap Survey)

The US could face a shortage of 140,000-190,000 people with deep data analysis skills by 2018
(Source - McKinsey Global Institute Research)

1 in 4 CEOs said they were unable to pursue a market opportunity or have had to cancel or delay a strategic initiative because of talent challenges. (Source Pwc)

1 in 3 CEO's are concerned that skills shortages will impact their company's ability to innovate effectively. (Source Pwc)

What digital is to marketing, marketing is too digital

In my last article I talked about how marketing no longer just holds its lion's share at the beginning of the sales funnel. The convergence of earned, paid and owned media means that marketing is essential at all stages of an organization's sales cycle, not just at a customer level. Data and analytical skills are needed to bridge the gap and give the oversight required for optimal sales cycle management.

Digital is a key part of marketing, and marketing is a key part of digital

Marketing requires skill sets that span across digital, data, corporate marketing, product marketing, sales, PR and client services. To put it short -- to be a leading marketer, digital or conventional, you need to have agility, varied and vast experience, matrix management and leadership skills that are hard to find in a new digital and marketing universe that is fueled by content and measured by success. But why are these people so hard to find and how do you look to increase your chances of success?

Digital and Content Marketing fuels the talent gap

Many C-level executives don't understand digital, but at the same time many digital executives do not understand content, product, corporate, PR, demand generation and the wider commercial mix.

In an industry that talks about the diminishing need to operate in silos, it is essential that CEOs and CMOs instill both traditional and digital marketing principles into their organizational DNA. For example, let's take a digital marketing example, 'cross channel last click attribution' and apply it to a general marketing /organizational environment.

In its simplest form, 'last click attribution' means that credit is given to a paid (PPC advertisement) media format with little or no credit being given to owned media (blog post) or earned media (SEO) campaign. The same principle can be applied for the role of marketing, people and areas of expertise within your organization.

Marketing success, be it digital marketing or offline marketing relies on content and teamwork across multiple functions in marketing. Hybrid and Agile marketers are the people who help bridge and manage that gap, and attribute success correctly. Just like a Chief Revenue Officer does, Chief Content Officers fill a similar void as part of organizational structural innovation. This recent article by Joe Pulizzi on LinkedIn highlight's a variety of roles that are opening up for agile marketers

Job Title Inflation

On the flip side, Job title inflation, although not a new phenomenon in the new world of marketing, can become an increasingly challenging problem.

Back in 2010 I read an article in the Economist that resonated with me to such an extent that I still refer to it today. Back in 2009 the number of members of LinkedIn, with the title Vice-President grew 426 percent faster than the membership of the site as a whole in 2005-09. The inflation rate for Presidents was 312 percent and for Chiefs a mere 275 percent. I shudder to think what today's statistics could be. In many ways the technology sector has been a champion of title inflation due to a collective desire to distance itself from the formalities of traditional business.

Fast-forward to today and it might not be long before we see 'The Chief Reception Officer!'

Now don't get me wrong here -- A well-deserved title that matches role and experience is a win for an organization. However, sometimes only 1 in 3 recruitment decisions workout, and inflating a job title for ego, salary balance or internal agenda and hiring by job titles alone can have disastrous consequences in terms of attrition.

It is no coincidence that in digital and search marketing environment you see many people preferring to consult rather than report to a pre-defined hierarchy, digital and marketing natives, as a sub-ordinate. This is especially true as digital agency models and specialist roles evolve

Jane Watson from Talent Vanguard uses RIM as an example of job title inflation. She explains that, from a cultural standpoint, inflation can erode the sense of fair play and transparency in an organization and when employees with inflated titles leave their organization HR has to pick up the pieces.

On the other hand, executing a well thought-out talent management plan and process in an organization breeds internal talent and fuels success and growth. The line between success and failure is a fine one, and placing the right people, with the right experience, in the right roles and at the right time (internally and externally) is the HR and management headache that constantly throbs at board meetings.

Leaders V Managers

For many companies, talent gap solutions are based around a process of reorganization to adapt to change and move from traditional structures based on pre-defined departmental structures to build new and innovative ways of working and matrix management that are more flexible, less political and are built by optimizing talent as the former and succession planning as the latter.

For smaller companies, start-ups and recruiters, the real challenge lies in establishing the difference between a leader and a manager. The key talent challenge comes when people do not differentiate between the two. Management involves processes such as planning, budgeting, structuring and reporting performance.

John Kotter explains, in a thought-provoking article in the Harvard Business Review, how leadership is not about attributes (management); it's about behavior:

Unless we recognize that we're not talking about management when we speak of leadership, all we will try to do when we do need more leadership is work harder to manage. At a certain point, we end up with over-managed and under-led organizations, which are increasingly vulnerable in a fast-moving world


Many leading organizations that operate in 'converged' digital, marketing, content and technological environments are moving away from the traditional hierarchical and functional ways of working. Agile and Hybrid marketers are leading matrix structured campaigns with multiple reporting lines and managers are helping them work across and influence multiple teams and multiple functions. They use content and data as the catalyst to fuel marketing campaigns. There is a new breed of talent emerging and the talent gap widens once more as Intrapreneurialism grows.