Three Ways to Bridge the Digital Talent Gap

Mar 07, 2013

Vya Staff

As we discussed in a previous post about the emergence of the Chief Digital Officer, there is a growing gap in what marketing, advertising and PR professionals have been trained to do and what they are ideally expected to do in their roles. New technologies demand new skills, and as businesses learn to harness those technologies in different functional areas, the job descriptions of marketers are evolving past traditional notions.

Rethinking the job description

There are two forces at work here: 1) The amount of data now accessible to marketers is staggering. It’s not just information on demographics anymore or how people are using the Internet; it’s how certain demographics are using the Internet in the most precise terms as possible. 2) The second is economical. Marketing departments are under more pressure than ever to show numbers that support a good ROI for everything they do. And with the info available to them, there are fewer excuses for not quantifying results in those terms.

When you combine those two elements, the role of marketer is quickly turning from creative craftsman to content scientist. As previously noted, one of the major changes the field is seeing is the amount of data accessible to marketers. This has made data analysis a high-demand skill in the search for new employees. A post by Bob Boehnlein of Bussiness2Community highlights a study by McKinsey that reveals there will be an industry shortfall of 140,000 – 190,000 people with analytical expertise by 2018. But it’s not just data analysis. He also cites cross-department collaboration within the company, customer-centric approach and sharp business acumen as being top priorities for marketers going forward.

The price of talent

This has left the rare, aptly qualified marketer in a very powerful position. High demand and low supply is a formula that’s easy to figure out. Some advertising technology companies are paying salaries close to $100,000 for such talent. The problem is there are a lot of businesses who know they need those skills on their side but aren’t willing to pay the maximum market value for them. For a job seeker that’s experienced in data analysis, can code HTML, has a background in creative (such as copywriting or graphic design) and studied some form of business at the university level, there’s no reason or incentive to take anything less than top-dollar.

This disconnect between what companies want in marketing talent versus the pool that’s out there versus how much they’re willing (or not willing) to pay exacerbates that problem of the digital talent gap. It eventually forces most companies to face the reality that they’ll have to compromise between skill and cost. So how can they compensate for the shortcomings in their talent in order to maintain a competitive marketing presence?

Develop talent in-house. You don’t have to send them back to college, but identify members of the marketing team that seem best suited to take on the added responsibility and pay for online or classroom technical training, seminar attendance or other means of skill development. As an added bonus, companies that provide employees with development options usually see higher retention rates as well.

Marketing automation/management systems. There are a range of technologies emerging that promise to deliver on the vast amount of data available to businesses. While you may not get the in-depth, number crunching analysis of an MIT doctoral thesis, marketing resource management (MRM) systems enable businesses today to tap the knowledge that resides in their distributed sales channels for creating highly targeted messaging. In addition, they provide a great jumping-off point for analyzing campaign effectiveness, making it easy to manage data for calculating ROI and evaluate other critical metrics.

Full-service marketing provider. Businesses don’t have to do it all on their own. Going a step further than marketing automation/management, full-service marketing providers combine technology that helps streamline marketing processes with the administrative and technical support to relieve in-house IT and marketing of any responsibilities out of the normal. This extends to administering and running the software itself by uploading templates, managing user profiles and permissions, and assisting with campaign project management.


Technology isn’t just changing the way marketing operates; it’s changing the way marketing thinks. New emphasis on data is demanding new skills be applied in new ways to assess success or failure. Whether through employee development programs, marketing management systems or full-service marketing providers, companies that can’t afford to invest in new-hire talent do have options to stay competitive.

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Tags: digital marketing, ROI, talent gap, data analysis, chief digital officer, advertising technology, MRM, marketing resource management, local marketing automation

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