5 Marketing Skillsets That Matter Most
Believe it or not, this is my 150th blog post! Several years ago when I started “Navigating Off the Napkin,” I had a vision to talk about things that really mattered and would create real discussion and change in our industry. I may or may not have always accomplished that, but there is one thing I can guarantee that changed over these 150 blog posts—the skills needed by our industry to bring about real success in marketing and fundraising.
In fact, Sirius Decisions published an article, “The Top Five Marketing Skill Sets for 2017.” While their article specifically calls out business-to-business companies, I actually believe 99.9 percent applies to the nonprofit world as well. Yes, we are business-to-consumer, but we are “selling” our version of a product/service. And, with today’s donors, we still have to provide value and show a return on their investment in our mission. We still must continue to ensure our constituents feel as though they have made the right decision to invest in what we offer (to the world). This is why I believe these skillsets apply to this industry as much as other industries.
I’ve put their top five skill sets below and added my comments specific to the marketing and fundraising arena in our industry. Of special note, this study was done with CMOs and was based on the “shorter-term” of skills that they felt must be advanced in the next 2 years.
1. Marketing Strategy: According to the study, many marketing organizations/departments “have staff who are skilled in tactic execution, but lack competency in strategic planning. What is needed is a growth in marketers with the ability to interpret growth strategies and define appropriate marketing strategies that support business objectives and marketing goals. They want marketers who can support the shift from product-centric to audience-centric marketing, develop and implement integrated campaigns and determine effective and scalable digital strategies.”
o My Thoughts: Yes, yes, yes. Is that clear enough? Actually, in the nonprofit fundraising and marketing world, it is perhaps an even larger gap. The largest area of fundraising involving “customers” has been in direct marketing, which has bred a large group of very skilled marketing tacticians. However, when the times are tough, performance is down or the organization rebrands, it is the adjustment of the overall strategy that becomes a challenge. Furthermore, the transition from transactional to relational (what they call audience-centric marketing) is absolutely imperative. I’ve blogged about that the most in my 150 posts. To not move to a donor/customer centric approach to marketing and fundraising will not even allow an organization to maintain its current position—that position will absolutely degrade as other organizations advance.
2. Analytics: According to the study, “… in the current age of big data, CMOs are interested in marketers who are skilled at applying analytics concepts, tools and models to marketing challenges; deriving actionable insight from data; and leveraging these insights to guide marketing decisions.”
o My Thoughts: What I loved about this being highlighted is they also clarified that they are not looking for data scientists to become marketers or visa versa. They want to enhance the skill sets of marketers who can partner with analytics professionals. But they see this as a gap because the marketers must own the analytical initiatives as they are focused on helping their own marketing strategies. Several months ago, I wrote about the rising need of the data scientist in the industry and that they are a rare breed. I would argue that our industry needs to fill both the gaps of the data scientist and the marketer who can truly appreciate and collaborate with the data scientist.
3. Channel Partner Management and Sales Enablement: “Tied for third place were channel partner management and sales enablement skill sets, reflecting the increased need for marketing to support direct and partner sales organizations in sourcing demand and converting opportunities.“
o My Thoughts: Of the top five, this may truly be one that doesn’t directly apply. However, if we think of the overall fundraising approach used by an organization, I believe this skill set somewhat aligns (yes, I’m bending this one) with the need for nonprofits to truly understand the value of aligning with other brands in the pursuit of reaching more people with the mission of the organization. Several weeks ago, I wrote about the way to do cause marketing correctly. Someone who can work with a commercial brand and truly see the intersection of benefits, audiences and value proposition is a unique skillset.
4. Social Media: According to the CMOs in the study, “Social media expertise, capabilities and activity levels are maturing in most marketing organizations, and CMOs are finding that siloing social operations in a singular function no longer makes sense. CMOs want marketers who can leverage social media creatively and cross-functionally, regardless of their role in marketing. This requires training marketers in the development and execution of the company’s social media strategy, understanding of the social media landscape (including laws and regulations) and knowledge of social monitoring and management techniques.”
o My Thoughts: I cannot stress this enough for the nonprofit industry. Right now, it appears most organizations have social media page posts in the communications team and the paid social media ads in the marketing and/or fundraising teams. First, this creates coordination problems relative to storytelling for the brand overall. Second, this naturally creates a split view of how both strategies are influencing the growth of the community. Furthermore, to truly have strong social media expertise, you need to have someone who is a strong marketer, fundraiser and understands how advertising within the platforms actually works. In other words, a true social media marketer is also very strong in segmentation and audience selection. This is definitely a gap in most organizations.
5. Marketing Measurement: According to the study, “... rounding out the list is the perennial favorite skill set of marketing measurement. CMOs are interested in upskilling their staff to be able to demonstrate their performance impact against marketing goals. Core competencies include establishing program or tactic metrics that align with business objectives, accessing available data sources to create reports, asking relevant business questions (e.g. why are certain outcomes happening?) and leveraging data to gain answers, and translating data insights into recommended actions.”
o My Thoughts: This is a great one and applies 100 percent to nonprofits. However, over the years, nonprofits have chosen to handle this in several ways. Some organizations set up centralized measurement areas while others kept measurement within each department. There are pros and cons to each approach, but one thing is clear in my mind: Anyone who owns or manages a marketing strategy must absolutely understand how to measure it against the organization’s goals. This is very different than how to manage a marketing tactic or marketing campaign. Also, measurement against organizational goals must be very well documented and frequently discussed. This is important for many reasons, but one is to ensure the marketing dollars are being spent on strategies that are helping the nonprofit reach its goals. At times, accidentally, a department becomes focused on their isolated goals and metrics, which prevent the higher-level view. Having the marketing and fundraising team assigned strategy goals that are clearly aligning and accrue to organizational goals is critical, and it takes the right skill set to ensure that.
If you are the head of a marketing team and/or fundraising team and you think through these five (or four primary) skillets, where is your team’s strength and where are the gaps? If you have substantial gaps, take comfort that you are not alone, but make sure you work this into your next hiring approach.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.