This is a guest article by Springboard’s Siya Raj Purohit. Siya works on Business Operations at Springboard, and was previously an investor at GSV Acceleration. In this article, she interviews industry leaders about the changing landscape of digital marketing, and how that impacts marketing careers.
In the past, marketers needed three things to do their jobs well:
- the intuitive ability to deeply understand the user
- tools to conduct user research
- the ingenuity to use that information to sell products
Not so today.
Enter social media advertising, customer analysis, marketing automation, and search engine optimization. Today’s marketer needs, in equal parts, razor-sharp analytical thinking, a mindset of experimental creativity, and a data-driven approach to decision-making. This is essential because data now enables us to run marketing campaigns that provide users with personalized products, recommendations, and communication.
As Business Operations Lead at Springboard, my job is to investigate career trends so we can better prepare our students for the jobs of tomorrow. Over the past few months, we started to realize that the digital marketing space is experiencing a significant skills gap.
To better understand this, I interviewed 30 executives, startup founders, and hiring managers from across the marketing sector.
The big takeaway? It’s hard to hire junior digital marketers.
Universities haven’t kept up with innovations in the industry, and that disconnect is creating talent scarcity in this fast-growing field.
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We’ve distilled our learnings into three buckets:
Hiring is taking longer than ever before
Forrester Research has projected that digital marketing spending will top $100 billion and account for 35% of all marketing spending by 2019. There are over 180,000 job postings for digital marketing skills, but not enough people to fill them.
“It takes a long time to hire top-notch people with the right skills to fit the digital marketer role. At Expedia, junior associates are given a lot of autonomy and manage accounts worth up to 6 figures from Day 1. Therefore, we expect them to have the math skills, statistical knowledge, and data analysis proficiency to achieve the growth targets set by managers. It is hard to find marketing talent that is comfortable with those quant skills.”
“Lever analyzed the real recruiting results for one thousand companies using our recruiting platform and discovered that it takes 192 applicants to recruit a single marketing hire. That is far higher than the number for designers, engineers, or even data scientists. This is probably because marketing roles have become so specialized and fragmented that it’s hard to find the right skills and experience with new technology.”
- Leela Srinivasan (Chief Marketing Officer @ Lever)
“We started building a team out 7 months ago and we’re only just about to close our second hire. It’s not like we haven’t been active and aggressive about recruiting – it’s just difficult to find people with the right user acquisition skills who are looking for a new role.”
- David Hu (Director of User Acquisition & Monetization @ NCSOFT)
Even for large companies with significant recruitment budgets and established sourcing processes, finding strong digital marketing talent is difficult because not enough people have the appropriate skills.
Traditional marketing degrees aren’t preparing students for the real world
Since digital marketing roles have high revenue impact and work with large amounts of marketing spend, companies prefer to hire people who have experience running campaigns. Universities don’t teach students the skills they need to have that kind of responsibility.
“Colleges don’t sufficiently prepare students with the skills needed for digital marketing jobs. Many schools still don’t include SEO, SEM, Excel, and SQL as part of their marketing curriculum, nor do they include tools like Marketo and Salesforce. This makes it impossible for new grads to hit the ground running in digital marketing jobs.”
- Vijay Raghavendiran (Director of Global Web, Digital Marketing & Operations at BlueJeans Network)
“It is hard to find people with more than two years of experience because the field is new and people with that experience already have comfortable positions at other companies. Our strategy is to find people with 0-1 years of experience and try to teach them the skills needed to be successful digital marketers. ”
- David Hu (Director of User Acquisition & Monetization @ NCSOFT)
University students echoed this sentiment, adding that companies often don’t even interview candidates who don’t study Management Information Systems (MIS) along with their core marketing degree.
Marketers don’t want to hire marketers. They want to hire people with quant skills.
“Competition for user acquisition roles is fierce because candidates with that background typically go to finance or engineering roles to use their analytical skills. We need someone well versed in data, perhaps with a math or finance background, who would’ve become a data analyst if they didn’t do digital marketing.”
- User Acquisition Specialist at a Gaming Company
“We’re hiring our first digital marketer now. We definitely don’t want someone with just a marketing degree — it’s too easy. We want someone who is smart and data-driven, and can easily work with analytics, Excel, and pivot tables.”
- Brad Kam (CEO @ Talkable)
“We require a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering or Mathematics, and strong SQL skills to ensure that dollars are being utilized in the most efficient way.”
- Senior Analytics Team Manager @ Charles Schwab
Several junior marketers we spoke with want to make the transition from a marketing agency to a technology company but have realized that their experiences don’t translate over because they lack the quant skills needed to analyze marketing metrics and monitor the impact of full campaigns.
This experience cemented our belief that recruiters and aspirants are in need of a solution that combines data-driven thinking and a focus on the bottom line, thus giving young marketers the ability to manage large budgets and run successful marketing campaigns.
To help bridge the jobs-skills gap in this sector, we’re launching our first digital marketing program with a focus on the strategies, metrics, and tools needed to run successful campaigns. It’s a 1:1 mentor-led educational program for creative marketers wanting to learn the analytical piece, or for career switchers looking for a transition into marketing.
You can learn more about that program here.
Ladder is always hiring for talented marketers, designers, and salespeople. Interested in joining a fast-growing company? Drop us a line!