New year, new decade and time to think about the marketing skills for 2020 you should either be improving or developing so that you can make sure your organisation’s marketing actually works.


What marketing skills should we all have?

With companies like McKinsey undertaking and publishing research on how business skills need to move beyond the obvious (read their article on ‘How to develop soft skills’ for some great advice), marketers and those responsible need to think about their marketing skills in a broader way.

Whatever your involvement in marketing, whether you’re the MD, CEO, Marketing Manager or Marketing Assistant, I believe there are five marketing skills that we all need to hone and develop:

  1. Taking a structured approach
  2. Measuring properly
  3. Putting customers at the heart of everything
  4. Being Digitally curious
  5. Networking in real and virtual life.

These are skills that will take you through this decade whatever market you work in and whatever the future throws at us.

So, let’s look at each marketing skill in turn.


1. Taking a structured approach to marketing

 This can be summed up as: take an organised approach to marketing ideally using a recognised method.

Marketing is a business process that can be learnt, applied and followed. Frankly, if you don’t have a marketing plan and you aren’t approaching marketing in a structured way then your marketing will never work really well.

There are different structures and approaches to reviewing, planning, implementing and then measuring and improving your marketing.

The one that I’ve found works again and again with all of my clients and their varied businesses is PR Smith’s SOSTAC model.

SOSTAC – a quick overview
  • Takes you from the very ‘top’ starting with strategic marketing, reviewing and understanding your current market place and how you operate in it, through to creating a marketing plan and then measuring it.Three gears working together
  • Can be adapted so EVERY organisation can apply all the steps of SOSTAC to the level of detail that they need.
  • Shows you that if you haven’t covered off all the steps then you’re missing out a key chunk of your marketing. It’s like deciding to get fit and doing lots of exercise but utterly failing to address your diet; you are missing out a key component in what needs to be done.

I go into more detail about SOSTAC here in a short blog post.


2. Measuring marketing properly

I am often brought into businesses because they don’t know if their marketing is actually working. On one level they do, they either have income or they don’t, but they can’t really explain why it works or doesn’t work.

This is down to poor measurement.

As marketers, we have to have the skills to set and then measure what we are doing (marketing activities) and the results of what we are doing (marketing outcomes).

This can be as basic as:

‘We attend five networking events per month and we get two new clients a month, therefore there is a strong link between networking and new clients’

or as complex as modelling what your marketing spend is going on stripping out other factors, so you can then categorically prove it was your advertising that brought in revenue.

If you don’t fully understand the difference yet between marketing activity measurements and marketing outcome measurements or causal links and correlative links, then you probably aren’t measuring marketing properly. Head over to this blog post I wrote which covers off some of the marketing metric fundamentals.


3. Putting customers at the heart of everything

Your clients are the reason your organisation exists. It is them you wish to serve, influence, engage with. Therefore it is utter madness and appallingly bad business sense to not put them at the heart of your business.

The question I ask business owners, marketing directors and marketing managers the most is:

Do your customers want or like this?

or variants of it.

‘Should we be on Instagram?’

Do your customers like and use it?

‘Should we put our prices up?’

Will your customers still pay them?

‘Should we run webinars or actual events?’

Which work best for your customers?

And so on.


4. Be digitally curious

We live in a technological age and it isn’t going away. So, be a part of it. I meet marketers and business owners who feel overwhelmed by all the new tech and marketing tools out there; it’s so easy to.

My advice is: be digitally curious.

Be interested in what technology is doing, how it can be used for marketing, what the latest ideas are. Read about how other companies are using them, set up personal accounts for the latest social media and play with them away from your business persona.

And if you don’t know where to start, it’s simple. What are your customers using and interested in? Always go back to skill number 3.

Top tip: marketing publications like Marketing Week and The Drum are worth dipping into as they will give you inspiration and show you what other companies are doing.


5. Network in real and virtual life

In our techno led busy world we can forget that every single being we are selling to is a person. As people, we are hard-wired for relationships and connecting with each other.

Build your networks of people both on and off-line. Schedule this activity you’re your Marketing Plan. It should involve:

  • Spending time on the relevant social media platforms engaging with clients, prospective clients, influencers, past colleagues, people you’ve met and liked.
  • Regularly attending or holding a relevant networking event so people can meet you, look you in the eye, take relationships even further (after all, we all recommend and prefer to do business with people we know and trust).
  • 1 to 1s with people – identify people you really want to maintain that relationship with and arrange regular (note – this could be twice a year) 1 to 1s with them either in person on online.

Networking in this way allows you to understand your market place; find prospective clients; be on the ‘will recommend’ list many people have in their heads; raise and maintain yours and your organisation’s profile.


I love Joanna Gaudoin of Inside Out Image’s practical and thought-provoking advice on how to network effectively. Read her guide on how to network at events and do sign up to her newsletter.


While marketing trends and tools come and go, the skills that you need to plan and implement excellent marketing remain the same. Take the time to develop them, hone them, and maintain them. This will lead to a long and successful use of marketing, whatever your organisation and role within it.


Kara Stanford is a Strategic Marketing Consultant at KMS Marketing and a Marketing Tutor with the Oxford College of Marketing.

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