If You’re Not Working to Upgrade Your Marketing Skills, Why Not?

digital marketing skills for the 21st century

Venturing into your business or starting a business career goes beyond hard work, expertise, and patience; it requires hands-on marketing skills. Yet, the gap between the skills needed by businesses and those offered in the talent marketplace grows every year. For instance, check out the graphic below to see how digital analytics represent the largest skill gap while all areas of digital marketing reflect a sizable, double-digit skill gap. Hence, if you’re not working effectively to upgrade your marketing skills, you’re missing a great opportunity to build a successful marketing career with high salaries and great opportunities.

upgrade your marketing skills
Image courtesy of Marketing Profs

The same is true for new businesses that often fail or stagnate because managers or business owners can’t achieve their passion for lack of sufficient marketing skills to succeed in today’s competitive environment.

Some of the vital marketing skills you need to achieve your career or business goals include:

  • communication
  • strategic planning
  • content marketing
  • SEO
  • analytics
  • market automation
  • digital advertising
  • social media marketing
  • email marketing

In addition, as members of a marketing team or the leader of that team (possibly in the future), managers also require business skills, such as leadership, team playing, and time management. You can learn such essential skills through experience over a long period. However, you can also improve your skills in various ways. Read on to learn how to upgrade your marketing skills to improve business performance or set you up in a high-paying career.

Major changes coming to marketing skills

digital marketing skills

As you can see in the graphic above, in addition to the traditional digital marketing skills listed earlier, the digital marketer of the future needs additional skills to match the demands of businesses. Hence, as you consider upgrading your marketing skills, especially if you already have many of the ones listed earlier, consider adding a few of the non-traditional ones listed above, including:

  • Project management
  • Graphic design, at least the fundamentals
  • Coding, especially HTML/CSS and Python
  • Video production and editing

Tactics to upgrade your marketing skills

1.  Attend training programs

Training has a significant impact on upgrading your marketing skills. Online, you’ll find vast opportunities for taking training programs such as those offered through for-profit companies like Coursera, EdX, and a host of others. Many of these programs are taught through top universities or by leading experts at a very reasonable cost.

If cost is a bigger issue, consider community training courses, such as those offered through the SBA (US Small Business Administration) or SBDC (US Small Business Development Centers), found on many major university campuses — I got my start working at an SBDC campus at the University of South Florida while finishing my MBA. The local Chamber of Commerce or Workforce Development are other organizations that might offer free or low-cost training.

In evaluating which training programs are right for you, consider more than cost, however. Consider your learning style (many students find online courses don’t work for them), the amount of time you have to commit to training, and the requirements needed to complete the course. Also, hands-on training works best for most students versus classroom experiences.

2. Read business blogs and books

Any number of sources offer a variety of marketing books offline (such as a library or bookstore), and online (including Amazon) where you can find books to help upgrade your marketing skills. When deciding on the books to read, ensure that you get ones that help upgrade specific marketing skills rather than general marketing books. Consider online books if you don’t like the high price of hardcopy books or the bulk they represent. You can visit troypoint.com for a list of torrent sites that are worth your time.

As with online training, some find it challenging to upgrade their marketing skills through reading a book or marketing blog. Many, like Hausman Marketing Letter [notice this is ostentation self-promotion you are free to ignore], offer posts that contain video, templates, and plans to help upgrade your marketing skills. For instance, I offer a guide that walks you through the process of creating a self-hosted blog with step-by-step instructions accompanied by numerous screenshots. Using this guide, you can easily create a WordPress website in an afternoon for about $150.

3. Find a Mentor

Getting a mentor with extensive marketing experience is a great way to improve your marketing skills. A mentor provides support and advice to assist you to identify the most critical marketing skills and either help you develop those skills or find sources for training.

First, you need to develop clear goals regarding what you want to attain from the mentoring relationship. Recognize that a mentor isn’t there to provide their list of contacts to help you land a job. They’re there to guide you and offer advice to upgrade your marketing skills.

Some companies assign new hires a mentor. Other organizations, such as the AMA (American Marketing Association) offer a mentoring program for members that pairs experienced marketers with those early in their careers.

4. Get hands-on experience

An effective way to upgrade your marketing skills is to go out and get experience. As a student, many universities offer internships to help students gain hands-on experience working for a company, while companies gain less costly help with their marketing tasks. Some companies run new employees through an extensive training program to ensure they gain valuable hands-on experience before letting them work independently.

If you’re thinking of starting your own business, it’s wise to develop essential skills as a worker before opening your venture. For instance, if you want to venture into the restaurant business, consider getting hands-on by working in a kitchen first. That way, you develop the required hands-on business skills for a successful business.

5.  Take business courses

Most universities offer a marketing degree or a marketing concentration as part of a business degree. Even community colleges offer one or more marketing courses. Unfortunately, only a few institutions offer courses or degree programs in digital marketing and many of those are either taught by retired business professionals, who, despite their experience, have only a single perspective on the course, or marketing academics with little hands-on experience running digital marketing programs. That will likely change over time as digital marketing gains a higher percentage of marketing budgets and the academy attracts more folks who choose a Ph.D. after gaining hands-on digital marketing experience. Or, as in my case, Ph. D.s who develop digital marketing skills through continual learning and consulting.

A great program to consider is the digital marketing certificate program I offer through Shenandoah University. In the 4-course sequence, I teach most of the digital marketing skills listed earlier in this post, with an emphasis on hands-on learning rather than conceptual mastery, although we do some of that, as well. Best of all, the program is taught as a virtual offering, which means you take real classes from anywhere through a combination of virtual classes taught via Zoom and online classes so each class only takes 8-weeks, which allows you to complete the program by taking classes 1 night a week in 2 semesters.


Upgrading your marketing skills means vast opportunities open up, whether you want a marketing career or to start your own business. Therefore, upgrading your marketing skills significantly helps with creating a successful venture or career. Marketing skills are a crucial asset of any organization, and these tips should help you improve your marketing skills and other vital business skills.

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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.