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How to Fill the Digital Marketing Talent Gap in Your Company

Derek Blaszak

Director of Digital Marketing

They say good help is hard to find, and your team is only as strong as its weakest link. Clichés aside, hiring the right people to fill your internal marketing team is tough. Recruiting talented and experienced digital marketers may seem especially difficult.

Ten years ago, many companies assumed they could delegate tasks like social media and blogging to an intern. Now it’s clear, if you want your digital marketing efforts to make an impact, you need people who can carry out an integrated strategy.

Digital marketing is no longer something that gets tagged onto a marketing plan: it is the marketing plan–because we live and work in a digital world that connects to the real world. From how we network and sell to how we research and make purchase decisions, it’s all digitally intertwined. The way business gets done in the digital age is constantly evolving, and you need people who understand how to adapt to those changes.

That’s one reason why LinkedIn’s “Emerging Jobs Report” lists titles such as marketing specialists, web developers, social media experts, graphic designers, and data scientists among those with the largest skills gap and expected hiring growth.

Those are all important roles to fill, but most internal marketing teams don’t have someone for every possible position. What’s holding you back?

Hiring Digital Marketing Staff | Four Challenges

1.  Finding Top Talent

According to a survey from McKinley Marketing Partners, 69 percent of those questioned said they planned to grow their marketing teams in 2018. Yet, despite similar plans in 2017, the survey found that marketing hiring actually decreased that year. The report’s authors partly attribute this to low unemployment in the U.S., which continues to make hiring skilled marketers competitive. These are people who are in high demand, but supply is tight.

The McKinley report indicates talent in digital marketing and creative services were in highest demand in 2018.

digital marketing talent gap stats

In addition to a competitive job market, most experienced digital marketers aren’t actively looking for new employment opportunities, which means simply posting open positions may not be the best way to attract top talent.

According to research from the Digital Marketing Institute, less than a quarter of marketers are looking for new job opportunities on a weekly basis. But, 55 percent either look occasionally or would consider an opportunity if approached by a recruiter or potential employer.

Depending on where your company is based, location may be another factor preventing you from hiring top talent. A lot of the best digital marketers end up in major cities. To combat that challenge, some employers allow marketing staff to telecommute and work remotely. Others try to sell the value of living in a smaller community with a lower cost of living.

2.  Paying Top Talent

If you want to recruit the best and the brightest digital marketers, it should come as no shock that money talks. The Digital Marketing Institute says a salary increase tops the reasons digital marketers switch jobs (41 percent), followed by career advancement (29 percent).

Vitamin T, a talent agency for digital creatives, publishes an annual salary guide showing typical pay ranges for different roles on a marketing team. The Vitamin T survey provided market adjustments for average salaries related to common digital marketing careers.

In the Milwaukee, Wisconsin market, salaries are about 7.5 percent lower than the national average. Here are a few roles you might look to fill in your organization and the range of salary you could be expected to pay. We’ve also included average salaries for public relations roles in the Milwaukee market from Salary.com.

2019 Salary Ranges for Digital Marketing Jobs

Digital Marketing Manager:           $43,000 to $97,000

Web Developer:                                $49,000 to $93,000

Graphic Designer:                            $42,000 to $72,000

Copywriter:                                        $49,000 to $83,000

SEO Specialist:                                  $46,500 to $87,500

Social Media Marketer:                   $47,000 to $87,000

Email Marketing Specialist:           $38,000 to $76,000

Marketing Analyst:                           $45,000 to $95,000

PR Manager                                       $90,000 to $118,000

PR Specialist:                                     $45,000 to $60,000

Total Potential Salaries:             $494,500 to $868,500

Even if you just hired for a few of these positions, and found entry-level marketers willing to work for salaries on the lower end, your payroll would still be impacted. But remember, you’re looking for marketing hires in a competitive job market, and you may want to hire top talent as opposed to inexperienced marketers.

On top of salary and benefits, your organization will likely need to pay for the technology these marketers use in their work, including everything from creative software subscriptions and marketing automation to production gear and project management tools. Then, you must trust that your marketing staff is capable of effectively using the resources you’re paying for them to use.

3.  The Digital Marketing Skills Gap

Part of the reason there’s a digital marketing talent gap is that there’s also a skills gap, meaning people filling roles on a marketing team may lack knowledge and experience. The Digital Marketing Institute found 69 percent of U.S. survey respondents say they need to improve digital marketing skills to remain competent in the future.

The Digital Marketing Institute also gave competency tests to marketers on topics such as SEO, email marketing, and social media. While 51 percent of participants believed they were competent, test results indicated only around 38 percent actually were. The report found the largest skills gap involved strategy and planning, with 63 percent admitting it is a struggle.

With so many digital natives entering the workforce every year, why is this a problem? The truth is, there’s a big difference between being a digital consumer and a digital content creator, and it’s another large leap to go from an online content creator to a strategic digital marketer.

Most colleges and universities are just beginning to incorporate online marketing into coursework. Not surprisingly, the marketing world changes so quickly it’s tough for communication programs and professors to keep up.

The way the most-talented digital marketers earn their chops is through real-world experience. They’ve experimented, made mistakes, and learned how to apply the foundations of good marketing using new technologies and tactics along the way. Look for marketers who’ve found success cutting their teeth working for startups and small businesses. These individuals are often entrepreneurial-minded self-starters with experience in several digital marketing practices.

4.  Building an Effective Team

If you can find people with a diverse digital marketing skillset, they could become key members of your marketing department. In our article about the elements of agile marketing, we described these peoples as “T-Shaped marketers,” meaning they have breadth of knowledge in several areas with depth of experience in one or two.

t shaped marketer

The mistake too many companies make, however, is assuming there are people who are experts in a wide variety of digital marketing skills. You may find a copywriter who can also handle your social media and understands a little bit about coding, but if you think you’ll find one or two people who can fulfill every role on a well-balanced marketing team and meet the standards for quality and strategy you expect … it’s time to get more realistic.

Believe it or not, it’s not uncommon to see job postings in which companies seem to think they’ll find digital marketers who can write, design, produce videos, know SEO, social media, project management, analytics, email marketing, media buying, paid digital, user experience, and can handle putting together a strategy along with the annual marketing budget.

It just doesn’t work that way. Inevitably, there will be talent gaps in your marketing team, or you will burn out the people in your company who are wearing too many hats.

How an Agency Partnership Fills Marketing Talent Gaps

One reason companies try to find those “digital marketing unicorns” with expertise in every skill imaginable is that they want to add a variety of tactics and projects to their strategy. But, they may not need full-time people with those precise skills.

For example, you may want to produce one or two videos with high production quality in a year. Yet, while your in-house team can make simple videos for social media, they don’t have the skills needed to produce, shoot, and edit a cutting-edge corporate story video.

You may have competent marketing managers who communicate with sales and help see projects through from start to finish, but they don’t have time to spend hours every week interviewing your company’s subject matter experts and writing articles. Your website needs a refresh and occasional updates, but you can’t afford a full-time web developer.

Your PR team can handle company announcements and tradeshows, but they aren’t seeking Earned media opportunities in the publications your prospects read. You may have a team of marketers creating content, but the efforts lack a solid strategy or any way to measure whether their work is helping you reach business goals and impacting the bottom line.

That’s where a relationship with a full-service marketing agency such as Element can be extremely valuable. Agencies like Element attract top marketing talent because we provide a fun and fast-paced place to work in a creative environment where every day presents a new challenge. Element’s holistic approach to integrated marketing services (digital and traditional) means we can support our clients in the areas they need it most.

From defining your brand and helping you develop and document a marketing strategy to executing on digital marketing deliverables, we customize programs for our clients that allow their teams to focus on their strengths, while our team makes everyone look good behind the scenes.

Don’t think of it as outsourcing your marketing, because that’s not what an agency partnership like this represents at all. We’re not a way to farm out extra work, we are a strategic marketing partner that finds creative ways to help you grow your business and holds itself accountable by reporting on what we do measured against your business goals.

Check out our talented team, which is always growing, and contact Element today to find out how we can support your marketing efforts.