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A new report published by the Digital Marketing Institute and The Economist Group reinforces the idea that nurturing talent and closing the tech skills gap will be fundamental to overcoming tomorrow’s marketing challenges.

Perpetual Evolution: The interplay of talent and technology in the future of marketing offers a comprehensive analysis of the current challenges faced by marketers, as well as future predictions of what issues they may face down the line.

The research builds on a number reports released in the last year which have uncovered a degree of friction between talent and tech – from overworked IT teams feeling pressured to implement digital transformation initiatives, to staff who fear for their jobs as emerging AI-led martech is touted as the answer to tomorrow’s marketing questions.

But as Mina Seetharaman, the Chief Strategy and Creative Officer at The Economist Group, states in the foreword:

‘Marketers agree that tech alone is not the harbinger of the marketing future. The combination of tech and talent is key to future success.’

So if marrying tech and talent is the endgame, where do marketers believe they are on the road to ensure they are adapting?

Key challenges according to marketers

According to the report, securing talent with the right skill set is the most cited challenge faced by marketers today. 35% of respondents stated this, while 29% pointed to data security and 27% highlighted the ability to keep pace with market demand/audience needs.

greatest challenges marketing faces today, talent and skill set

Talent pools for emerging technologies are certainly limited. Tech is seen to change so quickly one wonders if staff intake and nurturing programs can really keep up. But the fundamental reason for issues here is cost. In simple terms, businesses are unwilling or unable to divert budget to investing in staff or taking on new employees.

In the case of businesses who are at least proactive in addressing their staffing needs, Seetharaman also points to rampant short-termism – businesses choosing to spend less on hiring new staff rather than investing in those they already employ. She warns of the disposable nature of this kind of mismanagement, and argues that ‘the revolving door of recruitment can create long-term financial and cultural costs.’

Recruiting the right marketing staff today is proving difficult

Perpetual Evolution also delves into the types of jobs marketing leaders are finding hardest to fill.

marketing, hardest areas to recruit for

Data and analytics is the clear leader here, with 39% of respondents saying it is the most challenging area. 27% point to customer experience as a difficult area in and of itself. But ultimately, it is the evolution of companies into customer-focused organisations which is skewing the make-up of internal teams. These are newly developing areas of marketing and the necessary skills needed command higher costs.

Understanding the skills needed for tomorrow’s marketing teams

The report reflects on where marketing leaders are agreed in terms of hiring and training staff who have the skills needed for tomorrow.

marketing, future skills needed

Responses were varied. Tangible marketing skills are still as being cited as a key feature of an employee toolkit, while technology skills (as related to martech such as analytics and CX) is seen as the leading area.

Additionally, soft skills such as creativity, analytical thinking, openness to change and adaptability are all high on the list. Ethics and quickness to learn are arguably more vital for staff members where the technology they are using today may not be the technology they are using one, two, or five years down the line.


Perpetual Evolution adds to a body of research which will be of great value to businesses looking to navigate this period of fast and disruptive technological change.

While customer-focused business is changing the types of technologies organizations need to invest in, it is also transforming the make-up of internal marketing teams and calling for the needs of different skill sets.

Businesses need to fight short-termism. To paraphrase Seetharaman, it can be cheaper to hire new marketing staff with the current talent and tech skills needed, but this kind of management can create gaps in the toolkit while seeking to fill them.

Retraining is certainly on the agenda for many marketers. 40% ‘say they will focus equally on recruitment and re-skilling of their existing workforce,’ according to the report. There is an important lesson about understanding the real long-term value of the invested employee as opposed to simply investing in employees.

Of course, hiring and re-skilling is not just about having staff with the skills needed to use new technologies. Soft skills are increasing in their importance too.

This is a takeaway for both employers who are looking to invest in their internal skill sets, as well as employees — or future employees — making themselves available for work in tomorrow’s marketing world.

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