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  • Writer's pictureJohn Bell

Stop Trying to Hire Qualified Digital Marketing Talent

Time for business to embrace true talent development with a formal training commitment.

Whether you are a small business owner or a business leader in a mid-size or larger business, when you have a position to fill, you write up a job description that includes all the capabilities and qualifications that you want. You expect talent to walk through the door knowing how to do everything you need minus a few company-specific capabilities. You comb through resumes looking for the most robust set of skills and experience.

That won’t work if you need a next gen digital marketer (and likely many other positions as well). High-level, experienced talent in relevant digital marketing is at a premium and will be for years to come. Low and mid-level talent is also at a premium yet it’s hard to find people that know enough or have been taught quality practices.

Hire for a Strong Core

Start looking for a solid core of capabilities and set aside that long list of technical skills. The most important capability to look for is the fast learner. A college friend of my son, Nick, was asked if she knew how to work the RED Digital Cinema camera to step into the role of Assistant Cameraperson on a shoot the next day. She said ‘yes’ even though she didn’t have enough significant experience. She went home that night with the camera and every piece of documentation she could get her hands on and learned it overnight. She pulled it off. She is the epitome of a fast learner. I would hire her all day long. Fast learners figure things out.

Here are a few of the other important core capabilities. Your circumstance may call for some over others.

  • Problem-Solver: They know the difference between pointing out a problem and pointing out a problem while offering two, potential solutions.

  • Good Communicator: They can gauge who they are talking with and adjust accordingly (oh, and they can write a keen email, Slack, IM subject-line).

  • Well-Organized: Their mind, IM and inbox are steel traps where they can access previously exchanged material quickly.

  • A Good Eye or Ear: They have some good aesthetic judgment about “quality” or relevancy.

Integrate Learning and Skills Development into the Job Role

If you need to fill a role that is primarily about performance marketing (buying and optimizing paid media), content marketing (creating high-performing content with search engine optimization), or measurement and reporting (analyzing performance data and revealing insights), there is no reason you should start with a complete novice. On the other hand, finding that unicorn with 4+ years’ experience in one or more skill area that you feel is just right for your business is a tall order.

Better to grow them.

Maintain a Formal Training Commitment

"Can you dedicate 6-8 hours a week for the first 8-12 weeks of a new, lower-level employee? Can you then dedicate an ongoing 3-4 hours a week for most employees to continue that digital marketing learning? Can you co-create with the employee the right learning agenda and help them be accountable?"

Those hours will go a long way to strengthening the skills of that team member while giving you more expertise to “sell” to your customers or deliver toward a business outcome. While Millennials and Gen Z are not as employer-loyal as previous generations, this explicit commitment to their development will likely boost engagement and talent retention efforts.

3 Ways to Create a Learning Agenda to Up-Skill Staff

Digital Marketing Certificate Programs – Well-rounded and contemporary certification programs do exist. We created one with CNM Ingenuity, the skills development innovator that is part of Central New Mexico Community College. The Next Gen Digital Marketer certificate program offers a complete training program across strategy, content, data, social, performance, and email marketing. We focus on cohort-based learning that combines live workshops with asynchronous curriculum. This type of schedule is perfect for working adults. The live-plus-on demand approach is a better, higher-quality learning experience than just self-paced modules.

Full digital marketing certificate programs generally run for 12-24 weeks depending on the weekly time commitment. The best of them can be transformational for talent – giving students the best, most up-to-date skills.

Some, like CNM Ingenuity’s Next Gen Digital Marketer certificate program offer students a way to tap public tuition dollars to offset the cost of the program.

Platform Certifications – Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn are all platforms that provide valuable micro-skill certification courses. They are all on demand and require a range of hours to both learn the materials and take the certification quizzes. These are often very fresh. As platforms add features, they churn out or revise training to make sure marketers are ready to leverage the platform fully. And it’s all free.

A variation on this theme are the marketing technology platforms like Salesforce, HubSpot, Hootsuite, Conductor and SEMRUSH. Each of these platforms offers on-demand training most of which is free. There are some paid programs and generally these are modestly priced.

Here are some examples of platform-sponsored trainings:


Salesforce Trailhead

Free Webinars and Email Newsletters – The curious are always subscribed. There are dozens of quality organizations and thought leaders routinely holding free webinars and sending out thoughtful and useful email newsletters. The challenge has always been curating the most useful and inspiring “signal-to-noise.” Creating a recommended list of sources is easy. We used to do it in all sorts of ways – RSS feed collections, Twitter lists, and social media. As part of our CNMIngenuity Next Gen Digital Marketer program, we curate the Master Marketer series. These live and recorded webinars offer insightful and intimate discussions with marketers from Nike, Coca Cola, Hennessey, Twitter, Travelers and more.

For digital marketing, here are a few examples worth consuming and/or subscribing to:

Mobile Marketing Association: The Great Identifier Debates. Greg Stuart, MMA CEO, has done a terrific job of covering great subjects affecting digital marketers. This series digs deep into what comes next after 3rd party data and cookies.

Shopify Blog. If you are into small business ecommerce, regardless of what platform, the Shopify blog publishes tons of practical content to learn from.

The Content Marketing Institute. Even after Informa bought this event + content company, the content tends to be useful marketing content by and for marketers. They have tons of content like Use Loyalty Content To Sustain Your Hard-Won Customer Relationships, as well as a training academy and lots of How-To Guides.

Strands of Stolen Genius. Rosie and Faris, two itinerant marketing creative strategists wander the world and share thought-provoking and refreshing ideas while making you feel part of a community. The best way to learn softer, thinking skills.

American Marketing Association. If you’re a marketer, join. The value is there. They hold regular webinars (and have some training programs in partnership with the Digital Marketing Institute). Webinars include: 5 Ways to Personalize Your Digital Marketing Experiences; How to Develop Buyer Personas that Will Actually Aid Your Business

Think with Google. Sure, it’s a self-serving blog but since they own a corner on the market, keeping up with their latest recommendations is just good sense.

MediaPost Digital News Daily. Just a good way to keep up.

Don’t forget all those marketing software companies, platforms and consultancies (like this one) who are doing a bang-up job creating useful content for marketers and business leaders like Adobe, Google Ads, Conductor, and Heinz Marketing (B2B).

What does your list of learning resources for your digital marketing team include? What will your training commitment look like for new talent in 2022?

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