Essential Skills for Effective 21st-century Marketing

August 04, 2016
04 - Essential Skills for Effective 21st-century Marketing

No matter what kind of business you have, marketing is a critical component of your sales and growth strategy. And it’s a very crowded market out there – you want to get noticed. The good news is that you can build an effective marketing program without hiring a full-time marketing team, but there are a number of skills that you do want to make sure you have.


You need to be able to communicate information about your company and offering. But it can be challenging to get and keep consumers’ attention. You have to be engaging, which means you need to be able to tell a good story. People connect with stories in a way they don’t with facts; storytelling puts your product or service into context and humanizes your brand.


Copywriting isn’t just about clear, concise, grammatically correct and error-free writing (although that is a must across everything that you do). You need to understand how and where the copy will be used. In particular, in today’s noisy market, you need to be able to craft headlines (or, in the case of emails, subject lines) that are both compelling and relevant.

Image Sourcing

Visuals are a critical component of communications today. That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to be a graphic designer or have one on call. There are lots of great sources for free and inexpensive images to use in blogs, on your website, and in other marketing materials. You do, however, need to understand the basics of image licensing so that you can identify which images you can safely use without infringing on someone’s copyright. And having a good eye helps you select images that will be relevant and visually appealing.

Email Marketing

Email is still a powerful communication channel to help keep your business top of mind with customers and prospects. Email can be used to promote special offers and events, thank loyal customers with private discounts and deals, or promote news about your company. If you have a lot of interesting, informative content, you might even want to consider sending out a regular newsletter. There are a number of different email marketing systems that are inexpensive and easy to use, so pick one that fits your needs, budget, and comfort level.

Social Media Marketing

Social media is an important marketing and customer support channel – don’t ignore it. Pick just a couple to focus on, and make sure that your customers are active on those networks. Social media is a great channel for content, offers, news, etc., but don’t be 100 percent promotional. And listen and engage as well – social media is a two-way channel.

Basic SEO

You don’t want your business to be a best-kept secret – you want to be found. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a big topic and it can seem overwhelming, but it’s important to understand the basics so you can make sure that your website has a fair shot of being found. Most website content management systems (CMSs) today build sites that are search-engine-friendly, but knowing some of the basics of SEO, including local SEO if that is relevant for your business, can help ensure you’re found in Google searches.

Basic HTML

There are so many easy-to-use tools available today, you don’t need to know HTML to create great-looking website pages, emails, and other browser-based content. But even just a rudimentary understanding of HTML can help you get more from these solutions. The good news is that this level of basic HTML isn’t actually coding – it’s really just formatting – so don’t let it intimidate you.

Create-Once-Run-Everywhere Mindset

The expression “waste not want not” should be your marketing mantra. Nothing is single-purpose – get the most mileage out of all your marketing assets. Wrote a blog? Great! Promote it on social media, email, and any place else you can think of. And don’t limit yourself to “traditional” marketing content. Maybe you drafted an explanatory email in response to a customer question. If you think others might be interested in the topic, turn your response (with any necessary re-working) into a blog or social media post. You get the idea.


John Wanamaker, 19th-century merchant and marketing pioneer, once famously quipped, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” In today’s digital world, that’s no longer true. We have lots of data and can track program results down to the smallest detail. It’s important to understand the data that’s available, analyze it on a regular basis, and use the insights gained to improve the effectiveness of programs.

Chances are, you’ve got a good handle on at least of couple of these areas, but it’s important to identify any weak spots and shore them up. The good news is that there are many great resources available online to help you get started. With a little Googling and reading – and then jumping right in – you’ll start building these essential skills in no time.

You can build an effective marketing program without hiring a full-time marketing team.

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