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From the Trenches

The 7 Key Skills for the Modern Marketer

Mike Sweeney | April 25, 2013

Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first modern marketer. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster … able to write, edit, analyze, create, code, distribute, and ideate better than ever before.

Over the last two decades, old marketing has become new marketing. Push marketing has given way to pull marketing. Buyer beware turned into seller beware. Advertising approaches are being replaced by content approaches.

It should come as no surprise, then, that marketers have changed – dramatically.

Organizations still hire marketers with specific skills and backgrounds: search engine marketers, email marketers, direct marketers, brand marketers, communications marketers, social media marketers, and more. That being said, what is in demand today may not be in demand tomorrow, so my recommendation for marketers is to develop the following set of seven skills that aren’t going anywhere – ever.

Business strategist

Marketing is more important than ever, largely because the impact of marketing is clearer than it’s ever been. The path from marketing strategy to marketing programs to business growth contains far fewer obstacles than it did a few years ago.

Be a businessperson first. Understand the core drivers of the business you work for or provide service to. Your marketing strategy, ideas and programs should support those primary business drivers.

Marketing strategist

In a business world where it’s easy to “me too” your marketing and follow the pack, the real success stories still show that the best tactical marketing plan starts with a solid marketing strategy, and that the best marketing strategy is one part business, one part marketing, one part digital, one part content, one part technology, and one part people … and often times a bunch of other parts.

The average marketer settles for becoming a tactician. The true marketing greats view tactics, even the most successful ones, as merely the (anticipated) results of a smart marketing strategy.

Content strategist

According to Hanley-Wood Business Media, 78 percent of chief marketing officers think custom content is the future of marketing.

That 78 percent will become 85 percent, and 85 percent will soon become 90 percent When that many companies believe in something, the industry is bound to get littered with a mix of approaches marked by widely varied stances on quality.

Quality content, not quantity of content, will end up the winner. And the high-quality material never happens without a well-designed content strategy, developed by a savvy content strategist.


Given the shift towards content-driven approaches, journalists are in high demand.

That doesn’t mean you need to have formal journalism training, or for that matter, actual journalism experience. You do, however, need a journalist’s mindset. Quality journalists have a nose for a story, and they know how to turn a good story into a great one.

Of course, in most marketing environments your journalism work may not turn into a newspaper article, a broadcast segment, or even a video interview. You may be working on items like case studies, bylined articles, or a series of blog posts, but the same rules apply – create a good story and tell it to the right audience, and that audience will pay attention.


Just when you thought it was cool to be a marketer again, marketing decided to join a world normally inhabited by “geeks and nerds.” As it turns out, in order to transform all of our cool marketing ideas into realities, and in particular trackable, ROI-producing realities, we need technology.

Don’t take this in the extreme direction, as some do. I don’t care if a marketer knows how to code a damn thing. I do care about whether they are able to use basic technology and software in order to solve problems or make marketing solutions more efficient.

Creative Thinker (or Creative Problem Solver)

John Cleese once said, “Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.” Marketing types, especially, associate creativity with the romanticized view of the guy or gal with a title like “Creative Director,” usually someone who is very focused on the visual as much as the content. But that’s not the only type of creative thinking that marketing requires.

Creativity is often found in overall marketing solutions that most of the world would deem incredibly boring. In those cases, the creativity lies in the ability to think through a problem and potential solutions—the ability to be a creative problem solver—not in the actual design or idea.

Data Analyst (and Interpreter)

We’re all dealing with an abundance of data these days. This is alternatively exciting and daunting for the average marketer, as we’re expected to know the data, why the data says what it does, how we’re going to improve or fix what the data is focused on, and how to translate what the data means to others.

You don’t have to be a math whiz to figure this stuff out. First, become “data curious.” You have to care about the data. Next, prioritize the data you care about, which should be based on the metrics that will help you achieve specific business goals. Last, and this is the most difficult part, learn how to interpret data. Any marketer can put together and read a report – few (yes, still few) can read that report, tell their audience what it means, and then suggest adjustments to improve/repair the situation.

Do you fit the profile of the modern marketer? If not, it’s not too late. Refocus your development to focus on these seven skills, and you’ll be on the right path.

If your company could use the help of a team of modern marketers, contact us. If you’re a modern marketer yourself and looking for a home, drop us a line – we’re always on the hunt for talented, like-minded people.


Related Resources

About Mike Sweeney:

As Right Source’s co-founder and CEO, Mike Sweeney creates, plans, and implements our vision, mission, culture, and strategic direction as well as serving as an advisor to our clients. Mike received a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing from the University of Notre Dame and has more than 20 years of experience in B2B marketing strategy, including digital, content, and marketing technology. You can find Mike on LinkedIn.