Essential Hard Skills Every Marketer Should Learn

From an understanding of data analytics to UX design, marketing requires a variety of hard skills from various disciplines to succeed. Here are five essential non-marketing hard skills to develop.   

Written by Margaret Lee
Published on Apr. 16, 2024
Essential Hard Skills Every Marketer Should Learn
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After 10 years of managing marketing teams, I’ve observed marketing evolving from intuition-led efforts to data-driven science. This shift has raised the stakes, making visibility in a competitive market more costly.

The era of marketing as mere guesswork, fueled by creativity and psychology, has faded. Now, it’s governed by data, with new tools not only streamlining our tasks but also replacing roles. Yet, as we pursue the latest tech, the quest for adept individuals becomes akin to finding a needle in a digital haystack.

5 Non-Marketing Hard Skills Every Marketer Should Know

  1. Understanding of unit economics.
  2. A T-shaped expertise.
  3. Data analytics fundamentals.
  4. UX and UI design basics.
  5. Project management skills.

So, what makes a marketer stand out in this dynamic crowd? Let’s take a look at some essential hard skills every marketer should learn.


5 Hard Skills Every Marketer Should Learn

Throughout my experience in marketing, I’ve pinpointed five key skills that truly shaped my journey and boosted my teams’ effectiveness: 


1. Understanding of Unit Economics 

Unit economics is fundamental to financial strategy and budget optimization in any organization. By understanding it, you ensure every dollar spent is a dollar well-invested. It stands as the strategic core of decision-making. This comprehensive insight is indispensable for marketers to visualize the broader impact of their strategies on the business’ health and trajectory.

For you, as a marketer, to effectively implement your strategies and advocate for them before stakeholders with confidence, a deep understanding of the business is a must-have skill. Consider the intricacies of acquisition costs, service pricing and profit margins. Without a grasp of these elements, aligning marketing goals with business objectives becomes a hit-or-miss endeavor.

For example, imagine a scenario where your manager allocates $10,000 for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, aiming for a cost per lead not exceeding $50. A PPC marketer might find this budget unrealistic due to the higher cost per click in markets like the U.S., for instance. 

Without a solid understanding of unit economics, a marketer might simply request more funds. In contrast, a marketer well-versed in unit economics would inquire about the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer, overall acquisition costs and the company’s profit margins. Armed with this information, you could advocate for a higher spending threshold that aligns with the LTV, potentially tripling the ad spend allowance to $150 per lead, thereby outpacing competitors in lead acquisition.

This knowledge empowers marketers to make decisions that not only seek profitability but also strategically allocate resources for maximum impact. Without a unit economics background, marketing leaders might operate under restrictive budgets that inadvertently hinder growth and market share expansion.

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2. Embrace a T-shaped Expertise

Ever since assuming a leadership role within our marketing team at Belkins, I’ve been a proponent of the T-shaped model. I always encourage my team to develop a blend of broad knowledge and deep expertise in specific areas. This approach pushes us to expand our expertise and find new acquisition channels. 

T-shaped marketers redefine the traditional notion of specialists. They are, in essence, versatile generalists with a keen edge in one discipline. You need to possess what I like to call a “helicopter view” of the business. This means not just being a jack-of-all-trades but mastering at least one channel deeply while keeping a solid grasp on how others function.

For example, consider a PPC expert who seamlessly integrates SEO specifics, design sensibility and analytics insights. This broad skill set allows them to analyze the entire user journey, optimize landing pages, refine advertising campaigns with targeted keywords and ultimately improve conversion rates.

Embracing T-shaped expertise isn’t just about enhancing individual skills. It’s about fostering a holistic view that enables marketers to see beyond their silos, connecting dots across disciplines to drive strategic success. 


3. Learn Data Analytics Fundamentals

As we navigate through digitalization, the capacity to analyze and integrate data into actionable marketing strategies has become a pivotal skill. Let’s see what capabilities you need to develop to excel in marketing:


1. Master Digital Tools

There is no doubt that understanding Google Analytics, dashboards and statistics are your must-have ability. But tools like Google Sheets and its advanced formulas, such as VLOOKUP and PivotTable, are indispensable in my day-to-day operations. They help translate numbers into narratives that shape impactful actions. There are many more Google Sheets formulas to explore


2. Ability to Work With Data and Make Correct Conclusions

Data is omnipresent. A fundamental skill is the ability to elaborate data and derive accurate conclusions. This involves a deep understanding of key statistical concepts such as confidence intervals, statistical significance, sampling and acceptable sample deviation. For statistical analysis and decision-making to be valid, the sampling data must be large enough to reduce the margin of error and variability, leading to confidence in the results derived from it. 

Imagine launching a survey within your company among just 100 people. Sounds straightforward, right? Relying on such a small sample size for broad marketing strategies is as unreliable as forecasting weather from a single glance outside. Statistically, such a small sample size does not offer the reliability needed for solid decision-making. The risk of deviation is too high, making the data gathered potentially misleading. To achieve representativeness and accuracy, aim for at least 1,000 respondents. The principle here is simple: the larger the sample, the more you can trust the data to reflect the wider audience accurately.


3. Decoding Google Analytics Data Sampling

Instead of wading through every single bit of data from your website, Google Analytics smartly picks a portion — a sample — to quickly give you insights. For instance, you might get a report that’s based on 25 percent of the sampling data. This means Google has looked at a quarter of all user interactions on your site and extrapolated those findings to estimate the overall picture.

Why does this matter? It allows for fast, actionable insights without getting stuck in the sheer volume of data. This means we’re predicting that how a small group acts will probably reflect how the whole audience will react. This snapshot can be incredibly valuable for quick decision-making. However, as a marketer, it’s crucial to know when these estimates are enough for your needs and when you should dig deeper, requesting unsampled data for a more detailed analysis. This strategy ensures you’re making informed decisions, striking the right balance between speed and accuracy.


4. Basic understanding of Design

Embracing design fundamentals has significantly altered my approach to marketing campaigns. It’s one thing to create visually appealing content, but it’s entirely another to design experiences that deeply connect with your audience.

That’s why it’s important to be on the same page with designers and share a common vision for each project. We use tools like Figma to enhance our marketing creative processes and seamlessly transit from initial ideas to polished prototypes. Moreover, understanding the basics of UX/UI design principles will allow you to think more critically about how your messages are received and interacted with.

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5. Project Management Skills

Did you know organized marketers are 674 percent more successful than unorganized ones? Marketing is rarely a solo journey. It’s a collaborative effort, weaving together the visions, expectations and expertise of diverse stakeholders.

Mastering project management turns chaotic workflows into collaborative teamwork. It involves strategically involving the right people at the right times, synchronizing various schedules, and making sure every task contributes effectively to the big picture. Here’s how we apply project management to our day-to-day activities:

  • Goals first: They set the stage for everything we aim to achieve.
  • Tech tools: We lean on Trello, Jira and Notion to keep tasks and timelines crisp and clear for everyone.
  • Stay connected: Keeping the lines of communication open ensures we’re all rowing in the same direction.
  • Plan B: Having a backup plan ready means we can navigate any bumps without missing a beat.
  • Value feedback: Incorporating continuous feedback into our process helps us refine and improve constantly.

I’ve covered the essentials that every marketer needs to thrive in a data-driven world. From crunching numbers to crafting designs, it’s about making those data points stand out and transforming them into resonating experiences for your audience. Remember, it’s not just the “what” but the “how” that sets you apart, it’s about turning those insights into actions, strategies into stories.

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