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What Marketing Skills Do You Need for 2021 and Beyond? Part 3

Reading Time: 9 minutes
Marketing Skills

This is the final stop in our series on the marketing skills that you need for 2021 and beyond.

Before we get into the final three marketing skills, I’m going to do a quick review of what’s already been covered.

In the first article I talked about the first three marketing skills:

  • Embracing Change
  • Communication
  • Writing

The world is moving a quick pace and you need to be able to be able to embrace change or accept your extinction.

We talked the complexity of communication how it impacts your business. As Julia Angelen Joy stated, “You need to talk about all the things that impact the business. From employees to media to vendors to issues — including the hard stuff that people like to sweep under the carpet.”

Writing continues to be a key skill. “If you can’t put a sentence together, your future in PR is going to be tough,” said Michelle Garrett. “Writing permeates EVERYTHING we do.”

And while video and podcasts are hailed as important marketing opportunities this doesn’t discount writing. Jay Acunzo, the host of multiple podcasts and a video docuseries stated, “It’s 90% writing, 10% talking at a mic/camera.”

Finally, in a pursuit to be a better writer Whitney Danhauer told us how writing fiction had a great impact on her business writing. “Suddenly I was finding ways to make the LockNet blog more entertaining, and I even found ways to connect everything from biometrics and Back to the Future to four-point locking systems and the zombie apocalypse.”

In the second article I talked about the next three marketing skills:

  • Collaboration
  • Research
  • Data and Analytics

Collaboration is important not only for your marketing but for your organization. The silos that have sprung up may have been created with good intentions but they are causing as many problems as they solve.

“I think it leads to blindsides – which even if unintentional, don’t help create trust. And make an organization appear disjointed,” said Michelle Garrett in a return appearance.

Research can feel like busywork but it’s anything but. It helps inform you of what you should do. It’s the difference between being proactive and reactive.

In a digital world, data has become extremely important. “The data defends your argument,” said Christina Garnett. “It protects you from those who don’t understand the nuances of the work. It protects you from the people who want evidence vs. gut.”

Of course you also need to analyze the data to get anything useful from it.

Martin Waxman tied the importance of data and analytics up with a bow stating, “Marketers and communicators have always used data, whether it’s a media or influencer list, a customer relationship management platform, insights from research, or media impressions,” he says. “But data is much more expansive and includes structured, unstructured, and semi-structured data types. And we need to consider everything we do to connect with customers digitally—from blog posts to videos, tweets, photos, or emails—as a data point we can measure and analyze in order to better engage and help our audience.”

As you can see in these brief summaries, a lot of ground has been covered.

The final three more marketing skills I’m going to to talk about are:

  • Problem Solving
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Integration

In this final installment, I’m going solo which kind of feels like I’ve been pushed out of a plane but you still have time to strap yourself in.

Ready or not, let’s go.

Be A Problem Solver

I’ve always looked at what I do as problem-solving. People come to me with a problem and I work to solve it for them to get the result they want.

This isn’t novel at all. It’s something that we do everyday.

If your problem is you’re hungry, what do you do? You work to solve the problem. You can get something out of the fridge or the pantry. Maybe you get in the car and go through a drive-thru or you order online and have it delivered. Problem and solution.

It also plays out all the time in business environments. I used to work in human resources at Intel. Nobody contacted us to ask how our day was or to tell us we were doing a great job. They contacted us because they had a problem they needed help with a solution.

This is the exact same reason a prospect or a customer comes to your website. It’s the reason they contact you. They have a problem and they are hoping you can help them solve it.

This where your marketing comes into play. If you have great marketing that shows how your business can help solve their problem, chances are good that they are going to take the next step.

This often gets overlooked. Not just in marketing in PR but in other aspects of the business.

Your job is to help people solve a problem. If they are satisfied, chances are good that they will come back. Since obtaining a new customer is much more expensive than keeping customers, it works to your benefit to choose to be a problem solver.

I have this listed as a marketing skill but I also consider it a mindset. Why?

You need to wrap your head around that your customers aren’t there for you. You’re there for your customers. This means you need to accept that your job is to solve their problems.

When you embrace this as a mindset, every time they make contact, you will accept they have a problem. Instead of going into sales mode, your objective will be to identify what their problem is.

Some may be straightforward with you while others will take you on a fishing expedition. Regardless, you’re the investigator and you need to know what the problem is before any other action takes place.

People don’t like being sold too, myself included. This means you need to show them that you aren’t there to take their money. You need to prove that you understand their problem and have a viable solution that will help them get to where they want to be.

Don’t be a salesman. Be a problem solver. Your customers will thank you for it.

Don’t Be Tactical, Be Strategic

I often run into this situation. I’m talking with a prospect or client. There is a discussion around the problems we hope to solve together and they are only interested in tactics. This is like getting in your car, pressing down on the accelerator, and having an expectation that you will be immediately driving 65 miles an hour.

It doesn’t work that way but I understand why so many want to jump into tactics.

Tactics are the action. Whether it’s your boss or your clients, they want to see you doing something. They are paying to get results and strategic thinking doesn’t deliver results, right?


The difference between tactics and strategic thinking would be the difference between a day trader and somebody who buys stocks for the long term. The day trader will make some money but it will be the person who is in the market for the long term that will really see a good return.

To state it more plainly, if you really know what you are doing, tactics will get immediate results but without strategic thinking, you may not be getting the right results.

I’ve found that strategy is one of those words that people know but in more nebulous terms. Once upon a time, I was one of those people. I would hear management talk about strategy and this would go through my mind, “I know what they are talking about. I think.”

Strategy is one of those terms like “think out of the box”. It gets thrown out a lot and it sounds good but people take for granted that everybody knows what it is.

Let’s get on the same page and tie this to something concrete.

To do this we need to have a definition for being strategic. To think strategically, it’s important to understand the meaning of strategy.

Around 2009, I decided enough was enough. I wanted to get really clear on what strategy is so I bought a book called Being Strategic: Plan for Success; Out-think Your Competitors; Stay Ahead of Change by Erika Anderson.

It’s 269 pages and I’m not going to rehash it but she has a good definition for being strategic. She defines it as: consistently making those core choices that will best move you toward your best hoped-for future.

It sounds simple but as she points out it’s deceptively simple. Why?

Erika says, “It implies that you know where you’re starting from, you’re clear on where you want to go, and you have the means and the will to make consistently good and powerful choices on how to get there.”

I don’t know about you but I’m willing to admit that hasn’t always been the case with me in my life or in my business.

I’ve sometimes taken advice that wasn’t the best for me. It’s not that the advice was bad but that maybe it wasn’t the best advice for my particular situation.

Goodness knows I’ve dealt with many a client that wasn’t clear on where they were starting from or where they wanted to go. Let’s take it a step further and include those ideas.

According to Erika, there are now several steps to being strategic.

  • Define the Challenge, then
  • Clarify: What Is
  • Envision: What’s the Hope
  • Face: What’s in the Way
  • Determine: What’s the Path.

When you define the challenge you are determining where you want to go. Clarifying what it gives you a sense of where you are starting from. Envisioning your hope involves asking how do you get there? Facing what’s in the way is stepping back to see the big picture and the obstacles that are in your path. Finally, in the last step, you’re finally at the place where most people start, you make the choices on how you will get to where you want to go.

To think strategically, you can’t just embrace one of these steps, you have to embrace them all.

As part of my planning with my clients, I go through this process. If they aren’t clear, it helps them get clear and it helps me understand where they want to go. As we go through the process we identify together how I can help them get there, the obstacles, where they are now, and then make the choices that need to be made to get them where they want to go.

If you and I were face to face right (with masks on and socially distanced of course) and you asked me what I do I would tell you that I offer digital marketing and PR services that will help you solve a problem and get you where you need to go.

That’s a long sentence but It sounds smart. Kind of.

Whether anybody really knows what I’m talking about, I don’t know but it’s really long way of saying this: I solve your problem by developing a marketing strategy that will get you where you want to go.

I’m not going to tell you that if you don’t think strategically that you will fail every time single time. There are no absolutes and you can never undervalue being in the right place at the right time.

What I am telling you is to stop throwing things against the wall and hoping they stick. Yes, it can work sometimes but it will be less likely to work when you’re competing against people who do think strategically.

Your business is too important to be left to chance. Embrace strategic thinking.

The Present and Future Is Integration

When I graduated from college I was applying for PR jobs and they all had some sort of test attached. One of these positions gave me a test where they gave me a company and an objective. The next step was to create an integrated marketing communication (IMC) plan in 30 minutes.

I hadn’t even heard of IMC before. It wasn’t something we had ever discussed in my PR classes. I had to google it so I knew exactly what they were talking about.

The first thing I did after finishing the test was to go to Amazon and find a book. I purchased a textbook on IMC titled, Integrated Marketing Communication: Creative Strategy from Idea to Implementation by Robyn Blakeman.

It was a good book and I learned from it but not having the benefit of being in a class as I went through it created an issue. I got it on an intellectual level but using the ideas to create a good strategy alluded me. I didn’t quite get how to put it all together.

Several years later, I read an article on a website that intrigued me and I started digging deeper into their content. If you’ve read past articles, you know where I’m going.

The website is called Spin Sucks. I’d started following this site on Twitter years earlier but to be honest, the name pushed me away more than it pulled me. While I saw their tweets, they just kind of flew by me.

One day I reached out and grabbed one of those tweets and it led me to the discovery of something called the PESO Model which was created by Gini Dietrich.

PESO is an integrated model. I don’t know if Gini was the first person to come up with the idea of integrated marketing communication but that doesn’t matter. I feel like the brilliance of the PESO model that it took this large idea of IMC and made it simple to understand.

For those who are new to the PESO concept, it stands for:

  • Paid Media
  • Earned Media
  • Shared Media
  • Owned Media

This isn’t a PESO article so I’m not going to go into a detailed explanation but if you click here, you will get a good explanation of what it is and why you should use it.

Needless to say, I was so taken by it that I became a disciple and advocate of the PESO model even to go as far as to refer to my agency as a PESO agency.

But I digress. In the first article of this series, I talked about how that the world is moving faster than at any time since the industrial revolution.

There are more places for people to get information than ever before. As marketers and PR people, we need to have the right piece of content for the right person at the right time. You can only do that with an integrated model like PESO.

If you’re not integrating your marketing and PR efforts, this is your wake up call. The days of siloing off your marketing and PR efforts will hurt you in the short and long term. The future is integration.

The End

We are now, over 7,500 words later, at the end of our three-part journey.

Thank you for taking this trip with me.

I would also like to thank my collaborators Julia Angelen Joy, Michelle Garrett, Jay Acunzo, Whitney Danhauer, Christina Garnett, and Martin Waxman.

I might have got through the series without you but the articles were so much better because of your insight. Your words made me think and that’s one of the highest compliments I can pay you all.

Until next time, be good humans.

* Image by Anatoly777 from Pixabay

Shane Carpenter
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