You Suck At Marketing: The Importance of Taking Inventory of Your Own Marketing Skills

June 1, 2017

By Chris Franks

Alright, so you might not suck at marketing. I’m sorry for the clickbaity title. But here’s something I’ve noticed. Of all the marketing professionals I have met with and had the pleasure of working with, very few set off into the professional world with the initial goal of being a marketer. Rather, it was a career path that many people discovered while cultivating skills related to marketing. The Director of Marketing at a company I used to work for, for instance, spent 11 years as a corporate trainer for Red Robin. One of my coworkers at an SEO creation company got his degree in Performing Arts. My very own sister caught the marketing bug after years as an environmental planner for Virginia Tech.

Yours truly started his professional life as a high school history teacher. Now, this was a noble profession, but, ultimately, not one for me. For me personally, switching careers was an exercise in figuring out what the hell I was good at, and translating that into something that would provide me with food and shelter. As a teacher, that meant I was pretty good at writing, and correcting the writing of other people, so a natural fit for me was in content marketing. Unfortunately, that meant I entered the marketing field with a technical understanding of one small part of the whole equation.

The world of marketing is a big and scary place. While yes, I was incredibly confident in my ability to produce content, I knew next to nothing about the other functions of a marketer. Labeling yourself a “content marketer” will only get you so far, unfortunately.

Now, before you think that this article is just tearing into marketers who are one-trick ponies: it’s not. It’s an important and reaffirming message that no, you cannot possibly do all the things you should be doing as a marketer, and no, you cannot possibly be good at everything.

And that’s okay.

For anybody in a marketing role, it’s important to take a look at your skills and your proficiencies and to be brutally honest with yourself. What skills are you lacking, that are preventing you from being a dynamo marketer? And, if you find yourself in a marketing role, how do you adapt?

Take Inventory

You disgust me.

We’ve all heard the term, “Fake it ’till you make it,” which will work for some people in some organizations. For many of us, marketing teams are lean, and expectations are incredible (hey, this isn’t so different from the public school sector after all). That is, if you’re faking anything, you’ll most likely get sniffed out faster a high schooler who hasn’t taken a shower that week. So what do you do?

There’s a reason you’re sitting in the position you’re in now. You must enjoy or be good at something. But, before we get there, we as marketers must take a good hard look at ourselves, and figure out what our weak spots are. Maybe it’s graphic design, because seriously, Photoshop is a fucking mess. Maybe you’ve never really delved into analytics, or more specifically, what analytics matter. Perhaps you’ve never used HTML or CSS. Knowing where you are lacking is a good step in figuring out what your strengths are.

After you’ve given yourself a good, hard look in the mirror, it’s time to figure out what you’re really good at. Unless the person who hired you is a complete baffoon, there’s a reason you’re sitting in your office or cubicle right now. To create a marketing plan, you have to play to your strengths, and mold your approach after your strengths. This is especially true if you’re a one-person marketing show, which is common in smaller startups or businesses. For instance, in a previous position, I was given the task of creating our marketing strategy for the year. While I lacked some skills that would be incredibly useful (say, graphic design or managing PPC campaigns), I knew that I could create a content calendar like none other. I could write an email as good as anyone. I could dictate ad copy that created conversion. With all that in mind, the marketing strategy of the company focused around those fields. Similarly, if you’re a one-person or part of a two-person marketing show, your marketing strategy ought to play to your strengths, because you’ll be a ton more effective working on something that you know, rather than spending the work hours trying to figure out how the fuck you use the goddamn selector tool in Photoshop, holy shit.

Set Goals


set goals, marketing from the mountain top

How many blogs can I publish on top of this here mountain?

Is it enough to stick to what you know? Obviously not. Unfortunately, with how rapidly digital marketing trends change, you can’t survive very long as a one trick pony. Or even a two trick pony.

Think about what skills you wish you had, and come up with a plan to execute. Okay, right. This sounds easy, but think about how you’re framing this question. Rather than “What do I want to learn?” think about “What skills do I need to take my company’s marketing efforts to the next level?”

Just like anything that you want to improve on, you need to set aside time to learn new skills. Whether that’s nights or weekends, that’s really up to you. Turns out, you can’t read a few articles during your lunch break, and suddenly become an expert in everything there is to know about Google AdWords (trust me, I’ve tried). For some people, this means enrolling in a few college classes. For most of us, we’re on our own.

Now, how do you go about learning anything? Luckily, as a digital marketer, I trust that you know your way around a mouse and keyboard a little bit. For us, the internet is our best friend. You can find classes or tutorials on just about anything that you’d want to learn. For me, one of my first goals was to become proficient in HTML and CSS. I worked through Code Academy’s courses in HTML and CSS, as well as the free course offered by Udacity to start. From there, it was just practice, practice, practice. Yes, it felt tedious. Yes, it felt like I was that douche at a party playing the same shitty song over and over for people. But now, it makes sense, and it opens up a whole world of possibilities, both in my work, and on my resume. Don’t worry; we’ll break down what skills you need, and where to learn them in a future article. Stay tuned.

Surround Yourself

well dressed marketing types

Find your own well-dressed group of hipster marketing types.

You will never be good at everything. I’m sorry, but it’s true. As they say somewhere I’m sure, “If you’re a jack of all trades, you’re a master of none.” So, do you stick to what you’re good at, and slowly learn some other skills to fill out your marketing acumen?

One of the tenets here at CleverFunnel is “Evolve or Die,” which is in reference to how fast the world of digital marketing is changing. While I know you can definitely grasp a whole range of skills by just being in the job in a sort of shitty “sink or swim” analogy, your best bet is to surround yourself with people who possess the skills you lack. Join online marketing groups. Reach out for help. Go to meetups. LinkedIn groups are a great place to chat with and ask questions to other marketers in the struggle with you.

Finally, when it comes to your workspace, if you’re in a position to hire, hire people whose competencies complement yours. I work at a very small agency now, but all of our skills, when combined, provide a solid marketing force that delivers results. So, you probably know where my next point is heading: hire external help in the form of an agency to pick up the slack. Now, this is an important point: hiring a marketing agency isn’t hiring a group of people to steal your job. When in-house marketers and agency marketers work together, beautiful things can happen. You can learn from an agency’s expertise, and add even more tools and projects to your digital arsenal.

As I’ve said, the world of marketing is huge and getting bigger each day. However, knowing who you are in the context of the industry makes that world seem so much smaller and more navigable. Best of luck, marketers.