3 Skills Marketers Need in the Age of AI Technology

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Let’s start with the facts:

  1. 90% of marketing and sales leaders expect to use generative artificial intelligence (AI) solutions “often” over the next two years according to McKinsey.
  2. The World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs Report predicts 6/10 of the most in-demand skills in the next five years will be soft skills like leadership, critical thinking, and empathy (see page 181).
  3. 3/4 of the remaining skills on the WEF’s list focus on technical literacy, including understanding how to use AI technology and big data.
A screen shot from the World Economic Forum’s future of jobs report showing the most in-demand skills for the next 5 years. AI and big data was the top skill, with a heavy emphasis on soft skills throughout the rest of the list, including leadership and social influence, creative thinking, resilience, flexibility, and agility.
The World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs report predicts soft skills, AI literacy, and data literacy will be top priorities in the next 5 years. Image from the World Economic Forum.

The data above tells a story, and it’s one in which marketing jobs are significantly changing.

The Hybrid Marketer

Marketers have always operate at a crossroads between communication skills and technical skills:

  • Lead generation campaigns require seamless collaboration with sales team colleagues (soft skills) as well as content creation and customer relationship management (CRM) platform know-how (hard skills).
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaigns are a blend creating written communications (soft skills) and the ability to optimize content for search and use SEO tools (hard skills).
  • Website projects see marketers bounce between collaboration with website developers and designers, while also working with software tools like website content management systems (CMS( and analytics (hard skills)

This is the marketing equilibrium we live by. The data shows that both sides of this equation are being disrupted by AI:

  1. The technical skills we need to operate our tools now needing to include AI software know-how
  2. The communication skills that set marketers apart are becoming invaluable in an increasingly-digital environment.

Marketing Soft Skills

As a marketer in today’s world, you may now work on a team with colleagues spanning several continents and a blend of full-time employees and part-time contractors. Some of these colleagues may be remote or hybrid workers, with a percentage of collaboration and communication shifted to digital mediums.

Add in the fact that we are all adopting new technology like AI to help us do our jobs, and you realize we are using a lot more technology on a daily basis. Our human interactions may be more limited, or being augmented by technology.

With fewer opportunities to interact with each other, we need to make those moments count. Our ability to effectively collaborate and communicate in an environment where communication is at a premium will dictate our ability to stand out and play a role in an increasingly-global and technology-augmented workforce.

Marketing Technical Skills

Advances in technology are also changing what technical marketing projects look like.

For example, marketing software staples like Canva, HubSpot, and Adobe Creative Cloud have added AI features. New tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney are also seeing accelerated adoption in the marketing community.

In terms of the platforms marketers use on a daily basis, the way we create content and choreograph customer touch points will be aided by AI, and in some cases, fully replaced by it.

  • We may write copy for a landing page and have AI customize that landing page 25 different ways for specific customer segments.
  • We might publish a blog post, but that blog post outline and copy will be drafted by AI, while humans play editor and publisher.

In these scenarios, we need to get comfortable with leveraging AI as another tool in our toolkit alongside the usual suspects like CRMs, social media automation platforms, and CMSs.

With these trends in mind, I’d like to discuss three skills that I think will set marketers apart in the age of AI:

  1. Empathetic Communication
  2. The Ability to Use AI Software
  3. Creative Thinking

1. Empathetic Communication

In a market where AI technology can produce content at an unprecedented scale, the ability to communicate in a genuine, empathetic manner becomes a differentiator.

The world is about to be moving faster and more of it will be automated:

  1. Greater percentages of the content we read and watch will be AI generated or partially AI generated.
  2. We will be required to rapidly meet, greet and establish rapport with new colleagues as remote work and the gig economy continue to change the way the world works. Some of this communication will be “in-person” over video calls. Plenty more of it will be asynchronous via platforms like Slack and email.
  3. With more limited human touch points in our increasingly-digital lives, the touch points we do have with each other are critical. How we behave and communicate during those touch points will dictate our chances of success.

As marketers, being able to empathize with people and communicate with authenticity is the way to build genuine connections with customers and colleagues. With how much those touch points are changing, that ability just became one of the most powerful skills there is.

Connecting With Colleagues

In terms of the relationships we have with colleagues, empathetic communication is the cornerstone of building bridges across diverse perspectives and experiences.

It helps to build a collaborative culture within our marketing teams, fostering a workspace that values active listening and mutual respect.

For example, in the past year I saw my marketing team grow and change, with new colleagues joining from across different timezones. We all have different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Our touch points match the scenarios I discussed earlier, with all of our communication taking place via Slack, email, and video conference calls due to physical distance.

However, in those limited, digital touch points, I have seen our team communicate in a manner that instantly built strong bonds, encouraged transparent communication, and ultimately led to a fantastic team culture.

If we had not collectively approached our communication with empathy and open-mindedness, we may have never clicked, and taken longer to figure out how to effectively work together.

When we have so many moving parts separating us, the teams who communicate in the clearest, most supportive manner will be the teams that get the most done.

The marketers who can approach their interactions with colleagues in this manner are the exact kind of marketers companies are searching for today.

Connecting With Customers

As for customer communications, empathy is a key component of crafting marketing campaigns that resonate with people.

We need to deeply understand customer motivations—both challenges and interests—in order to grab their attention. The best marketing communications not only align with customer needs, but resonate with their aspirations, concerns, and needs.

Infusing empathetic communication into our strategies will elevate our brand narratives to levels that AI can’t reach. An empathetic approach is a powerful differentiator, setting people apart in a market that values genuine human connection amidst automated communications.

“Hey ChatGPT, tell me what customer xx cares about and write a social media caption that will resonate with them.”

Some of these communications will be aided by AI. However, it is still our job as marketing professionals to be the experts on what our customers care about and to be the stewards of marketing campaigns that resonate with their interests.

Marketers who apply empathetic thinking and communication in this environment will be the marketers who capture attention and build long-lasting customer relationships.

2. The Ability to Use AI Software

A world proliferated by AI technology will require us to know how to use it, as the aforementioned World Economic Forum skills report highlighted.

Marketing jobs are certainly in this conversation, and considered to be one of the fields where AI is already seeing serious adoption.

AI software is arriving in our industry in two primary fashions:

  1. New AI software applications like AI image generators and AI-powered written content generators. Examples of these include Midjourney (image generation) and Copy.ai (blog generator).
  2. AI features showing up in platforms that are already key parts of marketing tech stacks. Examples include HubSpot and Salesforce introducing AI content generation tools that automatically write sales email copy and marketing content. Canva is another example, with its text-to-image feature to help designers create design assets.

There are dozens of other examples already on the market. This trend means marketers need to get a handle on AI as it changes how our tools work.

I am not suggesting you need to become a super user for every AI tool on the market—there are already far too many for that. I am suggesting you should start experimenting with AI software tools as soon as you can.

This will help you to:

  1. Understand the types of problems AI can solve. This includes taking advantage of new, standalone AI-powered software tools, and  AI-powered features in the tools you already use.
  2. Educate yourself on the basic components of the technology so you can recognize and leverage them in future applications.
  3. Keep up with the trend toward AI software adoption in our industry.

Zapier Chief Marketing Officer Kieran Flanagan elaborated on this concept in a recent LinkedIn post in which he stated:

AI is a platform shift. Tools will be a competitive advantage. Marketers on the cutting edge of new tools will steamroll those not experimenting. Digital marketing was Art & Science. AI marketing is Art & Science & AI Tools. Adopt early, integrate wisely.

To Flanagan’s point, there is a first-mover advantage to jumping in and trying new tools. In doing so, you will realize their value sooner and set yourself up for being comfortable with them in the long term.

This reminds me of when I first started working in social media marketing and social media automation tools were becoming popular. I was trying different platforms like Buffer, Hootsuite, HubSpot, and Sprout Social.

I’ve used tons of different tools for social media marketing throughout my career. Platforms like those mentioned above succeeded and became big companies. Others failed and went away.

The long-term value of learning those tools was less about knowing how to use the specific features of one tool vs. another. The real value was understanding the role those tools played and the problems they solved for marketing professionals.

I think marketers should be approaching AI tools in this same manner. We should be trying different platforms and AI features in existing platforms, understanding how they work, and exploring their similarities and differences.

Some of these tools will stick around and become fundamental additions to our marketing tech stacks. Others will fade away like some of the early failed social media platforms.

The important thing will be having enough AI software savvy to be along for the ride as these tools develop and help define the future of our profession.

3. Creative Thinking

There’s a lot of talk about the skills AI can’t compete with.

If AI can mimic our content outputs as marketers, our creative problem solving is an example of a key differentiator that helps us increase our value in the workplace.

In a sea of new and changing tools, the ability to problem solve in the most elegant, efficient manner possible will continue to be invaluable.

For example, with all of these tools at our disposal, everyone will be relatively good at writing blog posts, making images, and producing videos.

With AI leveling the playing field, it’s not about what you can do. It’s about knowing what you should do.

Ivy Xu, CEO of Prequel, captures this idea in a LinkedIn post about how startup founders are thinking about AI:

They know their most valuable skill set is their ability to navigate change, capture opportunities, and develop creative solutions that are differentiated from the market. AI is just a tool — you get to tell it what to do.

With this philosophy in mind, here are examples of ways marketers can apply their creativity to make brands stand out in the age of AI:

  1. Connect AI-generated content with audiences in unique ways — with so much content now at your disposal, are there new channels where you can distribute this content and reach new customers?
  2. Do more with less—in budget-constrained environments, how can you create more ROI while decreasing investment? Are there untapped marketing channels that are super cost-effective? Can certain marketing functions be augmented with AI to speed them up or make them easier so your team can focus on strategy?
  3. Connect with customers at a deeper level—people’s attention is pulled in multiple directions. A slew of AI-created content coming to the market will only exasperate that challenge. What “things that don’t scale” can you do to make your brand stand out? This means finding opportunities to make direct, genuine connections with customers. Mail them swag, include hand-written notes in product shipments, or find another avenue to earn their attention and loyalty. You know your customer best, and it’s up to you to find creative ways to fight through the noise and connect with them. Whether that noise be human- or AI-generated.

The marketers who can solve creative problems in this manner will be the ones companies are willing to pay top dollar for as they navigate a rapidly changing market environment.

Final Thoughts

The age of AI technology demands marketing professionals continue to blend technical know-how with creative strategy and communications skills.

This is similar to the platform shift that the arrival of social media platforms created in the marketing industry. Marketers who had the communication skills and technical skills to adapt to these tools saw the most growth.

The arrival of AI represents another situation in which marketers must adapt and refine their skills. This means continuing to deploy our soft skills, while brushing up on our AI technology literacy.

The marketers who recognize and act on this opportunity will be the ones who will succeed most in a landscape where technology increasingly augments human effort.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Justin and I write Brand Credential.

I started Brand Credential as a resource to help share expertise from my 10-year brand building journey.

I currently serve as the VP of Marketing for a tech company where I oversee all go-to-market functions. Throughout my career I've helped companies scale revenue to millions of dollars, helped executives build personal brands, and created hundreds of pieces of content since starting to write online in 2012.

As always, thank you so much for reading. If you’d like more personal branding and marketing tips, here are more ways I can help in the meantime:

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