The Marketing Talent Shortage Is Real, and Here’s What You Can Do About It

What’s causing the marketing talent shortage and how to respond

Are you having a hard time filing open roles? Are the skills you need not quite there, and yet everyone wants more benefits and higher salaries?

You’re not alone. A batch of recent articles and reports show that marketing leaders are struggling to land the talent they need as technology- and pandemic-driven trends continue to alter job expectations and how buyers and brands interact along the purchase journey

According to HubSpot’s 2022 Marketing Industry Trends Report, which is based on data from 1,000+ global marketers, hiring the right talent is going to be a top challenge in 2022. Other reports point to both technical and soft skills shortages, partly because marketing and advertising are growing professions: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the number of marketing and advertising jobs in the U.S. will grow by 10% from 2020 to 2030.

More talent is needed for inbound marketing than outbound

One persistent trend driving growth and a skills shortage is the overall shift toward inbound marketing and away from outbound marketing. Market and customer data is more plentiful than ever, and because of this business leaders expect marketing efforts to have a more definitive ROI than outbound efforts can normally prove. 

But inbound marketing is more resource- and technology-intensive, which makes finding the right people harder. You need to hire for more specialties (such as content marketing and demand generation) and find creative people who have the soft skills to work with technical product specialists, sales professionals, martech experts and others who don’t have a traditional marketing background.

The bottom line: Finding and keeping a full team to support inbound marketing has always been a challenge, but it has become even more difficult.

The wall between in-person and online experiences has fallen

Now that we’re on the other side of the pandemic, it’s clear that the role of in-person events has been forever changed. Event marketers have proven they can effectively replicate in-person marketing tactics online, and attendees are more comfortable learning and networking online. Hybrid events planning and marketing—where a mix of co-planned in-person and digital events happen simultaneously over a defined period—is becoming more popular, and this, too, is causing skills shortages.  

FIRST, a global events and brand experience agency, released new research in March that found 55% of marketing directors across the UK and U.S. say a shortage of technical skills is a top challenge, and 90% are now gearing up to outsource crucial expertise in a race to stay competitive.

FIRST states that the pandemic changed the nature of the events industry, and that 42% of interviewed marketers have already made the switch from separate online and digital events to hybrid ones. Some of what makes online events valuable has leaked into in-person events and vice versa. This means more technical skills are needed to deliver a seamless and consistent brand experience across the two channels.

“With event face-to-face sessions relying on high-resolution displays, data capture and management software, marketers’ growing reliance on digital to deliver the best brand experiences has led to staffing problems and the need to invest heavily in new tech,” FIRST researchers concluded. “Data shows more than a third (39%) of marketing directors are prioritizing this investment to help deliver virtual events.”

Salaries and benefits are expanding

In addition to more competition and shifting skills needs, hiring companies face expectations for higher salaries and better benefits. A snapshot of what’s happening is a 326-person survey by the Superpath, a community for content marketing professionals. The survey found that the average income of content marketers is up 10.5% over 2021. Content marketers with the most years of experience (8+) have seen their salaries grow the most.

Superpath also asked about benefits, and the results show that prospective employers are expanding their offerings to include unlimited PTO, lunch/meal stipends, mental health days, health savings accounts, equity/stock options, co-working stipends and profit sharing.

Tips to help deal with the marketing talent shortage

It might be obvious, but first and foremost, build a culture that people want to be a part of, as Unreal Digital Group has done. This is table stakes in a tight labor market, especially after a watershed societal disruption like a pandemic. People’s lives have been upended and their priorities have shifted. Workplaces that haven’t evolved are suffering.

Second, review your salaries, staff and strategies for diversity, equity and inclusion. Marketing has gaps in these areas, and closing them not only makes for better workplace culture but also improves access to top talent.

Finally, consider extending your marketing team with an agency partner that can help you across your needs. This is a popular option because it provides flexibility and access to technical and creative skills.

Although the marketing talent shortage is painful, it presents a good time to evaluate your staff, skill gaps and options for augmenting and extending with outside expertise and talent.