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Digital Skills Are Not the Answer

May 12, 2017


Big data, the internet of things, the digital journey…every day, we see how these concepts are changing our industries and the expectations of our customers and members. And our organizations are responding. McKinley Marketing Partners reported in its 2017 Marketing Hiring Trends report that  “56 percent [of firms hiring this year] will hire professionals with digital marketing expertise [including] those who work in content creation and curation, mobile, social, SEO/SEM and lead generation.”


Will hiring digital expertise help us crack the code of big data and IoT?




Digital skills are certainly needed. That’s true. But they are only half of what an organization needs to succeed in a world of big data and IoT. The other half is the ability to transform campaigns and engagement into better experiences. It is to understand how the content, mobile apps and social channels build a stronger emotional connection to your brand. In other words, our digital experts need to combine their technical expertise with critical thinking and creative problem solving to generate growth.


What happens when our teams focus solely on their technical skills? We waste time, money and effort chasing metrics that don’t grow our business or add value to our members.

I was recently speaking to someone from National Geographic and she summarized this perfectly when she said, “I couldn’t care less about likes and shares.” NatGeo’s digital experts brought a critical eye to their digital efforts and questioned each of the metrics they had been using to measure success – fans, likes, shares, etc. In other words, they combined technical expertise with critical thinking. Once they pinpointed by channel which behaviors led to growth, they restructured their digital efforts and redefined the role of each social channel. They no longer spend marketing dollars on unproductive digital efforts. The result - they significantly increased conversion rates.


You may be thinking, “But it’s my job to interpret the information and solve problems. I’m the boss.” Before you settle on that approach, I ask you to close your eyes and imagine what it would be like to have your team consistently bringing you thoughtful analysis and innovative ideas for discussion? What could you team achieve if they were each innovative, creative problem solvers? What could you personally achieve if you had more time to focus on the larger strategy and long-term direction? I’m guessing that this little thought experiment is already giving you ideas.


When you recruit your digital experts, make sure you’re also evaluating their critical thinking and problem solving skills.

  • Provide them with a set of data from one of your channels and ask them to interpret it. See if they connect their analysis to your organization’s mission, goals, and/or customers.

  • Call their references and discuss their critical thinking and creative problem solving skills.

  • Ask for specific, detailed examples of times they faced a work problem and how they responded.

  • Present them with a hypothetical situation and see the thought process they go through in response.

Go out and find those digital experts! Just make sure you’re also hiring the innovative, creative problem solvers who will move your organization forward.


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