From Intern to Director: A look back at the 2023 Digital Marketing Benchmark Report

Marketing / 20.12.23
Glenn Davidson

It’s that time of year again, the twinkly lights have gone up – as has your heating bill – and everything you used to love is now spiked with cinnamon.

In the spirit of the year coming to an end, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on 2023, and what better way to do that than diving into the 2023 Digital Marketing Skills Benchmark Report, put together by Target Internet.

The Digital Marketing Skills Benchmark is a one-of-a-kind study that dives into the real skills of thousands of marketers across various industries and job levels. We get it each year thanks to Target Internet’s partnership with the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).

Credit where credit’s due, this report’s a treasure trove of data and insights, and often shines a spotlight on what can be a very noisy and confusing industry to work in.
So, we thought we’d save you some time and take you through our interpretation of the report, specifically looking at how the issues highlighted are affecting internal marketers and their wider teams.

If you haven’t already, then take 10 minutes to benchmark your skills today; it’s well worth doing.

Big Picture – What are the key general takeaways from the report?

We read the whole 117-page long report and saw some common threads running through most industries and job roles that are worth diving into first.

  1. AI is here to stay – You won’t be that surprised to discover that marketing is one of the sectors to openly embrace AI. Automation has always been a critical tool in our utility-belt, and AI is likely to continue to blow any previous automation tools we were using out of the water.The biggest providers are already way ahead in incorporating AI into their product pipeline, but this report suggests we’ll see a shift away from novelty uses of AI and continue to see leaps forward in products that are more carefully thought out, powerfully enhancing the work us mere mortals are capable of.
  2. It’s never been more important to update your knowledge and skills – The report reveals a growing demand for expertise in areas like SEO and PPC, reflecting the changing priorities and skill sets required in today’s digital landscape.Perhaps more interestingly though, as privacy concerns become more pronounced and data sharing decreases, traditional marketing skills are becoming valued much more highly, as all companies need marketers who don’t solely rely on the data we’ve been lucky enough to have for the past decade and a half. It’s a clarion call for marketers to continuously update their skills to stay relevant and effective. So, bear with me whilst I break out my copy of “Advertising for Dummies”.
  3. The skill-gaps between job roles are shrinking slightly – In previous years this report showed a distinct problem where senior leaders were losing the knowledge of how digital marketing channels worked. Although you could argue this is natural, due to those leaders focusing more on the big picture rather than the inner workings, a lot of us foresaw a problem where demands evolved so rapidly, that these senior personnel would be left out in the cold.Fortunately, recent trends indicate improvement in this area. Managers and Directors are now showing better proficiency across a broader range of digital marketing skills, suggesting they’re keeping up more effectively with the evolving demands of the field.
  4. Marketers are a resilient bunch Amid a cost-of-living crisis, rising inflation rates, and AI tools popping up like overeager whack-a-moles, this year’s benchmark report shows that marketers have managed to not only keep the ship afloat, but have also managed to upgrade the sails and give the deck a good scrub. Scores have improved across the board, and interestingly, so have everyone’s estimations of their scores. Showing that, in general, marketers are taking the demands of modern-day marketing seriously.

Unwrapping job roles – How are marketers of different seniorities scoring?

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” -Jimmy Dean

Fitting to the quote above, this year’s theme seems to revolve around change and adaptation.

Like a well-orchestrated Christmas carol, each role within the team plays a crucial part in ensuring the marketing department delivers. Let’s look at how various job roles performed in this year’s report, how they’ve each changed since the previous year, and what this may represent:


Marketing Interns: Emerging talent

Interns, often the most affected by the pandemic’s disruption to traditional learning and mentoring methods, have shown a commendable bounce-back. Their overall performance, while still below the seniority average, is on an upward trajectory.
The 10% increase in Ecommerce and 18% rise in general marketing knowledge are testaments to their adaptability and potential. However, the overestimation of their abilities in areas like Content and Social Media suggests a need for more targeted training and mentorship in 2024.


Marketing Assistants: Navigating a steep learning curve

Assistants and graduates represent a segment grappling with the rapid pace of change in digital marketing. This group saw the least progress, and in fact, scores drifted back in four of twelve areas, with the only area of significant progress being Social Media.
This trend could be indicative of the challenges faced by educational institutions and course providers in keeping curricula up to date with industry developments. The disparity between perceived and actual skills, especially in Analytics, points to a crucial area for further education and practical training around GA4.


Marketing Executives: Adaptable innovators

Executives have demonstrated a consistent improvement across most digital marketing competencies, with particular strides being made in Social Media, SEO, and Email Marketing. Their ability to align closely with the all-seniority averages, despite being a relatively junior group, is commendable.
The disparity between self-assurance and actual skill within this group was only obvious in Content Marketing – a trend observed across most groups – and in Strategy, typically seen in more junior groups lacking extensive experience. However, at the top end of this group, we can a cluster of Marketing Executives possessing high expertise, clearly demonstrating a competitive market with a strong appetite for career advancement.


Marketing Managers: Balancing knowledge, strategy, and application

Managers have shown steady progress, but are very close to average scores across all seniority levels. This raises questions about whether their knowledge levels are sufficient, given their pivotal role in both strategizing and executing hands-on digital marketing plans.
The noticeable gaps in Strategy and Social Media skills suggest a need for more in-depth training and a focus on tactical competencies. Time constraints and the hands-on nature of their roles often impede their ability to upskill, indicating a need for more structured learning within organisations.


Heads of Departments: Leading with knowledge

Heads of Departments have made significant strides, particularly in rapidly evolving areas like Ecommerce, SEO, and Social Media. Their progress is crucial, as it includes domains undergoing swift changes.
However, the common trend Heads of Department show every year of overconfidence in their abilities, appears once again. This time in Content, Strategy, Analytics, and Usability, where confidence is well above actual skills.
The areas of improvement though leave the group above average across the full range of digital marketing competencies (when compared to all seniority averages). The overall picture is one of great progress but a situation that needs ongoing and well-focused attention on upskilling; otherwise, we risk department heads being unable to ask the right questions to inform wider strategies.


Directors: Improvements that help set a strategic direction

Directors have seen comprehensive progress across all areas of competency, aligning with or surpassing the all-seniority average. Their advancements in Strategy and Core Marketing are particularly noteworthy, equipping them to guide and, when needed, challenge their teams more effectively.
The improvements in tactical areas like SEO and Social Media are also significant, ensuring they can be hands-on if needed and are staying informed about the latest trends and techniques.



How can the current skill gaps highlighted in the report be addressed?

Bridging the skills gaps identified in the report requires a strategic and proactive approach. For marketing teams and businesses, this means going beyond traditional training methods to embrace a more holistic skill development plan.

  1. Internal Training and Workshops: Regular training sessions, workshops, and webinars can be instrumental in keeping teams up to date with the latest trends and techniques. These should cover a range of topics, from the nuances of SEO and social media strategies to core skill development through things like Insights Discovery.
  2. Mentorship and Coaching: This is like having a marketing Yoda for every Luke Skywalker in your team. Experienced marketers guide the newbies, sharing wisdom and fostering a culture where everyone’s learning and growing together. And trust us, it works the other way around too! (We look forward to seeing your Marketing Director’s first Tik Tok.)
  3. External Expertise: Every year agencies score considerably higher than internal marketers (as they are expected to), however, it shows that sometimes the best learning comes from outside. Inviting input from industry experts, attending conferences, or collaborating with digital marketing agencies can provide fresh perspectives and specialised knowledge that internal training might miss.
  4. Hands-On Experience: There’s nothing like getting your hands dirty (digitally speaking). Practical, hands-on experience is invaluable. So, we recommend encouraging team members to work on diverse projects, experiment with new tools, and learn from real-world scenarios that can significantly enhance their skills.
  5. Feedback and Continuous Improvement: Regular feedback sessions, performance reviews, and skills assessments can help in identifying areas where individuals or teams may need more support or training. This also helps track progress and ensures the skills development efforts are doing what they’re supposed to.
  6. Investing in Resources: Providing access to the latest tools, resources, and learning materials can empower team members to take charge of their own learning and stay ahead of the curve.

Like the very best trifles, your learning and development approach needs to be multi-layered…
Okay, that festive reference might have been a stretch, even for me. But the point is, by addressing these skills gaps through a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach, marketing teams can not only enhance their capabilities but also contribute to the overall growth and success of their businesses – as well as the marketing sector as a whole!


We look forward to seeing even better results in 2024’s report!
We invite you to explore the report in detail for more comprehensive insights into your specific sector.
And if you’re looking to navigate these challenges, Tomango is here to guide and support you in enhancing your team’s marketing capabilities.