What’s the most important marketing skill?

Often people ask me what about the one skill people will need to be a good marketer. For years, without blinking, I would say that it’s copywriting. Full stop.

As a marketer, it’s your job to convey an idea in a way that’s simple and memorable. You’re responsible for taking a big whimsical concept and making it easy for everyone to understand. Most people don’t know how to do this. Very few know how to do this well.

If you can build the skills needed to be a writer, you will use this in every marketing channel and for every marketing campaign you ever touch.

In a recent conversation, it came up that a lot of marketers I know don’t feel the same way.

People who have been in the field for many years argue that networking is the key and the most important marketing skill you can have. As someone who largely overlooked the power of building a personal brand and investing in my network, I began second-guessing my go-to advice.

Had I been pointing new marketers in the wrong direction for the past ten years?

Why copywriting is the most important skill for a marketer

Turns out I wasn’t alone in my long-standing opinion about copywriting. Writing is a skill that takes time to nurture and get right. That means that a skilled copywriter with a smaller network will still be more of a commodity than someone who’s good at parties but can’t write.

Given that we can’t actually go to parties right now, some even took it a step further and highlighted the fact that writing is really the only way we currently talk to each other at the moment.

As much as I don’t like the term ‘new normal‘, Naomi had a pretty good point. We’re not able to meet face to face and those that can connect with others online are doing so with writing.

Your words are now a currency that will help set you apart.

If you’re new to this field, a lot of people have found that copywriting is a skill that helps create a product you can sell.

Why networking is the most important skill for a marketer

Networking includes a lot of soft skills that act as the building blocks for your career. Whereas, writing is a skill that many people see as something outside of marketing entirely.

Most people write to a degree. And, it’s true that many marketers have gotten by without pushing prose. Said differently, you’ll still get to keep your job in marketing without having creative copywriting chops. Plenty of people in Marketing Ops, Analytics, and Design have impressive portfolios.

The element of the argument that caused me to pause and rethink my stance was when the parallels of marketing and long term relationships were drawn.

With a network, you can create marketing material that reaches many. Then things can build momentum.

Let’s use Twitter as an example. If you’re writing really exceptional tweets but you don’t have any connections (followers), then it won’t matter how well written they are because chances are very low that people will see them.

However, if you take the same writing (or tweets) and pair it with a network of people who know how to recognize good work, suddenly the same message will have the potential to reach everyone in your network AND everyone in your network’s network.

A blog post I made a while back got a handful of views via direct traffic. However, that same blog post was then repurposed as a series of tweets and shared to a network of connections.

Here are the analytics:

The results speak for themselves.

Where networking and copywriting overlap

Copywriting and networking are skills that both fall squarely under the category of communication. In terms of career advancement, the most important marketing skill usually goes to networking, but it’s hard to separate them completely.

Why networking and copywriting are different marketing skills

Networking is useless if you can’t deliver value (good copywriting in this case). Good copywriting is useful even without a network.

A lot of people felt that it was an oranges to apples situation. You can’t really compare them against each other because there are too many variables to consider.

What does the old guard know that the new fleet doesn’t?

The conversation for this argument can really sway in either direction and there is no correct answer. Copywriting is a skill and networking is a habit. It’s better to have both.

That said, there was a distinct pattern between people who argued for one over the other. If you check the thread and consider the backgrounds of people who argued that networking was the most important marketing skill to have, you’ll notice that they’ve been in the game for a while longer.

The most valuable skill to you might depend entirely on where you’re at in your career. When you’re younger, having solid technical skills, like copywriting, will help you get a foot in the door. However, later on, networking is what will count more for those higher-level jobs.

The other takeaway is that there is no definitive answer and it’ll depend on your goals.

My two cents?

My new take on the conversation is that if you’re new to this field and looking to grow the foundational skills you’ll need to succeed, you need to be a strong copywriter.

All we do today is read. We read social media posts, the news, text messages, our email. Then we write.

There aren’t enough writers. It’s an in-demand skill that is difficult to hire for. If you’re looking to cut your teeth on new marketing campaigns, chances are they’re going to need a writer more than they’ll need someone who is a friend of a friend.

By Christine

Hi, I'm Christine. I'm a public speaker & marketing professional with a specialization in digital strategy. I live and breathe all things content & marketing. In my previous positions, I've done everything from rebranding companies, launching new SaaS products, writing sales copy, and developing long-term SEO & social strategies. I believe that quality communication and measurable results are the key to every digital marketing strategy.