I attended a session at the Burlington Economic Development Corporation yesterday. Peter Hall, the chief economist for Economic Development Canada (EDC), was the keynote. He had a very positive message for the 200-plus business owners, advisers and financiers in the audience: big opportunities lie ahead.
Despite Europe's sovereign debt issues, slowing growth in the BRIC countries and China revving its economic engine through stimulus, there are strong economic tidings coming from other parts of the world. One bright spot is the United States, where housing starts, car purchases and consumer spending are on the rise.
All this bodes well for Canadian companies, but only if Canadian companies can "accommodate" that growth, said Hall. An audience member asked a question about this, referencing his own company's difficulties finding skilled engineers and wondered if this was the "accommodation" issue.
And indeed Mr Hall said it is: human capital and skilled labour represent a critical pillar of future economic growth. If Canadian companies can access that skilled labour, they'll be successful. If not, we'll stagnate.
In the last year, there's been a growing discussion about the shortage of skilled labour for the manufacturing sector. I hear it at industry events, from our clients, in LinkedIn Groups, engineering forums and elsewhere. It's becoming a din: our factories and labs lack the skills they need to innovate and grow.
And while the skills gap in manufacturing is a big issue, it isn't the only one that might derail the growth of Canadian companies. There's another skills gap that is looming. It's a marketing skills gap, particularly digital marketing skills. I see this issue every day. And it's an issue for small and mid-sized B2B companies because they often don't know which specific marketing skills they need. As a result, they often hire marketers who don't have online marketing skills. In the next two years, B2B marketing will move dramatically to online tools, including social media. Knowing how to use those tools and tactics is among the greatest assets a B2B marketer can have.
But there is a dearth of online skills among B2B marketers. My colleagues and I interview over 100 candidates a year and Mezzanine receives over 2500 resumes each year for marketing director and coordinator roles. Despite those numbers, we have a hard time finding digital marketing skills. So many marketers have traditional, offline skills. Those skills worked fine over the last ten years. But increasingly, B2B marketers need web presence optimization and social media skills.
Here's my advice: if you're a B2B company looking at hiring marketing staff, look for and ask a lot of questions about digital marketing. Hold out for the candidates who can bring those skills to you or demonstrate the initiative and appetite to learn them fast. In a year's time you'll be glad you did.
Lisa Shepherd is author of Market Smart: How to Gain Customers and Increase Profits with B2B Marketing and president of The Mezzanine Group, a business-to-business strategy and marketing company based in Toronto. She was the youngest female CEO of a PROFIT 200 company in 2007 and 2008 and is a frequent public speaker on B2B marketing strategy and execution.
More columns by Lisa Shepherd