North West Digital Sector Survey


In the first agency study of the North West's digital marketing sector, we quizzed dozens of industry professionals across a variety of positions and levels of seniority. 

Our findings show that there is more to the skills shortage than just money as a series of structural factors linked to training, recruitment processes and higher education challenges play out to cause a major headache for agencies and candidates alike.

At the heart of the problem lies the disconnect between many digital native marketers, often graduates of specialist vocational courses holding junior agency positions and senior staff, two-thirds of whom graduated from redbrick universities and without specialist digital marketing backgrounds.

The research proved incredibly enlightening. Whilst we hoped it would help identify some of the reasons behind the skills shortage what we didn't expect to discover were essentially two separate cultures - one predominantly redbrick, the other, graduates of specialist digital marketing courses, both with their own sets of values and motivations and both failing to fully appreciate the needs of the other.

The divide revealed itself in a variety of ways throughout the research. For instance 100% of senior respondents saw strong interpersonal, client handling and negotiation skills as more important than computing or internet related skills. By contrast more than a third of junior respondents believed creative and technical skills were the most important.

Another example was the marked contrast in salary outlooks. 50% of junior digital marketers believing that salaries would increase by 5-10% over the next twelve months compared to the majority of senior management who see salaries increasing in line with inflation.

The closer we looked at the data the more obvious the gap appeared. For example, junior graduates place such a high priority on training that it came out as the single biggest reason that they left their first role. Office location and social factors are also important again outweighing salary as priorities, issues that barely ranked for more senior staff,

If agencies don't clearly understand candidates then how can they expect to appeal to them? On the other hand if candidates fail to appreciate how an agency thinks, how it prioritises then of course there will inevitably frustrations.

What's clear from our research is that addressing the skills shortage requires a form of realignment - for agencies and candidates to sync better. Not only do agency management call the recruitment shots but it's clearly in their interests to start developing a better, more nuanced candidate understanding. Candidates too, particularly vocational graduates would be wise to put themselves in the shoes of potential employers and consider the kinds of non technical skills and that their prospective employer valuables.

For the full survey presentation including current salary and projected salary findings and analysis click through The Candidate Slideshare above. 

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It didn’t take long to build rapport with Laura, as her excellent communication skills shone through from the start. She placed me in my most recent position and was very thorough in liaising between myself and my prospective employer at the time - an often understated skill. Moving to a new city for the position at short notice was not going to be easy, but Laura made sure I was as informed and prepped as possible when going through the interview stages and seemed to always have my best interests at heart. One of the most personable recruiters I have worked with, and I will certainly be calling her first when I am considering changing position again!

Michael, CRM Manager, July 2017