First Steps to Starting a Career in Digital Marketing

I have been asked repeatedly by recent graduates and current students how to get started in Digital Marketing.

Digital Marketing is the cool kid of marketing (I am only slightly biased) and is growing rapidly. 2017 is expected to be the year when online advertising surpasses TV ad spend (Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends 2017, slide 14).

As a recent graduate how do you break into Digital Marketing?

First of all, learn what the top marketing challenges are for companies today:

  1. Generating traffic and leads
  2. Proving ROI of marketing activities
  3. Securing budget
  4. Identifying the right technologies

You’ll notice that there is only one challenge in the top 4 that looks like marketing. The others are analytics, negotiating, and technology. These are the key competencies you will need to show to break into Digital Marketing.

1. Digital Marketing Skills

Use any opportunity to learn Digital Marketing skills. You should be familiar with terms like SEO (search engine optimization), SEM (search engine marketing – nowadays usually a synonym for PPC), PPC (pay per click), organic and paid Social Media, CPC (cost per click), CTR (click-through-rate), CPA (cost per acquisition). The list goes on…

Here are some resources to check out:

MOZ Blog – a must for SEO

Search Engine Land – for SEO and SEM

Social Media Examiner – for Social Media

Social Media Today – for Social Media

Hubspot Marketing Blog – Marketing

2. Analytics

I always tell marketing students to take all the analytics classes and finance classes they can. In Digital Marketing everything is measurable and everything will be measured (to death sometimes). You need solid analytical skills to be able to measure the performance of all your campaigns. The ultimate question that each digital marketer has to answer daily:

What’s the return on the next dollar I am spending and where do I spend it on?

3. Teamwork & Negotiation

As a digital marketer your life will not be lonely. You will be spending a lot of time with other marketers (online and offline), with product managers, with your analytics team (you don’t have to do analytics all by yourself), your web (optimization) team, your finance team.

You will need to be able to negotiate priorities for your projects (a new landing page perhaps) with the web or dev teams.

You will sit through lengthy planning meetings to determine what your budget is for the next quarter or the next year and to secure budget for your campaigns and your team,  you will need to have a solid understanding of your campaigns’ ROI. At the end of the day, budget is mostly allocated by performance. So if you don’t have data that shows the ROI for your campaigns is better than the ROI for TV ads, for example, then all you have left is throw a tantrum (and I don’t recommend this).

4. Technologies

No, you don’t have to be able to code a website from scratch. But you should know how to work tools that companies use, such as SEM bidding optimization algorithm tools, Social Media content scheduling tools, Social Media listening tools. You should be familiar with analytics tools like Google Analytics.

You should also have a basic understanding of what website tracking means. You don’t have to be able to place pixels on your company’s website, but you should understand what they track and what those data points mean.

Final Thoughts

As a newbie to Digital Marketing you have a few facts on your side.

Digital Marketing changes pretty much daily, new and better tools emerge, Google changes their search algorithm challenging everything you knew about SEO and SEM, a new hot social media platform shows up. There is not one specific baseline of skills you have to hit. But it also means as a Digital Marketer you have to constantly be on your toes and learn new things.

What is true today, may not be true tomorrow.

If constant change and ambiguity is not your thing, look for another career. I say this well-meaning, because if you are looking to learn a skill and be set, this is not your career path and you will be miserable.

For everyone looking for the new shiny thing, this is it (but do keep your focus on the outcome! ROI, baby!).


Read more: 5 Critical Paid Media Marketing Skills for Now and the Future


One thought

  1. Great information for anyone looking for a career in digital marketing.

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