Marketing is a big industry, with a lot of different cogs in the machine and many ways to make your mark. You can start out with almost any background. In fact, the more niche your background, the more you can stand out from the rest in the marketing industry. There is so much freedom to take your marketing career in any direction you want. You can work for a specific type of company. You can work solely with digital marketing. You can work freelance, for an agency, or for a company directly. There is no right or wrong way to get started with your career in marketing, and there is no right or wrong way to progress it. This gives you both a lot of freedom and a lot of choices, but with this guide, you’ll better understand marketing, and more importantly, how to get started in your marketing career.
What is Marketing?
Marketing is, at its core, a softer version of selling. Instead of directly, you sell the idea or the company. Marketing is a massive umbrella industry that includes sales, public relations, market research and analytics, advertising, and digital marketing. It is an umbrella of several different branches, and a successful marketing department or firm will have several people under its wing. The larger departments have people even for seemingly small jobs, like writing product descriptions, while smaller departments have people who carry multiple hats to get the job done.
What is Digital Marketing?
Digital marketing directly refers to the marketing and analytics done online. Much like marketing, it is also something of an umbrella term. It can include social media marketing, PPC marketing, online PR marketing, SEO, on-site marketing, email marketing, and more. Chances are you will specialize in one of these areas first, before moving up and taking on a wider scope, but with the added benefit of having people working under you.
As a digital marketer, you will be in charge of the digital aspect of a brand’s identity and advertising strategy, but you must always work in conjunction with the OOH marketing team so that your strategies complement and work off of one another. In some cases, this team may work alongside digital marketers, in other cases, they may be a separate division. In publishing, for example, print and digital are often two departments since they require a different approach.
What Skills Do You Need as a Digital Marketer?
Digital marketing is a massive industry, and you can either be a digital marketer that is in charge of all aspects of the digital marketing strategy on your own, or you can focus on a specific component to digital marketing.
If you want to grow and succeed in digital marketing, however, you will need a few essential skills. You will learn a lot of these if you invest in the right degree, but remember that is your foundation. A degree needs to be kept sharp with further training, certifications, and research on your behalf.
Digital marketers wear many hats, and though it is not essential to be skilled in all of these, you need at least an understanding and basic skills in these top skills:
Video is king online, especially with the rise of TikTok, Reels, Stories, and IGTV. When you consider that 80% of customers are more likely to buy a product they see in a video than an editorial photo or product photo, you can start to understand just how important video is to your repertoire.
This doesn’t mean that you need to be able to create high-quality videos yourself. Outsourcing content creation to design industries is par for the course in marketing. If your company or the company that you work for is large enough, you may have a team of your own to create the high-budget videos and photos otherwise, you outsource.
Just because you can outsource, however, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t learn the basics and how to market and optimize the videos so that they get the greatest reach. If you can at least edit together simple social media videos, or use existing clips to put together short videos for marketing purposes, then you will be well ahead of many marketers out there.
Search Engine Optimization and Marketing
SEO is another field that is related to digital marketing that you don’t need to be an expert in to become a digital marketer, but one that you should definitely be familiar with the basics in. Knowing how to optimize any on-site, social media, email, and video for search engines is going to be a critical skill that you and any marketer you hire or work with should have.
More detailed skills involved with SEO, like increasing your backlink profile or auditing, can be outsourced to an SEO agency, but when the SEO relates directly to the marketing and content you create as part of your job, you need to know how to do it.
This is one skill you will need to brush up on continually. Google is the largest social engine, which is where most SEO and SEM efforts focus on. Google, however, also updates its algorithm once or more a day, and rolls out several big updates per month. While that SEO agency you have outsourced to should be the ones to keep up with the big changes and will be in charge of updating your SEO strategy accordingly, you don’t want the SEO you use to improve your marketing to cause issues for your overall SEO strategy, so staying up to date yourself is critical.
Content marketing is something that every digital marketer should be familiar with and improve every day. Content is king online, and content can mean anything from text, email, infographics, photo, and video. You need your content to be optimized for search engines and customers alike, and there are many ways to improve your skills.
Investing in content workshops is a great place to start, but if you want to really get better, you’ll want to think outside of the box. Content only works when it connects to your customer, so investing time and effort to learn more about your customers, as well as the cultures, values, and language they use, can help you better connect in ways you never thought were possible.
Data analytics and digital marketing are married partners. You cannot succeed in digital marketing without knowing, understanding, and leveraging data. This means more than knowing how to use Google Analytics. Knowing how to take large datasets, read them, and then put the information you have gleaned from them into your strategy is something that every great digital marketer can do.
This skill does delve into data science, which makes it a bigger skill to have. To master this skill, you won’t want to just take the free Google Analytics course and earn that certification. You’ll want to earn a degree. There are new degrees, like this great Boston Master’s in Marketing and Data Analytics, that will combine principle marketing theory with analytics to help you build the most important skills a digital marketer can have.
User Experience and Design
You don’t need to know web design, but you do need to know what makes up great design. Digital marketing is about building a great experience online to carry customers from wherever they are online to the checkout page. If there is a hiccup in the design from point a to point b, you will not get a sale or a signup. You are going to get a lost customer.
You will need to know how to empathize with your customer to know what they want, and you will then need to be able to define these needs, create an idea on how to solve them using design, then create the prototype and test. Most times, you will be working with a web designer through this process, so be open to suggestions and ideas. You may know your customers and your brand, but that web designer knows UX and web design, so combine your knowledge.
Only together can you create a seamless customer journey from start to finish.
Leverage All Your Other Skills
Marketing is all about people, which means that the skills you can use to be a better marketer (both for your company and to get that next great job) are using your background. You can come from anywhere and benefit. If you come from a minority background, for example, you can better market to people in that community than someone who comes from outside of it. Use this to separate yourself and sell your skillset. If you can sell yourself and the background that only you have, you have the job, even if not every company realizes your worth.
Once you do find that company, you have a lot of power, just remember to continue to invest in yourself. Pursue your passions on the side, and then use that new information to add another skill set to your marketing career. Almost everything can relate back to a career in marketing, giving you the freedom to do what you are passionate about as well as what you are good at and, when you get high enough in your career, what you can be paid well for.
How to Get Started with Digital Marketing
You can learn a lot with the right degree and a lot on the job. You can get started and learn as you go, or you can advance your skillset and jumpstart your career. All that is left is to get your foot in the door and to remember your worth every step of the way.
With Your Education
Your education is a great place to learn and build up the skills necessary to become a digital marketer. Use the work you did during your university (especially if your degree was in marketing and data analytics) to show what you can do. You will also want to use your university’s career department and your own alumni network in order to get in touch with companies and take advantage of the unique opportunities available to you.
Interning and Volunteering
Interning and volunteering should only be done when there is a very specific company or organization that you want to work for. Otherwise, there is no reason why your work shouldn’t paid, especially if you have graduated already. Your work is being used to earn that company money, and therefore you should get paid. Therefore, it is in your interest to apply to entry-level positions rather than internship opportunities in most instances.
The only times this isn’t the case is when you have that specific company or organization. In this case, they are often very popular and very difficult to get hired into without knowing someone in the company. Internships and volunteering can help you learn the right people and help you get your foot in the door.
Taking on Marketing Responsibilities
If you want a good way to build up your skills and your portfolio, go to your current employer. If you work at a store, café, or other similar business, you can easily take over their social media and marketing. This can either be part of your job role, or you can expand it. Always negotiate to be paid for this work, however. Every one of these businesses knows how important marketing is, but they usually don’t have the budget for a full-time employee to handle it. By negotiating for a pay rise, or only taking on, say, one day a week to manage the marketing, you can get paid and start your career.
Use this time as a marketer to get a job at a larger company or agency. You could also use it to get in touch with other local businesses and take on them as clients. There are so many ways that you can make a career for yourself when it comes to digital marketing, and you just need to be ready to communicate with others.