Everything You Need to Know About Pursuing a Digital Marketing Career
When someone says they work in marketing, we often envision them with a group of people huddled around a conference table, coming up with their next big campaign. While this probably isn't far from the truth, digital marketing has evolved over the years, and the methods, tools and roles associated with the field have been anything but uniform. Those people sitting around the table generally have different experiences, skills, and specialties.
Today's digital marketing teams include a combination of strategists and doers, creative minds and analysts, each bringing their expertise and perspective into the mix to help drive a company's business objectives.
With many different directions to go in, figuring out which to follow or if a career in Digital Marketing is even right for you can be confusing. The good news: you’ve come to the right place to get the answers you need. More and more companies require creative and effective marketing professionals, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting a projected 8% employment growth by 2028 - higher than any other occupation.
With so much opportunity in reach, there is room for individuals of all backgrounds and experiences in this ever-changing field. In this guide, we cover a variety of paths open to those considering a Digital Marketing career and what it takes to get started.
The Dynamic Field of Digital Marketing
Marketing’s adaptation to an online world has brought with it several advantages. Unlike traditional mediums such as print publications, radio, and television, online platforms have offered clear and timely data to help separate effective campaigns from ineffective ones.
According to Hubspot, businesses using digital marketing methods can see real-time results of each campaign. Additionally, online marketing platforms have enabled us to segment audiences into more granular groups based on specific interactions, interests, and online behavior. The reach and personalization afforded by digital platforms has been unprecedented, shaping the way brands and customers communicate.
What Makes Digital Marketing an Exciting Career?
The shift to online marketing changed how we think about marketing to the masses. It introduced completely new methods which still prove successful today, like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Email Marketing. What makes this field particularly exciting is how these established methods have evolved and how new channels continuously challenge the status quo of communications.
Why should you care that digital marketing is continually changing?
- You’ll never get bored in a digital marketing career. Regardless of your role, your tasks and projects will constantly change. You’ll likely come across other marketers whose drive and creativity will inspire your ideas and perspective.
- You’ll be at the forefront of emerging technologies. As digital marketers find new ways to learn about their audiences, they’re introduced to remarkable technology, such as AI and Big Data. Our desire to create a more personalized world, where communication breaks through on an individual level, makes the use of new technologies both appealing and necessary. Digital marketing professionals routinely engage with innovative technologies to support online communication that drives their work.
- There are endless opportunities for creativity and learning. The truth is, every digital marketer has a sort of mad scientist inside them. When an idea sparks, the team comes together to brainstorm and build something new from scratch. After analyzing the data, you may suggest slight adjustments and measure performance with these changes. This ability to create, test, and learn is what keeps digital marketing so exciting.
The Four Ps of Marketing
Businesses of all sizes and from all industries use digital marketing to connect with audiences and attract customers. Digital Marketing has been on the rise for decades since the launch of the Internet; however, before professionals went digital, they grew businesses with what is known as traditional marketing. The backbone of traditional marketing is the four Ps, which are key concepts involved in marketing a service or product.
According to Investopedia, “the concept of the four Ps has been around since the 1950s; as the marketing industry has evolved, the concepts of people, process, and physical evidence have become important components of marketing a product, too.” While these concepts were introduced in the pre-digital era, they ring true for digital marketing as well.
Product. This is what a company offers to consumers or businesses, whether it is tangible like glassware or intangible like an online course.
Marketers create demand for products or services by positioning them as something enticing and necessary for prospective customers.
Price. In simple terms, price refers to how much a customer is willing to pay for a product. It is the marketer’s job to establish an attractive price point and communicate both the real and perceived value, while still turning a profit for the business. Perceived value can be as easy as luxurious packaging and a carefully chosen color palette.
Determining the price of a product or service is weighed against several factors, including what competitors are charging, supply costs, and even seasonal promotions.
Placement. Once a product is priced appropriately, a marketer decides where it should be sold and the ideal places (physical or online) to convert prospects into customers. It’s tempting to want to put your product in front of as many people as possible, but the most effective marketing campaigns will target those who are most likely to buy your product at the determined price.
Appropriate placement helps to ensure the success of marketing campaigns by increasing your return on investment (ROI). ROI is an important marker of success because it measures how much revenue you generated compared to how much you spent.
When it comes to the digital space, determining the best place for your product means understanding where your customers are spending their time online and attracting them there through targeted campaigns/ads.
Promotion. This concept refers to how marketers communicate about a product, and how they differentiate it from other products, to turn target buyers into customers. If you’ve ever been introduced to a product or service, either online or offline, you’ve witnessed a promotion campaign.
This “P” in particular highlights the many advantages of digital marketing over traditional, non-digital methods. Marketers can run a promotion, using the collected data to learn what’s working quickly, and pivot based on those learnings. While we run these dynamic campaigns, we’re reaching millions of people at a fraction of the cost; instead of a billboard that can only be seen by drivers in a specific location, a display ad online can reach a targeted audience regardless of their location.
For example, one 30-second commercial during the 2019 Super Bowl cost $5.25 million to reach almost 100 million viewers. The Super Bowl is highly watched, but this did not guarantee that each viewer would see the commercial or be interested in a particular product. With digital advertising, marketers don’t have to spend as much to reach the same amount of viewers and, through targeting and segmentation, they can choose an audience that is more likely to buy what’s being promoted.
Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing
Inbound marketing brings people into your world. This strategy attracts customers through meaningful content and brand experiences personalized to them. Content is distributed via social media campaigns, emails, ads, and other formats that can be used to spread the word about your product to potential customers.
Are you currently subscribed to a newsletter from a company whose products you enjoy? Do you follow them on Instagram? Well, that’s inbound marketing in action.
The objective is to draw customers to your online marketing assets, such as a landing page or blog, so they can learn more about your product/service, develop trust in it, and ultimately purchase it (also known as converting customers).
Examples of inbound marketing strategies include:
- Writing blog articles and white papers
- Optimizing content with SEO techniques
- Sending email campaigns and lead nurturing
- Using chatbots and surveys to get feedback from customers
- Social media listening
Outbound marketing involves reaching out to an audience, instead of the audience coming to you. Also known as “interruption marketing,” it focuses on promoting products or services through direct advertising, such as PPC and cold emails, as well as through more traditional marketing mediums such as commercials, radio ads, and print ads.
Have you ever read an article online and noticed a banner right in the middle of the article promoting a product? That’s a form of outbound marketing.
This approach often leads to lower returns (ROI) because rather than target a specific audience based on interest or other factors, you’re broadcasting your message to a broader audience who may not necessarily want or need your product.
Examples of outbound marketing:
- Pay-per-click advertising (PPC)
- Door-to-door sales
- Cold calling or cold emails
- Trade shows
Outbound Marketing is diminishing in popularity due to its higher costs and the introduction of ad blockers and spam filters over the years - often the ads don’t make it to consumers because they are automatically blocked. Nevertheless, even in the digital world, the best marketing strategy should consist of both outbound and inbound methods.
Popular Types of Digital Advertising Today
A winning marketing strategy incorporates all types of promotional mediums and formats to distribute campaigns that are effective and targeted. Below we look at some of the most popular types of digital marketing.
Social Media Marketing
This type of marketing leverages social media channels like Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Tik Tok, and Pinterest to engage with audiences, answer questions, and serve ads. Within social media marketing, we also see influencer marketing, which involves hiring individuals with large followings to promote a product or service to their audience. Nike has built an amazing network of dedicated influencers to creatively promote their shoes using their own style, like @nardgotsole_htx.
Social media marketing consists of several different roles that have a strategic and significant impact on the company’s identity.
In 2019, there were 1.86 billion YouTube users worldwide. It’s no surprise then that marketers are using video ads and platforms like YouTube to generate awareness, demand, and revenue. Videos are an effective way to capture attention and are being used more often to build brand identity and appeal to audiences’ interests.
These ads are put together by a creative team of editors, writers, and strategists to ensure they hold a thinning attention span.
This is sponsored content that looks like regular editorial content but is designed to promote a product or service without obstructing the user’s experience. Blogs and social media content are the most common types of native advertising.
Content writers hold an important role in the creation of these types of ads. They conceptualize, write, edit, publish, and measure the performance of this content.
Most business websites today include a form where users can fill out their information to receive updates, promotions, and information from a company. This is the first step in email marketing, and it opens the door for the company to engage with subscribers and convert them into customers.
Email marketing is also a low-cost strategy, which if done correctly, can result in high returns. This is why Email Marketing Specialists have become so crucial for business growth today.
The Career Possibilities in Digital Marketing
SEO specialists are responsible for improving organic search results via researching, optimizing, and distributing content. This is done by identifying and using keywords that match the product’s objective, benefits, or functionality. SEO specialists work closely with content creators to develop blogs, videos, ads and various other content that incorporate the keywords. When people input these keywords in a search on Google or other search engines, the relevant content appears.
The SEO specialist also audits web pages to ensure that they are optimized to meet search engine criteria for relevance.
This role generally requires analytical and critical thinking. Some SEO specialists may create content themselves, and others may focus more on algorithm changes, page ranking, and page structure. SEO specialists are not always part of content teams, but their work does inform the content produced by writers, and so these roles work in close collaboration.
A PPC specialist manages pay-per-click advertising campaigns including the strategy, implementation, and analysis of ad performance. This role also works closely with the SEO specialist, since keywords are an essential part of targeting and search intent.
PPC specialists ensure that the user journey is cohesive from start to finish by maintaining clear messaging in ads and landing pages.
People in PPC advertising roles are analytical and sometimes may tap into their creative sides to shape ad messaging. They must have strong communication skills, something that is necessary both in engagement with target audiences and internal teams. Time management, data analysis, and understanding key audiences are also necessary skills to succeed in this role.
Social Media Manager
The Social Media Manager is responsible for planning, implementing, and monitoring social media strategies and campaigns. Often, this role also includes community management and engagement.
As a content curator and strategic planner, today’s Social Media Manager uses a range of digital tools to create and schedule posts, engage with audiences, build or maintain brand identity, and stay on top of trends and customer feedback.
Not everyone who has a social media account is automatically qualified to be a Social Media Manager. People in this role must understand how to align with the company’s marketing strategies, the concept of audience segmentation, and how the social media platforms they use work. Being able to gather and synthesize information to drive the strategy forward is also essential to the role. A Social Media Manager must be creative, data-driven, and customer-centric.
Digital Strategists are responsible for developing marketing programs and campaigns in line with brand objectives and based on customer insight and data. They work with several individuals in the marketing team to ensure successful implementation and optimization of the overall marketing strategy.
A Digital Strategist focuses on the bigger picture to identify gaps and areas of improvement within marketing activities. Once a strategy is outlined, the strategist prioritizes and delegates tasks, and ultimately reports on the impact of the strategy.
This person must have a deep understanding of the digital space and the ability to work in a fast-paced and dynamic environment. Strategists are often self-motivated, with a strong attention to detail and even stronger communication skills.
While there are several different digital marketing career paths to choose from, your skill set will likely end up covering more than one particular area. The more versatile your skill set is, the more impact you’ll make throughout your career.
How to Stay on Top of Your Game
Digital marketing professionals encounter constant changes within their industry. Whether it’s policy changes affecting how information is managed, like the GDPR, or a sudden dip in campaign performance forcing a team to re-evaluate its strategy, marketing professionals continuously need to be in the know and in touch with their company’s needs.
Depending on your role, you will most likely have a set of go-to sites, thought leaders, and forums to tap into for inspiration and keep abreast of industry developments. While some marketers see more consistent changes than others, for example, an SEO specialist must account for ongoing algorithm changes; it’s important to know where to look and keep up with the modern techniques of your field.
Job Demand Landscape
With the continued growth of the Internet, digital marketing has cemented its place within the business world. The reality is, if you don’t have a digital marketing team, it’s hard to have an online presence, and if you’re not online, your business doesn’t exist.
Just over 10 years ago, the roles that exist today were barely getting their start, but businesses now view digital marketing roles as highly in-demand. These roles are still settling into their corporate environment, but they’re quickly demonstrating how much growth they can drive for companies, even with a smaller budget.
According to the Digital Marketing Institute, “93% of online activity starts with a search engine [like Google or Bing] and ensures the continued effectiveness of SEO as a superior marketing strategy while about 80% of Americans make an online purchase at least once a month.”
Professionals who can help drive business through the increase and optimization of organic online activity are those who will succeed most in the digital marketing field.
What Employers Are Looking For
Before you enter the job market, you will need to build a strong skill set and show a collection of marketing assets you worked on to help you stand out from the crowd. Field experience and familiarity with digital marketing strategies are a must-have, but you can go one step further by showcasing your own work.
Employers usually request portfolios or writing samples to get a sense of a candidate’s skill, thought process, and grasp of knowledge. Content writers and designers can present their creative work through a personal website, published links, or simply by sending a few samples together with their resume. More analytical roles, like a PPC Specialist, are often asked to present results from campaigns they’ve launched.
Learning by doing, and practical training through real-world simulations is a good way to learn digital marketing skills, and can position you ahead of other job-seekers. Programs that offer hands-on practice in digital marketing strategies and tools, including email automation software, E-Commerce platforms, and WordPress for website building, can set you apart in the market, equipping you with the in-demand skills employers are seeking.
The world of digital marketing changes quickly, and curricula must frequently be updated to reflect new methods, concepts, and platforms. It’s important to seek out training courses that teach the most up-to-date marketing practices.
As in any field, getting ahead of the competition also means connecting with professionals in the industry. Establishing and growing your network with digital marketing practitioners can pave the way not only to meaningful learning opportunities but also to lucrative employment prospects.
How to Become a Digital Marketing Professional
Digital marketing is an accessible career for people from every background, and there are several ways to break into this field.
The Traditional Track
If you’re more inclined to take the “traditional” route of obtaining a four-year or two-year degree, studying Business with a focus on marketing could be one way to go. Additionally, while digital marketing itself is not closely related to Computer Science, a degree in Information Technology can also help foster critical thinking and data analysis skills. Learning coding languages can also be useful for building websites.
The degree route is a great option if you can commit the time and discipline required to succeed; however, you may miss out on practical knowledge, like how marketers today are using specific tools in their roles. Not to mention, the financial investment required for a four-year degree can discourage passionate students from pursuing one.
The Fast Track
You can gain the same knowledge, as well as relevant experience, from taking specialized digital marketing courses online or offline. The trick is to find a program that offers immersive, hands-on training. This is a great option if you’re looking to make a career change, if you want to elevate your existing knowledge of digital marketing, or if you want to break into the field having gained experience and a solid foundation of the fundamentals - without the lengthy course load.
With the University of Miami Digital Marketing Professional Bootcamp, you can be ready to interview and showcase a portfolio of work in less than a year. Students will need to take an introductory course and pass an exam to assess their capability and passion for this career path before continuing with the program.
To get started, schedule a free consultation with our Admissions Advisors.
The Side-Hustle Track
The best way to learn something is by doing. If you are interested in a specific area of digital marketing, like graphic design or paid ads, why not build up your skills by working on them yourself? Reach out to friends or family whom you may be able to help as you grow your skills. As you progress with each project, you’ll get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.
This is not an ideal track for everyone. It may not lead to a lucrative job and won’t guarantee that you’ll become an expert in that field, but if you do find yourself curious about digital marketing, explore your interests and see where they take you.