If you’re wondering how to become a digital marketing manager, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, you’ll find a detailed guide to the industry, plus a clear, actionable roadmap for your new career.
As a career choice, digital marketing management is gaining considerable popularity thanks to the impactful, multifaceted, and rewarding nature of the role. This is a position that combines elements of human psychology, analysis, strategy, and content creation, and requires a deep knowledge of the latest software, digital trends, platforms, and tools.
Those who can demonstrate the right combination of skills and experience—not to mention a large helping of genuine interest in the field!—are highly sought-after by the growing number of companies seeking skilled digital marketing managers to manage eye-catching and authentic digital marketing campaigns, grow their online audiences, and ultimately convert followers into loyal, returning customers.
Here’s a clickable list of what we’ll be covering so you can jump straight to the section that most interests you.
- What does a digital marketing manager do?
- Is it possible to become a digital marketing manager without any prior experience?
- What skills do you need to learn to become a digital marketing manager?
- How to become a digital marketing manager: Your step-by-step guide
- Top digital marketing courses and bootcamps to kick-start your career
- Key takeaways and further reading
Let’s get started!
1. What does a digital marketing manager do?
While digital marketing manager is undoubtedly one of the most in-demand digital marketing jobs out there right now, if you’re new to the field, it can be hard to know exactly what the role entails.
So what does a digital marketing manager actually do? Put simply, a digital marketing manager is responsible for the successful running of digital channels and campaigns that create new customer leads, promote the brand and its products, and contribute to overall company growth.
In collaboration with the rest of the digital marketing team—from content creators through to the head of marketing—the digital marketing manager is tasked with aligning messaging across all company channels, as well as planning and executing on marketing tasks or distributing these tasks among the right team members.
As is so often the case, the size of the company will determine exactly how hands-on the digital marketing manager will be when it comes to the execution of tasks. However, to give you an idea of the sorts of responsibilities someone in this role is usually expected to perform, let’s take a look at a typical digital marketing manager job description.
Here are some of the responsibilities and tasks expected of a digital marketing manager:
- Plan content for, and manage, the company’s social media channels and website
- Grow the company’s social media audience and website traffic
- Work closely with content creators including copywriters, videographers, and designers to create engaging and persuasive content
- Monitor and analyze digital marketing metrics to establish the effectiveness of campaigns and promotions
- Write and present digital marketing performance reports with an eye on key performance indicators (KPIs) and ROI (return on investment)
- Assist the head of marketing in developing campaign budgets
- Regularly assess and review brand messaging across the board for relevance and consistency
- In collaboration with senior marketers, develop a digital marketing and social media strategy
- Plan user-centered website landing pages
- Provide mentorship and learning opportunities for digital marketing team members
- Identify and adopt the latest digital technologies and tools, and have an awareness of digital trends in your industry
- Plan, prepare, and build conversion tests
As you can see, the position requires a broad range of skills, experience, and knowledge, from analytical to managerial. But don’t worry: in this post, we’ll be covering exactly how you can master these skills to land your first job in the field.
2. Is it possible to become a digital marketing manager without any prior experience?
Yes! The required skillset for this role is extremely varied and digital marketing managers often rely on transferable skills that can be acquired from a range of different career paths and backgrounds, both within and outside of marketing.
So, in short, you do not need to have any specific experience—nor do you need a degree in digital marketing. As long as you can demonstrate to potential employers the most important skills needed for the role and highlight the value you’re bringing with you from your previous field or education, you can absolutely become a successful digital marketing manager.
So what are those key skills that you’ll need to learn? Let’s take a look.
3. What skills do you need to learn to become a digital marketing manager?
As we’ve mentioned, acquiring the necessary set of skills and knowledge is crucial to becoming a digital marketing manager. Here’s a list of the main ones you’ll need to master:
1. Strategic thinking
Strategic thinking involves developing specific thought processes which are applied in the context of goals being achieved. Predicting outcomes and planning ahead are important aspects of strategic thinking.
2. Data analysis
Data analysis is a process of first monitoring and measuring data sets, before studying that data closely with the goal of discovering useful information. The results of data analysis often feed directly into decision-making and planning. This is crucial for digital marketing as you’ll need to track how different campaigns perform and use the data to optimize future campaigns.
3. Knowledge of key digital marketing channels and techniques
Digital marketing managers must be familiar with the main marketing channels and how they’re used. The main channels include social media, email, organic search, and paid search (to name a few). Some of the most crucial marketing approaches include SEO (search engine optimization), SEA (search engine advertising), performance marketing, content marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing.
4. Knowledge of the marketing funnel, marketing metrics, and KPIs
Right now, they might sound like confusing buzzwords: the marketing funnel, marketing metrics, and KPIs (key performance indicators). However, if you want to become a digital marketing manager, you’ll need to get to grips with these terms and what they mean in relation to your work. The marketing funnel explores where the customer is at in their journey (e.g. are they just finding out about your product or service, or are they close to making a purchase?) Marketing metrics and KPIs help you to set goals and measure success.
5. An eye for good copy
Good copy will make or break a digital marketing campaign. Whether that’s social media text, email copy, advertising copy, longform blog posts, or landing page text, a digital marketing manager needs to know exactly how they want to define the brand’s tone and voice to resonate with the target audience.
6. Some knowledge of visual marketing
Digital marketing managers work closely with graphic designers on images for social media, the company website, and email campaigns. Having a grasp on trends in visual marketing will be a huge advantage here.
7. UX (user experience) and CX (customer experience)
The user’s experience of the brand via its digital channels should be seamless, delightful, and intuitive. A digital marketing manager should therefore have some knowledge of the psychology behind their customer’s decision-making in order to optimize the website and social networks to meet and exceed customer expectations.
For a more in-depth look at the skills you’ll need to master, we’ve rounded up the most important digital marketing manager skills here.
4. How to become a digital marketing manager: A step-by-step guide
There is no single route into the digital marketing field, but there are certain steps you can take—starting today—that will give you a head start in launching your new career as a digital marketing manager. To set you on the right path, we’ve devised an actionable roadmap for you to follow.
Step 1: Read up on the industry and get familiar with key concepts and tools
Doing your research will stand you in good stead when you’re looking to become a digital marketing manager. It’ll give you a realistic idea of the industry you’re going into, pitfalls to avoid, and trends coming around the corner. Luckily, there are lots of great resources out there, from blogs and podcasts to webinars and video tutorials running through many important digital marketing concepts, hacks, and how the future of digital marketing might unfold.
Here are some recommended reads to get you started:
- What are the main marketing channels?
- What is cross-channel marketing?
- SEO vs. SEM: What are they, and what’s the difference?
Top podcasts for digital marketing beginners to check out:
- Social Media Examiner
- Google Off the Record
- Everyone Hates Marketers
- The Science of Social Media (Buffer)
In addition to reading and research, exploring and getting to grips with the tools you’ll be expected to master in the job will give you a head start in your digital marketing education. Fortunately, the majority of digital marketing software and tools offer free trials, so you can build campaigns, conduct A/B tests, and practice creating and sending out customer emails to hone your skills before you land your first position.
Need-to-know analytics and advertising tools for digital marketers include:
Commonly used email marketing tools include:
So: Start immersing yourself in the industry and trying out some of the most popular digital marketing tools.
Step 2: Structure your learning with a digital marketing qualification
After conducting your own research, your next step will be to get a more formal education in digital marketing. A structured course or program will help you solidify and build on what you already know, and teach you the unique and varied skillset you’ll need to succeed in this career.
A study program will also give you the chance to speak to industry experts, get advice and feedback on your career choice, and build a marketing portfolio of work that, along with a certification, you’ll be able to present at job interviews when you start applying for your first positions.
There are different routes you can go down to get a rounded digital marketing education, all with their own pros and cons. When considering your options, it’s important to think carefully about your learning style, current commitments, budget, and location, to ensure you sign up to a course that fits all of your learning and lifestyle needs.
In section five of this guide, we’ll be going into a bit more detail about some of our favorite digital marketing courses! For now, here are some different study routes you might consider.
Digital marketing bootcamps
Digital marketing bootcamps tend to be practical, short yet intensive study programs designed to prepare students for a career in the field. This is done through the teaching of key marketing skills and enabling students to gain hands-on experience via portfolio projects and practical true-to-life exercises.
While some programs offer one-on-one mentorship and career advice, others expect students to take a more self-led learning approach. Often a more flexible and affordable alternative to a digital marketing degree, many bootcamps take place online with flexible study timetables, although in-person bootcamps are also very popular. The length of a digital marketing bootcamp is typically between four to twelve weeks, though most offer part-time, full-time, and flexible study options.
Crucially, bootcamps give students the chance to practice and hone their skills in the field, while also teaching them the most relevant and up-to-date digital marketing theory needed to master the subject. At the end of the bootcamp, students will have a portfolio of work to show recruiters, as well as a certification proving their completion of the course and commitment to their career change.
Digital marketing certification programs
Over the last few years, certification programs have become increasingly popular, as more people seek to build on and validate the skills they’ve learned in a specific work environment, or to learn new skills to land a more lucrative role in a different field. At less than twelve months long, they’re a shorter and more cost-efficient option than a degree, but generally longer and more expensive than a bootcamp.
Digital marketing certificate programs vary from institution to institution, but tend to be designed specifically for those interested in a career in digital marketing or those who wish to further educate themselves as marketing managers in a digital era. Many (but not all!) certification programs require students to take an exam at the end of the course in order for them to receive certification.
Certification programs generally contain a mixture of practice and theory, with students learning common strategies, practical techniques, and popular digital marketing tools. Some programs ask that students come with some marketing experience, while others are designed with beginners in mind.
We’ve rounded up some of the best digital marketing certification programs here.
Digital marketing degree
Students taking a digital marketing degree at a university or higher education institution will typically learn about marketing principles, digital marketing strategies, and business communication over a four-year period.
Depending on the institution, course, and teaching staff, most programs cover the knowledge and skills that entry-level marketing professionals need to apply on a daily basis, including organizational, team management, and general communication skills.
Specialization is also an option for undergraduate students who wish to focus more on one area of digital marketing over another, for example, customer experience design, digital marketing metrics, content marketing, or thought leadership in digital marketing.
In comparison to a bootcamp or certification program, the emphasis of digital marketing degrees tends to be more on theory, psychology, and strategy, than the hands-on or career-focused knowledge-building that you are likely to find on a bootcamp or shorter course.
Most degree programs seek to offer a mixture of teaching and classroom styles to ensure accessibility for as many students as possible, though in general, on campus, in-person teaching is still considered the norm.
Step 3: Build your digital marketing portfolio
Having a tangible portfolio of work to demonstrate in job interviews will be an extremely valuable asset when you start looking for your first digital marketing manager role.
While studying your digital marketing course, be that a degree, certification program, or bootcamp, you are likely to complete numerous projects and assignments that you can compile into an impressive portfolio. Your mentor or teacher may even give you some guidance on putting your portfolio together. Whether you create a portfolio from projects you have done entirely alone, or using projects and tasks from a digital marketing course, be sure to have a professional body of work that you can leave with employers to show them what you’re capable of.
For some guidance on putting your portfolio together, check out some of these fantastic resources:
Step 4: Network
Connecting with other digital marketing professionals will help greatly in learning more about the role of the digital marketing manager, as well as finding out about career opportunities or openings in the field. If you make a great impression, you’ll be the first person they think of when a new role opens up.
Networking doesn’t come easily for everybody. Some simple ways to start growing your network are:
- Attend meetups for digital marketing professionals
- Attend panel discussions related to digital marketing
- Reach out to digital marketing experts on LinkedIn and show genuine interest in their work
- Reach out to former employers and colleagues and tell them about your career change
- Join online groups, communities, and professional networks related to digital marketing
- Ask and answer questions about digital marketing on sites like Quora and Reddit
- Share and engage with relevant content on your social media channels. You can also Like, tag others, and comment on articles your connections are sharing on social media.
- Offer your guidance and help to your connections—it will establish you as an industry expert
Finally, remember to always be your authentic self in all your interactions with your connections, and be appreciative of any help or advice you receive.
Step 5: Apply to relevant digital marketing manager jobs
Now that you’ve done all the hard work researching, studying, building your portfolio, and networking, you’re finally ready to start applying for your first roles in digital marketing.
We’ve put together a quick to-do list for you to refer back to, to ensure you’ve got all your job-hunting bases covered.
- Add your new skills and qualifications to your CV. You’ll find a step-by-step guide to writing your marketing resume here.
- Make your portfolio project easily accessible either online or as a PDF. You’ll find some inspirational digital marketing portfolio examples here to guide you!
- Freshen up your LinkedIn profile, and link to your passion project there. Change your status to ‘Open To Work’
- Inform everybody you know—friends, family, and former colleagues—that you are now looking for your first position in digital marketing
- Consider offering your services on a freelance basis to charities or smaller companies who might not have the budget to host a full-time digital marketing manager
- Use LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Indeed, Monster and other sites to find vacancies
- Register for Google Job Alerts with search terms related to your new career, and companies you would really love to work for
- Write to companies that you would like to work for and ask to be kept on file for any upcoming digital marketing positions
So there you have it: A clear roadmap you can follow to get started as a digital marketing manager! We mentioned some of the various study routes you might take, so now let’s round up some of the best digital marketing courses and bootcamps on the market right now.
5. The best digital marketing bootcamps and courses to kick-start your career
We’ve put together a mini round-up of five digital marketing bootcamps and courses, so you get a picture of what’s out there in terms of skills training for digital marketing managers. For a more extensive comparison, be sure to check out this complete guide to the best digital marketing bootcamps.
- Mode of study: Online
- Duration: 15-20 hours per week for 3 months
- Price: $4,900 which can be paid upfront, monthly, or after landing a job
Thinkful’s part-time digital marketing bootcamp is a fully online course which includes live video mentoring and self-paced lessons. Teaching involves a mixture of online course materials, peer group interaction, career coaching, and personal mentoring.
- Mode of study: Online and in-person courses
- Duration: 5 x 8 hour classes, or 10 x 4 hour classes
- Price: $3,250
BrainStation’s Online Digital Marketing Course is designed for those who already have some experience in the field, with modules in building digital marketing strategies, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), social media, and email marketing.
- Mode of study: Online (there is also a longer, on-campus version)
- Duration: 7 days
- Price: $3,250
The Digital Marketing Strategy Course from Harvard is a week-long, intensive online course that mixes lectures, videos, case studies, articles, interactive exercises, and team activities. At the end of the week, students receive extensive feedback from expert instructors.
- Mode of study: Online
- Duration: 3 months
- Price: €359 per month, or €927 upfront
Udacity’s Digital Marketing Nanodegree includes the building of real-world projects, technical mentor support, a GitHub review, and optimization of each student’s LinkedIn profile, all of which is guided and overseen by technical experts.
- Mode of study: Online
- Duration: Up to 12 months access to course materials
- Price: $950
General Assembly’s Digital Marketing On Demand course is a self-led course which relies primarily on students independently accessing and completing the 53 lessons that are available to them over a 12-month period. Students learn techniques in segmentation, customer insight, CRM, analytics, and automation.
For more study options, check out this round-up of the best digital marketing online courses (both free and paid).
6. Key takeaways and further reading
We hope our rundown of how to become a digital marketing manager has answered all of your questions about getting started in this varied, rewarding, and lucrative career.
Some final tips:
- Do your research into the field, tools, and processes before committing to this career choice. Try to experiment as much as you can with building your own campaigns and projects to get a real feel for the nature of the role
- Establish your learning style before deciding on an educational route to go down. Whether you’re happy learning online, or you prefer an in-person learning environment, it’s good to know this before investing in a course
- Make a list of personal priorities when comparing bootcamps. Consider budget, location, time commitment, certification, flexibility, career support, and length of course
- Read around the courses you’re looking into to see what students have to say about their experiences. Sites such as CourseReport are ideal for comparing different study programs
Want to learn more about how to become a digital marketing manager, and what this career path entails? Check out these guides: