Digital marketing is a diverse and stimulating field that appeals to people from all kinds of backgrounds. There are myriad ways to specialize your skills, too—and with no single progression pathway, you can carve out your career in almost any way you want.
However, taking the plunge into new territory can be intimidating. What if it’s not what you expected, or you don’t have the right skillset? What if you’re simply lacking confidence? In this post, we’ll assuage some of these concerns, looking at everything you need to know to decide if you’re ready to take on a fresh challenge in a career in digital marketing. We’ll cover:
- What is digital marketing?
- What types of work can you specialize in as a digital marketer?
- 10 signs you’re ready for a career in digital marketing
- How can you get started in digital marketing?
- Summary and next steps
Let’s dive in!
1. What is digital marketing?
Digital marketing describes any marketing that takes place online or via digital channels. With the ubiquity of internet-connected devices, digital marketing has become a dominant part of any organization’s strategy. But what exactly does it achieve? Although it has many purposes, it is indispensable for raising brand awareness, connecting companies to existing and future customers, promoting products, and driving sales.
Specific digital marketing techniques vary. Examples include email and social media, video production, search engine marketing, websites, blogs, apps, and digital advertising campaigns. While using diverse approaches, however, digital marketing essentially brings the principles of traditional, offline marketing (such as print media, billboards, and direct mail) into the digital realm. A benefit over offline approaches, however, is that online marketing is much more affordable, and also allows brands to precisely measure the success of their campaigns in a way that is not possible using offline techniques. For this reason, digital marketing is a very powerful tool—and it is here to stay.
2. What types of work can you specialize in as a digital marketer?
There are many ways to specialize when getting started with a career in digital marketing, but they can be divided into three main categories.
Digital marketing specialization: skills
One of the most common approaches to specialization is selecting a particular area that suits your skill set. Specific areas in which you may choose to specialize include:
- Social media marketing
- Content and copywriting
- Video and audio production
- Search engine optimization
- Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
- Email marketing
- Mobile marketing
- Marketing analytics
How you decide is up to you, though. More analytical folk might prefer to specialize in marketing analytics or PPC advertising, for example, which require a fastidious eye for detail and a head for numbers. Meanwhile, more creative types might prefer roles in areas like video production or copywriting, for instance.
Recommended reading: A definitive guide to digital marketing job titles
Digital marketing specialization: industry
In addition to specializing their skills, some marketers also specialize in a particular industry. Common industries that employ digital marketers include:
- Financial services
- Training and education
The industry you work in could be an active choice or it may occur organically as your career progresses. Either way, it’s a great way to gain valuable, on-the-ground experience that will make you an asset to any organization in that sector.
Digital marketing specialization: domain
Finally, marketers sometimes specialize in a particular domain (or business area). This is especially common for career-changers with existing knowledge of a given discipline. Common domain areas include:
- Business-to-business marketing (B2B)
- Business-to-consumer marketing (B2C)
- Product or service marketing
- Market research
- Online events promotion
- Public relations
- Web and/or graphic design
Each of these skills, industry and domain specialisms can be drawn together in myriad ways, creating an almost limitless number of digital marketing career paths. Of course, how far you specialize is up to you. Some marketers prefer to keep things broad, allowing them to accept more varied opportunities. Others specialize in a very niche manner. While this means fewer opportunities, they can usually command a higher salary for those that do come along.
Recommended reading: Essential digital marketing skills to develop in the next year
3. 10 signs you’re ready for a career in digital marketing
Now you know what the field involves and how to specialize, what are some signs that you’re ready for a career in digital marketing? Here are ten common traits that digital marketers often exhibit.
1. You are a creative problem solver
Love figuring out how things tick, why things go wrong, and how to fix them? Digital marketing offers a never-ending supply of opportunities. Perhaps you want to understand why people keep abandoning their shopping carts. Is it a site layout problem, or is the product copy too vague or too pushy? Maybe you want to improve email campaign clickthrough rates or enhance your social media reach. You get the gist.
From defining problems to determining their cause and solutions, problem solving is a daily occurrence in digital marketing. Even balancing your budget with your marketing activities is a problem for many. If you find these issues fascinating rather than frustrating, you may thrive in digital marketing.
2. You love collaborating with diverse teams
One of the best things about digital marketing is getting to work with different people. Even the most straightforward tasks involve bringing together people from different disciplines. Take a simple email marketing campaign, for instance.
First, you’ll need creative marketers to develop the concept. Hopefully, this will involve input from a data analyst or another member of your insights team to ensure your ideas are driven by real-world insights.
Next, you’ll need a copywriter to produce the written content and a graphic designer to whip up some visual branding. A web developer might also help ensure the back-end landing pages are ready. And, of course, you may need sign-off from senior management.
While it’s often tricky bringing together these different skill sets and communication styles, it’s also what makes delivering a brilliant campaign so rewarding.
3. You enjoy energetic, dynamic workplaces
Digital marketing is fast-paced and highly dynamic, so it could be a great fit if you love not knowing what the day has in store. You won’t always have time to sit and think about issues for long. With changes, challenges, and opportunities coming in thick and fast, decisions are needed—and quickly!
If an urgent problem crops up (such as a social media storm) you’ll need to make high-pressure decisions on the spot. You’ll have to be flexible, too. Even if you’ve had that much-needed strategy planning day in the diary for weeks, you may need to put it on the backburner.
And if a campaign unexpectedly goes viral for all the right reasons, you may still need to drop other things to capitalize on it. You get the idea: if you want a predictable job, digital marketing may not be for you!
4. You see the potential in digital platforms
There is an ongoing debate about the impact of our digital world, including the positive and negative influences of social media. If you recognize arguments on all sides but feel the opportunities offered by digital platforms outweigh the negatives, you’ve certainly got the integrity to pursue a digital marketing career.
Digital platforms have huge potential for connecting people in positive ways, and the best brands make the most of this. So if you love new tech, enjoy uncovering emerging trends, and finding new ways to help customers discover the products and services they (genuinely) need, a digital marketing career could be for you.
5. You are a lifelong learner
Digital marketing skill sets often change, meaning you should love learning new things. You’ll be eager to pick up new skills and identify emerging trends, as well as the knowledge to take full advantage of them. Data analytics, for instance, never used to be a core component of digital marketing. But the ubiquity of data in today’s world means basic data analytics skills are fast becoming a must-have for digital marketers.
It’s not just new technologies and trends, either. Existing ones continually evolve. Email marketing, search engine optimization, and video production, for instance, are three well-established digital channels that grow more sophisticated every year. The best digital marketers are not afraid to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty and ensure that their skills are up-to-date.
6. You are organized and enjoy planning
The best digital marketing campaigns often seem effortless. However, you can bet that they required meticulous planning. If you’re attracted by the ‘flashier’ aspects of digital marketing, be aware that you’ll also need to be happy taking on time-intensive tasks. This includes diving deep into spreadsheets, keeping lists, and scheduling content production and releases well in advance.
In general, all marketing strategies require patience. This isn’t just important for ensuring well-considered campaigns. It’s also because, during planning, you will often spot problems with a concept that initially seemed like a good one. Abandoning ideas that don’t work can be hard but it’s what will transform your digital marketing presence. If you value long-term planning (and not just the ‘glory’ of a successful campaign) add this one to your ‘to do’ list!
7. You are driven by data insights
While marketing involves creative thinking and new ideas, it is also increasingly guided by data. Unlike traditional, offline techniques, digital marketing allows us to collect and analyze massive amounts of information. How many prospects opened your email campaign? How many clicked through to your website? How many of those prospects converted into sales leads? If something happens online, it’s possible to track it.
While you don’t necessarily need a data analytics qualification, you should be interested in number crunching and measuring the quantifiable results of your campaigns. And if the evidence says something’s not working, you’ll need to change it. Balancing creative flair with business intelligence is crucial to any digital marketing role.
8. You have a competitive streak
Ultimately, digital marketing is about connecting customers with brands. But to achieve this means beating your competitors to the punch. While you’ll need a naturally competitive streak and a willingness to make ruthless decisions, competition is about more than the brute force of will. You need tenacity, patience, and an understanding that winning sometimes means playing the long game.
For example, while it’s possible to quickly send out an email campaign in response to one from your competitors, other aspects of digital marketing require more time and effort. Successful content and search engine optimization strategies, for instance, can take months to bear fruit. Plus, you’ll need to ensure that your offer not only appeals to your audience, but provides something your competitors can not. What is your value proposition? And how can you best use it to promote your business?
9. You have strong communication skills
Devising communications strategies, sharing messages with clients and customers, and developing winning campaigns are vital aspects of digital marketing. However, an often overlooked aspect of communications is the ability to navigate office politics and differences in communication style. Communication is about more than just creating campaigns. It also involves understanding how people differ and how best to navigate this.
A digital designer and a software developer, for example, will typically have very different communication profiles. As a digital marketer, you may require both of their sets of skills. To get them collaborating effectively, you’ll need to bridge the gap. Understanding the value of an effective communications strategy—internally and externally—will set you up for digital marketing success.
10. You’re fascinated by people
You will have a flair for meeting people where they are at, and adapting your communication style to their needs. The most important thing, though, is having a fascination for what makes people tick and getting to grips with their personal and professional motivations. This applies to both colleagues and customers.
In fact, many digital marketers are interested in psychology. A qualification in this area can be a solid basis for getting started. Although it’s not a prerequisite, knowing what drives people’s desires and decisions will help you segment customers, target messaging, and nudge people towards the actions you want them to take.
4. How can you get started in digital marketing?
Possessing even a handful of the personality traits described in this post could hint that you’re ready for a career in digital marketing. The most important thing, though, is being interested in the field and motivated to pursue it. If this sounds like you, what’s the best way to get started in digital marketing? We recommend the following steps:
Research the different digital marketing skill areas
Before diving deeper, it’s advisable to start researching the topic, learning more about digital marketing theory and different digital channels. This has two benefits. First, it will give you an idea about whether a career in digital marketing is right for you. Second, it will offer a taste of which areas interest you the most.
You could also explore different digital marketing career paths and salary insights. For instance, what does a digital marketing manager do? And how much can you earn as a marketing consultant? Note all the skills and job roles that interest you to help you later on down the line.
Study some core digital marketing skills for free
Once you’ve got to grips with digital marketing theory and the career landscape, next is to try out some of the core skills. To ensure you are still interested, we recommend trying your hand with some free content (of which there is plenty online) before committing to a paid course.
Start with some simple, beginner tutorials on sites like YouTube or Vimeo. These are ideal for dipping in and out of the different topics. For something more in-depth, though, there are many free online courses. We’ve got a free, 5-day short course available right here at CareerFoundry, with no obligation to continue on to the Digital Marketing Program. You’ll be emailed five short tutorials by email that you can complete whenever you like.
Take a certified course to prove your skills
Unless you’ve studied digital marketing or a related field at university, the next step is to consider a certified course. These can take place on- or offline, depending on your preference and the provider. One ideal option if you’re new to the field is to find an all-around digital marketing bootcamp. Bootcamps don’t always come cheap, but they’re higher quality than free courses, and more manageable than a formal degree. They’re also designed to get you career-ready and often come with mentoring to help you with your job hunt.
Another option—if you’ve already worked in digital marketing and want to specialize—is to find a skills-specific course to boost your knowledge in a given area. For instance, maybe you want to learn more about video editing, graphic design, or web development. All these technical skills are invaluable for digital marketing. In short: don’t just consider digital marketing courses but think about other disciplines that might drive your career forward.
Start applying for jobs
Once you’ve got a certification or qualification, it’s time to polish up your résumé and covering letter and start applying for jobs. For entry-level jobs, we recommend more generic sites like Indeed or Monster. Meanwhile, for specialist roles, look at job boards on selected company websites or for industry bodies.
For instance, the American Marketing Association job board has more senior roles than you’ll find on more generic sites. It’s also worth networking in person, via Linkedin, or attending some free events to meet other digital marketing professionals. You’ll be surprised how much people are willing to help if you show a little enthusiasm.
Consider a digital marketing apprenticeship
Another way to get into a career in digital marketing is via an internship or apprenticeship. This is not for everyone, so you should decide if you’re happy to take on an unpaid internship. For the most part, we discourage this. Your hard efforts should be remunerated, even if you’re an entry-level digital marketer. There are always exceptions, though. For example, if you’re targeting a niche market and your dream company offers you an internship pathway into full-time employment, you might want to go for it.
Better yet is a digital marketing apprenticeship. Degree-level digital apprenticeships are often offered by many universities that will also train you with the real-world skills you need. You’ll be paid (albeit not a huge amount to start with) and you’ll receive genuine workplace experience under the guidance of an industry professional. Apprenticeships also generally come with high-quality standards, benchmarks, and qualifications to ensure you are work-ready. And more often than not, companies will also take you on full-time after you’ve finished training. They’ve invested time and money getting you up to speed, after all, so the odds are in your favor!
5. Summary and next steps
There we have it! The top signs that you’re ready for a career in digital marketing, as well as how to get started. As we’ve learned in this post, the ideal digital marketer exhibits a particular set of traits, including:
- Excellent problem-solving skills
- Good collaboration with others
- A love of high-energy environments
- The ability to see the potential in digital platforms
- A love of lifelong learning
- Meticulous planning skills
- A data-driven mindset
- A healthy competitive streak
- Strong communication skills
- A love of people and figuring out what makes them tick
Even if you just have a handful of these attributes, you may have what it takes to thrive in a digital marketing environment. To learn more about your new career, sign up for this free, 5-day digital marketing short course or check out the following introductory guides: