What Are the Top Skills Every Digital Marketing Specialist Should Have?

Rosie Allabarton, contributor to the CareerFoundry blog

Are you considering launching a career as a digital marketing specialist? If so, you may be wondering which skills you’ll need to master to be successful in this rewarding and impactful field.

Well, look no further. In this article, we’ve put together nine of the most in-demand skills required of digital marketing specialists—from storytelling through to data analysis—so that you’ll know exactly what you’ll need to learn before you embark on the next step in your digital marketing career. 

Here’s a clickable list of what we’ll cover, so you can go directly to the section that interests you most. 

  1. SEO and SEM
  2. CRM 
  3. Content marketing
  4. Email marketing
  5. Data analysis 
  6. Communication skills
  7. Design skills
  8. Critical thinking 
  9. Storytelling 

Ready to learn more? Then let’s begin. 

1. SEO and SEM

Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are effective methods of increasing relevant traffic to a site, building brand authority and awareness, and converting users into customers. However, although SEO and SEM are commonly grouped together, they require different skills, knowledge, and tools: SEM refers to when ads are used to increase website traffic, while SEO is the act of acquiring, monitoring and analyzing organic (unpaid) traffic patterns. 

There are numerous SEO and SEM techniques and processes that will help a digital marketing specialist contribute to the efforts of the team, as well as support the designated SEO and SEM experts. Here are some key ones to consider:

Technical SEO

This refers to optimizations made to a website or server that help search engine spiders crawl and index your site more effectively (this, in turn, helps to boost organic rankings).

Link building 

Link building is when a company seeks to acquire links to their website from other, reputable and relevant websites. When this occurs, these links are called backlinks. 

Keyword research 

Keyword research is when search terms are identified that users are inputting into search engines when looking for products, services, or information. When these search terms are identified, they can be used in content to significantly increase relevant traffic.  

Paid search campaigns 

Paid search (often referred to as pay-per-click [PPC]) advertising, is when an advert is displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs), with payment only required when a user clicks on that ad. 

2. CRM

CRM—customer relationship management—refers to the process a business uses for customer and potential-customer interaction as well as the tools, techniques, strategies, or software used to enable this important process. For a digital marketing specialist, having a good understanding of how popular CRM tools such as Salesforce CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Nimble CRM, Sugar CRM, Pipedrive, and Zoho CRM are operated is advantageous as customer management and the data which comes from tools such as these can contribute hugely to creating and targeting marketing messaging, too. 

Other CRM skills which would be beneficial to a digital marketing specialist include: 

  • Data entry: inputting key customer information into the appropriate software
  • Lead management: methodologies and practices which generate new potential customers for the business, typically revealed through marketing campaigns or programs
  • Lead qualification and nurturing: identifying which potential customers are most likely to become customers, then building and managing positive relationships between them and the brand
  • Task and project management: delegating and monitoring tasks and projects through each necessary stage until completion 

3. Content marketing

Content marketing is an increasingly valued strategy within digital marketing that incorporates the production, publication, and sharing of high-quality text, video, visual, and audio content that builds interest in a brand and its services without explicit promotion, advertising, or direct selling. 

The aims of content marketing are: 

  • To provide users with industry-relevant insights and information 
  • Build trust with audiences
  • Promote brand authority 
  • Share a company’s values or vision 
  • Convert audiences into customers 

As a digital marketing specialist, you’ll need to have a good awareness of how to strategize, plan, manage, delegate, create, distribute, and analyze content in order to ensure you create the most impact with your content marketing campaigns—whether they be video, text, graphic, or audio-based. 

Skills a digital marketing specialist should have include: 

  • Strategic planning: aligning the goals of the business with the goals of the marketing team will be crucial when devising a long term content plan which ensures all objectives are met. 
  •  Research and data analysis: by studying the results of their own content campaigns and the campaigns of competitors, a digital marketing specialist is able to make informed choices about what’s working and what’s not with their target audience. 
  • Project management: ensuring all tasks, processes, and tools are running smoothly from the start to the end of a project, and that all targets are met. 
  • Copywriting: Although the digital marketing specialist won’t be expected to be the main content producer on the team, copywriting skills will certainly come in handy for knowing how to write briefs and for jumping in when a copywriter isn’t available. 

4. Email marketing

Despite the boom in social media and messaging apps, email is as popular as ever with a whopping 319.6 billion emails sent per day as of 2021! It’s perhaps then unsurprising that marketing teams are leveraging this format to reach their target audiences and speak directly to users on their home turf. 

As a digital marketing specialist, you’ll be invaluable to the team if you can assist in cultivating emails that are engaging, relevant, and solving a problem for users by using on-brand messaging, eye-catching graphics, and a captivating tone. Crucially, the emails will need to stand out from all the other emails crowding a user’s inbox. 

A digital marketing specialist can assist the email marketing team by helping to build campaigns which align with the overall marketing team’s goals, track open rates, conduct A/B tests, and analyze the effectiveness of different language and images used in emails. 

Additional skills a digital marketing specialist will need to assist in email marketing include: 

  • Strategic thinking 
  • Long-term planning
  • Understanding of lead nurturing automation 
  • List management
  • Content writing and subject lines
  • Analytics and testing
  • Some design knowledge 

5. Data analysis

Data analysis is essentially the ability to spot patterns and trends in user behavior by tracking and monitoring their interactions with different elements of a company’s website, social media channels, or app. It provides crucial insights into how a brand or company can improve its marketing or messaging to attract and convert users. 

As a digital marketing specialist, skills in data analysis will be crucial to enabling the team to learn from their campaigns, as well as tweak and improve upon them, in addition to gaining deeper insights into their user’s needs, wants, and goals. 

Skills essential to data analysis include: 

  • The ability to organize, analyze, and retrieve data 
  • Understanding of how databases and data systems are managed 
  • The ability to extract data from multiple sources
  • Having an understanding of statistical and analytical tools to interpret data sets and trends 
  • Knowing how to solve complex problems  
  • Possessing a talent for data visualization 
  • Maintaining a logical and methodological approach 

6. Communication skills

As a digital marketing specialist, you’ll be sitting on a team with content producers, data analysts, and other digital marketing colleagues in order to collaborate on strategy, execute on campaigns, and analyze and report on their effectiveness. You’ll also be reporting to senior marketing management, contributing to team workshops, and delegating tasks to interns, junior staff, or freelancers. 

Put simply: on the digital marketing team, you are in constant communication, and with so much professional interaction required on a daily basis (whether that be via email, messaging tools, slideshows, or in person) you need to be able to communicate effectively with team members at every level—from the CEO to the entry-level marketer. 

In order to do this, a digital marketing specialist needs to spend time refining their communication skills. This ensures:

  • All team and company goals are aligned
  • Team members are clear on their tasks and duties
  • Management are kept in the loop on progress 
  • Presentations and reports can be quickly understood and digested 

Some of the essentials to great communication that a digital marketing specialist will need to demonstrate include: 

  • Excellent written and verbal communication
  • Presentation skills
  • Active listening
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Providing and accepting feedback
  • Respectful interactions
  • Clarity
  • Professionalism  

7. Design skills

As one of the key content producers on the digital marketing team, the graphic designer is expected to create eye-catching and on-brand images and illustrations which tell a story, draw attention, and influence a user’s decision-making process. 

However, graphic design is a lot more than decoration; it is a key component in communicating messages, through visual hierarchy, page layout techniques, typography, and pictures which together meet a user’s needs and optimize the user experience. 

A graphic designer can also help a company establish a unique and consistent brand identity, enabling it to stand out from competitors and making it instantly recognizable in advertising, on landing pages, and on social media. 

For the digital marketer, some basic graphic design skills can significantly amplify a resume and provide value to the team. From enhancing presentations, improving the layout of emails or newsletters, adding graphic design elements to social media posts, or simply improving communication between the marketing team and the graphic design team, design skills boost every marketer’s employability. 

8. Critical thinking skills

Critical thinking is defined as analyzing facts and arguments to form a judgment without bias. Although valuable in every aspect of work and life, on the digital marketing team critical thinking is crucial as it enables the production of creative campaigns, logical analysis, complex problem solving, out-of-the-box solutions, and effective, unprejudiced messaging. 

Critical thinking is highly valued in digital marketing because it helps the team come to better decisions as well as identify the most effective solution to the problem at hand. In addition, those with critical thinking skills are able to develop improved information systems, which further support the production of creative campaigns. 

Critical thinking is typically demonstrated in the following ways: 

  • The ability to formulate questions and problems, clearly, completely and precisely
  • The ability to collect relevant data and reach logical fact-based conclusions
  • Have an open mind and be adept at adopting alternative thought processes
  • Be able to communicate effectively at all levels in order to solve complex challenges

9. Storytelling skills

Storytelling has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years, but it’s actually a crucial skill for the digital marketer. Storytelling in marketing is when a compelling narrative is used to communicate a message, an experience, or an idea in a way that transcends the user’s typical interaction with a brand, and instead motivates them to immerse themselves in the story. Storytelling can take place via different means, but popular methods include blog posts, social media campaigns, video, podcasts, and sponsored advertising.

Effective storytelling enables a brand to connect on a deeper level with its audiences and demonstrate empathy for the user’s problem by drawing them into a story that reflects their own experiences. 

Additionally, stories are great educational tools, providing a brand with an opportunity to teach its users about the service, organization, or product in a way that a user can really relate to. A story or narrative enables a brand to build a positive picture of how its product solves the user’s problem.

Finally, storytelling provides brands with a chance to stand out from their competitors in the marketplace. Rather than simply pushing their goods onto customers or clients via traditional advertising methods, they instead seek to build relationships with them, provide humor, entertainment, and learning opportunities, and reflect back the user’s experiences to them in their storytelling. 

Conclusion 

We hope our rundown of digital marketing specialist skills has given you a clear idea of what might be expected from you in this varied and compelling role. 

As your next to-do, consider writing a list of your current strengths and weaknesses and see where you might need to focus your upskilling time; perhaps you’re great in data analysis but know nothing about basic graphic design, or maybe you lack confidence in your communication style but already know a thing or two about email marketing. Once you’ve narrowed down your current skill set, it’ll be easier to know what to focus your energies on when you start your digital marketing education. 

Finally, if you’d like to learn more about digital marketing and how to launch a lucrative and long lasting career in the field, check out our free, 5-day short course. You may also want to check out some of our other articles:

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