Insider Track: 4 Steps To Starting a Career in Digital Marketing

I often get asked questions from students, young professionals and even seasoned marketers seeking a career change on how to enter the digital marketing space.

The uptick in interest in the industry isn’t surprising. Over the past decade, digital marketing has steadily increased in popularity for marketers. The reach and scale of the medium — as well as the impact of economic downturn — has made brands more ROI-focused and boosted digital marketing to a position of prominence in the advertising mix for many brands. In fact according to a recent TechCrunch article, Internet ad revenue grew 22% in 2011, claiming a $31 billion slice of revenue.

As ad revenue has grown, rightfully so has the demand for digital marketers.

This increased demand has marketers clamoring to enter the field or enhance their skill sets. As someone who believes strongly in mentoring, I’ve provided advice to lots of people who are looking to enter digital marketing. From my experience, I’ve found there are four core steps that are helpful primarily to students entering the field but also helpful for marketers looking for a career change.

Step One: Get Real.
This step might seem basic, but it is critical: actually understand what is required of a digital marketer.  Like any industry, your skill sets need to align to the demands of the position. Lots of people have an idea of digital marketing that is closer to PR than anything else, and many candidates I have interviewed over the years don’t quite understand how deep into data digital strategists have to dive to uncover insights that drive creative ideas, copy, development and creative.

Here are some characteristics you need to have to be successful in the field:

  • Analytical: You must be good at seeing the meaning behind numbers.
  • Technical Proficiency: Ability to learn and use new software and technology is a must.
  • Spreadsheet Expertise: Great deal of skill with spreadsheets such as Excel – It will make your life easier
  • Social & New Media Power User: You must be an early adopter, if not an innovator of emerging media.
  • Curious Mind: You must be hungry to know why certain things happen, why certain numbers are up, why certain target demographics convert better than others. You never stop asking “why.”

Step Two: Get Educated.
While degree programs are useful, the best knowledge I’ve gained has come from a wide variety of sources beyond the classroom. Here are two places to get educated:

  • Google Analytics : Web analytics are the lifeblood of digital marketing, and Google Analytics is the most widely used platform now. Your goal should be to pass the Google Analytics IQ exam. To start, take these lessons then take the exam.
  • Industry Blogs: The industry moves fast, so blogs become a nimble literature source for expertise, trends and insider insights. Make reading some of the top blogs in the space a daily ritual. A few of my favorites are TechcrunchAvinash Kaushik’s blog, and Stuntdubl.

Step Three: Get Connected.
One of the best ways to learn and keep your edge in the rapidly moving digital marketing industry is to stay connected with others in the space. Here are a few tips on how to do this:

  • Internship-Bound: In college? Find a mentor and work hard at a relevant internship. Take it seriously.
  • Network on LinkedIn: Join digital marketing groups on LinkedIn. You can ask and answer questions on relevant topics, making this a great resource.
  • Face Time: Attend digital marketing meet ups and connect with professionals. You will not only meet people who intimately know the business but also learn a lot in the process if you ask questions and listen. Remember, the CMO of a digital agency won’t refuse to talk to you just because you are starting out.

Step Four: Get Serious.
Once you have taken steps to understand the field, become educated and network, then it is time to get serious about finding your dream job.

Here are a few tips:

  • Get Certified. In particular, I recommend taking the Google Analytics IQ test. Regardless of whether you have relevant work experience or not, if you go for an interview (for a junior-level position) with your Google Analytics IQ qualification, you are showing that you are serious and interested in the field, and willing to do what it takes to succeed.
  • Launch your own web presence. This will make you appear more credible and also help you gain hands-on experience as you will need to do such things as add Google Analytics tracking and drive traffic via different channels. I usually recommend blogging about something you are very passionate about.

Ultimately, your success in the space depends on your skill set and your willingness to grow and network yourself through being inquisitive, applying what you read and having a driven desire to be a part of the rapidly innovative space of digital marketing. These steps will help you set yourself apart from the competition and ensure your success as a digital marketer.

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