The world of digital marketing is an ever-expanding space. With so many options afforded to marketers, it can be overwhelming: What tools should I use for this campaign? What skills do I need for that job?
And while digital marketing tools continue to evolve and change, having these six essential skills for digital marketers will ensure no matter how the digital marketing field evolves, you’ll always be prepared.
1. Analytical Skills
With the advent of better tracking capabilities, interpreting and understanding data has become a necessity; especially in a landscape dictated by information. As a digital marketer, part of your job will be to read through and interpret information. You need to be able to explain what the data means, and how it affects your company and your efforts.
Having analytical skills means you also need to know what to do with your data; how to improve upon what is working and adjust what isn’t. The better you understand data, the easier it is to understand marketing issues, discover new KPIs and improve your overall marketing strategy and ROI.
To help develop your analytical mindset, you need practice. Challenge yourself by diving deep into analytics, keyword research, search results...anything with data. Manipulate and dissect the data by experimenting with various analytics tools and courses (i.e. Google Analytics and their Analytics Academy). See how the data connects to everything, and practice explaining it to your peers. What stories can you tell with the numbers? What insights are there to be found? The more you work with data, the more comfortable you'll be analyzing it.
2. Research Experience
Another critical skill is the ability to perform different types of research (both qualitative and quantitative). Having strong research skills will help you uncover new opportunities, identify looming challenges and provide fodder for new, innovative marketing campaigns. In order to be an effective researcher, you need to be resourceful, inquisitive and have a strong ability to communicate.
To strengthen your research chops keep an open mind, be curious and ask lots of questions. Keep an eye out for courses and seminars (like this one from Lynda.com) that help hone your research skills. It also helps to learn to be comfortable with ambiguity and don’t be afraid to ask questions. With strong research skills, you’ll be able to create smarter, more effective campaigns for your company.
3. Digital Acumen
This one sort of goes without saying (but we'll say it anyway): Having a strong digital acumen is imperative to your success as a digital marketing professional.
More specifically, it is important to have a familiarity with all of the avenues available to you as a digital marketer. That can mean learning the rudimentary principles of how websites work or how digital ads are developed and served or even understanding the intricacies of a pay-per-click bidding system. Being accustomed to these tools and process will help you to better understand how these media all work together and what makes a successful digital marketing effort.
Don’t fret. You don't have to be a master of all. Instead, strive to gain a basic understanding of each of the most common tactics and tools at your disposal. Being able to speak the language will help you better communicate with partners and colleagues and more easily make necessary updates to your efforts.
You can develop this skill in the same way you’d keep up with your research skills, be curious. Read articles and take courses on digital marketing. Never stop educating yourself. The one constant in digital marketing is change. This makes it all the more important that you stay up on the latest trends.
Because change is inevitable in the digital marketing world, it is imperative that digital marketers be flexible and adaptable to change. Tactics, best-practices, technology, channels...it's all constantly changing. Even if you're currently running an effective campaign, you can't afford complacency.
And even if those items were to stay the same (they won't) your own marketing strategies likely will. Changes in your competitive landscape, new product lines, shifting priorities and much more will facilitate changes in your marketing tactics throughout your career as a digital marketer. And when they do, you’ll need to be flexible in your approach to marketing; shifting reassessing and reprioritizing goals and strategies.
The best way to build flexibility is to avoid being too invested in any one tactic or strategy. Be open to other ideas and suggestions and welcome outside perspectives. Give yourself room to breathe and be agile as you work. Remember, that not every campaign you run will always be the best thing you've ever done. In fact, most times you'll need to tweak and adjust your efforts before it really starts humming.
5. Storytelling Ability
In order to connect with your audience, you'll need to have a strong storytelling ability. This ability, when paired with the other skills listed, really helps you connect with your target audience.
Messaging is vital to any digital marketing effort so whether you're running a social media campaign, developing a content marketing piece, creating a digital ad or employing any other digital marketing tactic, you should be able to clearly and effectively communicate your value to your audience.
To build your storytelling skills, think about how your target audience. Really understand their needs and their challenges. Getting yourself into their mindset can help you determine the value and the story that you need to convey. Consider how you might present information that resonates with your customer and stays true to your brand.
Regardless of whether you’re performing data analysis or in the midst of content creation, you need to know your audience. By empathizing, you better understand the needs of your audience. This is crucial to your success as a digital marketer. The more your audience identifies with your brand, the more likely they are to select you over your competitors.
As you delve into audience research, learn to put yourself in their shoes. Think about how you might act if you were searching for your company’s goods and services. An effective way to help build empathy is to build personas around your customers. Personas force you to think about your customer’s mindset, background, and perspective as you construct them.
More than anything the best way to build empathy is to listen. Listen to what your audience wants and address these issues. If you listen, and in turn reciprocate, you’ll build not just your audience, but their loyalty as well.
While there is no magic formula to being a strong digital marketer, having these six skills will heighten your chances for success in the digital marketing world. Like anything else, developing (and maintaining) these skills requires hard-work, discipline, and patience. You have to put time, effort and grit into your craft. Understand that your development as a digital marketer is never finished but working on these skills is a great place to start.