Over the past decade, marketing has witnessed a radical change ― it has gone almost exclusively online. And for good reason.
Online marketing or internet marketing, more commonly referred to as digital marketing, has remarkable benefits over traditional marketing.
While traditional marketing techniques (TV, print, flyers, billboards, radio, etc.) are still employed by big brands (think Coca-Cola, Nike, Apple), they are not a good fit for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The biggest reason, of course, being how costly it is to run such advertising campaigns. And apart from being monumentally expensive, there are several drawbacks of traditional marketing:
- Lower engagement rate: Traditional marketing is a one-way street. You can’t directly engage with your potential customers.
- Limited customization: You can’t personalize your marketing material, nor can you segment your audience according to industry or age group.
- Intrusive: People don’t buy the newspaper or listen to the radio for advertisements. Ads here are considered disruptive and almost always ignored.
- Poor measurement: Measuring the results of your marketing efforts is crucial for long-term success. You don’t want to waste your efforts and invest in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, measuring the results of traditional marketing campaigns is quite difficult and often done inaccurately.
Simply put, traditional marketing tactics are great for increasing brand awareness and value. There’s not much else in favor of going old-school.
On the other hand, digital marketing flips all these downsides into big plus points:
- Extremely cost-effective
- Higher engagement
- Potential for huge ROI
- Ability to effectively segment audiences and personalize
- Analytics for tracking accurate and real-time results
- And more.
Realizing this, there is an enormous demand for digital marketing professionals today with truly lucrative pay packages. And being a relatively new profession, the skills gap is one of the biggest among all industries.
So, how can you close that gap and become a highly sought-after pro at digital marketing?
1. Take up Online Courses and Certifications
News flash: You don’t need a fancy MBA or even college education to excel in this field. There are numerous online courses and certification programmes which provide excellent foundations to kickstart your career with little-to-no monetary investment.
Some of the industry renowned (and free!) certifications that impart quality education and deserve a mention are:
- HubSpot: Content Marketing, Inbound Marketing, and Email Marketing
- Google: Analytics, Ads, and Digital Garage
You can also consider taking post-graduate certificate programs in digital marketing from reputed online learning platforms like Manipal ProLearn.
Having a few certifications from reputed organizations in your portfolio establishes your credibility, proves you take learning seriously, and are up-to-date with the latest in digital marketing.
2. Follow Industry Leaders and Find a Mentor
Another great way to build and strengthen your budding digital marketing career is by following authority marketing entrepreneurs and influencers. Not only will it help you stay in the know about the latest and greatest in digital marketing, but you’ll also learn valuable business tips and advice.
Here are a couple of industry leaders from each area of digital marketing you should be following:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Rand Fishkin, Brian Dean
- Pay Per Click (PPC): Larry Kim, Mark Irvine
- Social Media Marketing (SMM): Gary Vaynerchuk, Matt Navarra
- Content Marketing: Ann Handley, Joe Pulizzi
- Copywriting: Joanne Wiebe, Brian Clark
Apart from following industry leaders, try to find a mentor who can advise you in your day-to-day marketing activities and uses his/her experience to guide you in the right direction.
3. Attend Conferences and Networking Events
Yes, for the most part, you’ll be networking over email, LinkedIn, and Twitter in your digital marketing career. However, the occasional opportunity to connect face-to-face with like-minded experts can have a huge positive impact on your career.
Everyone has different sentiments on networking ― some enjoy meeting new people at events and understand the benefits of bringing together thought leaders under the same roof. Others feel such events aren’t as educational or even a waste of time (especially introverts). Either way, you’ll agree that as marketers, networking is something we need to do.
Here are a few reasons why:
- To build meaningful relationships: New research from the University of Oxford found that face-to-face interaction is essential for truly authentic relationships. Instead of hard selling, use valuable networking time to establish meaningful, long-term relationships with potential employers or business partners. And make sure to be assertive but not aggressive.
- To boost authority: Attending conferences is a great chance to solidify your personal brand, which is quite important in the world of digital marketing.
- To learn: You’ll often find hundreds of articles on the same topic which ultimately leave you confused instead of more knowledgable. The internet isn’t always a perfect resource for learning.
- To get fresh ideas: You never know what new business or marketing ideas may pop up in your head when interacting with bright, motivated people.
4. Apply Your Learning Hands-On
At the end of the day, if you don’t apply what you learned, then it’s of no use, plain and simple. Reading guides, watching video courses, following industry leaders, and attending conferences is only going to get you so far.
In other words, if you’re into content marketing and SEO, launch your own blog and get it on the first page of Google. If you’re into PPC, bag a client, any client (could even be a family business/dummy client), and run their ad campaigns. Similarly, if you’re into copywriting, work on dummy projects.
Ultimately, digital marketing is all about continuously experimenting and finding out first-hand as to what works and what doesn’t. Don’t simply take an expert’s word for it. Experiment yourself and get those all-important results.