Before I got into digital marketing I was an accountant. Yup, I was one of those little boring men in grey suits stuck behind a desk armed with your calculator. Yes it was rather exciting and I enjoyed the first year. The challenge wore off eventually and it became the same old thing. I had fun. I dabbled in a bit of hair modelling which raised a couple of eyebrows at the office.
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Anyway back to the point. I walked out of accounting and into the digital world, which was super exciting but extremely challenging, purely because I technically had no idea of what I was doing. Luckily I learn quickly, because if I didn’t, I would be in accounting writing about this as a failed venture.
So what does it take to be successful in digital marketing today?
Instead of babbling on endlessly, I have broken down this post into bullet points for ease. I have a few things that I believe one would need to survive, or at least make it in the industry.
I personally believe that anyone aspiring to get into digital needs to have determination. Without it you would fall short. It is the basis of who we are today. The reason I say this is because the industry changes so fast that you have to constantly learn and evolve. Clients can be chaotic and all over the place, demanding ridiculous results. Your boss will want the best out of you and in order to get through all of this you need to stay determined.
Learn, learn and learn some more
The next skill is the ability to learn. The ever-changing nature of the industry we have to stay on top of it all. The only way we can do this is by learning new things every day. As an SEO Strategist I am learning to code in PHP so that I can take my technical skill-set further and actually understand how the web works.
Obviously you do need to learn and keep up to date with the latest developer concepts, but it helps you to achieve even greater results.
Don’t be afraid
There have been plenty of times that I have been scared to try something new because it might fail. That’s something I had to overcome. So what if you screw up? That mistake is an opportunity to learn.
If you think something might work out well, just try it out It could be one of the greatest things you have done and lead to massive returns on that concept.
We simply cannot afford (yes I used a meme there) to let our fears take over when it comes to digital. The industry would die if the scared didn’t try. But in all honesty, mistakes are where we learn our biggest lessons and can lead us to achieving greatness down the line. Go BIG or go home, it’s that simple..
Think outside the box
In every job or career, there are best practices or guides but there is no set way of doing things (unless you’re an accountant). You cannot think big because it doesn’t work. In Digital we have to.
Our clients expect that of us. They want the idea that is going to push them ahead of their competitor. Look at Zillow and Trulia, the two biggest property portals in the states. They battled it out and those agencies had to think outside of the box to try one up the other.
Sadly they have “merged” and are now striving towards one goal. But back to the point: you cannot rely on best practices or rules if you want to really get somewhere. It will put you in the box of normal and the last thing you want to be is normal.
By now you are probably getting tired me, so I thought I would lean on other digital marketing specialists to add their thoughts.
I contacted Julian Mountain, Head of Digital at Saatchi & Saatchi Synergize, as well as Anton Koekemoer, a digital specialist, to get their thoughts and insights.
I put the following questions to them and these were the responses I got:
- What got you started in Digital?
- Name some of the hardest lessons you have learned the hard way?
- Do you have any advice on what skills/characteristics an aspiring digital marketer should have?
- Where do you see digital/SEO going over the next five years?
I started in 2005 at a paid search marketing affiliate agency generating leads and sales for eBay and Expedia.
- Always set daily budget caps when setting up Adwords campaigns.
- Always check country targeting when setting up Adwords campaigns – the default
used to be targeting planet earth.
- Make sure you include developers in project briefings and scoping as early as
An inspiring digital marketer needs to be CURIOUS (understanding new tools, products, downloading and playing around with new apps). ADAPTABLE (the role changes all the time based on new products, platforms, devices). A budding strategist needs to have an Appreciation for ART and SCIENCE.
I see the term digital falling away. It will no longer be just a silo-ed word / channel or activity.
I started out as a developer and saw that it’s not only about developing awesome websites and applications, but about getting people to website. Build it and they will come is a thing of the past
and so it’s the same as having a Ferrari with no petrol to drive around. Digital marketing was the next logical step to take.
Digital marketing isn’t easy and it’s not for sissies. Yes you will find many “social media gurus” and self proclaimed experts online, but do they actually understand how to work out the true ROI of social media and other digital marketing methods? It comes with years of experience and in digital marketing, there are many snake oil salesmen. There are plenty of them in it for a quick buck. Do some research on your side on who to trust with digital marketing.
It’s difficult to say because I’m working with many talented individuals from all walks of life. I come from a strong programming background and must admit that it has helped me tremendously with
some tough choices, especially with technical SEO.
It’s an ever evolving medium and will continue to change. Many SEO methods that used to work five years ago, don’t anymore. To stay ahead of the game, you need to constantly check what is happening online and how you can better your SEO/digital marketing strategy. Specifically in regards to SEO, semantic search is starting to play a huge role especially with the knowledge graph integration on Google and how search is adapting to our needs.
And that is what it takes to get by in Digital. It’s all hard work but boy there are some amazingly fun times and the effort is worth it. I wouldn’t go back no matter what. Then again, I wouldn’t go back to hair modeling either.