I am not going to pretend to own the book on what it takes to be a digital marketer. But I have seen some good ones and some that, well, yeah. In my experience, there is a really wide definition of the role. I would like to believe that is because companies have a very solid understanding of their customers, channels, and products so they develop the digital marketing role in a way that supports that vision. The long and short of it is, the role varies because the needs vary.
Do the Basics Well
Be a solid marketer
This might be a given but I can’t guarantee it. You might be able to get away with selling yourself as a “social media marketer” without a firm foundation in marketing but very quickly you can be found out as a digital marketing manager if you don’t know the basics of marketing. You don’t need to be a grizzled veteran but understanding the basics will go a long way. Not only will it improve your performance and strategic thinking it will endear you to those grizzled traditional marketing vets on your team.
Know your products like a product manager
Most B2B companies are selling a potentially technical product to a potentially savvy customer. I like to say, “I sell to engineers.” For many B2B companies, this is true. Having a rudimentary level of knowledge of the product you are going to struggle. The reality is that your internal customers and external customers will know your products. If you can’t speak at their level you will never truly understand the customer’s journey or how to position your product’s value.
Know your markets better than your product managers
This might not be feasible 100% of the time but it is a goal to shoot for. I know some real rock star product managers that have a deep understanding of their markets all the way down to channel information. But many don’t. Yes, you are the digital marketing specialist but knowing all of the aspects of the market will provide immediate results for your work. Until you know the market you won’t know where you should be playing. One of the most common mistakes I have seen made is when digital marketers, coming from B2C companies, or just starting out, assume they know where the customers live.
A real tell tale sign of this is immediately jumping to social media and paid search campaigns. I’m not saying those aren’t valid channels but they aren’t usually based on research and market knowledge. Trust me on this, you are going to be hard pressed to prove a substantial ROI with blanketed brand awareness PPC strategies. Some of my most successful campaigns were very targeted in small niche markets. If you are introducing a new product that is solving a problem previously solved in the market this approach can be gold. But you won’t know if it works for your product unless you know the market.
Know the customers
A bolt on to knowing the market is getting to know the customers. By speaking with (yes actually talking to customers) you will better understand their desires, where they hang out, what they find valuable, how they like to communicate and much more. I’m not saying that the traditional Marcom folks get this right more but for some reason, it doesn’t seem to be something that comes on the radar of many digital marketers.
More than Just Marketing
Learn the sales process – possibly better than the sales team
I shouldn’t really give this one away because it is real gold for a successful campaign. What do I mean by learning the sales process? If you have a fairly organized company there may be a document somewhere that states the steps and stages the sales team and the prospect goes through. It may include things like what takes someone from an MQL to SAL to SQL, etc. Or it may just provide details to who calls who when and who owns a lead. It is all good stuff for you to better understand. If it is a process that is actually used and has been successful then as a digital marketer you can replicate much of that in the digital realm. If you are good at it you will reduce the sales team’s efforts and quickly become their friends.
There may not be a written procedure or even if there is there is yet another layer of the sales process that is just as important, what the sales team actually does. Find the high performers in your organization and pick their brains relentlessly. Successful sales people have a process. Some have it written down or tracked in Excel others just know their process and do it consistently. Find out everything you can. Often they will have very defined ideas of what type of prospect has potential and which are dead weight. They will also know what some of the buying signs are from a prospect that will garner their attention. Use this stuff! Not only will it help you to create better funnel processes online it will endear you to the most successful members of the sales team.
Let’s Get Technical
Learn the Tools
The level of sophistication at organizations today varies greatly when it comes to marketing tools. Just for that reason, you need to become familiar with the major players in your space. The toolset might vary by industry but there are some big hitters that tend to stretch across many industries. Good news, even though there is a variety, the similarities outweigh the differences in each. My suggestion is that you go deep in the most common tools in your market and but have a very strong understanding of the overarching principles. For example, when it comes to professional marketing automation tools they pretty much all come with user management, workflow and lead scoring features. Know how to leverage these and then learning the technical details of the product come easy.
If you’d like to be totally overwhelmed make sure you check out Chief MarTech’s infographic on marketing tools. For me the main categories I would get a handle on are; Marketing Automation (email marketing), Advertising platforms, Customer Relationship Management, SEO, Social Media (monitoring and posting), Analytics & Dashboarding. Easy right? Remember, you don’t need to be an expert in them all.
Learn the Languages
Get Good at Measuring… Everything
Good ideas are awesome but if you aren’t proficient at showing their value those projects won’t last long, nor will you. If your company is new to digital marketing the measurements don’t need to be super fancy, just relevant. Have a simple plan that is repeatable. The most important part is to have an understanding of KPI’s and how they tie to the organization’s success. Picking the right things to measure will far outweigh having fancy and sophisticated measurement tools and reports.
Best Practices are Essential
You don’t need to be the leading expert on everything. In fact, I would suggest you shouldn’t be the leading expert on everything. What you do need to do is understand enough about email marketing, SEO, landing pages, etc to know if your assets are basically in good shape. You might be lucky enough to have a budget to outsource email design, landing pages, websites, and SEO but you won’t ever be good at hiring and managing for those projects if you don’t know what is a good product or if you’re hiring was a good choice.
Be Really Good at Something
That said I think you should be really good in at least one or two areas. It keeps you plugged in, it shows value in the organization and let’s be practical if you ever get the axe you will have some tangible skills you can freelance with until the next gig rolls around. Very few folks hire short-term freelancers that are good at project management and kissing up to the boss, but man I wish they did!
Finally – Networking
The digital marketing landscape is changing, seemingly, hourly. There is no way to keep up with everything if you want to keep up with your job and the rest of your life. One of the best ways to keep up on all things DM, beyond reading ferociously, is to network with others in your domain. I try to make it to just about every marketing association meeting and user group sessions I can. There are often great presentations but the table talk is essential. You don’t even need to be an extrovert, just sit at the table, listen and take notes. If you are inclined though it is a great place to ask others for advice or lessons they have learned.