As we turn into the backstretch of 2020, I look back as I always do this time of year and look for trends in the kind of searches I conducted- specifically, areas where demand was strongest. This past year, even despite the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, I placed more Digital Marketing Managers, Directors and Vice Presidents of Digital Marketing than all other categories combined.
As businesses continue to shift marketing budgets away from traditional advertising and into digital, the demand for digital marketing leaders has never been greater. Organizations are hungry for candidates who are well grounded in the fundamentals of online commerce including analytics, mobile, social media, content marketing, ecommerce, search engine marketing, search engine optimization, digital advertising, email marketing, and affiliate marketing. Even those who work in more traditional advertising roles are expected to have a solid understanding of online marketing. Type “digital marketing” into the keyword search box on Indeed.com, and nearly 22,000 listings come up.
Certain attributes stood out that made the difference between the digital marketing leaders who got the job and those who got rejection emails (and that’s if they got one at all). I call it my “Top Ten” list, the ten things that will help set you apart.
If you’re just getting started on this exciting career journey or if even you’re a seasoned veteran, here’s your “must have” list for digital marketing and eommerce success. Take this list and put it somewhere where you’ll never lose it.
Shifting from finding customers to getting found
Highly effective digital marketing leaders know that good content (such as white papers, email newsletters, videos, webinars, or a blog) engage website visitors and stimulate prospects to re-tell the brand’s story and promote that brand through viral efforts. By offering content they believe will be of genuine value rather than just serving up sales promotions, marketers can drive awareness, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales.
Breaking through silos to erase seams between digital marketing channels and experience
Consumers can interact with brands through a dizzying number of channels and platforms: One day they might order online with their smart phone, and the next day they might call a customer service rep. I saw an infographic once that mapped out the number of potential consumer touchpoints with a typical multichannel marketer: Between all the different devices, channels and platforms there were more than 100 different points of interaction. The goal is to deliver a consistent, personalized on-brand experience from initial research to purchase, from fulfillment to customer service, and even returns. That’s why the best digital marketing leaders think “outside the bun”, to borrow a phrase from Taco Bell. They think beyond a specific channel. They understand the importance of having a holistic view of the customer, and how to integrate channels to improve transactions and the overall customer experience.
Using data to target precisely and measure relentlessly
Digital marketers work with mountains of data to understand consumer behavior and identify opportunities. They help translate those insights into integrated marketing strategies across channels, with clear and measurable goals. Employers often say they’re on a quest for “relevant digital insights.” I like to call it being “strategically data savvy”. The ability to interpret and derive insights from data that can drive the business will define digital marketing and ecommerce success, and will set you apart as a highly sought after digital marketing leader.
Digital Marketing and Ecommerce Success Means Testing and Challenging Assumptions
In my book “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” practically every job function I discuss, across the entire spectrum of online sales and marketing, includes some mention of the word “test”. Great digital marketers test, then test again, and test again.
Thomas Edison would have been a great digital marketer. As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter once asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” So it is with digital marketing. Actually, legend has it that Edison’s wife also may have played a role in Edison’s final breakthrough. One evening after dinner she went out to the garage where he was working and yelled out, “Would you hurry up with that? It’s getting dark in here.” (Just a dumb joke, folks).
I talk about this one frequently in my writings and presentations, and I’ve identified it as being right up there among the top attributes that employers look for in digital marketers. As a digital marketer, you will test new ideas and new features on websites and get almost instantaneous results. As a result, anyone engaged in digital marketing must be prepared to change the course of a given campaign, unexpectedly and quickly. If you want to do something all day that is steady, predictable, and without change, be a bricklayer. You can’t have digital marketing and ecommerce success unless you can turn on a dime, and go with the whatever the flow is at that point in time.
Able to bridge the business and technical divide
Another topic I write about a lot. Opportunities are huge for digital marketers who have the ability to translate complicated findings into recommendations that senior-level decision makers can understand. Communicating technical ideas clearly and effectively to non-technical people is a highly valued and sought-after skill.
In digital marketing, it’s not just about “what.” It’s also about “why.” Why did a particular email campaign produce better ROI than an another? Why is a particular product selling better than another one?
A great example of intellectual curiosity at work was demonstrated in the movie “21”, the real life story of a bunch of MIT students who gamed the blackjack tables in Las Vegas by counting cards. There was a particular scene with actor Laurence Fishburne, who played the casino security chief. It was his job to keep his eyes peeled on a wall stacked with closed circuit television monitors to watch for cheaters. To put this scene into proper perspective, you need to know that earlier in the film, Fishburne and his boss talked about the coming of new face-recognition software, and how it could potentially displace human watch-dog security experts like themselves. One night, the MIT gang racked up some unusually big winnings, so Fishburne decided to review the video tapes. After watching and rewinding and watching and rewinding again, he picked up on some hand signals and other subtle movements by the students. He turned to his manager. “See. There it is!”, he exclaimed. “They’re working together.” After a pause, he then added, “Let’s see face recognition software do that!” Fishburne’s character was drawing upon his years of experience and his boundless curiosity to identify clues that no one else in the room could see. That is a hallmark trait of highly effective digital marketing leaders who achieve digital marketing and ecommerce success.
Thirst for knowledge
You can’t be in digital marketing and not hope to learn something new every day. In recent years, there has been a spike in the number of continuing education programs that teach digital marketing, particularly among online schools. Most are asynchronous programs that allow you to study at your own pace, but degree programs in ecommerce and in the broader category of digital marketing are also popping up at both the undergraduate and graduate levels at colleges and universities all over the country. Google the phrase “digital marketing schools” and hundreds of websites appear, with listings ranging from the biggest universities to the smallest online learning portals, and some employers will actually help pay for your classes. Here’s my own list of recommended learning resources. I remember working with one candidate recently whose top criteria for his next job was whether the company had a tuition reimbursement program.
Here are some widely followed digital marketing blogs to help you keep up to date on the latest best practice trends.
When you think of business acumen, you might think of senior executives or other leaders whose daily decisions and actions directly impact the operation and performance of the business. But business know-how has become more than just a critical competency for digital marketing leaders. Digital media experts must also understand what’s important to other departments such as marketing, finance, and sales. At a minimum, they should be able to speak the basic language of marketing: Lead generation, conversion, revenue, and bottom-line results. Why is that important? Because everything a digital marketer does contributes to one of three outcomes: Making the company money, saving the company money, or both. Often, annual employee bonuses are tied to the company’s financial performance. A digital marketer has the quantitative backup to link his or her efforts with the organization’s overall performance, and therefore to influence that bonus.
What job description exists that does not include “must be collaborative”? Not many, for sure. But in digital marketing and ecommerce, it’s truly mission critical. The best digital marketing leaders work closely with people in other departments who know as much about digital marketing and ecommerce as they do about 13th century monarchs of Crimea. The more you can understand what’s important to them, the better the relationships you’ll forge within the organization. You could be a world authority in digital marketing and ecommerce but without good internal relationships, especially within organizations that are not online pure-plays, you will face stiff headwinds.
Here’s to your digital marketing and ecommerce success!