Digital Marketing & Strategy

What digital marketing skills do today’s digital marketers need?

May 29, 2019
Reading Time: 7minutes

Is there truly a full-stack digital marketer anymore? If there is what digital marketing skills should they have, or should they specialise in one skill instead? David Bailey-Lauring discusses below.

Post summary:

  • The importance of reporting in digital marketing
  • Digital marketing specialists or full-stack marketers?
  • 10 critical digital marketing skills
  • Are digital marketing agencies the solution or better hire in-house?

How many digital marketing skills do you believe you have? 

How many do you think you will need?

Do you think it is okay if digital marketers only have one specialised marketing skill?

You’re good at it, you get results, and you know that channel or tactic like the back of your hand. However, you don’t understand how it integrates with what your colleagues are working on, the holistic business goals, how it adds or betters the customer journey, or even how to do the most basic reporting.

All digital marketers should have the necessary reporting skills

Every digital marketer should be able to do the most elementary reporting on their work. Digital marketers don’t need to itemise on all business finances, all the current digital channels utilised and map these together to produce a customer journey roadmap with every customer touchpoint highlighted with a metric. Digital marketers should be able to tell their colleagues or clients how a piece of work they implemented a month ago is performing.

If they can’t, or don’t want to, how do they expect to understand their value to their role? If a digital marketer cannot prove their work is achieving success and contributing to the most fundamental of digital marketing and business goals, they will need to find it out, and that is consuming valuable time for both colleagues and clients. 

It might be illogical to ask an email marketing specialist to have a deep set of on-site SEO skills or the ability to code on basic websites, yet it is perfectly reasonable to ask any digital marketer whether they can access and analyse analytics and be able to provide feedback and report on digital marketing metrics. 

If digital marketers are not able to determine how successful their role is, how do they plan to prove how valuable they are to the job they work for or importantly, to their clients?

Even professional marketing writers; whether a copywriter, content writer, SEO copywriter, or even a guest blogger, if they are not able to create reports on the content they have created, they do not fully understand its impact and (hopefully) success. Plus, the digital marketer in question is probably not improving – a dangerous notion in an increasingly demanding industry.

What digital marketing skills do today’s digital marketers need? 1

What about digital marketing specialists?

This is not to say that digital marketers can’t be specialists; in fact, having in-depth knowledge in one skill is vital in terms of bringing a team together that can optimise each channel of marketing. However, having an understanding of other channels is essential to grasp the whole marketing strategy and know what goals you are working towards.

Most digital marketers will have an understanding of all digital marketing channels, and be competent in their ability to execute them, yet all will have one area where they not only enjoy more yet excel in delivering results. Digital marketing agencies are great at providing this range of specialists as an extension to a company’s marketing team.

Are full-stack digital marketers better then?

Called a T-shaped marketer or a full-stack digital marketer by most, is a marketer who has a broader understanding of all areas of marketing but not necessarily specialises in one area. Within digital marketing agencies and teams, there are project managers, account managers and even senior management who are adept at each digital channel and able to not only execute yet put together a digital marketing strategy for specialists and companies to implement. 

Full-stack digital marketers may not be specialists, yet they are just as invaluable to large teams of digital marketing specialists because:

  • they are excellent at strategising
  • they can cover a digital marketing specialist when they are ill/absent
  • they can project manage teams of specialists
  • they can train newer employees or clients in all digital marketing channels

Interestingly in this graph from Moz, analytics and reporting don’t seem to have their own “channel” or area of expertise, yet analytics is vital for any online business – as every channel in digital marketing must be audited, monitored and reported on to the client. It can be assumed then that if you are a specialist in a particular channel, you can report on that as part of your in-depth knowledge.

What digital marketing skills do today’s digital marketers need to have?

Having another colleague obtain your analytics data is lazy and is disruptive to the smooth execution of a digital marketing strategy. A top digital marketer will work together as a team and measure their own success factors in their own and the team’s work.

So, what are the ten digital marketing skills you need?

This is up for conjecture, yet more digital marketing agencies and full-stack digital marketers would have these (or the majority of them) ten most valuable digital marketing skills:

1. Organic search (SEO) 

Considering that search engines are now the number one factor in signalling customer or user intent, organic search is and should be the leading traffic driver for any online business. The SEO specialist should not only be excellent at backlinking, yet have a deep understanding of anchor text, tags, metadata and other on-site SEO ranking factors. A digital marketer with solid SEO skills will also be adept at knowing about content and PPC as part of search engine marketing

2. Pay per click (Google or Bing Ads) 

Paid search is primarily focussed on Google Ads, and if your business or clients are located in North America, Bing Ads. Along with CRO and SEO, this skill is imperative to ensure that a firm or a client’s ROI do not exceed their ad budget. Although paid social ads also PPC, they tend to be considered part of social media marketing.

3. Website / Content 

In larger organisations and the past, updating the content management system (CMS) used to be in the realm of a webmaster or web development team. Today, within the ever-shifting world of online business, many brands and product managers are empowered to update product and website information via the CMS. 

This skill requires a high ability to coordinate with content writers (wither internal or external) and own the content marketing strategy, when newer written content or videos are live on the website and how they are optimised for conversion. 

4. Front-end developer

Having in-house resources to make more code-based technical changes to the website, or merely to run CRO or neuromarketing tests are becoming a vital cog in the digital marketing machine. Thus, reducing reaction time when issues arise or reduce the reliance on external development agencies.  

5. Conversion Rate Optimisation / UX 

CRO and UX skills are similar to the website managers and front-end developers. Rather than running a basic 4 or 5-page website, they are there to test different landing pages, button colours, where website visitors are clicking, are they abandoning the website and so on.

They will be adept in using heatmap tools like Hotjar and can analyse a customer journey and recommend implementations. A continuous approach of running structured experiments is what has been practised for years by brands like Amazon, Google, 

6. Email marketing 

Emails are often considered a pain of the modern office worker or consumer alike. Email addresses are here to stay and hence, utilising email marketing will help drive conversion across the customer lifecycle. 

Emails often contribute as a customer communications tool, offering information about new products or services, global trends and now critically, lead generation. Gone are the days of one email to hard sell, but a sequence of emails that warm up the leads before a hard sell

Email marketing skills are critical to a digital marketer’s repertoire, despite not really being digital – yet the results can be measured digitally, so that is why it is here in this list. 

7. Social media 

Like email marketing, social media functions best as a customer promotion tool, that will (hopefully) prompt acquisition too. With the range of social networks and the significance of Facebook and Instagram, in particular, managing organic and paid social often requires a specialist role who will ideally work with PR and influencer outreach roles.

8. Community engagement

Although it could be construed as the same as social media, a community management skill is where a marketer is superb at responding to comments on social media platforms and in online forums. Trying to write a professional response, yet not divulge personal customer information and knowing it can be seen publicly, often with a limited character limit is tougher than you would initially think. Invaluable for companies and brands who are susceptible to online customer feedback.

9. Video content production

Video is progressing rapidly, with more and more of us consuming content as either a produced video or as Live TV, and most of this on our smart devices and on the go. Ensuring that brands tap into this “on-the-go” lifestyle a stellar video content specialist or a marketer who knows how to produce fast, yet impactful video content will be an asset to any team. 

10. Copywriting

Writing copious amounts of copy, whether for ads, websites, SEO, landing pages, blog articles, PR or communications, is a skill that often overlooked. Copywriters should be able to write clearly and succinctly yet be able to write in an impactful way that will dazzle a reader no matter what form it holds. With the majority of online content merely copied these days, writing works that stand out takes some skill.

Digital marketing agency or an in-house team of digital marketers?

The critical question, which is better?

Larger companies who can afford to hire a large marketing team makes sense to hire specialists who only execute the one channel they are masters in, whether SEO, PPC or copywriting. Provided the firm has the budget for so many employees and that each specialist can provide analytical feedback; then an in-house specialist skill team will be invaluable.

For more smaller to mid-range companies, having a full digital marketing specialist team is too expensive. In this instance, HR managers, digital marketing managers and CMOs should seek to hire a few full-stack digital marketers (who are probably better at several key digital marketing channels that others) and then outsource and manage the rest to a digital marketing agency to cover the specialist skills required.

To expect in today’s world for a digital marketer to be an expert in all channels is probably too much, so firms and organisations should consider what skill is the most valuable to them and outsource the rest.

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