Do you want a career in digital marketing? Digital marketing is a data driven and a creative job requiring diverse skill sets. Most marketing agencies employ analysts, mathematicians, technical folks and creatives. These skilled employees work on cross-functional teams and sometimes transition between roles.
While working in-house and at several marketing agencies I have seen some of the most skilled and effective account managers and analysts come from different backgrounds. I have seen anthropology majors, history majors and teachers turn into some of the best marketers in the industry. They have grown into fantastic digital experts.
If you are interested in a career in digital marketing, which still remains a high-growth industry, then this post is for you. This post will cover some important skills you should highlight in an interview. This post is also relevant if you are looking to hire an employee who may not have experience in digital marketing. As a hiring manger, the ability to recognize and grow talent gives your company an edge in recruiting.
- Experience as a consumer is relevant
Everyone is a consumer. During an interview it is acceptable to explain the flow of your experiences when making a purchase. Online shopping is convenient and easy. During an interview think of examples when you shop online. Get specific with your process as a buyer and what leads you to convert. This is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate your ability to pay attention to detail. The interviewer will appreciate your understanding of targeting, conversions and intent. You can point out how you performed product research. You can analyze improvements using your marketing knowledge. As an interviewer, be sure to ask the candidate the last experience they had online. This is an indirect way to find out how the candidate can step through a typical marketing funnel analysis.
- Writing skills matter
Writing is an essential skill as a marketing professional. You have to be able to write blog posts, tweets and ads. You also need to summarize all the numerical findings for reports. Your writing should be relatable. Emails need to be concise. The goal of each email is to drive action or inform. Emails summarize the data for the clients and are used to make decisions. Be prepared with examples of writing that demonstrate your competency. As an interviewer, what is your impression of the candidate during initial correspondence?
- Communication is key
Verbal communication is one of the most crucial aspects of marketing. There are many external and internal meetings. Your communication builds trusting relationships, closes deals and draws in clients. Effective communicators are able to build credibility and tailor language to different audiences. It is also important to note that communication is a two-way process. A candidate should listen as well as speak. This is especially important when dealing with clients. Clients do not always directly state their needs. As an interviewer, remember to ask open-ended questions to ensure the candidate can listen and respond. As a candidate, remember to listen and question the intent behind the interview question. This demonstrates the skill of extrapolating.
- Old-school marketing is still relevant
There is an attitude that textbook learning is not always relevant in the corporate world. In many cases this old adage is correct. The business and marketing worlds are not looking for textbook solutions. The expectation is out of the box solutions. The candidate should demonstrate solid understanding of customer intent, messaging tactics and the marketing funnel. Every digital campaign starts with a target market. Every campaign should aim to feed part of the marketing funnel. While interviewing, provide examples of class work. As a hiring manager, ask about relevant class projects. Some schools consult to businesses as capstone projects. Schooling and projects are relevant.
- Know and understand the marketing funnel
The paragraph above explains the relevancy of the marketing funnel. Understanding this concept is extremely important. It is easy to spend money quickly via online advertising. Online budgets still remain tight and clients and companies are very sensitive to budgeting. One of the ways we can measure the impact of a campaign is to tie the campaign back to the original goal. The goal should be to push/pull conversions through the marketing funnel. I would argue that understanding this funnel approach concept is the most important marketing concept any candidate or interviewer should consider. If a candidate is fresh out of school, they may be aware of many different buzzwords and tactics. The goal of the interview is not to find out if a candidate understands what programmatic advertising entails or any other specific tactic. Tactics can be taught. Knowing when to use a tactic is the strategic thinking that adds true value.
- Automation does not replace a skilled marketing team
Digital marketing is an art and a science. Today we can automate many pieces of the job. We can set up bidding rules and use tools and software to do our bidding. However, this does not replace the marketing team. The tools are good at following rules and algorithms. People need to question the assumptions of the bidding rules and algorithms. Automation is a time saver but humans must review the rules and assumptions regularly. If you are in an interview and you can provide an example of where you found mistakes in a process, this can go a long way. I was working on SEO for a website. I found that some of the coding within the content management system was creating SEO errors. I knew fixing this would be very impactful. This is a highly technical example but being able to identify errors in assumptions that create errors in the solution or process is a human skill.
- Ongoing education is part of your job
A Digital marketing is constantly changing. You should read and learn and be driven to do so. A job in digital marketing is a job where you can show passion. Blog reading is a habit of any good marketer. Reading tweets is important. Attending conferences, networking and participating in industry meet-ups are a way to grow. Much of digital marketing involves knowing which tool to use and when to use it. Marketing professionals love to layer tactics and discuss how and why they chose a given approach. Remember to communicate your passion for learning during the interview. Interviewers can easily see the passion and watch a candidate light up when they are excited about the industry.
- Science matters
Online is arguably the best place to run marketing tests. We are always testing. The testing adds value to other marketing teams. The direct mail team can propose ad copy and the digital team can run an A/B test to see which copy works best before the expense of print. The amount of testing that can be done is almost infinite. Much like science experiments in school, there should be always be a control and a variation. The data itself should be statically significant. A candidate should understand confidence intervals. This is basic statistics and science. During an interview, having a statistical or science background is a great way to sell your skills.
- Failure is part of the job
In an industry that constantly runs tests, failure is part of the job. It is important to be able to handle failure. Understanding how to fail and change is a skill. A candidate should know how to document tests and conclusions. Ask interview questions to determine how a person can handle failures.
- Understanding and interpreting data is key
Digital marketing is data driven. Reading data and being able explain the meaning is the foundation of decisions. If impressions are down, can the candidate explain why? Were keywords removed or is the product seasonal or is the service seasonal? Being able to look at every piece of data and understand the meaning is a large part of the job in digital marketing. Many companies are asking interviewers to build campaigns or to analyze metrics before reaching the interview point. Some interviewers will present a report during the interview and ask that the candidate explain their analysis.
In conclusion, these are 10 important skills for candidates and hiring managers to consider. Many of these skills can be learned. Some of these skills can be transferred from other jobs or industries. I started my career in information technology and moved to customer service. Eventually, I was able to merge my skills into a digital marketing career. I started when digital marketing was fairly new. Our digital marketing teams worked to define and prove our importance in the organization. Over the past 10 years, there is no argument about the importance of digital marketing teams. It is still an industry made of diverse teams. If I were to give advice to hiring managers, I would advise them to grow teams with diverse talents. Think broadly when building teams. If I were to give advice to a candidate wanting a career digital marketing, my advice would be similar. Think broadly about what makes you unique. Look at what you have done in your past and relate back to the areas outlined in this post. Be confident and showcase your unique skills
Sarah Stemen is a digital marketing professional consulting with companies on SEO, paid search and digital marketing strategy.