Want To Work In Digital Marketing?

I don't think of myself as a "marketer". Even though I've been in this career for 14 years now.

I never studied marketing in university. Or business. Shit, I didn't even take a real math class in university.

"I watched films. Wrote papers. Wrote articles. Studied languages. Did TV news internship for two years. And worked a lot," I tell people. 

But here I am, 18 years after graduating, not working in TV news. Or anything like it. And dealing with budgets and money forecasting.

So when someone asks me what they should study in university, I tell them, "If you feel like you must go to university - and FYI, I've hired people who haven't - study something that interests you. Do not study business or marketing unless that actually interests you."

But why would it?

I recently asked one of the interns for my teams what they were surprised about, now that they had graduated and were a month into their internship with us. 

"I'm surprised by how much forecasting and money management I do," she said. "They barely covered that in the curriculum. And digital marketing practical things in general were not really covered."

I'm not surprised. 

"I do what is the blue collar of marketing," I often say to people. "It doesn't matter what you learned in school. Sometimes it doesn't even matter what you know from a previous job you've had. It's more about how you think. And how you activate."

Because the kind of marketing I do is all about getting shit done. You are always having to evolve how things are done... Because algorithms for search engines change and you need to know what cues to look for to change your strategy, new technology providers pop up every day and need to be tested and evaluated, and the audience itself changes it's behaviors all the time in the digital space with what they watch-click-share.

So to really be decent at digital marketing, you need to have the following:

  • The ability to research and find answers. This is why I tell people "fuck majoring in business or marketing, if you actually want to do marketing. Major in journalism. In English. In Psychology. In History. In Anthropology.  You know... All the fucking liberal arts shit people tell you won't lead to a job? Well, that is a lie. The skills you learn researching a topic for something you are interested in and then having to write a paper or speak confidently to what you found teaches you the skills you need to do my job well."  True story.
  • Know that you know nothing. Just like Jon Snow. Always assume what you "know" to be true or impactful to influencing and converting an audience is changing. It's the data that knows everything. So you have to pay attention and dig into what you see in analytics, paid search platform reports, keyword ranking reports, social analytics. And learn to adapt. Adapt or die.  It's an aggressive and constant evolution in digital marketing.
  • Love Excel. This goes with the point above. In order to dig through that data... It often involves digging through rows and rows of Excel. Which means you better like staring at endless rows of data. And the following better excite you like crazy: pivot tables, H-lookups, V-lookups, Concatenations, LEN, Proper... 
  • Learn the art of brevity. This is what will truly set you apart. And it's key to communication in general. There is so much jargon and terminology in digital marketing, it gets fucking overwhelming quick. People's eyes will have more glaze than a Krispy Kreme donut. Whether they are hearing you talk about what you have found and recommend, or if they are seeing it on a Powerpoint slide. "Learn how to break down in easy bites why something you found is important, and what the benefit will be if they address it the way you want them to," I say when I coach my team. Brevity.

And all of this... To learn to do it well... Takes practice. You're not likely to learn it in a university classroom the way it is executed in the real world. The "right way" to do things in the curriculum would change way too fast. Which is why knowing how to research and dig into data, find answers, and articulate a strategy is extremely valuable in the talent I look for on my team.

I don't give two fucks about an awesome case study you read about in your university marketing course that you feel is the gold standard on how to do marketing.

I give a fuck that you studied something that was of interest to you, and that you got to flex your muscles executing some of the things I listed above over and over again through your coursework. I think university is valuable time to really explore and gain confidence. So leverage it that way. 

Don't get caught up in the idea that there is "one path" to getting a job in this field. I will laugh at you if you say that to me. And probably not hire you. 

And if you really want to impress my team and break into digital marketing, study these things:

  • Google Analytics - get certified
  • Google AdWords - Get certified in Fundamentals, Advanced Search, Display
  • SEO - Read the Moz blog, Search Engine Land, all of the SEO categories on Reddit,  Search Engine Journal, Search Metrics... And these are just a few.
  • Programmatic & Display - Read AdExchanger, DigiDay, and ClickZ
  • Anything you can find on Amazon strategy - Because it is an important marketing platform in many ways.
  • Also anything you can find on Facebook marketing. Blogs on strategy for it.

If someone comes into an interview for a role with certifications and knowledge on what's being talked about across a few platforms, I am hella impressed. And this is all stuff you can learn about for free.

You don't have to pay money to educated in it. Or take a certificate course.

You just have to know how to Google things. And love Excel.