The Future of Marketing: What’s Influencing the Influencers?
For businesses in most industries, ignoring digital marketing is no longer an option. It’s an incredibly important component of the sales and marketing mix that requires expertise and long-term commitment to do well. While it’s tempting to think of digital marketing as a specialty, this is not accurate, because it’s actually several specialties. Despite this, many companies foster the unrealistic expectation that a single hire will excel in all areas of digital marketing. As the online marketplace becomes increasingly competitive and technical in nature, being a jack of all trades will typically mean being a master of none.
Aptitudes Required for Digital Marketing
“Digital marketing draws from a wide range of aptitudes, which are difficult to find in one person,” says Colin Rose, Managing Director at Rose Agency. “Big picture, analytical thinking is important for strategic planning, while creativity and persuasiveness are the keys to content creation and design. Getting the most from the various platforms requires technical efficiency and the constantly changing nature of the industry requires an individual who’s adaptable and committed to learning.”
Underlying the whole operation is a need to see things through to completion, no matter how hectic the schedule becomes. “A project manager mindset is a must,” says Rose.1
Components and Disciplines of Digital Marketing
The internet is full of listicles detailing the various skill sets one should develop in order to excel in the field, with the numbers often being in double-digits. An individual who prioritizes this many items is actually prioritizing none, which is something companies should bear in mind when hiring digital marketers.
One key area of focus is search engine optimization. SEO is a highly specialized discipline involving the research of keywords and the subsequent optimization of websites and other digital tools in order to gain the favour of the almighty Google algorithm.
“Search engine optimization means just that: helping search engines help you,” says Andrew Forbes of PeakEd Designs. “Understand the concept and you’ll show up near the top of relevant search results. Neglect it and you’ll be lost in the abyss.”2
Social media managers must create compelling content in order to stand out in a crowded marketplace, while never veering off brand. Understanding the nuances of various platforms, both technical and cultural, is important to maximizing reach. Community listening is an important form of research and interacting with the public through social media is a valuable (and potentially hazardous) component of both PR and customer service.
Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing is easy enough to initiate, but requires a thorough understanding of consumer behaviour, data, and technical platforms to truly master.
Email campaigns, too, involve harnessing the capabilities of integrated marketing platforms such as MailChimp and, of course, persuasive, strategic copywriting.
Graphic designers and content creators must understand branding and communications objectives, while possessing those intangible creative qualities that can be nurtured, but not quite taught.
Beneath the surface of each of these functions you’ll find individuals proficient in complex data analysis, user experience (UX), conversion rate optimization (CRO), and the sales funnel.
How Should Companies Approach Digital Marketing?
At its highest level, digital marketing is handled by a complex ecosystem of specialists who are trained and then retrained, ad infinitum. Depending on your situation, this may or may not be necessary.
Quality individuals are available who are great at some aspects of digital marketing and good at others.
“Many areas of digital marketing overlap with one another,” writes Jeremy Boudinet for the Muse. “Copywriting and search engine optimization go hand-in-hand, for example, as do data analysis and conversion rate optimization.3
Companies looking to maintain a modest digital presence may get along by employing one well-rounded individual at the helm, and supplementing that person’s efforts by outsourcing tasks from time to time.
For business models that require a sophisticated e-commerce operation to survive and thrive, a dedicated group will be necessary. Some choose to build this team in-house, while others go the agency route. Each approach has its advantages.
“Marketing agencies are designed to jump in quickly and efficiently so your team can adapt your marketing strategies sooner rather than later,” says Cheryl Baldwin, Director of Marketing & Communications for WSI. “Ultimately, emergencies that affect your bottom line are better handled by agency teams.”4
Just as is the case with finance or other critical business disciplines, the most valuable digital marketers are the ones capable of diagnosing problems and building strong overall plans that further company objectives. Even these highly sought after individuals will need the assistance of specialists in order to perfectly execute the many facets these plans entail. Everybody involved in the operation will have to possess a thirst for learning in order to stay current amidst constantly evolving technology and best practices. With more and more business taking place online, the result will be well worth the effort.