It’s that time of the year again – the summer holidays. The weather is good, and soon-to-be students are having a well-deserved break before heading off to university. It’s also a good time to start investing in your future by honing your skills and learning new ones. In my opinion, you can never have too many skills – the more, the better.

If you want to be a marketer, be ready to learn new skills for the rest of your career. The field of marketing is ever-changing – what’s relevant today might be obsolete tomorrow, and things you’ve never heard of can become the industry standard within a short period of time. The only way to stay relevant is to keep learning.

Getting a formal education in the field of marketing will teach you a lot, but there are skills that you will have to develop on your own. Once you leave the comfortable bubble of education, you will realise there are some crucial skills they didn’t teach you. In today’s world, you cannot solely rely on skills taught in college or university; I don’t want to discourage anyone from getting a formal education, but instead, to help you prepare for the uncertain job market where it can seem like nobody is ever enough.

So, if you’re going to be building a marketing career, you need to be prepared – here is your guide to digital marketing for beginners that will help you to do that.

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Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Getting hard skills usually requires formal schooling or specialised training. These skills include knowing how to utilise a specific device, piece of software, or piece of equipment. 

Soft skills include character attributes and that you may have spent your entire life honing. They also include skills like time management, and any skills that relate to interacting with others. Another example would be dealing with a challenging scenario for the first time. 

Both hard skills and soft skills are equally important for succeeding in life. In some fields, soft skills cannot make up for a lack of technical knowledge of the craft, while some jobs solely depend on soft skills. It depends upon the industry you are working in but in marketing, it’s vital to have both types. I have curated a list of skills that you should develop so that you’re prepared for your marketing course.  

Hard Skills

As I mentioned earlier, the more skills you have, the better – but remember, you don’t have to master them all. At the very least, you need to understand what they are and why they’re important. This will make it easier for you to understand the different sectors of marketing, and get insights into what area within marketing you’re most interested in 

1. Data

Did you know that Deloitte’s CMO Survey revealed that data analytics is was most common investment for marketers s in early 2022, with a growth of an astonishing 40% in a single year? This solidifies the importance of understanding how to analyse data. Analytics will be essential to your strategy and assist you in making accurate, data-driven decisions for campaigns, no matter what area of digital marketing you choose to focus on. Understanding the data you’re looking at and how to analyse it will help you gain detailed insights and modify your approach in a way that gets results.   

 How to develop this skill: Don’t worry too much about learning everything about data analysis – you will get a deeper understanding of it in your course. If you want to brush up on your statistical knowledge a little bit, that will help you prepare. Platforms like Moz, and Google Analytics are going to make your life much easier in terms of analytics, so read up on them as well.   

2. Video Editing

Customers cannot get enough of videos, especially on social media where 8 out of 10 users have made a purchase after viewing a video for a particular company. According to a study from The State of Video Marketing, 93% of marketers who use video believe it is a key component of their strategy and 87% think it has favourable Return on Investment (ROI). If you know how to make videos, then you increase your value to a company manyfold, especially if they are a small agency. Having basic video editing skills can work wonders for your resume.  

How to develop this skill: Most companies don’t want to invest in fancy editing software, so you don’t have to worry about learning to use them. Even simple video editing skills can be very useful, and you can try free software to get a feel for how it works. I would personally suggest Videopad – a free (for non-commercial use) and simple video editing software that loosely mimics the interface of Adobe Premiere Pro. If you like video editing, you would easily be able to transition to Adobe Premiere Pro in the future after using this programme. To enrich your knowledge base, look into video optimisation strategies such as keywords for YouTube, effective calls to action for videos, and performance analysis specifically for videos.

3. SEO

Everyone in marketing should understanding Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). It helps to improve your content and increase organic traffic to your website, as well as make your site rank higher in search results.  

How to develop this skill: Once you understand the basics of SEO, set up a website for yourself. As a side hustle throughout your course, try to build up your website without any paid media, and optimise its ranking on Google search results. This process will teach you so much about the technicalities of SEO and will give your skills a lot of credibility. 

4. Social Media

Understanding social media is a necessity in digital marketing and any marketing strategy without it is questionable, especially for business to customer brands. How will anyone discover your product without social media?  

How to develop this skill: If you are like me and don’t like social media, it’s time for you to rip the band aid off and get active on there because it’s the only way you will be able to learn how to grow on various platforms. Install them all – TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat.

5. Advertising

Advertising is among the most crucial aspects of marketing, especially paid advertising – you can’t only rely on building your audience organically. You don’t need to know everything about advertising but understanding the basics of how digital ads are made and launched will be very useful.  

How to develop this skill: The easiest way to learn more about advertising is by going on YouTube and looking at a few tutorials – within about 30 minutes, you will understand the basic process of setting up an advertisement. Look into Google Ads and Google Analytics specifically, as their software is the industry standard. 

These are the skills that university won’t prepare you for. To master these skills, you will have to step out of your comfort zone and be open to changing a few things about yourself. Developing soft skills takes time and effort, but it will help you in both your professional and personal life.  

1. Strategic Thinking

To succeed in your marketing career, you must develop a strategic mindset that helps you think about the long-term. To develop strategic thinking, adopt a continuous learning mindset and constantly expand your knowledge base. Get used to approaching things from various angles and synthesising information from various sources when making decisions, thinking about the consequences that might occur for each course of action you could take. Keep on top of what’s going on in the industry – and in the world at-large – and observe how companies adapt their marketing strategy in response to critical events. This way, you will get a sense of the influences you will need to be aware of in future and how they may affect your marketing strategy. To learn more about strategy, feel free to check out my book.  

2. Design Thinking

The term, “design thinking”, describes an approach to solving issues that puts users’ needs first. The five main stages of this approach, according to The Interaction Design Foundation, are empathy, define, ideate, prototype, and test. Make sure that even the smallest things you create are designed with your user in mind. According to 38% of B2B organisations, effectively speaking to a buyer within their messaging produced the highest success in qualified lead generation. Don’t think about how you would like something to be  – think about what users would prefer.  

3. Storytelling

78% of content marketers use content marketing in order to increase customer/client loyalty and 57% use it to drive sales and increase revenues. Storytelling is a significant strategy within content marketing as it captures the audience’s attention and keeps them engaged. Stories are everywhere, and the first step in developing your skills in this area is to notice when they are being used in marketing. To develop this skill, observe powerful communicators and brands that use storytelling and learn about their strategies. From there, it is a matter of practising writing stories for a wide range of audiences. Also, make sure you are being empathetic and thinking from the audience’s perspective so you can effectively connect with them in your stories.  

4. Communication

You will have to communicate complicated information to your target audience on a daily basis – you cannot afford to miscommunicate what your products or services do. In fact, 89% of business leaders concur that one of the most underappreciated professional abilities is communication. As for how to improve communication skills, the easiest way is by communicating – that might sound too simple, but the more you interact and share your stories with people, the more you learn. You can also learn about areas of communication such as body language and public speaking – while these skills don’t directly relate to how you interact with your target audience, they are relevant in almost any field of work. 

The list of skills above might be overwhelming, but I would strongly suggest looking into each of them to understand the fundamentals. The process of learning these skills will also help you understand what you enjoy doing and what you don’t, which will make it easier for you to choose your specialisation – then, you will be able to spend more time developing them further and getting a head start in your marketing career.  

If you need a more concrete resource to build your knowledge base, I recommend you read my best seller, Digital Marketing Strategy. As it is used by many universities around the world on their marketing courses so it will give you a head start. It provides an accessible, step-by-step framework for the planning, integration, and measurement of each technique on each digital platform with the focus of achieving overarching business objectives. 

I’m sure your marketing course will help you develop many skills, and I wish you all the best for your journey ahead. I hope you have fantastic experience at university and a rewarding career in the future!  

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