Like driving a manual transmission or anything theremin-related, there are tons of skills that go out of style.
However, in the world of digital marketing, there are plenty of skills that withstand the test of time too. If you’re looking to master the ins and outs of digital marketing, it’s in your best interest to add these to your repertoire, your resume, and most importantly, your brain.
Fig. 1: A typical digital marketer’s brain.
Wait, what makes these particular skills so special?
It’s a fair question. At marketing-poor companies, digital marketing basically serves to assist the sales team with asset creation and sales collateral. Digital marketers at these companies may find that most of their time is spent writing PowerPoint decks and designing trade show banners.
At marketing-successful companies, the ones who really get it, digital marketing is responsible for the lion’s share of lead generation. In these organizations, inbound leads are plentiful, and the salespeople take a more passive approach in simply responding to SQLs (sales-qualified leads) who have already expressed interest, requested a demo, downloaded a trial, and so on.
The former style of marketing—the kind found at marketing-poor companies—is flawed, at best. Skilled digital marketers can create dynamic marketing funnels that generate leads all by themselves.
A good company understands this, leverages it, and does not constrict its marketers to take its direction from the sales team. Rather, the sales and marketing teams work together towards a unified goal.
This list of important digital marketing skills was specifically curated to address marketers at companies with high-quality, functional marketing funnels that generate leads independently of the sales pipeline.
That is, to say, that these are the top 10 skills for good digital marketers at companies that execute good digital marketing.
The 10 most important skills for digital marketers
Whether you’re interested in learning something new, posting a job description, or simply need some vindication about what a digital marketing rockstar you are, here are the top 10 most impactful skills a solid digital marketer can have:
Did you know that the average small-to-midsize business (SMB) spends $2000-$10,000 on content marketing each month? Or that one in six enterprise-level organizations report spending at least $10 million per year on content creation?
Content marketing is a skill that digital marketers should not just be aware of, but should know how to do very well. After all, blogging is one of the most important lead generation tactics used by modern marketers.
Digital marketers skilled in blogging will need to have an understanding of the ins and outs of editing, grammar, SEO, keyword research, article structure, and more. But that doesn’t mean it’s inaccessible. In fact, it’s something that can mostly be picked up from reading other blogs about writing SEO content. 😎
Top tools for blogging include:
- WordPress, Webflow, Wix, or whatever CMS (Content Management System) your own company’s website offers. (No, they don’t all start with a “W.”)
- Google Docs for composing the post, working collaboratively, and sharing back and forth with an editor
- The notes app, (yes the one on your phone), Notepad, or any other plaintext editor for brainstorming and forming talking points leading up the composing a draft
2. Writing marketing copy
Not to be confused with blogging, which is a skill in and of itself. In the marketing world, copy basically translates to words, and copywriting essentially translates to writing marketing words.
And these marketing words are written by digital marketers all the time for many different applications. Blog content is copy, sure, but a good copywriter has the ability to make qualitative changes to their writing depending on where it is deployed.
This means that writing bullet points and blurbs on a website is a different skill than composing compelling emails. And drafting a blog post is dramatically different than writing a video script. It’s all copy, and it’s all marketing, but it requires different training and a different strategic approach.
3. Email marketing
Email is ubiquitous. Almost everyone sends and reads emails, whether in a professional capacity or on a personal basis. Because of this, email marketing is still the leading tactical way of getting in touch with specified audiences.
“Email marketing,” of course, is an umbrella term that is used to describe a diverse array of email strategies that each require their own unique marketing skills.
A solid digital marketer will have the ability to write different types of emails, like:
- Personal email templates for the sales team to use
- Company newsletters for a large audience
- Promotional offers to select audiences
- Webinar, conference, and event invitations
- Product updates and messaging for existing customers
- Confirmation, post-purchase, welcome emails, and more
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4. Web design
Having a firm grasp on web design is a skill that makes digital marketers invaluable. This doesn’t mean that all digital marketers should inherently be skilled at building sites from scratch and writing their own code, (although knowing how to tweak existing HTML and CSS code is profoundly useful).
It’s important for marketers to understand the basics of web design, like how to incorporate the company’s logo and branding, adhering to style guidelines, and, if you’re Nutshell, how to lean on the brand design lead for help. (We appreciate you, Rebekka! ✊)
With a bit of skill and marketing magic, a marketer should be able to pull off the feat of designing and creating simple web pages: mainly landing pages, lead magnets, and web forms. Any serious web design work should be left to the company’s dedicated web designer.
And, of course, your company’s website should have a streamlined blogging and content creation system so that creating and publishing content doesn’t require marketers to solicit help from any other departments.
5. Photo editing
Editing photos isn’t just for Instagram #Influencers; It’s for digital marketers, too.
Knowing how to edit photos or create certain kinds of imagery that are used on various pages of the website, within content, on social media, and in content downloadables, is an integral part of the role of a digital marketer.
Although it would be helpful, this does not mean that all digital marketers must be skilled in the entire Adobe suite, or even Photoshop itself. There are plenty of image editing apps for PC and mobile that can get the job done.
Author’s note: I used this free, open-source photoshop-like desktop app for years before it made sense to get the Adobe suite.
For marketers, being able to do some gentle graphics work and image editing eases strain from the rest of the team, like the dedicated graphics designers whose time might be better spent doing heavier-lift projects.
Useful photo-editing apps for marketers include:
- Adobe Photoshop or GNU Image Manipulation Program for heavy graphics work
- Adobe Illustrator for PDFs
- Canva for lightweight graphics
- Various iPhone and Android apps for the super easy stuff
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6. Marketing analytics
We’ve all heard people (on Linkedin) talk about how “content is king.” Well, in the world of digital marketing, analytics is the queen.
With a bit of analysis, digital marketers can see exactly how well their marketing is doing, which strategies are working, which aren’t, and are thus able to make better decisions about what to next time.
This doesn’t mean that every digital marketer should inherently be a data analyst as well, or have a repertoire of obscure Excel formulas committed to memory, but they should at least be able to track the success of their marketing concisely.
Most content marketers are already skilled in Google Analytics and other web-tracking software, but email marketers might prefer the built-in reports that come with their email marketing suite. At the end of the day, marketers should be able to measure the success of whatever marketing they do.
A few key analytics tools include:
- Google analytics, for analyzing web traffic
- Email marketing software’s built-in reporting
- ChartMogul to measure churn and retention (optional)
- Tableau for data insights and visualization (optional)
Regardless of how great your content is, getting visibility on search engines requires some SEO (search engine optimization) expertise.
Again, not every digital marketer needs to be obsessed with SEO, but understanding the basic skills and concepts is essential. Without quality SEO, content doesn’t get the visibility it deserves, which reduces its ROI.
Understanding SEO and being able to “bake it into” marketing content is a phenomenal way for digital marketers to multiply their efforts and help their content garner more organic engagement.
Some solid SEO tools include:
- Moz or Ahrefs for site health, link building, and SEO
- SEMrush for keyword research
- Yoast for SEO content optimization
Further reading: How to write SEO content that ranks on search engines, and Local SEO for the complete beginner.
“Communication is key,” the late ’90s motivational posters say. And this time they’re right.
Communication skills are arguably the most underrated skills in any professional setting. From working with teams to communicating with prospects and customers alike, being able to give and receive information effectively is just critical. No doubt about it.
But what about digital marketers’ communication skills?
Marketers should be able to communicate spectacularly at a variety of levels, including in web content, through emails, blog posts, social media, and so on. They need to be able to communicate in adherence with the company’s communication style, while also using their own personal voice wherever it’s required.
For instance, copy intended for a website page should adhere strictly to the company’s own brand voice. Rather than long-form written content, marketers will need to communicate by using text, images, icons, buttons, styling, blurbs, and more.
✔ animations ✔ icons ✔ buttons ✔ brand colors ✔ blurbs
Switching gears, digital marketers also need to be able to compose emails for large audiences, tactical recipients, and one-to-one messaging, and each requires a different feel and tone.
Social media posts require the brand’s voice and (ideally) are broadcast to a large audience. Blog posts are in the half-personal-half-brand-voice space. Each medium requires a different communication style, which is why a solid marketer should be a communication chameleon. 🦎
9. Project management
There is always so much stuff to do! It’s practically impossible to keep track of every project and every deadline without some type of project management tools (and the skills to use them).
For content marketers, this means managing freelancers, assigning blog topics, keeping track of deadlines, getting the freelancers paid, and more.
For email marketers, each email has a scheduled send time and is carefully measured to ensure that they’re reaching maximum effectiveness, which is painfully difficult to achieve without some sort of dashboard, at the very least.
Since marketers are often leveraged for design and communications, managing projects and tasks outside the marketing team is also required.
And then, of course, there are the millions of messages in our inboxes that require responses.
A skilled digital marketer should know how to use tools and softwares to keep track of all the diverse projects and initiatives that are being undertaken at any given time.
Solid project management tools:
- Superhuman to optimize emails and communications
- Trello or Meistertask for Kanban-style project management
- Excel (and many others) for Gantt Charts
10. Asset creation
The technical skills for asset creation (graphics, copywriting, distribution, etc.), have already been covered, but the most important piece of the puzzle has yet to be addressed.
Skilled marketers know how to create assets that will really get something done. It starts by asking questions like:
- Who are we targeting with this asset?
- What action do we want our users to take?
- How are we going to distribute it?
- And so on…
Marketing assets are more than just a show-and-tell of cool content. They’re a tactical tool meant to serve a specific purpose and get users to complete a specific goal.
A digital marketer with asset creation skill and expertise can plan this out upfront, manage the creation and distribution, and measure the impact effectively.
This is it. The top 10 skills a digital marketer should strive to have. And again, the skills vary from organization to organization, and the list varies depending on a million different factors.
However, if you’re a marketer, these skills and tools should absolutely be on your radar, or—at the very least—on your list of marketing tasks to outsource. 😉
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