According to a report published in 2016 by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, 16.5 million people in the UK will be needed to work in the ‘digital’ space in the next 2-3 years. Tech Nation 2016 notes that digital tech businesses are growing 32 per cent faster than the rest of the UK economy. With this growth comes new opportunity across the digital board, including within digital marketing. So if you think you may want to get in on the action, why don’t you?
There are many articles giving advice on how to get a job in digital marketing. The Digital Marketing Institute for example, offers tips on how to get into the industry, ranging from building your online presence, to keeping up to date with industry news. But even equipped with this knowledge, many people are still reluctant to explore this option, due to a belief that they do not fit into a pre-conceived idea of what a digital marketer should be.
The irony is that when I look around at the digital marketers I know, have worked with, and hired, one thing is clear: no two profiles look the same. There are certainly familiar traits that resonate across the board, but in terms of previous knowledge, gender, education choices and career paths? These can be as different as night and day. So let’s bust some myths around what you need to know, do, or be, in order to get into the digital marketing industry. It’s certainly not for everyone, but make sure that if it’s not for you, then it’s not for the wrong reasons.
Mythbuster #1: You Have To Have A Degree In Marketing
I would need many hands and feet to count the number of digital marketers that I have interacted with over the past 7 years. I probably could, however, count on one hand the number that have a degree in Marketing. I currently manage a digital marketing team that includes two marketers by degree, two mathematicians, an economist, a musician, an art historian, a sociologist…the list goes on. I myself studied engineering at university, and whilst I personally see some synergies across the two disciplines, I was certainly not taught about Google algorithms or paid search during my degree (more Fourier Series and the properties of concrete…). I’ve no doubt that a formal education in marketing (digital or otherwise) gives you a strong foundation and clear frameworks to use when you first enter the workplace, however I equally believe that as long as you have a strong set of core competencies, are smart (read: have common sense), and are eager to learn, you can learn the job, on the job.
Mythbuster #2: 2007: Marketing Is For Girls / 2017: Digital Marketing Isn’t For Girls
I’ll suppress my feminist reaction to these two statements, and instead focus on the irony between them. 10 years ago, marketing was seen as a women’s career, together with depictions of lots of meetings to discuss colours, printing posters, and other such activities (I say no more!). However as we’ve seen the marketing, data and technology worlds converge within digital marketing, perceptions have shifted, and it seems that the word ‘digital’ automatically catapults it into the boys’ club. But this does not have to – and should not– be the case. Up until 6 months ago, my team was 80 per cent female (it’s about 60 per cent now), and within the female contingent are some of the best in their fields. There is absolutely no reason to believe that women should have fewer seats at the digital table, and as a woman who graduated one of the top of a year of 150 Engineers (of whom 80 per cent were male), I suggest we focus on ability and simply take gender off the table.
Mythbuster #3: It’s Boring. It’s Just About Pay Per Click Advertising
This idea of a single-channel role is reinforced when I see job ads for ‘Head of Digital Marketing’ listing responsibilities as only managing Search Engine Marketing (SEM). If you think about the sales funnel – from awareness through to retention, driving traffic to the website through paid – and organic – search is only one (albeit very important) part of the sales process. Digital marketing covers the entire customer journey – from driving awareness of the brand/product through content marketing, social media and online PR, to ensuring that the website experience is just right to aid conversion, to then re-engaging that customer through CRM activity, each part requires a different skill set, expertise, individual. And that’s before we look at analytics, insights, marketing technology…the list goes on, and if it’s nothing else, it’s certainly varied – meaning there’s likely to be a role that’s right for you.
Mythbuster #4: You Have To Be A Pro Mathematician To Survive
I won’t lie to you: one of the benefits of digital marketing is that we are able to capture huge quantities of data due to activities occurring online, which we can then measure, analyse and report on. That means inevitably that numbers will be involved, so if the thought of opening an excel file pushes you to the Panic Zone, then you may want to rethink whether this is the right career choice for you (or face your fear, get some training and get stuck in!). My experience with developing new starters in the industry is that if they are intellectually smart, have good logic, commercial sense, and are able to articulate the problem clearly, then teaching them core numerical skills along with excel training is the easy part. I’ve equally interviewed people who could build excel models in their sleep, but haven’t a clue how to translate theory to real business challenges. These are not the candidates that get hired.
Mythbuster #5: You have to be able to code
You are not being hired as a developer, and as such, there is no requirement for you to code. If you are able to then that’s great, it’s a ‘nice to have’ enhancement on the CV, and no doubt will come in handy not only when you’re speaking with the Product team (as you can ‘speak their language’), but also if you need to make small tweaks without relying on the engineers. But it’s by no means a pre-requisite.
Once they get comfortable, many digital marketers do decide to get some basic training, usually in HTML/CSS. I did some coding as part of my degree (I remember coding a mouse moving through a maze) and I enjoyed it (although to be clear, I haven’t used it on the job), so I’m learning a bit of HTML for fun. If you do want to learn, Codecademy offers some fantastic free online courses, so it’s a good place to start.
Chi Igboaka currently works at Travelex, as Global Head of Performance Marketing, where she is responsible for the commercial performance of the digital marketing channels, and she also spearheads the marketing technology agenda across the business. She is a 2017 ‘Digital Star’ finalist in the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards, which celebrate the contribution made by women in tech and encourages greater numbers of women to work in the industry.