About 9 years ago I started on a mission to create an ecommerce site, this was way before ecommerce was common place. If I had executed on that idea, I’d have come in before Konga and Jumia 😅. But that’s a discussion for later. This got me was reading up on how to market my ecommerce store. So I spent a few months in my final year in school understanding the world of online marketing and the art of persuasion. This was where my marketing career began.
Fast forward to the present and that phase of my life has propelled me into all sorts. I first got into digital marketing, than performance marketing. The next phase of my career took me into growth marketing and currently product strategy. On a monthly basis I interact with people looking to get into digital marketing as a career, and I tend to give out the same advice. So I decided to document it and share, hopefully this helps someone out there.
The current trend is clear, more people are looking to get into the digital industry. More brands and businesses need the services provided by these individuals. And more of them are looking for how to drive ROI on their digital marketing channels. So it’s not a bad time to get on this train. Here’s Google Trends showing interest in digital marketing as a keyword over the last 5 years.
Here’s a search result from the popular job website hotnigerianjobs.com. 23,000+ results indicates employers are looking for qualified marketing professionals out there.
What I aim to do in this post is provide a guide. I’d be drawing from my personal experience while I was learning a few years ago. And while I have added a few new approaches, the fundamental idea is still same. Here’s a guide to start your digital marketing career and get a chance at survival. Let’s get started.
Get a general idea of all digital marketing pillars
One of the major problems people face when trying to learn digital marketing is where to start. The practice is so broad and can get so complex that decision paralysis sets in. So what do you do to figure out where to get started?
First, find out all the (popular) pillars of digital marketing. I say popular because new stuff pops up everyday. Here are a few
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Content marketing
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
- Data analysis
- Digital strategy
- Pay per click advertising (PPC)
- Display advertising
- Mobile marketing
And that was a few. There are growing fields like growth hacking that’ll make your head spin with excitement.
Next, figure out which one seems exciting to you after reading about each. It’s important to start with what makes sense to you because it means it’ll likely be easier for you to learn. And in learning digital, the small wins matter, they push you to keep going. If you start with something you are clueless about, your learning journey might get cut short. I started out with SEO and Analytics for example, two things a lot of people hate to get into, but they got me excited. Different strokes.
Once you’ve started on one and you’re gaining momentum with learning, jump to the next best thing and keep it going.
Get certified to show skill
As a budding marketer, one thing a lot of employers will look out for is how much of your homework you’ve done. Especially if you have no prior experience. An easy way to show this is to take some courses and get certified. I started out same way with the Inbound Marketing course from Hubspot and it created a world for me to explore. Here are a few courses and certifications you can take right now
- Google Digital Skills acquisition
- Hubspot Inbound Marketing
- Moz SEO Whiteboard (no certification)
- Hootsuite Social Media certification
- Google Analytics for Beginners on Google Analytics University
- Google AdWords fundamentals
Taking these will give you a broad understanding of digital marketing across some of the most important channels. And this makes your profile much more impressive that the guys looking for handouts.
Here’s what mine looked like 5 years ago
Focus on areas that are less saturated
Between both of us, some parts ( well one part) of the entire digital marketing thing is way too easy to get into. And it generally gets way too many people claiming that can do it. What part do you think it is? Take a guess, I think you’d get it.
It’s social media marketing.
This doesn’t mean all those guys claiming to do it do it well. For the most part, I’ve come to realize that everyone who uses Facebook and Instagram claim they’re social media managers. And that’s obviously not the same right? There’s quite a lot to learn and understand about social media and community management that it’ll be a disservice to the real social media hero to say this field isn’t as interesting and tasking as every other digital marketing field, but it’s just in a weird place right now. So my advice is, understand the nuances of social, but don’t stop there, learn more to improve your prospects.
Set yourself apart by learning stuff others run away from
I can tell you now for free that most “digital marketers” don’t really understand how to use SEO and Data Analysis. They generally tend to run away from it, so people who know it tend to give more value to their employers. This can easily set you apart from your peers.
These are the two most common based on my personal experience. I’d leave the comment section open for others to say what fields in digital marketing they feel most people avoid but provide value.
Aim to get an internship so you can practice guilt free
The thing with digital marketing is, learning must involve practicing. If you don’t practice, it makes it so easy to forget. But I guess that’s same with everything in life.
I’d say practice first on your own as much as possible. For example, you can practice SEO and Analytics on your personal WordPress blog like I did. You can also use the same platform to practice things like copywriting, content marketing (which was a hit for my by the way), and email marketing. Once you feel a bit confident in yourself, head out to get an internship.
Where most people fail is in looking for an internship, they’re really just looking for money. And that’s not what an internship is about. They provide a safe place for you to explore and put in place all you’ve learned. Seeing results on your campaigns is adrenaline I swear, gets your blood pumping and ready to take on the world.
Try to get a paid internship. But go with unpaid if you can and if it improves your chances of getting started. I wouldn’t advice it if you feed yourself and need a daily income, but this is your call to make. Just as long as you get exactly what you need from it, which is the experience. Here are a few companies I know that take interns frequently
Go all out with it, let your potential employer know you’re just here to learn and add value (and get paid if possible). I hope to write a post on how I got my first internship, I’d update this with a link once I’m done.
Your internship is your first shot at glory, don’t screw it up. Don’t get distracted by office parties, free food, fine colleagues… Keep your head low, do the work, volunteer as much as you can without breaking your back, get that experience.
Do your best to start with a bang!
One more thing I’d tell you that no one else likely will, the world of works is weird. Something I realized much later after a few years of working is “how you come in can determine how far you go”. I’d explain
Impress your first boss, and he’d do all he can to keep you as long as the company process allows it. There’s really nothing better than an entry level staff that is over-performing. It means there’s room for growth at a rapid pace that any well meaning manager will be happy to assist with. Under perform and no one will willing to get held back for too long. They might not outright let you go, I mean you’re an intern, so they keep you, but you’re not growing. Next thing you know, you’ve lost one year of your life and it’s just a mess!
Second thing is with payment. It doesn’t increase that often, for the average Nigerian company. So if you haven’t done enough to impress while coming into the company to warrant a good salary band, you might not get raises often. And so you get stuck on this annoying pay grade you don’t like. After my first interview, I was to come in as an entry level staff, I responded to say hey, I’ve done this, this in the past, I’m beyond entry level. I ended up coming in as an associate and a year later I was managing my team and training other businesses.
Start with a bang.
[Bonus] Attend events and conferences
This might not be a necessary step but it sure does help you get familiar with your colleagues in the industry. Attending events like Social Media Week, Techpoint’s Build and Inspire and others will help you learn from and get connected with people that have gone ahead of you. Be sure to attend when you can.