I recently was replying to a thread on a marketing Reddit I follow all about how to get into digital marketing. There was a lot of interest in blogs I follow, and suggested tools; after sending out the fifth private message with a giant list of text, I decided to make a quick post instead.
You can check out the full conversation for context, or you can dive into my recommended readings, blogs, and skill sets below!
Hard Skill Sets
I list a number of tools below that you should be comfortable with if you want to excel in digital marketing. Note: You do not need to be a full on programmer/web-dev/engineer (and you shouldn’t be), but you should be fairly comfortable with these at some level. I’ve ordered them approximately in order of importance to a digital marketer, but there’s some wiggle room for priority for learning these depending on what area of digital marketing you end up in.
Excel/ Google Sheets: You need to be very good at Excel (and Google Sheets). You will use it a lot in digital marketing. You should focus on:
- Being adept at visualizing data with charts
- Pivot Tables – Can’t stress this enough. These are really powerful.
- Advanced formula usage (Especially conditional function, e.g. SumIf(, Case(, etc.)
- Cross sheet/file formula usage (functions like Index(Match, Vlookup(, etc.)
HTML/CSS: You do not need to be a full web developer to get into digital marketing, but you should be comfortable manipulating existing HTML/CSS and using the “google” method of designing emails and web pages (Google something someone else has done, and be comfortable enough with the code to make it work for your application). This alone will set you apart from many digital marketers who are forced to wait for a web developer to make any updates to copy for emails or web pages.
Java, PHP: As with above, you don’t need to be an engineer, just someone comfortable with it. Less important that HTML/CSS but still solid to have a little bit in your back pocket. You’ll run across some script tags sometimes, and you want to be able to make small tweaks without breaking everything. More important if you go more of the digital design side of marketing, slightly less important if you stick with the data side of things.
Salesforce.com: Its so common of a platform, getting the basics of how Salesforce.com works is key. Bonus points if you learn some basic APEX coding, or SOQL. You’re not going for a sales ops role, so you don’t need to get SFDC certified, but getting some of it down will help a ton.
Python: Having a tool in your back pocket like python can be a real life saver. This is one of those things like a roll of duct-tape: There’s not one specific project you actually need it for; but it just makes a whole lot of things easier. Consider getting the basics down, then specializing in using the libraries that let automate web browsing.
WordPress: A lot of sites (even enterprise businesses) use a WordPress back end for their sites. Set up your own website using WordPress, and learn the ins-and-outs of this platform. Reminder: You don’t need to be a full on web-developer; you just need to be good enough with it not to be scared of it.
SQL (or mySQL, postgreSQL, etc.): You don’t need to be a database admin, but it will help a lot of you know the basics of querying relational databases, especially if you get heavier into the data/analytics side of marketing. More importantly than actually being able to query a database or make updates is the ability to think in a relational-database way. If you learn how to do this, you’ll understand underlying data structure way better, which will help you know the right questions to ask your data.
Visual Basic for Applications (VBA): With Microsoft products taking a bit of a backseat to the Google suite of tools, this may be skippable. I still find myself using it frequently; and you’ll need to get good automating either the Microsoft applications, or the google suite of applications.
R: If you spend a lot of time in heavy analytics, R is an important coding language to learn. It allows for a lot more rapid statistical analysis and visualization especially with large pools of data that are becoming more common in digital marketing than ever before.
Resources & Communities
Below are a handful of random tools, communities, and things I use in my day-to-day life.
Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive – You won’t see me recommend many books, simply because most marketing books either 1) Get outdated too quickly to be useful 2) aren’t any better than you can get by Googling something or 3) Are simply an author’s long-winded explanation of something you could probably get much faster. But— this book is amazing. This is not a marketing book, but it is indispensable for good marketing. I re-read it about once a year (its a quick read, only takes about 2-3 hours). If you take away nothing else from this whole post but you do buy and read this book, you’ll be ahead.
Slack Communities: There are a number of specialized slack communities for specific areas of marketing, but one of the most active general digital marketing communities is Online Geniuses. Its free to join and there are a lot of good conversations that happen there. I’ve found so many helpful people with a wide breadth of knowledge. There are plenty of others other there for more specific things (I’m in some for remote workers, for a few specific automation platforms I use, among other things) so be sure to look around.
LinkedIn Groups: I’ve tried to love LinkedIn groups, but I’ve never really found one I’ve gotten much value from. They seem to either be flash-in-the-pan groups that are very active for a short time, or are highly corporate sponsored, where one company/viewpoint sponsors, and dominates, the conversation. I’m always up to have my mind changed, but for now I don’t have any to recommend.
Blogs I follow
I use the tool Feedly (free for what you need; paid version isn’t worth it) to track all my blogs and bring them into one place for quick reading. I usually will skim titles, and probably only actually read one out of every 5 or 6 posts. If you do use Feedly (or any other reader that uses .opml files), you can import this file and it will load all my suggested blogs into your feed (Click your icon in the lower left > Organize Feeds > Import OPML).
Do you have any other blogs you like to follow that I missed here? Leave a comment, or send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Note: I do not necessarily claim that all of these are spot-on with their advice. A number of them are done by vendors who are trying to sell something; so take everything posted with a grain of salt.
Do you have any other questions on how to get into digital marketing? Leave a comment below, and I’ll see what I can do to address them (or maybe write an additional article!)
I hope this was helpful!