Skills Every Digital Marketer Should Have

The problem with most marketing departments is that they act merely as facilitators; creating RFPs (request for proposals), re-purposing creative work, and making sure business as usual stays well, usual.

I’ve sat through countless “brainstorming” sessions that end without any resolution or clear objectives on how to push the needle forward.

There may be good ideas but many of them fall short because teams lack the internal resources to take any serious action. Instead, these ideas turn into budget discussions which then get passed around through a bottleneck of departments until they finally fall flat on their face. It’s hard to attain the necessary agility required to run a modern business if you’re employees lack any executable technical skills to create dynamic marketing campaigns.

Vital Skills for Modern Digital Marketers

The beauty of modern digital marketing is that there are endless resources (online) to get yourself acquainted with the latest technologies. Websites like, Tuts Plus, and Tree House make it easy and affordable to learn many of these skills.


This is a no-brainer. Basically, everything you see on your phone, tablet, and computer screen has HTML and/or CSS sprinkled in there somewhere. It’s the backbone of the internet as well as many popular phone and iPad apps. Also, almost every email campaign you receive is built using HTML and CSS. A great place to get started is W3 Schools, a website where you can “try it for yourself” and test real-world examples of how HTML and CSS work. Many equate writing code with math and that’s just plain wrong. Being able to create web pages is incredibly liberating and has little to do with numbers.

WordPress (content management systems)

WordPress is the CMS of choice right now, there’s no debating that. Learning how to use it to its full capabilities makes you especially dangerous as a marketer. A staggering number of new websites are being built with WordPress and learning how this ever-growing and scalable content management system works gives you a leg up on the competition. Rarely are websites built using static HTML&CSS anymore. Other popular CMS’s include Magento (eCommerce), Joomla, Drupal, and Expression Engine. From a numbers perspective I suggest starting with WordPress, its backend is more user-friendly than the others and the sheer number of plugins makes adding new functionality for non-programmers a breeze.

SEO (search engine optimization)

While many companies choose to hire an external SEO expert it’s becoming more common for businesses to build their own internal teams. A great beginners guide to get started can be found at Moz. This simple graphic gives noobs an overview of how search engines evaluate and index websites. If you want to get down to the real nitty gritty of search engine optimization then you should also check out The Art of SEO by Eric Enge. This book exhaustively covers SEO and should be required reading for anyone who considers themselves an “expert”.

SEO is hot right now for good reason. Most companies that made the leap to digital marketing naturally went to paid advertising first, mainly because of how closely it resembles traditional formats like the YellowPages. What many are now realizing though, is that creating campaigns which rank naturally in search results is akin to having a billboard on the world’s busiest highway – it pays dividends. Creating useful content that gets found for years past the post date makes a strong case for the overall concept of Inbound Marketing.

Google Analytics

  • GA is packed with useful data sets. Several applicable to marketing:
  • Page Views – how well a direct response campaign is performing via visitors sent to that particular splash page.
  • Bounce Rate – are visitors even staying on the page once they get there? If your bounce rate is high then you may want to adjust the message of your campaign. People leaving obviously means they didn’t find what they were looking for.
  • Technology – GA allows you to see what browser visitors use most. You can usually assume an older demographic if half of your visitors are using Internet Explorer 7. Vice versa if the majority use Chrome, Safari, or Firefox – assume you have a younger demographic. Browser technology can also inform your web design teams as some modern technologies (HTML5, JavaScript) act funny on outdated browsers.
  • Geography – if you’re a U.S.-based boutique website selling knitting supplies online and you find out that most of your visitors are from Canada (where you don’t ship to) then you have a major problem. Knowing where your website visitors come from is important in understanding your audience reach. If you can only do business in a certain area of the country then you may want to pay extra close attention to these stats.
  • Incoming keywords – what keywords do people use in search engines to find your site? Although this statistic is dwindling (thanks to encrypted search) it’s still very useful in gauging what words people use to describe your brand.
  • The ability to understand website-related data allows you to use valuable statistics to inform your digital campaigns. Explaining potential ROI through hard data makes upper management happy and adds another level of accountability to your pitches.


A lot of us wish we paid more attention to this when it was offered for free in high school. Who’d have known how powerfully this software would be in the real world. Having a basic working knowledge of Photoshop allows you to put together marketing flyers, enhance pictures, create info-graphics, add logos to websites and so much more. I could write 20 articles on how useful Photoshop is to the modern marketer. And if the cost has been a barrier to entry for you in the past ($600-$700) then fret not, Adobe just announced their ceasing to release stand-alone creative software and will now be pushing their cloud-based monthly service, allowing monthly customized solutions. Learning the basics is enough to give you a leg up.

CRM, Email Marketing

I lump these together because they’re closely related from a marketing and customer engagement perspective. With SaaS (software as a service) solutions like SalesForce, the modern marketer is able to tie marketing objectives closely to their digital campaigns. The amount of customization in SalesForce is mind-boggling (if not intimidating at times). You can keep track of your current customer list, assign leads, set reminders, and much more.

Along with web form-to lead integration, many CRM also play nicely with email software. Programs like MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, Exact Target, and Bronto allow marketers to rapidly deploy email marketing campaigns and receive direct feedback like open rates, engagement, unsubscribes etc. in real time. There are plenty of templates available for free to get you started. It does help though to have an understanding of HTML, CSS, and Photoshop to customize these campaigns.

Knowledge is King

As clichéd as this sounds it’s especially true in regards to digital marketing. Because of how quickly technology changes it’s important to keep yourself updated on all the latest trends. Continual education is paramount in becoming a better marketer. Learn to aggregate news sources through RSS and subscribe to magazines like Advertising Age and Wired to keep yourself above water.

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