Five Steps to Starting a Career in Digital Marketing

Five Steps to Starting a Career in Digital Marketing

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In an ever-changing job market, Digital Marketing roles continue to be widely available. A career in Digital Marketing requires you to think both creatively, and analytically, and because of this, there is no one way to get into it. Eligible employee's come from a wide range of backgrounds, qualifications, and interests. Alexandra works in the Digital Marketing team at Nike. Here she takes you through some of the things it's useful to know if you're interested in working in the industry, whether you're looking to make a career change, or have no experience yet.
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What is Digital Marketing?

Before going into the details of how you go after a marketing role, I just wanted to touch quickly on what digital marketing actually is and how it differs from either social media marketing or traditional marketing. 

First of all, what is marketing? Well marketing is the job of communicating a product or service to the intended audience, with the objective of them buying it.  

In its essence, Digital Marketing IS marketing, but it talks only about marketing which makes use of digital channels. This can include: website, email, social media platforms, apps, search engines (SEO), banner and digital adverts. It encompasses the different ways you market your product to consumers and depending on the structure of your team and size of the marketing budget available, the role can vary quite a bit. The particular product you’re trying to sell and the size of your company or team will also have a big impact. So a Digital Marketing Manager at Pepsi, for example, would do quite different things to a Digital Marketing Manager at a tech start-up. Which leads me into…


Step 1 – Understand the Roles

There are many different roles available in the world of digital marketing. Some of the more data-driven or analytical roles include:

  • consumer data scientists
  • SEO (search engine optimisation) consultants
  • user experience (UX)
  • roles in digital media buying.


The more creative roles include:

  • digital designers
  • content producers

Roles in management, such as Digital marketing manager, social media manager, content manager etc. Tend to be somewhere in the middle – you have to look at the data and understand how to use it to then steer and inform the adverts and work you make, and the channels you decide to use. 

One of the largest channels available on the internet for advertising are social media networks. Facebook and Instagram rake in Billions a Year from companies buying “media” ie space to have an advert. Large brands like Starbucks have in the past spent close to $100million a year, advertising on the platforms. That in essence is why Mark Zuckerberg is so rich, as he tells one interested party here… “Senator, we urm, we run ads”. While Facebook have dominated in this space for a while, as this Digiday article explores a lot of companies are actively looking for other spaces to advertise as a response to some of Facebook’s more controversial policies.

What makes a place valuable, for advertisers, is the number of eyes it can get by being in that space. Which is why another of the biggest spaces involved in Digital Marketing, is Google – and Lazza and Serge (founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin) aren’t doing so bad either.



Step 2 – Look into Training

Firstly, there are no specific qualifications required for a career in Digital Marketing. In the spaces I’ve worked, generally employees are educated to degree level but many companies are increasingly working to recruit from a broader portfolio of backgrounds. If you’re junior, it is possible to enter from different entry points. You also do not need a degree or qualification specifically in marketing or digital marketing. You can learn on the job if you are looking at entry-level positions.

Depending on the specific role you’re interested in, different skills can be useful. For example, if you’re interested in web-design, you should consider learning how to code. This means you will not only be able to layout your vision, but also know how to work with the tools to execute it. 

I am a big advocate for proactive self-learning. When hiring, I always look for proactivity in the CVs of applicants – I see this as evidence that they bring energy to their careers and like to up-skill. If you’re a real beginner, I’d recommend getting a copy of an intro book like this Dummies Guide. I did this when I began working less in TV advertising and more in digital marketing. It gives you a good overview of the key areas and different terminology you’ll see being used. This might help you refine what is most interesting to you.

There are loads of short courses available both online and through Universities. I’d recommend taking a look at places like General Assembly and the London Web Factory

TIP: If you’re looking to do a course in something, make sure the person or company who’s teaching it, is good at doing that thing for themselves!


Step 3 – Explore Employers

The three most common ways to work in Digital Marketing are: for an agency, for a client, as a freelancer. 


Within an Agency

Digital Marketing Agencies are hired by a brand, to execute their Digital marketing for them. This can include all of the stages involved, or just some of them. Sometimes an agency will work closely with a brand for years, but increasingly brands will bring in different agencies depending on their specific needs at the time. 


For a Client

A client or brand, is someone like Amazon, Tesco, LinkedIn etc. A company who have hired you to grow their business through Digital Marketing. You might work with an agency as part of your role. 


As a Freelancer

As a freelancer you can be hired for a short time (anywhere between a few days to a few months) to work on a specific project. Generally you need to have a bit of experience before working freelance.

In a career in Digital Marketing you could be all of these things at different points. Each has different benefits and challenges. Something to remember is that your job in marketing is essentially to grow a business, so you ideally want to make sure you’re working for a business you believe in and want to help grow.  



Step 4 – Career Progression

So how much money can you expect to earn? As a junior, in your first role you can be looking at a starting salary around £21-28k. Not a brilliant starting salary for corporate world. However, your progression can be swift and constant. A background in marketing is common for many C-Suite company executives, and a working knowledge of Digital platforms is essential now-a-days.

Once you get to those top levels, you can easily be on 6 figures plus


Step 5 – Consider the Culture

And finally the culture. 

One of the benefits of a Digital Marketing role is that most companies need this expertise. So depending on the culture that suits you and your working style, you can probably find a company to match. Say you’re particularly passionate about Italian Food? Then you might enjoy working in Digital marketing for a chain of Italian restaurants, or even a Chef you particularly admire. Or if, like me, streetwear is a passion point, then you could look to work with a fashion label. 

Travel isn’t guaranteed but if you work for an international company it’s highly likely you will travel for company meetings. 

Working extreme or awkward hours is also not generally in most Digital Marketing roles. The exception to this can be if your role works heavily on social media, sometimes you may be asked to be flexible so that you are posting when potential consumers are online. 

And there you have it. Five steps to help you prepare for a career in Digital Marketing. 

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