I get this question very often:
“How do I enter/start a career in digital marketing without any experience?”
This comes from new graduates and also people already working one to two years but want to change careers and go into digital marketing.
Since, I found myself repeating the answer very often, I thought I would share this as a blog post to anyone considering this question.
Start the Right Way
If you want to learn to play the guitar, there are two types of students:
- The ones that learn a song by memorizing hand positions from a Youtube video OR
- The ones that learn how to read tab music so they can figure out the songs as well as create their own music
Student #1 can play a song on guitar (and there's nothing inherently wrong with that, I do this too), but I wouldn’t consider them a guitarist.
I would consider Student #2 a guitarist.
It’s a slight nuance, but the results are vastly different.
Same goes for digital marketing.
Most newbies want to immediately delve into “How to run a Facebook Ad campaign” or “How to run a Google Ads campaign”.
If I was hiring a digital marketer and a candidate only completed a “How-to course on Facebook Ads”, I wouldn’t consider them at all…
They only know how to use one tool...
...a one-trick pony.
They don’t have a foundation in marketing principles and concepts.
What if Facebook Ads go the way of Yahoo and Netscape?
You’ll want to start your career the right way, and that’s understanding the foundational principles and concepts of marketing and human behaviour.
Marketing is NOT knowing how to set up ads on Facebook or Google or coming up with a snazzy slogan...
...it’s understanding how to leverage and appeal to human desires.
This is where I would start, read these books:
- Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
- Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz
- Commonsense Direct Marketing by Drayton Bird
- 80/20 Sales and Marketing by Perry Marshall
- No B.S. Direct Marketing by Dan Kennedy
- The Boron Letters by Gary Halbert
- Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
Only after you learn the fundamentals above, go ahead get certified by Google (free certification courses) and Facebook (certification is not free).
The mistake most newbies make is thinking you go through Google’s free certification or Facebook's free training and think you’re a digital marketer, those courses are very basic and do not make you a good marketer.
They mostly just teach you how to use their ad platforms (which are constantly changing on a weekly basis).
This is why I don’t suggest starting there.
And here are some concepts to start with:
- Taking the time to do deep and comprehensive research into your ideal customer avatar/profile. ***I cannot stress this enough, all successful marketing starts here and most people don’t take enough time or go deep enough here.
People are in a hurry to launch right into a campaign, don’t make this mistake!
>>>If you want to learn my process for doing a deep dive into understanding your ideal customer avatar, I show you how here.
- Understanding the fundamental concepts and principles allows you to create great campaigns no matter what marketing channel/medium (Facebook and Google are channels, what if one or both disappear one day?)
The Chicken and the Egg Conundrum
Ok, so now you’re armed with some knowledge.
But reading and knowing some stuff about digital marketing doesn’t make you marketer.
Digital marketing is performance-based (or at least it should be).
That’s the simple way of knowing whether someone is good at it or not.
What kind of results can you achieve?
For people who don’t have any experience in digital marketing, how do you get experience in this case if no one will hire you without experience?
It’s the classic chicken and the egg conundrum.
The simple answer:
...Create your own experience!
Digital marketing has the advantage over other careers, in that you can easily create your own experience. (You might even discover that if you do well, you may not even want to work for someone else and do this for yourself!).
Here's how can create your own work experience, you can either:
- Use your own money and run a campaign selling an affiliate product (you sell/promote someone else’s product and get a % of each sale you generate), for example:
- Sign up for a free affiliate account on Clickbank, learn how to select a good product/niche to start promoting or
- Signup for a free affiliate account with ShareaSale OR
- Offer to run a campaign for someone where they pay for the ad spend but you offer your service for free for a specific period of time to setup & manage the campaign in exchange for experience and a reference or testimonial of your work.
Document, document, document
As you run a campaign, you want to document everything you’re doing and what’s working and also what’s NOT working.
Don’t worry too much if you have a campaign that bombs.
No marketer bats 100%.
The main thing is to figure out what lesson you can learn from failed/unsuccessful campaigns.
You’ll want to get into the habit of keeping a Marketing Journal, could be digital or a written notebook.
I like to use Evernote so I can access it anywhere.
Main thing is to have a place to document your campaigns and what works and what doesn’t work.
Report This, Not That
Ok, so let’s say you’ve started getting results from your campaigns.
A savvy employer or business owner is focused on this:
- How much sales/revenue did you generate?
- How many customers or how many orders did you bring in? (you may not always have access to these details)
- What is the average order value you’re generating from your campaigns?
- What is the Return on Investment (ROI) or Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)?
So, these are the main metrics you want to be documenting to show how you perform.
Characteristics of a Great Marketer
From my own experiences in hiring digital marketers, here's what I've distilled as characteristics important to a digital marketer:
- Having a growth mindset (you don’t know everything, you're constantly learning)
- Testing, testing, testing - in marketing, NOBODY knows the answer until you test and base the answer on the results data, which leads to...
- ...being data-oriented (data tells you the answer, not guessing nor some textbook, and especially not past results for a different business)
- Focused on what matters most, NOT vanity metrics (ad spend, # of leads, Cost per Lead). Knowing the RIGHT metrics to measure & report on.
Keep Sharpening That Axe...
Digital marketing is a constantly changing landscape and there are so many so-called "gurus" in this space, there is a TON of noise - so who should you listen/follow to keep learning the RIGHT stuff?
Here are some of my favourites:
- Perry Marshall (Great for high-level marketing strategies & concepts)
- Justin Brooke's (AdSkills) Daily Edge Email newsletter (Great for paid traffic lessons)
- MarketingExamples.com (Great marketing case studies)
- Brian Dean's Backlinko email newsletter (Great for SEO and content marketing)
- DigitalMarketer.com (Great for general digital marketing lessons)
So, I hope this helps give you a starting point for a career in digital marketing.
Got questions? Did any of this help you? Leave them in the comments.
About the Author: Vincent Po
Vincent has over 20 years of sales & marketing experience from listed companies to starting up his own companies.
Vincent worked for one of the largest computer distributors in Western Canada as an account sales.
He was also the Head of Marketing for Asia-Pacific for the training division of a large listed UK media company.
He co-founded a global training company of his own and is founder of Virtual Tree digital marketing agency.
Vincent is Google Adwords Search Certified and a Certified Funnel Expert.
Vincent's unique skills lie in having marketing & business skills coupled with a technical computing & programming background.
Vincent's passionate about business, marketing, software, technology, AI, automation and is a lifelong student of these areas.
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