April 29, 2011

We get a lot of people contacting us looking for work. Even though it’s been around for about 15 years, marketing online is still seen as a cutting-edge, glamorous, and fun business to be in. And it’s true. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

But it can also be insanely frustrating, hard work and if you want to do it well, you need to really put your back into it.

If you are interested in getting into digital marketing, here’s a quick rundown of the general areas of expertise within a digital marketing company…

Sales and marketing
Nothing new here. Selling stuff is still the cornerstone of business (no customers = no business). Find a prospective customer, ask them and understand their needs, and provide the right solutions for them. Although we work mostly online, sales in this field is still very much about building trust and relationships on a personal level.

Strategy
Once you acquire a new customer, you need to think about all the possible ways you can help them to move towards their goal. Don’t just suggest a website with ‘Home’, ‘About us’, ‘Contact us’ and a Facebook page. You’re not at school now. Those things are a tiny subset of an integrated digital marketing strategy.

Imagine you’re in a helicopter. The commander of an army needs to see the whole battlefield, including how the enemy is organised, what the weather is doing, and what the mood of the troops is. Ask questions, read news and books about your customer’s industry. The more you understand their business, their customers, their competitors, and the trends in their industry, the better the results will be.

Web design
If you decide to make a website for someone, it has to look good and be easy to understand and use. That’s a lot more than being a whiz on Photoshop and Dreamweaver. A website is a marketing tool and the design needs to reflect where ‘the money’ is for the customer. You need to know HTML. And code it by hand. And you need to be schooled up in usability, colour theory, and typography. Throw in some client-side scripting, preferably a JavaScript library or two, Flash, and you’re starting to look like a useful web designer.

Web development
The grunt work. Designers get the glory, developers are expected to make stuff work. Relational databases, web servers and server-side scripting make the World Wide Web go round. We use PHP and mySQL, but other skills can include Ruby on Rails, Python, Perl, and the old Microsoft .NET/SQL Server approach. The more languages the better, and we like to see a track record of projects. And contributions to open-source projects are even better. If you don’t know what open-source is, leave the room now.

Content creation
All of this stuff is meaningless if there is nothing interesting for the customer to look at or read about. People come to a website to find answers to questions, find out about great deals, or be entertained. Can you give them great information that makes them want to come back, share it with their friends, or pick up the phone and contact you? If not, then your online presence is boring. People don’t like boring, especially on the Internet, where the ‘Back’ button and ‘Next’ button are always a quick click away. Don’t give them a reason to click on it.

Account management
Customers need to be looked after, especially in an industry that changes as quickly as ours. Websites date quickly and new communication channels come and go, so it’s really important to keep your customers abreast of the latest developments. It’s more important to give them the best advice based on the latest world research. If you’re an account manager, you need to be your customer’s eyes and ears. If you’re not giving them ideas and advice, someone else might be… ouch.

Project management
Managing a web project can be like nailing jelly to a wall. If you can hold simultaneous conversations with people as diverse as non-techy customers, eccentric creatives, Spock-like programmers, while juggling 10 balls and being the master of the whiteboard, you might enjoy this role. And if you don’t like lists, forget about it…

Training
Digital platforms are getting really easy to use these days, but users still need to be trained in how to use them. This can include everyday things like how to resize and compress photos for the web, to more intricate things like the most appropriate way to deal with negative feedback on social networks. If you don’t train users well, they will get frustrated and your support people will cop it.

Support
The least glamorous but most valuable members of the team. If something’s broken or has been hacked, you need to fix it. And fast. Murphy’s Law stipulates that when something goes wrong, it’s most likely to be in the weekend or while you’re on holiday in Fiji. Too bad. Fix it.

Business development
This is about extending your reach through partnerships and alliances with other companies and organisations. An entrepreneurial approach is key here. You need to think about how your products or services complement someone else’s so everybody wins. In our business, we generally look to work with advertising and marketing agencies who need to provide their clients with digital marketing expertise. Good business development makes it easier for your salespeople to find new clients.

If you think you’re got the skills (and especially the character) to fill one or more of these roles, we’re keen to hear from you.