Thu 2 Apr, 2015

Keeping Digital Marketing Skills Current Is Your Responsibility

Spend a few minutes surfing some respectable digital industry sites and it becomes clear; everyone’s talking about education. You can’t get away from it. Even the other night, I switched the TV on and Martha Lane Fox was talking about it on BBC1.

The general gist of it is this; digital moves fast, so how do we make sure we keep up? At the moment it’s proving very difficult. And this applies to everybody; from users and consumers, to people wanting to get into the industry, right up to seasoned pros like you and me.

If we refine our focus to digital performance marketing specifically, its clear that keeping up to speed on all the channels, technologies and techniques is a challenge, given how quickly things develop.

It’s an important challenge to overcome; we need to get new people into the industry and we need to develop our skills and knowledge once we’re in it.

Despite the fact that everyone in the world understands that the web brings new opportunities, when it comes to explaining what these are from an employment point of view, we don’t do a great job. For example, I have two upcoming speaking gigs at London universities on careers in digital marketing; both institutions have said that this is the first time they have run such a session. And be honest, how many of you fell into the profession rather than actively sought it out?

Once you’ve landed that job, development can’t stop there. We need to encourage existing staff to develop. If they don’t they either get burnt out or bored. Nobody wants to stay only on paid search (or any other individual channel) their whole life. If people aren’t given the chance to develop and flourish then they will look for an alternative environment where they can. So whilst it is easy to get carried away by the hustle and bustle of our day jobs, it is vital we remember to give our teams chances to learn.

This issue is actually more serious for companies bringing advertising in-house. One of the great things about agencies is that they provide services across different channels and so they are naturally great places to learn. In-house teams are far smaller by comparison and don’t have natural exposure to new channels and techniques.


For people wanting to get into the industry, the most natural place to look would be academic institutions. If you wanted to be a Doctor, you would study Medicine at uni, right? So surely the same would apply to digital marketing. But we all know this doesn’t ring true. The pace of innovation is simply too fast for universities to keep up.

Let’s say it takes a year for an emerging channel to be recognised by the industry. It then needs to be fed back to the university, find its place on a curriculum and built into a course. I’d wager this takes a good year or two. So we’re already minimum two years too late.

Universities cannot and should not be expected to be teaching their students about the latest trends, technologies and techniques in digital marketing. They can lay the foundations, but it is up to the industry itself to build on them.

But where specifically? There are industry bodies, such as the IAB, who create plenty of good content. There are blogs, more often than not originating in Silicon Valley, which share some of the latest tips and tricks for growth. Here’s a great thread on inbound about where to go to improve your digital marketing skills. There are tons of industry events with great speakers and there are training companies like our good selves.

Knowledge is out there. It is down to both the company and the individual themselves to come up with a plan to go and get it. It’s easy to complain about the lack of education and more difficult to do something about it.

Identify what you need to learn, do some research about where you can find the information and then go and get it. And if you’re already working in the industry, get your company to pay — after all, they’re the ones who are complaining about the lack of education in the first place!