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20 Steps To Becoming A Modern Digital Marketer

Posted in Careers in Digital Marketing, Resources/Guides, WMA Alumni, WMA Students


The world as we know it has changed in the last 10-15 years – for digital marketers as much as anyone else. When I started my career in 2002 things were different. Now, there are plenty of tools and channels. Earlier, we needed to work for the simplest things – for example, learning WordPress and basic HTML to implement simple SEO stuff. Now it’s easier, with plugins for every need.

Take any element in a digital marketer’s toolkit – platform, strategy, tools, technological support, perspective or skill – everything’s gotten a facelift. The role of a digital marketer has evolved and expanded and no modern digital marketer can escape that.

It’s a mad rush in the marketing world and you’ve got to stay in shape! I’ve found a few ways to keep pace. That’s what I’m sharing with you. I’m going to follow this up with a detailed step-by-step guide so stay tuned.

1. Learn to adapt.

Jump on to latest technologies and tools to be a modern digital marketer

Experiment with latest digital marketing tools

Adapt to the latest trends. Don’t be afraid to try the newest marketing tools and platforms. Never mind if you fail in your initial attempts; learn from your mistakes and correct the course. Find a way to use latest trending platforms to your and your customers’ advantage.

2. Surround yourself with smart people.

As someone real smart said, if you’re the smartest in your company, move out. Associating with smart people has an induction effect – some of their skills and energy rubs off on you and you find greater momentum for your ideas and thoughts. It’s synergetic, bouncing ideas off a group of smart people who’re not afraid to experiment, be bizarre or just plain, silly. At the same time, there’s a method in the madness!

Learn from the smartest people around the world as well through videos, podcasts, blogs, webinars, workshops, Periscope, Blab and more. That’s the gold of the internet age – no boundaries to learning

3. Don’t rely on any one channel alone.

Never ever put all your eggs in one basket. And don’t get too comfortable. What’s working today may break tomorrow. Keep an open mind and jump onto newest platforms used by your target audience. If it works for them, you need to ramp up as well. At the same time, let go of what’s not getting you any ROI.

Use multiple marketing channels to get your customer’s attention. Use email, social, mobile, meeting, conducting events – whatever it takes to deliver value, build loyalty and achieve your business objectives.

4. Build loyal fans on your own property.

Keep in mind that there’s a difference between a rented place and home. You got great engagement going on your Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram … (the list could get endless) social pages? That’s great. But they’re rented places at the mercy of the landlords. What happened to your Google + strategy?

Your website/blog is your home. That’s where you need to focus – get the visitors there, convert leads, engage, nurture, retain and delight – all on your website.

5. Build your plans and campaigns on solid data.

Embrace web analytics as your best friend. No digital marketer is any good till he or she has grasped the true essence of analytical tools. Web analytics is not clickstream alone, its intelligence delivered via platforms you need to master and derive sense from.

Your marketing campaigns will help you achieve business objectives better if you understand the driving forces on your website, the behavior of your customers, the acquisition patterns on online and offline campaigns, and of course, the end ROI – cost versus revenue – all of which will come from digital analytics.

6. Create content for a highly targeted audience.

Not every piece of content needs to serve the whole of your target audience. In fact, if you want higher returns on your content marketing strategy, segment your customers and build content for niche groups.

For example, we run a training academy for digital marketers but we published a blog post on travel advice for people attending events in India. That got a lot of eyeballs and generated traffic to our website, and leads.

Create content for segmented audiences

Create content for segmented audiences

7. Invest your time and effort towards long-term goals.

It’s tempting to take shortcuts to achieve short-term goals. Skip the edit and publish that article on time to meet the weekly goal. Use black hat SEO to get the needed traffic and show the client your effort got results!


Taking shortcuts is a waste of time and money. Not to mention, the potential blot on your hard-earned reputation! Why take that risk? Instead, focus on long-term goals, work on a long-term strategy and plan, and then execute the plan meticulously.

8. Train and mentor others.

We like to think we’re indispensable but a true leader is one who can make his team function just as well in his absence. Train others to take on responsibilities and execute tasks with complete ownership. Be a support and guide but don’t hand hold.

Train and mentor - build more leaders

Train and mentor – build more leaders

9. Ignore the haters. Be open minded about the criticism.

In the age of social networking, haters and trolls find it only too easy to be spiteful and negative. Ignore it. This is the negative side of the internet. Don’t give it attention and focus on the positives.

If you receive negative feedback and criticism, analyze it objectively. If there is a grain of truth in the criticism, accept your mistake, address the problem, improve and keep going forward.

10. Don’t ever complain – in online or offline mode.

Never mind how disappointed, angry or hurt you are, don’t let it out as a grouse – on online or offline media. Present your case calmly and in a positive manner, whether it’s to your senior or junior. Complaining is finger pointing. That’s negative. It creates a perception of your character.

Be the problem solver or the problem manager, never the grouse.

11. Keep your cool in critical situations.

Unpredictable things can and will happen. The Wi-Fi network, during your workshop, won’t work. The mike you requested won’t be available. This is the perfect time for you not to hit the panic button.

Recently, we had arranged for a conference at a large company. About 100 people were expected to arrive. At the last minute, the company could not make the conference room available. The presenters were at a loss. When they called, I asked them to look at the nearest hotels and find space. Meanwhile, take the few people who had arrived out for coffee and get them to network.

When you panic, your brain freezes. A critical situation is the worst time for that to happen!

A modern digital marketer keeps cool in crisis

Building a crisis management plan

12. Have long-term objectives but be flexible with short-term strategies.

My long-term plan for the year was to evangelize digital marketing and get more students on board. I had considered a number of strategies to achieve these goals. We had a plan set out.

Three months back, I got onto Periscope. Before I knew it, Periscope became the channel for me to spread awareness about digital marketing – which in turn brought more students into WMA as well. We also began podcasting actively, something we hadn’t really considered at the beginning of the year.

Our long-term objective remains unchanged but our short-term plans have been readjusted. And that’s fine!

13. Cut the emotion out of decisions.

I know how hard this can be. Sometimes, situations can get really tough. Whenever people get together, tricky situations are bound to arise. You may be riled about something yourself. But how do you deal with it?

My advice: First and foremost, accept your own emotional state. Understand that you need a breather. Where possible, take a timeout. Gather information from multiple sources and analyze the data without emotion. When a timeout is not possible, take a deep breath and be as objective as possible. You’ll get better with experience, no shortcuts here.

14. Be empathetic.

Never forget the other person’s position. Remember how it feels to sit on the other side of the table. Take off your shoes and put on someone else’s, well, not literally but you get my point. Be a listener, be approachable, be willing to help, and be fair.

In return, you’ll get loyalty, honesty and commitment.

Empathsizing and listening are critical skills for a modern digital marketer

Digital marketers must be listeners

15. Show the way and then get out of it.

The best way to train others is to get your own hands dirty. Make mistakes, play with concepts, tech or strategies – thrash it out as much as you can. Show your team what is possible, set standards, and then let them get on with it. Don’t micro-manage and ruin the innovation that could come out of their professional freedom.

16. Don’t be a hypocrite.

Don’t preach what you don’t practice. That’s never really worked for anyone in the past but in the age of the millennial generation, it’s the fastest way to lose respect. You’re not perfect so don’t pretend to be. Be yourself, with your shortcomings. That doesn’t mean you don’t work on your weaknesses. You do and you also help others work on theirs. Just don’t patronize.

17. Be ready to break the rules.

Rules are made to improve performance, streamline workflows, and enhance productivity. When a rule starts hindering rather than helping, it’s time to let it go. Keep your rules relevant and useful – that’s the key to ensure they’re followed willingly. Revisit rules often.

18. Be a good communicator.

It is extremely important for marketers to communicate, and communicate well. Never mind whether it is internal or external communication. Never mind the format of the communication – email, meetings, public address, etc., marketers must know how to communicate clearly, succinctly, and comprehensively.

If communication is your weakness, get help. Join a class, find a mentor, read self-help books, practice privately or before friends – do whatever it takes to improve. This is priority. More resources coming up … stay tuned!

Communication skills are key to digital marketing

Communication skills are key to digital marketing

19. Take ownership of your mistakes.

Everyone makes mistakes. That’s OK. The important thing is to learn from the mistakes. And to do that, you first need to take ownership of your own errors. It’s embarrassing, excruciatingly so sometimes. But if you want to get back on your feet, there’s no way around it!

20. Learn to tell your story in your own style

We all have heard about story telling. Tell your story in your own way, give specific details.

What do you do to keep pace with digital marketing changes? Share your thoughts. We’ll be sharing the eBook on a hands-on guide to become a modern digital marketer soon. Will keep you posted!

About: Hi, this Suresh Babu, Founder & CEO of Web Marketing Academy, Bangalore. Thank you for taking the time to read the article. I would love to have a chat with you. My number is + 91 9731388721 & my email is I started my career in Digital Marketing in 2002. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of changes in the way digital marketing has evolved. Thought this would be good time to share some of my learning with you. One of my passions is to experiment with new tools and channels which helps me keep up-to-late. That is what made me come up with this article.

Are you a Modern Digital Marketer yet?

If you think, this article can be useful for others please do share.

You can connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.  Thank you Monica for putting all the ideas together. Monica is Faculty & Speaker, at Web Marketing Academy. She coaches on LinkedIn, Twitter, SEO, Content; she is great writer who helps me and WMA with content. You can connect with Monica on LinkedIn.