Digital Marketing Careers: Q&A with Matt Bailey

Matt Bailey, best-selling digital marketing author, keynote speaker, and corporate trainer, sat down for a question and answer session to discuss several topics that Simplilearn has received inquiries about related to digital marketing

The sixth installment in a six-part series, this article focuses on Matt's advice for people who want to pursue a career in digital marketing. If you prefer listening instead of reading, this Q&A is also available as a podcast below.

Q: Digital marketing is a very popular industry for people to pursue a career in. If you're starting, what should marketing professionals focus on? Is it better to be a generalist, or is it better to focus on a key area? Being a jack-of-all-trades may have a better chance of doing things in small corporate marketing departments, but on the other hand, you never really get the depth of knowledge that can make you stand out from other candidates. What do you recommend?

A: It's essential to look at things from a business perspective rather than a channel-performance view, and it's also crucial for digital marketers to have a better understanding of data: what data is produced, where it comes from, what can it be applied to, and what that skill allows digital marketers to pull in. It will enable them to understand data, how you can target audiences, and what information was being tracked through servers. Knowing what data is being captured can allow you to bid on that data.

Q: Now, we see that same thing in machine learning, and we understand that when we focus on building that key area, it will either inhibit or enable you to adopt new information very quickly. 

A: If digital marketers are focusing on the technical side of SEO and just looking at the code, and then when it comes to content, and it comes to business and things like that, they can't speak to it because they're only focusing on that small technical area. If you're trying to determine whether it's better to focus on a key area or be a generalist, ideally, you'll want to pursue a mixture of both. It would pay for you to find an area where you can focus and develop, but also an area that allows you to develop complementary skills. For example, some people focus on keyword research and dig into it and understand that they could use those same skills in an array of areas. They can use these skills in SEO, in addition to paid search, content development, and so many different places and applications.

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Q: It sounds like there is a lot of bleed-through between the different specialties, whether it's SEO, data analytics, or email marketing, and what you can learn from the other aspects can help you in whatever niche you want to pursue. It sounds like you're saying specializing in what you are interested in is good, but open your eyes to learning other aspects of digital marketing and develop skills that help you on your career path.

A: Absolutely. There have been times when I'm reading articles about new technology updates, and there are times where I see something, and I make a decision to let someone else specialize in that type of technology. Even if it's a complementary or stackable skill, it may take a significant amount of time to dig into it, so it does take a little bit of gatekeeping of your skills and abilities to pass on something or decide to learn more about it and go from there. 

Q: So, can finding complementary skills also allow you to be less isolated from your specific field? For example, this is happening a lot with AI and keyword research; machine learning is replacing a lot of aspects of digital marketing. It's good to be able to diversify to the point where you don't feel like you're hanging on just one little aspect that could disappear completely.

A: I always recommend getting a good base of analytics and data, which will only help you grow. It will enable you to adapt and understand new channels and new technologies quickly.

Q: That's great advice; they say content is king, but data is always going to be there.

A: Yes, and data will help you understand which content is king.

Q: What would you say are the essential skills for a digital marketing manager to have? 

A: Understanding data because you are actively working on campaigns, and you've got to report on results from those campaigns. You will most likely be given targets to hit, so understanding how KPIs work, how to take action on KPIs, and how to ask those working with you the right questions is crucial. This allows you to understand what's going on, what should change, and what the expected results should be. There are many digital marketing managers out there who don't know the basics of measurement, and so. As a result, they keep making the same mistakes and keep doing the same things with their campaigns. 

The managers that I do know who understand analytics have moved up to be directors and some have moved up to c-level. This is because they understand accountability and how to work with data and analytics. The individuals who take the time to educate themselves and scale-up are typically the ones being promoted. 

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Q: What are some considerations that digital marketers need to keep in mind for visuals?

A: Use them. Don't get trapped into thinking that text is the only way to communicate. For example, if you search the web for how to change a tire, you're going to get a video. You'll notice there are a lot of results, and you may not want the one that's twenty minutes long; you need information and how to see how to do something visually, but you don't want to waste your time.

There are three classes of images or visuals that you could use. The first is decorative, where you're using visuals that don't add to the content; they don't help communicate content, and they are merely there to be decorative — they are not connected at all to the content. 

The next class is relative, where it may enhance the delivery, but not the actual content. In other words, it may be a better color scheme or using color to communicate something. For example, if you're writing an article about the customer journey and you're using an image of a road, that's what I would call a relative association visual.

The third thing is functional. Functional is where you find your infographics and your how-to guides because the image itself is the content.

When developing visuals, it's important to think about whether it's something that's going to be related to or part of the content and develop it from there. Think about it in terms of what people expect to see. For instance, some people may not want a 30-minute video on how to change their monitor settings if it's something that can be done in six seconds.

Something similar happened the other day: I needed to change a setting, and I searched the web on how to do it. I see videos all over the place; however, I see instructions at the top with only four steps to complete, and it was in the text. In that case, even though several videos are trying to answer my question, I don't want to spend the time watching them because these four steps are easy and written out. I can do them right away without having to deal with watching a video.

Understand what people expect and deliver it to them.

Q: If you were to go back and look at what makes a good print ad in terms of visual to text, you'd see a lot of devices there, and I think one of the things you were talking about was making it relative but not being literal — a lousy type of display ad is what we call "see-say" where you say "down the road" and then there's a picture of a road. But, what's more important is where the visual complements the text or gives some answer to the headline.

One that comes to mind is the Volkswagen Beetle, and it just had a picture of the car, and the headline on that ad was "lemon." This Volkswagen was left at the port — why? — because one of the countless quality control people on the production line noticed that there was a smudge on the chrome going around the glove compartment. 

A: Those are classic ads. I've got a few on my wall here because I love Volkswagen Beetles.

Q: If you see a headline that has an unexpected payoff with the image, then that's a good visual that's complementary, rather than just seeing something and saying it.

A: Absolutely. There is a great book called "Convergence Marketing" by Richard Rosen, and Rosen spent decades in the traditional agency world. But when digital started to take over, there was now an ability to measure the effectiveness of ads, and so he breaks down iterations of typical brand ads where it's an image and then some words. He started breaking down how they were; they were able to measure effectiveness by integrating the image with the words and how to converge these two things together for the best efficiency. It's a great book explaining how that happened and the mindset behind it.

Matt also sat down for a podcast interview to offer his advice on starting a career in digital marketing recently. Listen to the podcast here.

Learn more about digital marketing through Simplilearn's comprehensive Digital Marketing Specialist Training program to either start a new career or to take your existing one to the next level.

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