Feb 9, 2024

Digital Marketing Skills, Career Opportunities & Getting Ahead in 2024

by Digital Marketing Institute

It will come as no surprise that people are spending more time online. As a result, technology has become more sophisticated and addictive, meaning there’s lots of work for digital marketers!

Over the past few years, digital marketing has experienced huge growth. 2023 is the first year global digital ad spending crossed the $600 billion mark. In 2027, that figure is expected to grow to $730 billion, according to MarketWatch. 

That means there are a lot of exciting opportunities out there for marketers and many trends to know

Whether you’re a recent graduate or a seasoned professional, advances in digital marketing allow you to create more personalized campaigns, drive data-based insights, influence at scale, and use advances in artificial intelligence to automate and speed up tasks. 

In this blog inspired by our recent expert webinar, we will explore

  • The global demand for digital marketing skills
  • What skills do digital marketers need to succeed? 
  • What are the career opportunities for digital marketing graduates?
  • How do you future-proof your skills and get ahead? 

The global demand for digital marketing skills

Digital marketers are in high demand. Businesses are spending more on digital marketing initiatives and campaigns so it's a good career to be in. However many businesses report a shortage in digital skills making it difficult to compete online, grow leads, and drive revenue. 

Our recent research with CMOs ‘The Marketing Evolution: Leadership, Transformation, Skills, Challenges & the Future’ found that 47% reported a shortage in data analysts while 37% cited a shortage of general digital marketing skills. While the number one challenge was delivering greater ROI on the marketing budget. 

According to LinkedIn, the most in-demand marketing skills include a range of hard and soft skills. Management comes in top followed by communication, customer service and leadership. Analytics skills and marketing also rank in the top ten to demonstrate the reliance of businesses on data to drive growth. 

LinkedIn 2023 most in-demand skills
LinkedIn 2023 most in-demand skills

Building on those insights, Marketing Week’s Career and Salary Survey asked marketers what they believed were the most undervalued skills - the ones that are essential but not prioritized or given the resources they need. 

The first is marketing strategy. This involves thinking more long-term and being more strategic so there’s a plan in place for everyone in a business to understand and follow. This skill comes with experience, but it can be cultivated. 

Most undervalued skills
Most undervalued skills

Brand management is second which is understanding how to communicate a brand message on something as unpredictable as social media. How do you keep a consistent image across all of those touchpoints? How can you stay ahead of competitors and keep the message relevant? 

Third on the list is data analysis, a skill that’s undervalued and a massive gap in the workforce. Data is crucial as it helps companies target and personalize small groups of people so you can know who they are and what other people like them are interested in. 

Without data, you can't do any of that. Data privacy regulations coming into play mean that we're getting access to less customer data. That's not necessarily a bad thing if the data is of a greater quality, but there's been a massive shift.

The digital skills gap and growth in demand for certain skills create pockets that marketers can leverage to kickstart or build their careers. So what are those skills? 

What Skills Do Marketing Graduates Need to Succeed?

“I can't tell you for certain what the key skills will be in three or five years. What you can do is be adaptable and make sure that whatever comes up, you're positioned to take advantage.”

There’s no denying that AI has dominated news headlines over the past year and provided companies with a way to drive productivity and growth at scale.

Having some understanding and working knowledge of AI will help marketers stand out and show how they can be an asset to any marketing team. Plus for many companies, AI knowledge will become a part of the job description, so even demonstrating knowledge of ChatGPT or Midjourney will be useful.  

However, AI will not replace marketers. New career development arcs are already taking shape because of generative AI like ChatGPT and Midjourney. It’s about creating something new by combining lots of old things and pushing us forward. 

So what are the skills that you need to get the most out of AI? Insight generation; so we need to know what data to give to the AI so it can help us understand it. Content creation; but how do we verify the quality of the content? We can't trust it to create things that will represent our brand so brand management comes back into this as well.

When it comes to skills it’s also about thinking outside the box. For example, if you’re a social media marketer, don’t just learn skills in that area. Look at developing skills in web design, landing page optimization, or SEO. This year we are seeing more of a porous boundary between areas as people progress. 

Take note that if you're born in the digital age, you're used to being iterative and used to the constant disruption of the ecosystem where new things happen. That’s not something to be afraid of. 

A rebrand is due for soft skills

A key area to also think about in 2024 is soft skills. These have become more important to businesses and for team leaders when hiring. Skills such as attention to detail (particularly in entry-level roles), curiosity, content ideation, research, project management, time management, and even humility are desirable.  

I'm sure a rebrand is coming for soft skills because we're seeing that people want communication. Between people but also between people and technology. 

Soft skills have become much more important to us, which is a hugely positive development and something to take into account when you look at how you might progress your own skill set. Some of these things come through experience, but there's no shortcut to effective leadership. It's about cultivating those kinds of skills.

What are the Career Opportunities for Digital Marketing Graduates?

While demand is high, so is competition so it’s important to start or keep building digital marketing skills. 

There are also many career paths on offer so it’s important to go with what you're most curious and passionate about. When I was leaving university and heading out to work, the thought of building up my own LinkedIn would have terrified me. Volunteering felt like more of a thing I could do because I thought you could try and learn and meet like-minded people. Go with wherever your natural is, because it's not about trying to be this perfect candidate.

For example, do you love keyword research and data analysis? SEO could be for you. Or do you enjoy researching and writing content for multiple channels? Content marketing could be a great career. 

Here’s a digital marketing family tree to show the many roles and routes on offer from digital marketing intern to Head of Digital Marketing. 

Digital Careers Family Tree
Digital Careers Family Tree

This year and beyond, it’s not only AI that will provide career opportunities. As we mentioned, data analytics is a huge growth area. Not only gathering data through data capture campaigns but also being able to analyze it across different platforms. 

If you're thinking about specialisms knowing about data within marketing and the data regulations is huge. Very few marketers know what they should know in this area.  

SEO is another rapidly evolving area (especially as Search Generative Experience kicks in) as is social media marketing with the success of social commerce, content marketing and paid search to drive paid traffic as organic continues to decline. 

Ultimately it’s important for marketers looking to progress in their career to have a good understanding of many aspects of digital marketing along with the general skills companies expect. 

How do you future-proof skills and get ahead?

Building a career requires you to put the work in. It doesn’t happen overnight. It comes with dedication, experimentation, listening, collaboration, experience and most importantly learning. 

Practice active listening if you're going to be a marketer. It's not just about asking people questions in the industry. How did you get that job? How did you get that pay rise? It's also listening to customers. Not just listening to the words on the surface level but what’s driving them? What is it that you can get beneath the surface that will help you understand them better?

I believe there are four key areas to focus on to future-proof your digital marketing skills:

  • Data and creativity - These two areas are critical to digital marketing and it’s good to develop skills in both. 
  • Network - Marketing is about people and it always will be. Make connections, collaborate, and get to know your peers. 
  • EI + AI - Emotional intelligence and artificial intelligence combined could create the super worker of the future!  
  • Keep learning - Take courses, use marketing tools, and show your passion for the industry. 

There are lots of short courses you can take that give you a new perspective and introduce you to something new. I would be directional and say “this is the path that I want to go on. In five years, I want to be a manager at X, working on their social media.” So to get there, what do you need to learn?

Carve out a successful digital marketing career

Wiith so many opportunities for digital marketers it's important to have the latest skills and knowledge. Our Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing looks at how to succeed in this new AI-driven age and explore key areas such as social media, email marketing, SEO, analytics, content marketing strategy and much more. 

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