Digital transformation has fast become an essential component of any successful business model. It’s simultaneously a method of survival, and, if leveraged successfully, a valuable differentiator.
Digital tools and techniques have a demonstrable ability to significantly benefit businesses – when implemented skilfully, they can streamline processes, maximize budgets, and generate more revenue efficiently and effectively.
75% of CFOs estimate that their organization is missing out on revenue opportunities by failing to adequately support digital business transformation. This is because digital channels have the ability to connect an organization with a more extensive customer base, they provide the ability to nurture customer relationships more easily and instantly, and they enable organizations to provide more valuable, targeted offerings.
Yet while an awareness of digital will help you to keep pace with the rest of your industry, a strong digital skillset is what will set you apart from the competition. In fact, 59% of companies say they are worried they may be too late with their digital transformation efforts and will fall behind their competitors.
62% say their organization is in denial about the need to transform digitally
The digital industry is endlessly evolving with the regular rise of new platforms, updates to search engine algorithms and interfaces, and expanding strategies to incorporate these innovations. The prospect of embracing digital transformation in itself can be overwhelming, let alone trying to stay on top of constant industry advancements. In our 2016 Digital Skills Report, we found that 67% of marketers in the USA feel they will need to improve their digital marketing skills to progress their career in the future, compared to 59% in the UK and 80% in Ireland.
That’s why we’ve created this simple four step guide to ensure you’ll be able to keep pace with these digital developments comfortably.
1. Stay informed
In response to an ever-evolving industry, there are, thankfully, innumerable industry blogs to help you keep in touch with any essential updates. These blogs span every digital specialism and provide a variety of valuable, informative content in various formats. These can range from instructional videos, to podcasts with industry thought leaders, to long form articles.
Buffer, the social media scheduling app, has a very insightful, personably written blog predominantly dedicated to social media and related areas. They also feature case studies (with titles such as “How I grew my traffic by almost 50% in just 30 days using Twitter”), news and trends updates, and a podcast series. Moz, meanwhile, is a revered publication dedicated to Search Engine Optimization and inbound marketing. They also have a segment called “Whiteboard Friday”, in which founder and self-proclaimed “Wizard of Moz” Rand Fishkin and various guest contributors present an educational video presentation in a “how-to” format for a more interactive learning experience.
Sourcing and consuming such a high volume of industry content can be a time-consuming pursuit. That’s why using an RSS feed such as Feedly is an essential practice. Feedly will not only help you to find relevant publications to follow based on your preferences, it will organize them in an easy-to-read manner so you can view more content in less time.
2. Polish your practical abilities
Digital marketing is a field that is largely underpinned by practical application. This means that while it’s important to consume content in order to gain up-to-the-minute industry insights, it’s equally essential to be able to translate those learnings into actions that will positively impact your organization.
The easiest way to keep your digital skills perfectly honed is to put them into practice. Set up a free website or using a Content Management System such as WordPress. This will provide you with a platform on which you can exercise your grasp on an assortment of digital specialisms. You can conduct regular SEO audits to find out which on-page elements need to be improved, from keywords to meta-tags. If you’re inclined to write blog articles, you can work on your content marketing skills, or set up a newsletter to distribute these articles, which will also enable you to build a subscriber list and practice your email marketing campaigns.
Similarly, if you’re involved in the digital industry to any extent, you need to establish an online presence through social media. You can set up a Twitter account and Tweet links to your website or blog articles (if applicable), or post authoritative third party content that will reflect well on your personal brand. If you’d prefer to target a B2B audience, LinkedIn is a more professional platform best suited to industry updates and long-form articles (these can be distributed on LinkedIn’s publishing platform Pulse)
Whether you have 100 newsletter subscribers or 10, 2000 pageviews on your website per month, or 2, these are all legitimate methods through which to refine your digital techniques and establish credibility in the process.
3. Find your digital mentors
There are many skilled individuals in the digital space who are committed to sharing knowledge and defining digital best practice. Often referred to as industry thought leaders or influencers, they have often built and nurtured relationships with an extensive online following and have established themselves as a trusted expert within the particular industry. These are the individuals whose insights and experiences will help you to develop your own digital capabilities.
Some, like Neil Patel, manage regularly updated blogs that you can add to your RSS feed. Patel’s blog, “Quicksprout” specializes in simple, easy-to-navigate articles that follow the classic “how-to” format and are infused with Patel’s won industry expertise. Other influencers, such as Jill Rowley, a social selling pioneer, prefer focusing their efforts on bite-sized insights on social media platforms such as Twitter, or filming video presentations or webinars.
Once you have identified the type of influencers from which you think you’d like to learn (taking into account their industry and niche), you can find them by using a social listening tool such as Buzzsumo or Followerwonk. Both of these tools have a function dedicated solely to sourcing influencers based on a variety of criteria such as reach, authority, influence and engagement
4. Invest in digital skills training
Did you know that only 4% of organizations are aligning their skills training with their digital strategy? When it comes to ensuring that your skillset mirrors the latest industry trends, a strategic, sustainable education plan is the key to solidifying those skills. According to Adobe, companies with a plan for their digital maturity seek to train and advance the skills of their existing workforce, and hire the people they need to get the most from digital tools and technology.
By investing in a digital marketing course that is tailored to your specific needs and interests, you can significantly enhance your marketing effectiveness. The most important thing is to conduct thorough research.
A lack of training in new marketing skills is named by 30% of marketers as a barrier to success
If you need to gain senior buy-in or access to a training budget, set up a meeting with the relevant stakeholder during which you can present a persuasive argument that’s backed up by the training option that best suits you. It’s no coincidence that the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) found that organizations that offer comprehensive training have 218% higher income per employee than those with less comprehensive training.
For more information on the digital skills gap and why you should address it through the steps outlined above, download our full report here