Why are you a digital marketer?

The answer to that question differs for all of us.

However, if you’re not lying to yourself, you know that at least part of the reason you continue to be a digital marketer and read blogs about digital marketing is that you want money. But not in a greedy way! It’s more like “I am an independent adult who needs to support myself/my family” way.

At the end of the day, most of us want a paycheck. I’m not saying we don’t want to work with awesome people, do purposeful work, and make an impact on the world. But those things don’t matter as much (think Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs) if we’re unemployed and can’t meet our basic needs.

With that said, I’m here to share my biggest takeaway from last week’s webinar, The Future of PPC. Hanapin brought together some of the leading minds of our industry to discuss what’s to come in our jobs and how we can ensure we’re providing our brands with value (thus keeping our jobs).

Last week, we asked experts from Wordstream, SearchEngineLand, and Hanapin Marketing to discuss their predictions for the Future of PPC. The majority of the audience was most interested in knowing what the hosts believe the most important skills will be for digital marketers in 2020.

The expert panel has a LOT of experience hiring, training, and managing digital marketing teams. The panel includes:

  • Navah Hopkins – Services Innovation Strategist at Wordstream
  • Ginny Marvin – Editor-in-Chief at Search Engine Land (Third Door Media)
  • Carrie Albright – Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

So what skills do they say you need to stay competitive in the PPC industry in 2020 and beyond?

The Return To Marketing Fundamentals

Navah: We need to have business acumen.

Carrie: We need to be insight brokers.

Ginny: We need to return to the fundamentals of marketing.

While there’s some nuance to each of these statements, the ultimate message was the same. The unmeasurable, soft skills of marketing are making a comeback in the work of PPC marketers.

If you’re like me, you may have felt slightly deflated when you read those statements.

Why is that hard to hear?

Because as PPC marketers, we have become REALLY comfortable with measurable outcomes and data. We have finely tuned technical skills as a result. Ginny explained this phenomenon with a relatable, personal example.

“Digital marketers used to stake their claim on, ‘we can measure everything!’ I came from magazine advertising before PPC, so I remember the first time I saw a PPC campaign and was like, ‘oh my gosh this is amazing!…But we went so far into the data/metrics/immediacy that the underlying fundamentals like branding got lost.”

Ginny Marvin (paraphrased)

So how do we start demonstrating our business acumen? How do we start “brokering insights” for brands? Here’s where Carrie would start.

“We do have to ensure our new hires understand the technical side of paid search, paid social, etc. But instead of fixating on mastery of every single technical skill (like knowing each and every ad extension), you have to know what you’re trying to accomplish. You have to understand how these pieces work together. When do you bring in social? When do you bring in Pinterest? When do you bring in a video ad that’s meant specifically for Instagram? Things like that where you have to be really intentional. And maybe I don’t know the specific specs of an ad that I need to implement, but what I know is that is where I want to be and that’s who I want to target for a set of specific reasons.”

Carrie Albright (paraphrased)

So there it is! Start your strategies with, “What am I trying to accomplish?” From there, your marketing fundamentals and business acumen are needed to develop the overarching growth strategy. Your technical PPC skills are nothing without that strategy.

We have to face the facts. Data analysis and measurement are no longer enough. BUT that doesn’t mean analytical skills are no longer important. Navah said that every digital marketer’s toolkit should include analytics and that, “it breaks my heart how few people truly know analytics.” She goes on to explain that an understanding of analytics is what empowers digital marketers to accomplish their growth goals.

The beauty of being an integrated marketer and breaking those silos is actually allowing those networks to empower each other and creating audiences based on messaging from one network and carrying it over to another. And being able to invest because you now have the data to justify it.

Navah Hopkins

Navah also explains that the soft skill of consulting is what empowers digital marketers to take those insights that they’re seeing across multiple audiences and networks and sell that story to stakeholders in order to get buy-in and justify larger investments.

Okay, lets recap.

  1. For the last 10-15 years, digital marketers have taken pride in the data that allows us to truly measure the effectiveness of our marketing efforts. This was a huge differentiator for digital campaigns relative to TV, radio, newspaper, etc. campaigns.
  2. The digital space has evolved at a rapid pace, such that the most effective digital marketers are those who can recognize and communicate insights from various data sets.
  3. Digital marketers need to focus more on soft skills in 2020 including consulting, communicating, and strategizing. Showing a story with data is more valuable than the data alone.
  4. Analytical skills should still be in a digital marketer’s toolkit. Without this piece, it’s impossible to pull insights from data.

For 2020, let’s all resolve to out of our data-centric comfort zones and work on those soft skills to take our industry to the next level!