A beginner’s guide to digital marketing
With the number of Internet subscribers standing at 99.246 million in January 2020 as per a BTRC Report, the figure is undoubtedly larger today. Social media users increased by 25% from last year.
This rising number of Internet users in Bangladesh signals a peak for the digital marketing industry. At its fancy just less than a decade ago, digital marketing – any kind of electronic marketing – is now everywhere: Facebook/Instagram ads, Influencer marketing, content marketing, videos, text messages from Chaldal, email newsletters from Aarong, discount notifications from Foodpanda, and so on.
There's a 99% chance that someone on your friend list or one of your classmates has worked in digital marketing before. One might even go on to say that one of the starting points for aspiring digital marketers or even future corporations is working in a digital marketing agency or learning about the basics from one's own home. This begets several questions: why is working in a digital marketing agency often the first step for digital marketers? Is it always the best first step?
Nomrota S Anushka, Junior Analyst at Anchorless Bangladesh, opines, "It is okay to think joining agencies is a good start because it definitely is. But relying solely on the agency to equip you with the skills that you need to become a good marketer is a red flag. Pick up skills that you may want to passionately master going forward. Agencies are anything but easier when you want to focus on a single aspect of digital marketing and the learning never ends if you're curious enough."
Adnan Khan, Founder & CEO at Scratchboard, added, "Joining an agency at the start of your career helps to learn from people who know more than you. It also helps you to figure out what you're good at, whether that is scriptwriting, designing, media buying, copywriting, making memes and creating content. It's also possible to free-lance by specialising in a particular skill like copywriting. This can be a good field to explore if you're a debater or know how to have an impact with words, copywriting is a useful skill to have. You'll be writing any text that the customer will read e.g. billboard, captions, text in between videos, SMS.
What skills are crucial for digital marketing?
Although entry-level employees will learn on the job, having basic skills from the get-go will definitely blow away the senior management of agencies.
"I consider professional code of conduct (time management, dressing, - basics for being in a professional environment), organisation skills (calendar maintenance, to-do list, taking notes in meetings, having a To Do List) and research skills (knowing where to search for what eg for content good to look up Pinterest, for brands Behance, for stats research papers; also what keywords to search for) to be absolutely essential as this enables you to deal with any challenge that comes your way, said Adnan, who has more than 5 years of experience with his digital agency, Scratchboard.
He also added that having general ideas on copywriting, strategising (understanding a certain business' objective, target market lungi vs paan, customer pain points, USP, which channels to link to customers easily), design (any experience is valuable & catered) and just boosting on Facebook can get one a long way.
From the student's perspective, Nomrota opined that data analysis, communication and creativity is what makes a marketer sufficient to pick up things along the way.
"The ever-transforming marketing industry has been dynamic and erratic and the ability to change and adapt with the wind is a skill every marketer should possess," she said. "Online courses are a good place to start, but what does the trick is enthusiasm for the work coupled up with technical know-how to be able to interpret data and analyze consumer behaviour."
Of course, Nomrota had to face some initial challenges, especially understanding the thought process that goes behind in segmenting the market and using the right marketing tool and social media channel to unleash the true potential of your strategy. "What helped me to overcome this was getting more familiar with how each channel works, understanding how Facebook analytics works, observing how the target market reacts to different types of content and figuring out what works best."
Peer pressure might also lead one to explore digital marketing as a potential career choice. But, it's more important to figure out first what piques one's natural curiosity and whether that can somehow lead to a thriving career in digital marketing.
Farhat Zishan Chowdhury, Senior Brand Marketing Specialist at Dotlines, didn't plan his marketing career from the get-go. While his marketing major may have introduced to this world, it was his love for reading and writing that stirred his interest in the possibilities of digital marketing. "When I was in my 2nd or 3rd year, the marketing industry was moving from analogue to digital-first ecosystem. What excited me most was the idea of content marketing. How can you move people into brand awareness and brand conversion in the digital ecosystem and media buying?"
For Adnan, his interest stemmed from the hit series 'Mad Men'. "I was awestruck with how they used creativity to shape perception and monetised it. I also used to organise events like football, FIFA tournaments and concerts back in high school. The experience of marketing for those events definitely gave me confidence. Plus, it was easy to get started without any investment."
At the same time, with the competitiveness in the job market rising every year and the ever-evolving digital marketing industry, what changes have taken place? What are the challenges now that await students or even young professionals?
Farhat says that the challenges are numerous. The industry has moved from an awareness POV to a conversion POV.
"Firstly, the Bangladeshi audience is limited only to a single communication channel: Facebook. Many are still not familiar with LinkedIn, Instagram, let alone Twitter and TikTok."
"Secondly, there's the issue of audience understanding. We need to publish awareness content too. We cannot solely depend on conversion content which reduces engagement. Basically, we're staying in the same place."
"Thirdly, cultural norms limit digital marketing only to a few occasions. For example, trying QR codes to convert offline customers to online, isn't easy since many people are not familiar with how to do so. In short, the audience's limited understanding of digital marketing and digital orientation pose massive challenges."
On the other hand, Adnan opined that the industry today has very few barriers to entry where anyone with basic knowledge of photoshop and keywords can easily make their own agency. The problem, thus, is that a lot of clients waste time and money on these agencies who lack a deep understanding and knowledge of marketing fundamentals. This results in these agencies being unable to meet their client's business objectives.
"I expect the industry to keep growing. The ones to succeed will dominate niches like food, fashion, e-commerce, & MNC (which they're already succeeding in) and specialise in certain parts of digital marketing like media buying, copywriting, influencer marketing etc. as opposed to a jack of all trades. They'll have a focus on true value and ROI instead of gimmicks and fluffs," added Adnan.
Meanwhile, Nomrota feels that the recent integration of AI into marketing and personalized ads have brought forth insights that weren't as mobilized as they are now. "AI-based personalized advertisement and recommendations have proven to increase ROI of the businesses and improve overall customer experiences. Query management is being taken over by the conversational commerce industry led by AI tools, analytics and ad placements are also being done by AI-driven tech tools. All of this is narrowing down the scopes of digital marketers building their skills around these digital marketing tools. Specialisation is key."
Most importantly, how do you develop yourself as a digital marketer?
"Curiosity," said Farhat. "It is important for marketers to stay curious and constantly ask questions. Why is the customer thinking like this about the product? Defy the odds and break conventionality if necessary. You don't always have to do things the way they are always done. Especially in the current age where the digital marketing ecosystem is changing very fast."
"Secondly, marketers need to be driven by numbers. At the end of the day, they're working for the business and must keep track of whether the marketing is driving up sales or even views or not.
"Thirdly, know about pop culture. Creating marketing content that your audience finds relatable can have a huge impact."
Both Farhat and Adnan agree on lifelong learning. Farhat encourages to keep track of the current changes of tools like Facebook algorithms and Instagram's latest IGTV.
For strengthening his skills, Adnan follows the blogs:neilpatel.com/blog. moz.com/blog, abetterlemonadestand.com, and marketers like Gary Vaynerchuk, Biaheza, and Russell Brunson. He also suggests the books "Dot-com Secrets" and Seth Godin's "This is Marketing".
"Follow the big international brands like Nike, Starbucks, Mcdonalds and study what they're doing and why it makes them so successful."
Lastly, what career prospects can young digital marketers expect?
Firstly, there are the people who build their careers in agencies. These people are very passionate about client service and can work on different projects simultaneously at ease (whether it's lungi or an MNC). Adnan believes that these people love creative expression. For them, it would mean staying in the industry and climbing up.
Secondly, there are those people who want to build their careers in local companies or MNCs instead. Farhat says that with the rise in technology, big companies like Unilever have also shifted to the digital sector. One will find openings for executives to either look after the analytics of social media content or to come up with new content and look after the different social media channels.
Thirdly, there's scope for social media or digital marketing executives to work in startups as well. This is especially relevant with the current booming startup industry.
Fourthly, there is a current trend in outsourcing or freelancing nowadays. This section also includes those who know how to brand themselves well, like influencers and content creators. In this case, marketing basics and theories are still the same.
In line with the view that specialization is the future, Farhat advises current students to remember that although the scope for digital marketing is vast, the competition is stiff as a lot of people want to work in the digital ecosystem. So, in order to survive and thrive in the long run, students should focus on building specific skill sets, including content design, SEO. Expertise in specific digital marketing tools like Facebook pixel and Microsoft Clarity can pave the path to a successful career as well.