In this article I am going to talk about how you can learn digital marketing. This is based on the advice I gave in the article on How To Become a Digital Marketer in 2019.
In that article I discussed a framework Brian Balfour popularized in his article "How to Become a customer acquisition expert". Basically, there are 3 levels of skills you need to focus on. Your base layer skills, your marketing foundation skills and your channel specific skills.
The basic premise of my first article above was that you need to identify any weaknesses you have in your foundational skills and then decide on a specific channel you want to focus on.
In this article, I am going to introduce a framework for developing those skills while you are working as an independent contractor, agency owner or employee. This advice will also work if you are a product manager trying to improve your customer acquisition skills or an entrepreneur trying to grow the user base for your own product or service.
As a refresher, the image below is the skills framework this study plan is based off of . If your completely unfamiliar with it, go read watch my video on the topic or read Brians article linked above.
The digital marketing foundational skills are the ones you are going to need to understand to work as a marketer. Like any technical field, marketing has many sub disciplines. There is no way to master every one of these disciplines. Even if you had all the time in the world, some of the skills you have learned would evolve before you could master all of the other.
In digital marketing, its advantageous to learn and refine skills quickly. In fact, this one "meta skill" is the most important for digital marketers or anyone involved in a technical discipline. Marketing foundational skills require a breadth of knowledge rather then expertise in any one field. The reason for this is that you need to understand how many different types of marketing work affect the campaigns you are running.
If you are working on a technical product and you are testing a number of different page designs and user interface designs, you need to understand the underlying principles for the changes you are testing and their effects on user psychology.
For marketers, product managers or anyone else working on a cross functional team you need a "working knowledge" of all of the marketing foundational skills. In this case, working knowledge means you understand the basics of how a marketing discipline works and you could perform the individual contributor tasks that discipline requires.
The main difference between someone who is an expert in one fo these skills and someone who has only has a "working knowledge" of these disciplines comes down to speed of implementation.
Someone who is an expert will be able to produce high quality work in theses areas much more quickly. Someonw that is an expet will not need to reference any manuals or documentation to complete their work. If they do use manuals or documentation, it will only be for brief refreshers on more obscure functions of their normal workflow.
In contrast, someone with a working knowledge will need to rely on documentation and instructionals in order to complete a task.
The goal of skills acquisition in this layer of marketing skills is to move as many skills as possible toward the expertise side of the spectrum and away from the "working knowledge" only side of the spectrum.
At a minimum, you should have a working knowledge of all of these skills with a few you can execute rapidly.
For most people, this is the most difficult part of the equation. They see all the different channels and want to learn a little bit about all of them. Other poeple understand that there is no way they will be able to learn them all but still try to focus on one while learning all the others.
This was the approach I took when I started working on digital marketing. I was focused on Facebook ads as an acquisition channel and was trying to learn Google ads, email marketing and display advertising all at the same time. Obviously this didn't work. It wasn't until I put the other channels on the backburner and spent a little time in the power editor every day that I actually made progress.
Remember, the key is to decide. One you start focusing on a channel, you will rapidly receive the feedback you need to make an educated decision about where you want to focus your effort long-term. If you actually spend time focused on a channel and you want to switch your focus, that's fine. The feedback you received from your dedicated effort will give your more knowledge about the realities of that channel and your potential advantage in it then the casual dabble will ever had.
The main rules with channels is that you must decide on one (temporarily).
To make this a little easier, Brian Balfour, the author of "How To Become A Customer Acquisition Expert" recommends looking at a tried and true channel that is working really well, or looking at a new emerging channel that might have outsized opportunities.
The channel you pick should be one that you will be content focusing on until you develop some expertise. An easy heuristic to use is the technical / creative spectrum. Some channels are inherently technical while others are more creative.
Paid advertising is an example of a highly technical/formulaic channel. A large part of the work in paid advertising comes from crunching the numbers and analyzing campaign performance metrics. If this doesn't interest you, a channel with a less regimented workflow might be a better choice.
Regardless of what you choose, you need to focus. Each channel requires very competitive campaigns. If you are not at the cutting edge in terms of skills and understanding of your channel your campaign performance will suffer.
In order to continue rounding out your skills in digital marketing, you need to cycle through your channel specific marketing skills and your foundational and base level skills. You want to make sure that you are continually refining your skills. You want to rotate through the skills without spending too little or too much time focused on any one skill.
My recommendation is to focus on one of the skills in each layer of the skills chart. You want to spend the largest amount of time deliberately practicing your channel specific skills. Your secondary focus will be your marketing specific skills. Finally, you will focus on a base layer skill.
The amount of time yyou spend on these skills will be inversely proportional to the amount of focus you will give each skill. For example, if you are focused on one channel specific skill, you might use that skill every day in your work and spend some extra time to learn features outside of your normal workflow.
If you are learning Facebook ads, you might build ads or campaigns every day while also going over articles or tutorials to learn about new features and platform performance updates.
If you apply this level of intensity to a platform, you might only need a few months to reach a high level of skill. At that point you could shift your focus to the next channel.
Marketing foundational skills will likely not be needed at the same frequency of your channel specific skills. Even if you are focused on one of these skills, opportunities for deliberate practice will probably be less frequent. For this reason, you may need to focus on a marketing specific skill for at least 3-6 months to see a noticable change.
In general, you should plan to focus on these level of skills for about twice as long as you would focus on a channel. For your base level skills, you will rarely if ever have an opportunity for deliberate practice of these skills during work hours.
While these skills are some of the highest leverage skills, they are more general and therefore cover a very wide range of topics. For example, getting really good at statistics or programming is not something you are likely to do on the job in a couple of months. For these skills, its best to focus on one indefinitely until you reach a level of skill that benefits your day to day work.
The only exception to this is if there is a base level skill that you are so deficient in that it negatively impacts your work. In this case, you need to do everything you can to fix this issue, including treating learning this subject like a part time job. This should be a rare case if you are working on projects and jobs you are qualified for.
There are many great places to learn digital marketing skills. If you are really going to get good at any one of these skills you are going to have to do some type of project. A project could be any type of media property or social media account you are trying to go.
-Grow a YouTube Channel
-Grow a Blog
-Grow an Instagram account
-Setup a lead generation funnel and try to collect leads
-Try to get client work as a digital marketing contractor via cold outreach or through a profile on a contracting site
If there is a specific skill you want to go deep on, you are going to have to setup a sandbox for you to 'play' in. Basically, this is an artificial environment you develop so that you have a chance to practice deliberate learning.
An example of a sandbox I have used to learn digital marketing skills are the many different sites I have worked on independently. I have used "practice" sites like this for everything from running cold traffic to trying to grow an organic audience.
Each time I build a "practice" site, it is to learn 1 specific skill. You can choose one site or social media count to work on for each of your skills or combine them into one project to try and develop your own business.
If I had to make a recommendation it would say to build one site and test all of your skills on that one site. The best way you can learn is to actually build something that you are going to charge money for.
Growth Loops (forward partners guides)