Even prior to the global shift to move almost everything we do online as required by a pandemic, digital marketing was a booming industry. In fact, the field as a whole is expected to grow 12.8 percent this year. While that may speak to new opportunities, it also means you might be struggling to gain traction in an increasingly crowded market.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the digital marketing industry and how you might be able to carve out a space to call your own. Also, we’ll discuss different ways you can maintain any edge you already have.
Taking Stock of the Digital Marketing Industry and How It Impacts You
The digital marketing profession is quite broad and incorporates a wide variety of specializations. For example, it includes social media marketing, data analysis, content creation, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and more.
Most digital marketing spending in North America and Europe goes towards online video and mobile advertising. However, since many users find in-app promotions disruptive, popularity in this niche is expected to decrease.
With all of the different elements that make up digital marketing, it can be tough to decide what to focus on. Although, there’s something to be said for being a ‘jack of all trades.’ especially if you’re striking out on your own as a freelancer.
However, specializing in just one area can be beneficial as well. If you’re able to offer an agency your advanced skills in data analysis, for example, it will likely set you apart from your competition.
As far as clients’ preferences are concerned, most want to hire full-service agencies or freelancers. Whether you decide to work for yourself or someone else, this is key to keep in mind.
How to Stand Out in a Saturated Digital Marketing Field (4 Key Strategies)
Regardless of whether you decide to specialize in one particular area of digital marketing or not, there are several strategies you can use to keep a spotlight on your skills and gain clients. Here are four top tips and tricks to try.
1. Emphasize Your Ability to Tell a Story
The concept of brand storytelling is a technique that’s used when companies shape their marketing around a narrative. This means you need to be able to demonstrate to prospective clients that you can market their brands, sometimes without directly mentioning their products.
Often this is a way to show the human side of businesses and gain customers’ trust. With that, it’s important to understand the emotional impact stories have on audiences and how they influence consumer behavior. In fact, studies show emotions have more impact on purchase decisions than customer satisfaction.
There are several storytelling examples from notable brands you can look to as models, including:
- Volkswagen’s ‘Moments’ commercial. This is an ad for the Volvo XC60. However, it’s so compelling, Ad Age calls it a “three-minute film.” The target audience is quite clear and the narrative taps into several key emotions to showcase the car’s safety features.
- Gillette’s ‘Toxic Masculinity’ ad. It can be risky to take a stand on hot-button social issues as a brand. However, storytelling can help make authentic connections that help people understand the company’s position. While Gillette did receive backlash, it ultimately stood its ground and told a story that drove the national conversation forward.
How can you let your clients know you’re able to authentically execute this important technique? One way is to simply practice what you preach. For example, maintaining a blog or podcast of your own are ways you can build up a storytelling portfolio to show clients.
2. Demonstrate Flexibility and Your Willingness to Adapt
It pretty much goes without saying that marketing happens at a much faster pace now than it did even five years ago. As new media technologies are developed and upgraded frequently, it can impact your digital marketing strategy as well.
For example, social media content is updated multiple times per day. This means being able to adapt on the fly is an essential characteristic of a successful digital marketer. That being said, it’s worth understanding what it means to create flexible marketing plans.
There are a number of planning tools that you can separate into four categories in terms of what they aim to accomplish, including:
- Establishing objectives and mission or vision statements
- Defining the client’s current position
- Outlining potential marketing strategies
- Launching, monitoring, and analyzing campaigns for improvement
If you build flexibility and iteration into your plans, rather than locking a client into several years of the same old promotional techniques, you’ll be more agile when opportunities arise that require you to take immediate action to capitalize on them.
3. Know When Technology Is the Answer and When It’s Not
Advances in technology have brought many new strategies to the digital marketing industry. To stay ahead of the curve in this area, there are some key tools you should be fairly fluent in, including:
- Google Analytics: Understanding consumers’ online behavior is definitely one way to ensure you can both promise and deliver data-driven decisions for clients.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI): Keeping abreast of developments in AI for digital marketing can help you stay a step ahead of your competitors.
Demonstrating expertise and knowledge in these areas can show that you know how to use data to make decisions about implementing different technologies in advertising.
It’s often easy to rely on the latest application to solve your marketing problems. However, the best way to use technology is often to know when not to use it. This means understanding and improving an underlying process might be necessary first.
Google Analytics data and AI both lack one key component—the human element. As we already discussed in this post, emotion drives successful marketing campaigns. Remember to look at the big picture and not just the numbers.
4. Get Comfortable With Self-Promotion
Establishing your personal brand is not a new concept. However, in the crowded digital marketing industry, it might be one of your most important tools. With heavy competition, you can’t be afraid to promote yourself.
Think of self-promotion as a living, breathing portfolio of all your marketing talents. For instance, we mentioned earlier how creating a podcast or blog is one way to showcase your ability to execute narrative advertising strategies.
Other ways you can experiment with self-promotion include:
- Attending professional events and presenting or speaking on industry-related topics
- Publishing researched whitepapers
- Guest posting on other professional blogs
Keep in mind, just like any flexible marketing strategist, even seasoned professionals need to revisit their self-promotion efforts frequently and make adjustments as needed.
Digital marketing as a profession is set to continue on an upward trend for the foreseeable future. Staying flexible, understanding when to use technology, and sharpening your storytelling skills are all ways to gain and maintain your edge in the field.
Image credit: Quang Nguyen Vinh.