The 12 Vital Disciplines of Top Digital Marketers

December 13, 2022 Content Marketing 20 comments

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Wish to succeed in the fast growing world of digital marketing? Wonder how you can be a successful digital marketer?

Start by identifying the traits which most successful digital marketers have!

Nope, the best digital marketers aren’t technical whizzes, creative geniuses, or super popular influencers. Rather, they possess certain attributes which separates these career digital marketing stalwarts from the rest.

What may surprise you is that these characteristics are easily honed and sharpened in ordinary humans like you and I.

In this article, we will identify the vital disciplines you need to possess in order to carve out a successful livelihood in digital marketing.

These soft skills, habits, and behaviours are commonly found in the top digital marketing experts in any digital marketing field — Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), content marketing, social media marketing, digital analytics, web design and development, Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), email marketing, or any others.

#1 Stick To Your Element

First, you need to uncover which part of digital marketing you’re good at.

In The Element, renowned British academic Sir Ken Robinson proposed that your “element” is the “point at which natural talent meets personal passion.”

This is the proverbial “sweet spot” where you can maximise your “vast powers of imagination, intelligence, feeling, intuition, spirituality, physical and sensory awareness.”

Here you can experience the wonders of flow—a state of euphoric absorption and intense concentration where you are so focused and absorbed on the task at hand that the rest of the world just fades away.

Do you like to create written content? Perhaps content marketing is your thing.

Prefer to crunch numbers and monitor trends? Maybe SEO or digital analytics is right up your alley.

Enjoy building and designing things? Web development could be where your sweet spot is at.

#2 Copy, Adapt and Modify

One of the fastest way to master the art and science of digital marketing is to emulate what others do — and then do better!

This doesn’t mean that you should plagiarise the content or campaigns of leaders in the craft. (God forbid!)

Rather, you should keep your eyes open and your ears peeled online and to see how you can adapt, modify and improve on the ideas of others in your trade.

Beyond following and subscribing to the websites, email lists, and social media accounts of digital marketing stalwarts, do also use SEO and social media research tools to look for what’s trending and gaining traction online.

#3 Adopt Pareto’s 80/20 Rule

Which brings me to my next point: adopt the 80/20 rule.

As I’ve previously written, the 80/20 rule in digital marketing may be seen in any of the following…

  • 80% of online sales comes from 20% of products
  • 80% of leads in content marketing from 20% of content assets
  • 80% of user tasks performed on 20% of links offered
  • 80% of social shares from 20% of the social updates

What this means is that you should focus on what’s productive and profitable online, and eliminate the rest.

Do this when you choose the right channels to focus on, right types of content to produce, or right keywords and topics to focus on.

#4 Don’t Just Read or Listen — Apply What You’ve Learned

With a never-ending stream of content related to digital marketing tips, tricks and techniques, it is possible for you to spend all your time listening to podcasts, reading blog articles, or watching YouTube videos.

There are also lots of courses and workshops which you can sign up for (consider Equinet Academy if you’re looking for solid digital marketing training).

However, you can’t see what you learn come to life unless you apply what you’ve learned. And the best way to do so is to DIY…

  • If you’d like to master web design or development, build your own website or do it for others
  • If you’d like to be a kicka** content marketer, start writing your own blog articles
  • If you want to be known as an SEO expert, volunteer to optimize the website or others (if you can’t get a paid job)
  • If you want to a renowned social media marketer, post regularly and engage with others on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, or other social networks
  • If you want to specialise in digital advertising, create an ad account and experiment with small budgets

Which brings me to the next related point…

#5 Seek a Coach, Guide or Mentor

Due to its complexity, you can’t possibly specialise in all aspects of digital marketing — well, at least not initially.

While you can certainly try to duke it out on your own, finding a coach, guide or mentor can make all the difference.

Ideally, the best way to learn is to work directly under such an experienced person as his or her staff. If you can’t find a paid position, however, consider offering yourself as an intern or apprentice.

You can also look for digital marketing mentors online. Folks like Gary VaynerchukMichael StelznerNeil PatelRyan DeissMari SmithJoe PulizziJay BaerAnn HandleyRand FishkinGuy Kawasaki, and Lee Odden may come to mind. Beyond these influential individuals, you should also read online magazines that specialise in this topic. They include:

#6 Practice for 10,000 Hours…

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour rule is probably familiar to most of you. Written about in his book Outliers, Gladwell cited that 10,000 hours of practice are necessary in order to succeed.

Here’s his summary of how much time can influence mastery:

  • One hour — gain a basic introduction to the subject
  • 10 hours — gain a wider notion of the main concepts
  • 100 hours — reach an intermediate level
  • 1,000 hours — become a specialist
  • 10,000 hours — become a master in the subject

The best digital marketers spend a lot of time sharpening their skills by running online ads, analysing web traffic, optimising funnels, crafting content, and building social media communities.

#7 And Do So Deliberately

While practice makes perfect, blindly doing the same thing over and over again wouldn’t help you to become a proficient digital marketer.

You need to anchor your hours in deliberate practice, which is defined as follows:

Deliberate practice is when you work on a skill that requires 1 to 3 practice sessions to master. If it takes longer than that, then you are working on something that is too complex. Once you master this tiny behavior, you can move on to practicing the next small task that will take 1 to 3 sessions to master. Repeat this process for 10,000 hours. That is deliberate practice.

Here are some principles of deliberate practice:

  1. Focus on activities designed specifically to improve performance. Get a teacher, mentor or coach to help you improve;
  2. Consider activities that can be repeated frequently;
  3. Receive feedback on your results so that you can sharpen your skills and hone your craft;
  4. Practice in areas that may be highly mentally demanding;
  5. Embrace activities that aren’t much fun—these are the same ones that require deliberate practice.

But how do you know what you’re good at and what you suck at?

#8 Make Data Your Best Friend

Enter data analytics.

The beauty of digital marketing is that virtually everything can be measured and monitored. However, that also means that you need to be comfortable working with charts, tables and numbers.

To determine how you’re doing online (in tandem with deliberate practice — see above), you need to be proficient in data analytics tools like Google Analytics as well as digital advertising terms like CPM, CPC, ROAS, and others.

When you look at data, consider how the different parts integrate as a whole.

Aim to track your digital marketing results across the entire customer journey (or digital funnel), rather than just individual results on each digital platform.

Finally, consider how you should compute the marketing ROI for your individual campaigns.

#9 Document Rather Than Create

As I’ve previously written about here, the secret in digital marketing isn’t so much to create new content but to capture what you already know.

From my experience, the best digital marketers are often better at innovating than creating.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be developing fresh original campaigns that can “go viral” and capture the imaginations of the masses. Rather, it is about keeping track of what you’ve learned, taking note of what competitors are doing, and summarising the lessons that you’ve learned from each campaign.

By documenting what you’ve learned — from your own digital marketing efforts or those run by others — you’ll have a wealth of ideas and concepts to tap on.

#10 Establish a Regular Rhythm and Schedule

One thing I’ve noticed about the top digital marketers (be they SEO specialists, content/ social media savants, pay-per-click experts, or web wizards) is this:

They make digital marketing a ritual and a habit.

Now this doesn’t mean that you stop going for holidays or resting during the weekends. (All work and no play makes Jack and Jill dull children.)

Rather, the it is about creating a regular schedule — a routine that you can follow day after day, week after week, month after month.

Start with developing a content calendar. Use this to keep track of your ongoing campaigns, content production efforts, as well as the performance of your individual posts.

A calendar also helps you to assign duties and roles to the members of your team.

#11 Keep Distractions Away

As a digital marketer, you’ll spend a lot of time online.

This means that there is a high chance that you’ll be tempted to watch the latest YouTube videos (or 3), scroll through your Facebook or Instagram Feed, or trawl your TikTok for some light-hearted entertainment.

Before you know it, hours would’ve passed. You realise that your to-do list continues to loom large as the sun sets.

To avoid digital distractions, consider the discipline of digital minimalism. Here’s what it means:

Digital Minimalism: A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.

Personally, I find that the more effectively I can shut out digital distractions, the better the quality of my work — even when it largely involves social media and digital marketing!

#12 Play the Long Game

Last, but certainly not least, the best digital marketers invest their time, energy and money in long-term gains.

Playing the long game means focusing on enduring efforts that can build your online brand for the long-haul.

It means being consistent and sticking to your niche, providing ongoing value to your fans, followers and subscribers, and serving your customers and fans to the best of your ability.

This also means that you should refrain from repeatedly using marketing gimmicks to trigger conversions.

Conclusion

I hope that these 12 disciplines of top digital marketers can guide your path in building a career in digital marketing.

Let me recap these 12 attributes of successful digital marketers:

  1. Stick to your element
  2. Copy, adapt and modify
  3. Adopt the 80/20 rule (Pareto’s rule)
  4. Apply what you learn — don’t just learn for its own sake
  5. Find a coach, guide or mentor
  6. Practice for 10,000 hours (or as much as you can)
  7. Embrace deliberate practice
  8. Be comfortable with analysing data
  9. Document what you know and learned
  10. Set a regular schedule and rhythm
  11. Minimise online distractions
  12. Play the long game

Are there other traits that successful digital marketers should have? Let me know in the comments below.

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.

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