Find out what digital marketing skills you need to get a career as a digital marketer, a freelancer or to start your own online business.

by Audrey Ling


Digital marketing has been a hot topic for the longest time. 

If you’re a business or want to start a business; you need a digital presence to create awareness, build credibility, generate leads and close sales. 

In terms of career opportunities, the more diverse the internet becomes, the more digital opportunities there will be.

Here is a comprehensive guide on digital marketing – the different lingo, the verticals, the opportunities and what do employers expect when they hire for a digital marketer.

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What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is essentially marketing via digital means.

There are many digital platforms and tools these days, for example, the commonly known Facebook advertising, Instagram advertising and Google Ads are just one small part of it in the world of digital world. You could find many other social platforms that provides the same services.

There are non-paid, organic advertising as well, which includes social media marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO). There are tools that help create a referral ecosystem as well as to nurture and follow up with your leads.

In a nutshell, digital marketing leverages on the digital worlddigital platforms and digital tools to reach out and to convert a customer is his or her own customer journey.

Digital Marketing vs Traditional Marketing

The rise of digital platform disrupted the traditional advertising scene.

Traditional marketing in the past was known to be expensive and required a lot of effort. Think of billboards, magazines, television or radio as well as cinema placement. Think of the amount of ad budget you need in creating adverts as well.

Furthermore, it is common for people to determine the success of a campaign just by the number of impressions or eyeballs that sort the ad. We don’t even know if the person who saw the ads are even interested or relevant at all!

5 key things that make digital marketing indispensable compared to traditional advertising:


1. Digital marketing is more affordable and accessible

Today, you can start marketing with as low as RM100 which was clearly IMPOSSIBLE with traditional advertising (you would likely need a minimum of 5 digits). SMEs could finally get into the advertising game and compete with deep-pocketed MNCs.

2. You can test your ads

If one set of ads are not working, you can change the copy, images or targeting, and test out another set of ads with just a click of a button. All these could be done in just 5 mins. 

With traditional advertising such as billboards, you can’t just take down your ad as and when you want.

3. Digital marketing has better targeting

People used to target based on demographics – age, gender and race. With digital, you can target beyond demographics. You can target based on interest, intent and even life events. 

4. Digital marketing is measurable

The success of your campaigns can now be measured with the metrics that matter to you! Gone are the days where people measure anything based on impressions or “eyeballs”. Today, you can choose to measure based on the number of leads or the number of sales it generates!

5. Digital marketing has a large audience group unbounded by location

Just ask 10 friends around you, how many of them are using social media such as Facebook or Instagram? So long the person is using these platforms, you can advertise to them.

Now, instead of thinking locally, what if you want to target globally? With digital platforms, you can easily reach out to people from different countries with just a few clicks of a button.

If you have a business or want to start anything online, you will be missing out if you are not leveraging on the digital landscape.

Compared to traditional advertising, digital platforms made advertising accessible and affordable for all businesses to gain awareness, target the right audiences better and generate leads.

Are Digital Marketing, Online Marketing, eCommerce Marketing & Internet Marketing training the same?

Different marketing terms have different purposes

My students always ask me this. The truth is, they are pretty much the same but may have a slightly different purpose for each, thus requiring you to have different strategies.

Here are some key differences between these 4 marketing terms which you may have heard:

1. Digital Marketing

Digital marketing focuses on the technical digital skills you need to know. Basically, everything else requires digital marketing.

2. Online Marketing

Online marketing is using digital marketing to bring a business online. It may or may not be an eCommerce site. For example, every company has an online presence and may use the website to generate leads.

3. eCommerce Marketing

eCommerce marketing focuses on eCommerce with specific eCommerce strategies (e.g. upsell, cross-sell strategies). It may focus on key online platform optimisation as well, e.g. optimising your Lazada, Amazon store for visibility.

4. Internet Marketing

Internet marketing is a term that is highly related to affiliate marketing. You are using digital marketing to generate leads for other businesses and getting a commission after.

In a nutshell, everything requires digital marketing knowledge but you will need different strategies for different purposes.

Why Doesn't Digital Marketing Help All Businesses?

I have a couple of friends who told me that they burned a lot of money with digital marketing and it didn’t work for their business. After consulting them, here are the common traps I see.

Many people think that digital marketing will solve all business problems, but it doesn’t work this way.

Limitations of Digital Marketing:

  • It cannot fix your business’ fundamental economics problem (e.g. pricing or margin problems)

  • It cannot fix your product-market fit problem

  • It requires you to have a clear, concise strategy on you achieving your goal

  • It requires you to know your metrics clearly at each step of the marketing journey

For example, There are many Unicorn startups who does amazing digital marketing but are still making huge losses every year. Their problem was not a marketing problem but a business problem.

Digital marketing is about establishing an extra avenue to gain awareness and generate business.

Here are some action steps before doing digital marketing for your business:

  • Understand your business fundamentals

  • Identify who would likely need your products and services

  • Identify your key goal and other micro-goals that can help you achieve the key goal

Only if you are clear on these 3 points, then digital marketing could help you better.

Digital marketing role is to boost your business, not to fix your core business fundamentals.

What Digital Marketing Skills to Learn?

Digital marketing is huge. There are so many topics within digital marketing (it’s insane). It is no wonder beginners get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of knowledge you need to learn.

No worries. While digital marketing multiverse is huge, you will realise that a lot of them overlap conceptually and technically.

The 16 core digital marketing skill-sets every marketer should know:

The most important topic in determining the success of your business and marketing campaign. This is the cornerstone of all great marketing – knowing your businesses well and empathising with your customer. This will affect your marketing strategies and copywriting.

Marketing fundamentals cover aspects of customer survey, avatar creation and business positioning.

Have you walked into a messy store and leave immediately? The same concept applies to your website. You should optimise your page for conversion – be it to generate leads or sales. It is both an art and a science

Social media presence is important. This is how people find out about you, interact with you and validate if you are credible. You have to understand how individual platform works and make sure you start optimising your Facebook business page profile, Twitter account, Instagram business account, LinkedIn and other core social media your audience group might be using.

Not just that, your layout, post, tweets, highlights and images matters in resonating with your audience.

Data is important to help you make business decisions as well as to monitor your website traffic.

Firstly, you will need to know how to setup your Google Analytics properly for cleaner data.

Secondly, you will need to learn to understand the different data points that Google is providing – Audience, Acquisition, Behaviour and Conversion.

Thirdly, learn to make decisions based on data.

Fourthly, understand other platform’s data analytics (e.g. Facebook’s own data dashboard) and how it differs from google analytics.

Content creation is needed to inform, educate and delight your audience.

You create content on your social media to keep your audience posted, create blog content with SEO and audience intent in mind and create content assets such as eBooks, Infographic or online quizzes which you can reuse over time.

Not just that, the bulk of your effort should be placed on content distribution. Your content is only as good as how many people consume and value it.

Your website and the blog content you create must have SEO in mind. The key goal is to understand how the ever evolving search engine works.

It is important to create valuable content that people are actively searching for. You first need to do keyword and search query research to understand how people are using the search engine to look for answers. Next, create content that people truly care about.

There is on-page SEO optimisation to help search engine discover and read your content more efficiently. Furthermore, there are off-page SEO strategies to help elevate the credibility of your website.

Email is a crucial identifier of a person. Today, people attach their emails to their social media accounts and online websites. We use email to interact with other people as well. 

You can do email marketing to update your audience with your latest news and promotion, or you can use it to nurture your audience across a timeframe. There are several email marketing strategies to attract attention

Facebook and Instagram are the most commonly used social media, and that makes it an advertising haven for advertisers. As a marketer, you should have a Facebook and Instagram Business account to make full use of the platform’s ad manager and Facebook pixel.

Understand the different marketing strategies based on objectives, targeting, intent, ad assets and copy are crucial in helping people to discover you and achieving the business goals you have. 

The best time to target a potential customer is to catch them when they are googling for solutions online. Keyword research with Google keyword planner tool and keyword matching strategies are needed to ensure your ads are visible at the right keywords.

Google Display Network (GDN) is a part of Google Ads. You have probably seen banner ads when you are browsing websites. With GDN, the targeting strategy and how you are being charged matters in ensuring you don’t burst the bank using GDN.

YouTube is the second biggest search engine after Google. You need to put together your SEO knowledge and optimise it for Youtube. Youtube advertising is a subset of Google Ads. Choose your ad format, pay close attention to the targeting options and create content that tells a story or solve a solution.

Chatbot has been trending. People are talking about building bots to manage their store 24/7. You can use chatbots to qualify leads, navigate people to the right products or help them through their concerns before they make the purchase. With chatbots, you will need to ask how to get your bot to converse with a human being and assist them in decision making.

Word of Mouth is powerful. Throw in some incentives, it might become even more insane! Firstly, understand what makes your audience tick and provide them the incentive. Then use referral tools to keep track of their referral performance.

How do you determine which image can convert or which headline resonates better? You should always A/B test you ads, websites and emails to see which version help you reach your goals more efficiently. You will learn how to setup the tools you need such as Google Optimize to make this work.

Understanding the customer journey and how customers move through the marketing funnel would allow you to see gaps and opportunities. With this, you can push your website traffic and leads one step closer towards your business goals. This skill is a must have for people who want to advance to a marketing strategist role.

To be good at digital marketing, it is not just about putting together campaigns. It is about having the growth mindset and thinking out of the box. Growth hackers experiment a lot, find new avenues to grow sales, tap into human psychology to make them take action. We share with you some interesting ideas on what you can do to growth hack your business.

These are the key topics which we believe marketers should know. A marketer may not be a master of everything but they should know enough and understand how everything works together. There will be other platforms and also new technology which are variations of this core topics that you have to adapt to in the future.

We will never stop learning and the tech world will never stop evolving. The goal here is to have a marketer’s mindset and learn to strategize as well as adapt to the ever fluid digital landscape.

Have a marketer’s mindset and learn to strategize as well as adapt to the ever changing digital landscape.

Does Online marketing Course Certification matter?

There are plenty of certification out there! Obtaining a certificate can be a good gauge of your knowledge level relating to certain topics and platforms as well as your drive to learn.

Here are some digital marketing certificates you can look into:

1. Facebook Blueprint Certification

The is the certificate provided by Facebook where it will test you based on your mastery of its advertising platform. It cost USD$150 every time you take the exam and it is only valid for one year.

Facebook advertising platform evolves a lot within the year as Facebook introduces new advertising options and formats. It is no wonder they cap the validity to only 1 year.

To learn more about Facebook Blueprint Certification.

2. Google Ads Certification

Facebook advertising platformGoogle ads certification will test you based on your mastery of Google Ads Search, Video, Display and more. Similar to Facebook, the validity is only for 1 year as it is always evolving. The bright side: it is FREE! (YAY!)

To learn more about Google’s Certifications.

3. Digital Marketing Quantum Degree

This certificate is provided by NEXT Academy. It requires you to go through different course topics (which we covered under digital marketing skills). You are encouraged to use a business as an example and strategize on how to market the business using the 12 different digital marketing topics.

This course is suited for business owners and for people who aspire to be digital marketers as they will immediately be brainstorming and implementing the digital marketing strategies.

To learn more:

Online remote version
Onsite face-to-face version

Keep in mind that certificates does not determine if you are a good marketer.

Just like everything else, marketing cannot be purely theoretical. In fact, marketing is a human centric discipline which requires you to understand and empathise with your audiences. Regardless how many certificates you get, you should always have hands-on experience because different industries require different strategies.

How to be a good digital marketer?

You may have heard of a few school of thought on what makes a good digital marketers. Some say to be a generalist or a specialist. Recently, the term “full-stack digital marketer” came about as well.

Full stack digital marketer is a term for someone who knows enough of the different verticals within the digital marketing landscape to create a holistic marketing strategy. These marketers are generalist.

Let me introduce to you another term: T-shaped marketer.

What is a T-Shaped Marketer?

According to the Buffer:

A T-shaped marketer is both a generalist and a specialist. These marketers are well versed with the core digital marketing skill-sets. They have the ability to understand how different areas of marketing could work together to reach a business goal. Beyond that, they specialise in certain fields.

Here’s an example:

The way Buffer puts it: The vertical bar on the T represents the depth of related skills and expertise in a single field, whereas the horizontal bar is the ability to collaborate across disciplines with experts in other areas and to apply knowledge in areas of expertise other than one’s own.

The 2 keywords here are: expertise and collaboration.

No marketing efforts should be done in silo. If you want to be a good marketer, make sure to prepare yourself as a T-shaped marketer.

Here is a quick checklist of what makes a good marketer:

  • Be a T-shaped marketer.
  • Always seek to understand and empathise with your audience.
  • Keep a lookout for other people’s marketing effort
  • Be data driven. Everything you do should be backed by data.
  • Be up-to-date and never stop learning.
  • Never stop experimenting.

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