The London Economic sits down with author and marketing guru Hafiz Muhammad Ali to discuss the benefits of a career in digital marketing.
The London Economic (TLE): What makes a career in digital marketing an appealing option for professionals already established in offline advertising or other media professions?
Hafiz Muhammad Ali (HMA): As advertising budgets continue to shift from offline to online, a career in digital makes sense for professionals in traditional roles. Bellwether reported that internet budgets are up 22.7% following a 35th consecutive quarter (since Q3 2009) where marketers have made upward revisions to their internet budgets.
Digital marketing means targeting the right demographics, interacting personally with prospects (e.g. through social media), and gathering measurable results. So it makes this career more exciting and fulfilling for professionals that have been doing the same thing for many years – offering them the chance to learn something new. This means that seasoned professionals can become a part of a growing industry compared to a declining one.
Digital marketing also means you can work from anywhere, have flexible hours, and travel. Finally, digital marketing skills are transferable to any industry which means it is easier to switch jobs.
TLE: How can older marketing professionals adapt to the rapidly-changing pace of digital marketing? Would you say it is necessary to be active in social media to succeed in this field?
HMA: I believe older marketing professionals can bring a lot to the table. From their interpersonal skills to their experience of selling, often they know more about what makes a person tick and that can help build a successful campaign.
To adapt better, traditional marketing professionals should focus on transferable skills that can help prolong their career. These include creative, copywriting, design, and project management skills.
For their personal lives, they have a choice, but for business, if you’re not willing to be on social media, it means you’re preparing to die soon. Being active on social media means that you want to hear your customers’ opinions, feedback and, most of all, industry trends.
TLE: How has the industry changed since you first became involved in digital marketing almost 10 years ago? Do you think it is easier or harder to forge a lucrative career today?
HMA: The digital marketing industry has come a long way, primarily because of the progression in technology. Things like mobile-first, voice search, or native advertising are a result of this change as consumers spend more time online on social platforms and on smartphones.
When I started out only SEO & Google Adwords were the favourite, and primary, marketing channels for businesses looking to market online. That has changed, and as a result, the opportunity to build a lucrative career has also grown.
We are seeing companies hiring for roles like ‘Facebook ad specialist’ or ‘Chief Instagram Officer’ which shows that even if you master one channel, you can build a great career out of it.
TLE: In the book you say that you entered the field in a large part because you felt like you could ‘make a difference’. How do you think digital marketing can have a positive impact on society?
HMA: I think digital marketing is all about people’s opinion and helping them make better decisions. Ultimately, digital marketing raises consumer awareness leading to a positive impact on society.
Consumers can use platforms like Google to search for places to eat or shop nearby and select them based on reviews. Companies, on the other hand, are benefiting by getting more exposure and customers.
Innovators are winning as they can launch their idea on Kickstarter, market and sell it before even manufacturing the product.
Small businesses are also be the winners because of digital marketing, as with only a limited budget they can test their idea – which is helping more people do what they are passionate about.
TLE: Digital marketing is a good choice for diverse range of professionals. Are there any specific offline careers that you think are particularly well suited to a making the transition to online marketing?
HMA: People with media and journalism backgrounds can make a great career in copywriting or as editors, and more. Salespeople can become part of sales teams for online software companies, helping them run webinars and grow business online. People with accounting or finance backgrounds, meanwhile, can work in more analytics-led fields such as Conversion or Web analytics – to help businesses better understand data and make better marketing decisions.
TLE: What advice would you give your younger self know about starting out in the industry?
HMA: I’d tell myself to embrace the change and go all in on digital. Pick a niche and master it and lastly, get dirty and experiment more.
TLE: By and large, can professionals reasonably expect to enter the field of digital marketing at the same level as they are currently working or is there likely to be a degree of ‘working their way up’?
HMA: I think it is important to set up expectations right. Professionals switching from other roles to digital will need to work their way up if they lack the skills required for the job compared to their colleagues.
However, with focused training – reading books about their relevant field (for which they can take my “Digital Ladder” Digital Marketing Career Assessment Test) – they can quickly make their way up.
TLE: Statistics mentioned in the book show many senior digital marketing positions are filled by men. How do you think more women can be encouraged to apply for jobs at senior level?
HMA: Many senior-level positions are already held by women in the industry, but this figure can always improve. A senior digital marketing position comes with responsibilities and I’d say that the first thing that women aiming for senior-level positions need to do is to believe in their ability to succeed. They can achieve their goals by never stopping learning, growing their network and by finding a mentor – then, no-one can stop them.
TLE: Who do you think can benefit from reading your new guide, Digital Passport: Your Pass to a Promising Career in Digital Marketing, and what do you hope they will take away from it?
HMA: From a practical perspective, it will help new graduates (or those soon to graduate) as well as aspiring marketers and professionals who want to switch their career to digital marketing and get their foot in the door. I believe a career in digital marketing has a lot to offer to each of these types of reader as different specialisations of digital marketing suits different personalities.
Digital Passport is a comprehensive resource – possibly the first of its kind – for professionals that provides practical advice about making a move from “dying” offline industries to a future-proof profession. It has been written expressly to help readers understand the digital marketing landscape and the impact of each specialisation (with the help of case studies), as well as helping set up the right expectations through career progression and outlining the steps needed to move forward. It contains thorough analyses of the industry by sector and readers will learn about the skill requirements and salary expectations of major fields in digital marketing and, most importantly, how can they succeed in digital marketing.
Hafiz Muhammad Ali is a serial entrepreneur and one of the UK’s leading digital marketing career and leadership coaches. He is the founder of international digital marketing agency, Omnicore and a regular contributor to Entrepreneur. His new book, Digital Passport: Your Pass to a Promising Career in Digital Marketing (Omnicore Publishing), is a comprehensive guide to launching a digital marketing career and is available now on Amazon UK priced £9.14 in paperback and £4.98 as an eBook. Find out more at hafizmuhammadali.com