How to Really Choose Your Marketing Skills

Digital marketing is so fascinating because one can choose from a range of marketing channels to specialize in.

In our own marketing career growth framework, we identified 13 marketing channels such as content marketing, social media, and SEO. And there are many more channels not included in our framework, such as international marketing and mobile marketing.

Our marketing career growth framework. You can read more about it here.

But one might ask, “which channel or channels should I specialize in?” Or in a broader sense, “how should I plan my marketing career?”

Those are great questions!

Here’s how I tend to think about career growth:

1. Career planning for digital marketers is really hard.

Things change. Needs arise. Channels come and go. The most valuable skill to have is probably not anything like writing or video or networking but rather plain ol’ flexibility!

2. Balance what you enjoy, what you’re good at, and what your team needs.

We use this Venn diagram to speak about how Buffer teammates move between roles on the team. Often, we’ve found there to be a varying combination of these three factors pulling someone to do a job.

I’d suggest factoring in each of these when choosing a channel to grow into.

3. Go deep on two or more channels.

A single skill at a very deep level can be really valuable to have. The tricky thing I’ve observed is that depth is more highly valued at larger companies. A five-person marketing team likely won’t have the need for an SEO expert whose primary contribution is SEO. A five-person marketing team will need someone who can do two or more channels well (and can do lots more well enough).

Figure out the size of team you want to be part of, then build your skills accordingly.

4. Aim for rare and unusual combinations.

Capitalism rewards things that are both rare and valuable. You make yourself rare by combining two or more “pretty goods” until no one else has your mix…

This is a Marc Andreessen quote I love (there’s a bunch more in his book of blog posts, which you can download for free).

Have you ever met someone who’s great at paid ads and events? What about content and business development? Those are rare combos. Combining these somewhat disparate skills can make for a really attractive resume as you search out jobs in the future.

5. Choose an emerging channel.

From Brian Balfour:

If you are just starting your digital marketing career and have many years ahead of you, I highly suggest leaning towards emerging channels. Four years ago the emerging channels would have been Facebook and content marketing.

Emerging channels today would likely be data, artificial intelligence, customer experience, and engineering-as-marketing. If you can get in on the ground floor of these, you’ll be well positioned when they become more widely recognized.

How do you choose your specialization?

That’s my take on marketing career growth based on my experience so far.

It’d be great to hear how you chose your specialization and if you have any advice for marketers planning their careers.

The full version of this blog post was first published on the Buffer Social blog on April 5, 2017 by Kevan Lee. It has been edited by Alfred Lua.
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