How Do I Become a Digital Strategist?
In today’s connected world, every organization needs a digital strategy. How do you stand out in a saturated online market? How do you develop an effective inbound marketing plan? How do you cut through the distraction to deliver your message? Finally — and most important — how do you convert?
All these questions and more are the focus of digital strategists, the Swiss Army marketers in charge of leading an organization’s digital marketing long-term planning, creation, and implementation. Or, as Gene De Libero explains:
Digital strategists are the people that lead the problem solving charge, helping to connect the dots between the needs, wants, and desires of the customer and those often illusive business, brand, and marketing goals. . . . Of course, at any given time during the engagement, you can swap out “business” with “customer,” “creative”, “technology”, etc. Same strategic approach, different lens.
Sound like a job you’d be interested in? Below, we break down ways to become a digital strategist, including job prospects, salary, and the particular skills required. First though, let’s review the specific responsibilities of the role.
Digital Strategist Responsibilities and Job Description
- Create strategy and content for web presence and outreach
- Analyze and optimize web traffic performance
- Identify new communities for lead generation
- Research latest digital marketing tools and technologies
- Monitor SEO/SEM, marketing, and sales metrics to forecast trends
- Build strong clients relationships
- Work across multiple teams (including creative, sales, and marketing) and organizations
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University of Denver – University College>Master’s in Marketing Communications
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The Marketing Communication master’s concentration prompts you to analyze consumer behavior, conduct market research, and engage the power of brands and messages in order to develop powerful digital marketing strategies. Evaluate various tactics, measure their effectiveness, and explore the intricacies of working with or in complex, multi-functional teams to execute compelling marketing campaigns.
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Digital Strategist Salary and Job Prospects
According to Payscale, the median salary for digital strategists is $59k, with more experienced digital strategists earning between $80-120k.
Job prospects are particularly promising. Because digital fluency ranks among the most in-demand marketing skills, you’ll be in an excellent position to advance your career along multiple paths, many of which offer significant salary bumps and long-term job growth.
For instance, at the next step up, digital marketing directors earn $154k a year and carry more decision-making weight (depending on organizational structure). Maybe you decide to pivot toward a broadly-focused managerial position: the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers to grow 10% over the next decade, and median salary is $130k. Finally, at the top of the food chain, marketing executives can earn well over $200k a year.
Related roles and career paths include:
- Digital Brand Manager
- SEO Managager
- Senior Marketing Manager
- Social Media Marketing Director
- Marketing Communication Director
- Internet Marketing Director
- IoT Marketing Strategist
- Chief Experience Officer
Using Your Education to Become a Digital Strategist
The majority of digital strategists have at least a bachelor’s in marketing or a related discipline, and many of the most innovative marketing programs are developing unique curricula to meet industry demands.
Depending on your career goals, a master’s track in marketing could be a good idea, as well, in which you’ll need to decide between a number of different programs and specializations.
If you want to stay within general marketing, it’s important to understand the difference between an MBA in Marketing vs. a traditional master’s. Aspiring digital strategists may want to stick to the latter, which features a skill-oriented, technical curriculum, but an MBA is a great option for those interested in managerial and C-suite roles further down the line.
The best options, however, may be specialized programs. Master’s degrees in Social Media Marketing and Marketing Research offer in-depth training, or you might consider career-focused, less formal bootcamps in digital marketing. In the same vein, graduate certificates are increasingly popular for their affordability and short completion time: Duke, UC Irvine, UCLA, Georgetown, and the University of Toronto are among a growing list of top-tier institutions offering online Digital Marketing Certificates.
Using Your Skills and Experience to Become a Digital Strategist
At the same time, because digital strategists’ responsibilities are constantly evolving, there aren’t any specific educational requirements. What really matter are skills and experience.
Half of working digital strategists have between 1-4 years of experience, and a third have 5-9. Generally speaking, employers ask for a minimum of 3 years on the job, but, again, the more you can demonstrate you have the requisite skills, the more your chances of employment increase.
That means that unlike broader marketing roles in areas like communication or management, digital strategists may need to prioritize hard and technical skills, such as:
- Target segmentation, value proposition, positioning, and brand strategy
- Working knowledge of web design and HTML
- Proficiency in a CRM software, e.g., Salesforce, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SAP
- Proficiency in SEO and related platforms
Earning digital marketing certifications can also help you stand out against the competition and provide tangible skill demonstrations:
- AMA Certified Professional Marketer
- DMA Certifications
- Google Analytics
- Google AdWords
- Facebook Advertising
None of this is to say traditional soft skills are irrelevant. Digital strategists need excellent verbal and written communication skills to meet internal and client-side expectations, as well as a healthy balance of leadership skills, organization, project and operations management know-how, and more.