You have a fantastic plan for a digital startup, but do you have the skills to make it work? A solid business plan is a must, but that won’t get your company off the ground if you don’t have the hard talent that the digital marketplace requires. As more and more graduates turn to virtual work, the competition is becoming fierce. You can’t get by with an idea and good work ethic if your skill set is lacking or even slightly out of date. If you want to be seen, if you want to survive, you need to be an expert in at least three areas: social media marketing, data analysis, and programming.
If that sounds like a tall order, don’t worry. There are countless resources on the web to help you beef up your abilities and learn new skills from scratch. To make it even easier, we’ve compiled a short list of the top (free) places to learn online.
Marketing is a completely different animal than it was 15 years ago. Gone are the days of drawing up an attractive ad and sending it off to the newspaper, billboard, or Yellow Pages. Today your value as a marketer is based on an understanding of search engine optimization, social media, and data analysis.
You have to stay ahead of search algorithm updates and be familiar with the latest platforms before the rest of the world catches on. In some ways, marketing is like the mythical Hydra; every time you think you’ve got one head under control, two more appear. However, a large part of marketing and SEO boils down to relevant content. In fact, most search engine updates are designed to weed out negative material and connect readers with pertinent information. Thus, if you focus on your audience’s pain points and how you can honestly satisfy them, your strategy will have plenty of longevity.
Image: Marketing Charts
Companies are allocating more money toward digital marketing – and with good reason. They realize that the survival of their businesses depends on it. If people don’t see your products or services, customers will never arrive.
Picture yourself in a crowded (physical) marketplace. Your product is helpful, affordable, and aesthetically superior to anyone else’s, but no one can hear you. At the end of the day, you go home with empty pockets. That’s your business without any digital marketing.
Now imagine you’ve decided to stand in front of your stall, shouting to passersby about how amazing your product is, but even though you’re actively trying to get people to look, your voice doesn’t carry far enough. That’s your business without good digital marketing.
Or imagine that you’ve finally got the crowd’s attention, but when you start to explain your product, people smile and start to laugh. You overhear some say they had no idea folks were still making those. That’s your product with outdated digital marketing.
If you want to stand out in this melee of advertising, you’ll need to have a good product, promote it, get attention, and stay ahead of the curve.
Visualize telling a prospective investor or client that your company isn’t on Twitter or Facebook. You might as well boast that it has a Myspace profile. You may not realize it, but that’s how outdated your operation may appear when someone asks you if the next new social app might be good for business and you haven’t even heard about it.
All of this may seem intimidating, but it’s not too difficult to keep up with if you have the right tools. To learn (or improve) marketing skills, try the free Udemy course or sign up for an eBook-based course from Copyblogger.
This skill isn’t required for many jobs outside of programmers, but if you want an edge, learn to code. The same way “some Spanish” will help if you want to start a business in Mexico, even a basic understanding of coding will put you ahead in the digital market. In the same way, if you don’t speak the local language at all, you won’t have a real understanding of what’s going on in your company. You can tell others what you want to say, but they’ll have to translate for you, and you’ll have to trust that your message is getting out there.
Every part of your connection to your clients is built on code. The web interface, from XHTML to CSS to Java to Perl, right down to the script that powers your shopping cart, it’s all been written by a programmer. Your tweets, video ads, and email campaigns all came from code. It’s fair to say your entire business, from beginning to end, is entirely dependent on these programs.
See why it’s such a big deal?
If you can write code, even a little, you’ll be speaking the language of modern business. You’ll understand what you can do and what you can push your programmers to do. And on the topic of hiring programmers – you’ll need to do that someday. Understanding the languages they use can help you connect and carry a conversation with these specialists. And wouldn’t you rather know what you’re looking for when you sit down for the interview?
Computers and the web generate so much data that processing it is a full-time job. Even with all the programs we’ve come up with to organize it, there’s still a greater influx of raw information than most people can process. So much, in fact, that it’s difficult to interpret and decide what’s useful to your business. That’s why data analysis has become a specialty all its own.
You may be wondering why you need to know this when there are plenty of other sources of pre-digested data available, or when you can hire a data analyst once your company grows. Fact: without a working understanding of this vital science, your business won’t grow.
When your success or failure as a digital enterprise is based on clicks, keywords, and searches, you can’t afford to wait to hire a digital interpreter. You need to know who visits your site, how they got there, what they looked at, what they searched for, and – if they didn’t choose your services – whose products they preferred.
Ignoring relevant data is like disregarding direct questions or comments from your customers. Few random visitors are going to send you an email to let you know how you’re doing. All the help you need is at your fingertips. Use it.
Where to Go From Here
The thing about the digital marketplace that’s difficult for some people to understand is that it never sits still. The skills you need today are probably not the skills you’ll need five years from now. New apps and programs will come along, as well as new coding languages and interfaces. The single most important thing you can do to stay current is to keep learning. Jump on each new technology, asking the question, “What can this do for my customers?” Learn new tech like it’s your job – after all, it is.