As both consumers and businesses make the shift to digital communications, the traditional marketing courses at universities are becoming almost irrelevant to the day-to-day operations of the modern marketing team. In today's online world, marketers are focused less on high-gloss branding and more on generating impactful results that prove a high return on investment.
With today's marketing curriculum, students are learning the same abstract concepts that were taught two decades ago. While brand strategy and advertising concepts still apply, unless you're at the VP or director level, the acronyms of yesteryear are rarely ever used in the work environment.
On the contrary, with the rise of online marketing campaigns and digital brands, marketing messaging is much more short lived. It's constantly being tested for better performance.
So instead of spending a majority of their time on brand strategy, the modern digital marketers are measuring the impact of specific marketing channels by conducting tests that drive performance, becoming power users of the marketing tools that increase efficiencies and help them reach their goals.
As the industry evolves and new software is introduced, it becomes increasingly less possible to master digital marketing in a three- to four-year university program, since the curriculum becomes dated after just a few months.
Marketing technology companies are starting to notice this trend. Many businesses now have active blogs that syndicate content such as marketing guides, educational videos, and white papers, to help marketers learn about strategy for each different marketing tool.
"Social media didn't even exist 20 years ago. If marketing textbooks are still covering the same concepts from that time period, it's practically a vanity course. The rise of new syndication tools and access to more data is forcing marketers to continuously stay on top of their game, just like physicians have to know the latest medicinal cures and investors need to study the volatile market trends," said Sahil Jain, CEO and cofounder of AdStage.
In fact, some creators of marketing tools are even investing their own resources into educating professionals on optimization strategy. Getting a crash course in digital marketing is more accessible today, as companies like AdStage provide free resources in what they call their Digital Marketing Academy. Software solutions like HubSpot and Moz also provide educational materials for marketers in their own academies.
Here are just a few types of digital marketing skills that can never be learned in a traditional university setting:
1. How to optimize a weekly or monthly budget.
In many cases, marketers have specific key performance indicators (KPIs) they are constantly trying to improve. Optimizing a weekly budget to ensure these KPIs are growing each week requires a knowledge of what to test, how long to test it for, and what tweaks to make to a campaign's setting to reach desired goals.
2. How to refine targeting to increase conversions.
Since there are several types of digital marketing campaigns, understanding how targeting works on publishers is crucial to success on cross-channel marketing. For example, Twitter Ads offers keyword, interest, and event-based targeting as just a few of their options.
3. The best performing ad formats by objective type.
Depending on a marketer's campaign objective, certain ad formats may yield better results. This can only be learned using real campaigns targeted at the desired audience.
4. Setting up conversion tracking.
Most marketing programs don't require knowledge of coding, and with the rise of mobile app technology, conversion tracking across devices has gotten even more complicated. Digital marketing academies stay up to date with tracking pixels and SDKs, and provide thorough documentation on how to implement conversion tracking correctly for a website or mobile app.
5. Defining an attribution model for the business.
When marketers use multichannel campaigns to close new business, each tool in the tech stack receives a portion of that revenue and needs to be attributed accordingly. Because each business differs, attribution modeling is very customized to a marketer's programs, and creating this model depends on a number of factors, including budgets, channels, and length of a sale cycles.
Marketing academies that are growing in popularity feature exclusive content that is specific to online marketing.
For example, the AdStage Digital Marketing Academy publishes a roundup of the week's online marketing news articles. Additionally, it features different types of content depending on the type of learner you are. Some students learn by reading, so there are countless written and visual guides available, and for those who learn best by listening, there are on-demand podcasts and webcasts.
"Learning new software and constantly improving your trade is critical for today's marketer. That's why we've made our Digital Marketing Academy completely available as a free resource for anyone who wants to learn about tackling everyday marketing challenges," said Jain.
AdStage, best known for its all-in-one advertising platform, provides products that help marketers be more efficient with their cross-network advertising efforts. The company recently expanded its product suite with Automate, a complete end-to-end solution for cross-network PPC automation that allows advertisers to automatically optimize campaign settings based on performance.
Similarly, HubSpot allows marketers to automatically send emails based on a user's online behavior while Moz provides tools for marketers to monitor their search presence and optimize content for readership.
These products are allowing today's marketers to uncover more data with greater efficiencies. Not only can marketers save time by using them, they are then able to conduct more tests to drive performance and implement new strategies for campaign optimization.
Solutions like these are becoming a must-have for every marketer in the digital era, and the complementing academies are providing the much needed education that is not available from a traditional marketing program.