Motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said: “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune”. How true this statement is, especially in the context of starting and building an online business.
For individuals with no previous experience in marketing, entering the world of digital marketing can seem like a daunting task. This is especially true if you are a new business owner – after all, it is just another area that you have to master.
As an entrepreneur, you will often find yourself wearing many hats and managing different functions including customer support, finance, product development, and human resources – just to name a few.
Yet, digital marketing is a skill that is absolutely important to have under your belt. Today, the internet is a platform where both big and small brands are fighting their own battle to create a strong online presence and acquire more consumers.
Learning digital marketing as a small business owner or freelancer provides you with significant benefits. It enables you to:
- Learn about and interact with potential customers
- Increase your reach in the global marketplace
- Achieve a better ROI than with traditional marketing methods
- Effectively track your marketing efforts online
Those are some main benefits, but that is still scratching the surface. The opportunities for scaling your online business with digital marketing are infinite, and that is why so many people are teaching themselves this valuable skill.
With this in mind, let us explore ways to accelerate your growth and expand your knowledge as a self-taught digital marketer – whether it is something you are considering or something you’ve started but feel overwhelmed by.
1. Narrow Your Focus, Especially in the Beginning
When you are exploring a new field like digital marketing, it is important to identify your goals and follow a strategic approach.
With many possible areas to learn, you need to focus your attention and decide which areas of digital marketing you want to approach first. Otherwise, you may find that you spread yourself too thin and move from one subject to another without making any real progress.
There are three specific phases that you can focus on as a self-taught digital marketer:
Customer acquisition is the process of bringing new customers or clients to your business. Retention relates to strategies that enable you to both provide and extract more value from your existing customer base. A conversion occurs when a visitor to your website performs a desired action, such as filling out a form or making a purchase.
As a beginner to digital marketing, you need to learn to become proficient in at least one of the three phases of the marketing funnel. The phase you choose first will depend on your main objective. Are you learning digital marketing to attract visitors to your blogging business?
Are you learning digital marketing to help your company upgrade its customer relationship management system? Or are you planning to work as a freelancer and help clients design landing pages?
There are so many directions in which you could take your digital marketing knowledge. While you need to become good at a subset of the three areas mentioned above, you will likely find yourself working interconnectedly across various digital marketing domains, including:
- Search Engine Optimization
- Search Engine Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Affiliate Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Influencer Marketing
Don’t expect yourself to be knowledgeable in all these areas from the beginning. Digital marketing does not operate in a silo, so you will naturally be exposed to many different domains as you tackle various projects.
Moreover, you can choose to expand your specializations after you’ve mastered one area and have become more experienced.
2. Create a Structured Learning Plan
If you’ve started learning digital marketing, but feel stuck right now, maybe you need a little more structure in your self-education journey.
You can achieve this by enrolling in a structured program. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are courses offered on an online learning platform, to a large number of participants. You can find them on popular platforms such as Udemy, Coursera, and Khan Academy.
With few to no prerequisites and a minimal fee, many of these MOOCs offer online certification programs that enable you to learn from industry experts and follow a well-organized curriculum.
To ensure your success, realistically assess how much time you can devote to your learning plan. Some people may be able to learn digital marketing skills as part of their current job, but others will need to devote mainly evenings and weekends to this task.
Whatever you do, give yourself a timeframe for completing the courses and stay committed to the learning tracks you choose.
3. Rapidly Consume Relevant Content
There is no shortage of free and useful information that can guide you as a self-taught digital marketer. The knowledge is abundant, but you have to reach out for it.
A good way to increase your exposure to relevant information is to start following top digital marketing blogs, such as HubSpot, Moz, and Neil Patel. This is an extremely effective way to learn, whether you are just starting your marketing journey or you’ve been on it for a while.
For complete beginners, reading popular digital marketing blogs will provide you with opportunities to learn new terminologies and keep up with current social trends.
As you become familiar with the industry, you’ll also get to read case studies where expert bloggers have put digital marketing practices into action and achieved impressive results.
YouTube is also an excellent resource for engaging video content and tutorials that show you how to navigate different digital marketing platforms. Subscribing to digital marketing channels and newsletters is one way to ensure that you receive a regular supply of valuable instruction.
4. Learn Through Practice
In order to accelerate your growth as a self-taught digital marketer, you need a place to practice your digital marketing skills.
While it is important to immerse yourself in knowledge, you also need to take action. Too many people spend all of their time watching others without implementing or testing what they learn.
Yet the fact is that some of the most valuable insights you gain as a digital marketer will come to you through experimentation. It’s the best way to discover what strategies work and which ones don’t.
The perfect place to start implementing your digital marketing skills is through a blog. A blog is a low-cost and low-risk platform to practice all the strategies you are learning. Building a blog allows you to put your work out in the open and build an asset, and it enables you to become a better writer in the process.
Digital marketing is more practical than theoretical. Once you’ve understood the theory behind a strategy, create a test campaign, monitor the results, and optimize as needed. You’ll be surprised at how much progress you make by simply learning from your mistakes.
5. Get involved in the Community
As a self-taught digital marketer, it is important to take the initiative to connect with others in the industry. Always aim to surround yourself with people more talented than yourself.
Networking can lead you to opportunities and connections that you may not have found otherwise.
Reach out and reply to experts on social media, and participate in the comment sections of the various blogs you read. LinkedIn is an especially useful platform since it is an environment where you can connect with people within your field, engage in discussions, and discover industry news.
You can also greatly expand your network by attending relevant conferences in your area. Such conferences are often full of interesting events, workshops, and lessons, all designed to enhance your skill set and help you build professional relationships.
Conclusion: Accelerate your growth as a self-taught digital marketer
As you immerse yourself in the world of digital marketing, you’ll learn to connect the dots between the various techniques and strategies you’ve encountered.
Even if your progress seems to be slow at the beginning, don’t give up. Stay committed to your learning plan, take advantage of the many resources available, and continue to grow your online portfolio and network.
As you push yourself out of your comfort zone and start to see results, you’ll grow more confident as a self-taught digital marketer.
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Roli Edema is a personal development author and digital marketer. She runs the blog roliedema.com where she shares useful insights to help individuals reach their personal, career, and business goals.