Marketing & Advertising

Digital Marketing Managers are Specialty Strategists

Digital Marketing Managers are Specialty Strategists
Digital marketing managers are experts in—and have ownership of—all brand awareness and promotional activities on various online and mobile channels. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry July 29, 2020

Digital marketing managers do everything traditional marketing managers do, but with a focus on digital outlets. Their work can involve light data analytics work and UX design.

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The Digital Marketing Age is no longer imminent. It has, in fact, arrived: according to eMarketer, digital marketing spending surpassed spending on traditional forms of marketing for the first time in 2019. The trend toward digital marketing won’t end any time soon; by 2023, eMarketer forecasts, two-thirds of all media spending will go to digital outlets.

Not all companies have caught up to the new paradigm. While it’s common for businesses to handle local advertising in-house, many still outsource digital marketing instead of hiring a dedicated digital team. As a result, marketing professionals who go all-in on digital often end up working for digital marketing agencies, tech firms, and big companies that can afford to invest in mobile and online marketing.

Digital marketing managers at those types of businesses have it made. They develop strategies and digital marketing campaigns and oversee the marketing teams responsible for putting those ideas into action. They earn impressive salaries because they help companies design highly trackable campaigns that reach granular target audiences for a fraction of the cost of old-school advertising methods.

Then there are those digital marketing managers employed by smaller companies. They don’t just manage the digital marketing department; they are the digital marketing department. Part email marketing specialist, part search engine marketing specialist, part content marketing specialist, part social media marketing specialist, and part data analyst—they do it all, often for less money.

Part of the problem is that this role is new and, as a result, poorly defined. Some digital marketing managers spend their days developing landing page campaigns and responding to customer inquiries on social media. Others use data science and marketing analytics to segment audiences and predict customers’ online activities. If you’re considering launching a career in digital marketing, you need to know that there are probably more of the former online marketing jobs than the latter.

With the right training and certifications—and sometimes a master’s a digital marketing—it is possible to land a high-impact, high-paying digital marketing management position.

In this article, we answer the question what does a digital marketing manager do? and cover the following questions:

  • What is a digital marketing manager?
  • What are digital marketing managers responsible for?
  • What does a day in the life of the typical digital marketing manager look like?
  • Is digital marketing manager a highly technical job?
  • What skills and traits do successful digital marketing managers share?
  • How much do digital marketing managers typically earn?
  • Are careers in digital marketing stable?

What is a digital marketing manager?

Digital marketing managers are experts in—and have ownership of—all brand awareness and promotional activities on various online and mobile channels. Online advertising includes not only website and email marketing but also campaigns mounted in apps, on social media, in videos, and in podcasts.

Like traditional advertising, digital marketing exists to boost awareness, generate leads, increase sales, and inspire brand loyalty. Unlike traditional advertising, digital marketing is highly trackable and measurable. The results of digital campaigns can be measured in a variety of metrics, from sales figures to Twitter mentions. This means that digital marketing managers can be held to higher standards of accountability. Calculating ROI is as much a part of a digital marketing manager’s job as developing integrated marketing campaigns.

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What are digital marketing managers responsible for?

Like traditional marketing managers, digital marketing managers develop and oversee results-driven advertising campaigns. Their responsibilities often include:

  • Developing short- and long-term multi-channel marketing plans
  • Identifying digital conversion points and user funnels
  • Managing search engine optimization specialists, email marketing specialists, social media specialists, and SEM specialists
  • Measuring and reporting on campaign performance
  • Monitoring traffic trends, brand mentions, and social reach with marketing analytics tools
  • Overseeing content creation across digital channels
  • Planning, rolling out, and tracking conversion tests
  • Researching the latest digital platforms and marketing analytics tools
  • Support traditional marketing efforts with digital media components
  • Tracking click-through rates and consumers’ browsing and purchasing behavior
  • Updating brand assets and activities to optimize the user experience across channels

Note that every employer treats this marketing role differently. Digital marketing managers at some companies are part of the executive team and play a substantial role in strategy development. At others, they are the go-to guy for all things digital (like the classic one-person IT department, except for marketing) and are responsible for implementing strategic plans created by a marketing executive higher up the chain.

What does a day in the life of the typical digital marketing manager look like?

When you become a digital marketing manager, regardless of the scope of your duties, most days will start with email—and possibly a quick look at the company intranet—because that’s where the majority of internal and external requests and queries land. These, plus a review of the day’s calendar, help you prioritize your day.

Next, you might fire up your analytics and reputation analysis tools to see how campaigns performed overnight. You’ll look for insights you can glean from daily, weekly, and monthly patterns in website traffic, engagement, and sales. The most successful digital marketing managers understand the value of quantitative data (e.g., sales figures and social reach) and qualitative data (e.g., customer satisfaction and brand recognition).

From here, you might start working on a long-term digital strategy deck for a big client if you work for an agency, or you might rush off to a strategy meeting with the marketing management team if you’re at a large company. Throughout the day, you’ll probably answer questions from web designers, content developers, and front-end, back-end, and technical SEO specialists as those questions arise. At a smaller firm, your next tasks might involve assigning work to a small stable of freelance writers, reviewing your company’s pay-per-click (PPC) ads your company has running, and hopping on various social media channels to check out and respond to what customers are saying and to monitor what the competition is up to online. You’ll be called into meetings, but your role in those meetings may simply be to report on the results of campaigns that are currently running.

As your day winds down, you’ll probably spend some time researching digital marketing best practices. This is one of those fields in which the technology keeps evolving. Best practices have to change to keep up, so digital marketing managers have to stay up-to-date on developments in marketing automation and which forms of digital marketing have proven ineffective.

Is digital marketing manager a highly technical job?

This can be a high-tech job. Some digital marketing managers end up in this role after earning bachelor’s or master’s degrees in web development, computer science, data analytics, marketing analytics, or digital innovation. They have the skills and knowledge to dive deep into the technical side of digital marketing.

You don’t need to be a programmer or have a tech background to succeed in this role, however. The vast majority of digital marketing tools are designed with ease of use in mind. Psychology is still more important than technology when creating marketing strategies for digital channels. Advertising, regardless of how it’s delivered, still needs to appeal to the people who encounter it and inspire them to take action. You need to be aware of all the free and paid digital marketing channels at your disposal, but you don’t have to be an expert in all of them. On the other hand, the more technical expertise you can bring to the table, the more likely it is you’ll be one of the top-earning professionals in this role.

What skills and traits do successful digital marketing managers share?

Leadership and communication skills are critical for those digital marketing managers who work at agencies and large firms. Collaboration is the key to developing effective marketing campaigns. Digital marketing managers often have to work side by side with marketing directors and VPs while also managing SEO specialists, community managers, writers, and web developers. They may have to report to executives and shareholders or to external clients.

Grit might just be the most essential trait a digital marketing manager must possess. Like Silicon Valley startups, digital marketers must be able to ‘fail fast and pivot.’ When a tactic isn’t delivering results, successful digital marketing managers make adjustments or switch gears for however long it takes to figure out what will work. They have to be chance-takers and able to adapt quickly to evolving technologies without getting frustrated by misfires.

And that’s not all! According to Yeshiva University‘s Katz School of Science and Health, which offers an on-campus and an online Master of Science in Digital Marketing and Media, effective digital marketing managers also have highly developed decision-making skills and time-management skills, and are creative and analytical thinkers.

How much do digital marketing managers typically earn?

It’s telling that salaries for digital marketing manager jobs can range anywhere from $48,000 to more than $103,000. Ask five people in the advertising industry “How much does a digital marketing manager earn?” and you’ll get five different answers.

The average digital marketing manager salary is a comfortable $102,000, according to Salary.com, but PayScale reports that most digital marketing managers are earning closer to $66,000. You’ll probably earn somewhere between those two figures in this role. Only you can decide whether that’s enough. This can be a high-stress position because of the results-driven nature of the job—and because some digital marketing managers are responsible for everything from posting on Facebook to creating user personas.

Are careers in digital marketing stable?

Digital marketing isn’t going anywhere. If anything, digital marketing’s importance is only going to grow as more people cut the cord and stop subscribing to newspapers. Compared to traditional advertising, digital marketing is less expensive, easier to time and track, more customizable, and more engaging. Additional compelling data include:

Careers in digital marketing are definitely stable: there will be jobs. Whether that translates into stability for individual digital marketing managers depends on how this field evolves.

Right now, there are digital marketers with years of experience and advanced degrees earning less than entry-level programmers. Digital marketing managers don’t seem to command the same level of respect as traditional marketing managers. That may change as marketing and data science grow more interconnected. Digital marketing is already a highly specialized, cutting-edge field, but there is still a ton of potential for this role to shift in scope and influence and earn the respect it deserves. Opportunities for advancement for marketing managers may ultimately hinge not on one’s ability to derive customer insights from Google Trends or Google Analytics but rather on the ability to use R and Tableau to figure out what customers want before they do

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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