Learning non-tech skills can drastically improve your prospects as a developer.
Few non-tech skills are more useful to businesses than digital marketing, especially when paired with web development skills. In this guest post, Kyle Prinsloo from Study Web Development gives you the lowdown on exactly why web developers should consider levelling up their digital marketing skills.
How does web development relate to digital marketing?
Short answer: it doesn’t, necessarily.
But if you combine coding skills with online marketing skills, you will gain a skillset that will be beneficial to your career – whether you have a full-time job or freelancing business.
So, what is digital marketing?
In short, digital marketing is marketing products or services using electronic devices. The most common form of digital marketing involves online marketing.
Before going any further, it’s important to understand exactly what digital marketing entails. Here is a simplified list:
- SEO: The process of optimizing a website to show higher in the results on a search engine like Google.
- Analytics: Involves analyzing the data on what works or doesn't work and seeing what can be improved on.
- AdWords: A paid advertising platform that shows ads on Google and other search engines.
- Social Media: This is an obvious one–it’s the process of getting more engagement from social media platforms.
- Email Marketing: All marketing and communication accomplished through an email platform.
- Content Marketing: Generally everything related to writing persuasive and valuable content for a targeted audience for the purpose of sales/awareness.
- Online Advertisements: Any advertisements involving online ads across multiple platforms and devices.
- Conversion Rate Optimization: The process of understanding what works and what doesn’t work to convert customers, testing and improving to achieve the best results.
If you have some design skills, that’s also a bonus. :)
So what are the benefits of learning digital marketing as a developer?
1. Become a More In-Demand Candidate or Employee
With the knowledge and skills to create websites that work, and the skillset to get targeted traffic to the site and improve conversion rates, knowing digital marketing can only be beneficial to helping you become more attractive to clients and employers.
If you are a freelance web developer and you create websites for clients, you can now offer bundled services to give more value while also earning more.
Depending on the projects I do for clients, I always bundle retainer services like AdWords management, content marketing, design and SEO.
Not only does the website have a greater chance of achieving success with all of these strategies in place, but it’s also an excellent predictable income for you, which avoids the financial dips that some freelancers experience.
If you are an employee, approach your employer or manager about some ideas you have to improve the website, offering to apply your skills to the project.
Bottom line is, be creative in your position, add more value, and show you are more of an asset with your knowledge. This will be of great benefit to you in the long run.
2. Increase Your Income
If you have a tech-related career, you have the potential to negotiate a salary increase if you can utilize a digital marketing skillset to improve the business' online presence and sales.
If you are a freelancer, you can enjoy an income jump if you apply these services to your current and future projects. You'll have to know how to sell yourself and negotiate good rates, of course, but this knowledge will help you to stand out from the crowd.
3. Grow Your Personal Brand
Which would you prefer:
Scenario one: Actively pursuing clients every month if you're a freelancer, or slogging through a job search if you prefer traditional employment.
Scenario two: Clients and potential employers reaching out to you, wanting to hire you and handing you great offers.
I am not being idealistic here. The second scenario can and does happen. Is it easy? No…but it is possible.
The power of growing your personal brand online is not even worthy of a debate – it’s a necessity. Start a blog, share what you learn, show your knowledge, and get involved on social media. Position yourself as an expert in your field and people will start viewing you as one.
4. Get Involved In a Growing Field
With internet usage increasing in exponential numbers across the world, there is an increased demand for digital marketing professionals and companies.
Take a look at this chart illustrating the evolution of technology and usage from 2000 – 2016:
It’s amazing to see over the last 16+ years how the use of various devices and the internet in general have skyrocketed. One of the main metrics that intrigues me is the percentage of internet users.
88% of US adults now use the internet in 2016/2017, compared with only 52% in the year 2000. This means that there are simply more people out there to market to, which means there are more businesses needing individuals who have online marketing skills.
An understanding of digital marketing is vital to succeeding in this (ever-growing) crowded market.
5. Have a Great Fallback Career
This is a bold statement, I know.
If I woke up one day and I lost all my clients, connections, and website, and I had to start all over from scratch to get an income, I would do this:
- Figure out how much I want to earn monthly ($5,000 as an example).
- Target a small, competitive niche like solar panels.
- Create an industry analysis report where I analyse the market, competitors, and websites, and then position myself as an expert in this niche.
- Compile a digital marketing retainer package of services for $1,250 per client aimed at improving sales in the solar panel niche. (This could be web development improvements, AdWords, content marketing, SEO, design, etc.)
- Sign up 4 clients paying $1,250 each which equals a full-time monthly income for myself and a small monthly expense for the client.
I would then work 2 hours per day, per client, which equals a full day’s work, or I could work one full week for each client.
Does a similar idea sound good to you? Then start now: it'll be a lot easier to hit the ground running if you work on developing those skills before you really need them.
6. Develop the Skills to Launch Your Own Products or Services Successfully
Does launching your own products or freelancing on the side appeal to you? There are many web developers who aspire to do this one day, and it's a great way to pull in extra cash or even start your own full-time business.
I am a huge advocate for web developers – especially front end developers – to learn digital marketing. The fact is that it equips you with the knowledge to make effective websites.
I understand that what I say may come with a lot of disagreement, but my philosophy is that ANYONE can create a website… but NOT everyone can create websites that work.
The reason that I have a waiting list of clients is not just because I create websites. I have a waiting list because I have proven that I create websites that achieve the client’s goal.
I am not saying this to appear arrogant; I am saying it because I am only able to do this due to the knowledge I have acquired by learning and testing, and I hope you do the same.
If we think about it another way, let’s say you created the most awesome website ever made on a topic – other sites don’t even come close to what you’ve created.
…but now what?
You need to get visitors to the site or customers to buy the product or service you created the site for.
If this intrigues you and if you are really invested in going above and beyond to create websites that achieve success, you NEED to know how to get targeted traffic to your website. Digital marketing is the key to accomplishing this.
Where to Study Digital Marketing
The best thing about digital marketing is there are so many places to learn more about it.
Here are some of my favorite resources to learn digital marketing skills, broken down by category.
- SEO: SEO Training Course by Moz
- Analytics: Google Analytics Academy
- AdWords: Google AdWords for Beginners
- Social Media: Social Media Marketing Course
- Email Marketing: Email Marketing for Humans
- Content Marketing: Content Marketing Certification Course
- Online Advertisements: Social Media PPC on 10+ Advertising Platforms
- Conversion Rate Optimization: The Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization
- As an added extra: Graphic Design Bootcamp
I’d also recommend this free 20-chapter digital marketing book by Quirk.
My final thoughts
Look at Laurence Bradford, John Sonmez, Brennan Dunn, Michael Hartl and other experts. They all teach digital marketing in some way, or at least they utilize it in their business to help you become a better, more in-demand developer.
It’s also important to mention that many digital marketing careers involve coding skills.
For instance, many digital marketers rely heavily on data analysis, event tracking, and running SQL queries. A/B testing and landing page design/mockups are also very common.
All of these relate to coding/design in some way.
Programming is a great skill to have, but if you combine programming know-how with digital marketing skills, you are on the path to becoming an in-demand programmer who stands out from the crowd.
It’s now time to take action!
I hope you found this article valuable, and thank you to Laurence for the opportunity of sharing this with her audience.
About the author
Kyle has a blog called studywebdevelopment.com where he teaches web developers how to advance their careers and grow their freelancing business.