Learning Digital Marketing: What I Wish I Knew Then

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As you know, 312 Digital provides hard-core, how-to digital marketing training to marketers and business owners who are interested in learning how to market their business online. There are many different ways to learn digital marketing , including what I like to call the “school of hard knocks” – the pathway taken by the self-taught.

DunDigital Marketing Dunce CapAs I was thinking about that yesterday, I thought it would be fun to poll my connections on Facebook, so I asked them to share the one thing about digital marketing that they WISH they had known earlier in their career. The thing that if they HAD known it earlier in their career would have saved them a lot of heartache or made them a much better digital marketer.

Here is what they had to say:

Amy McCloskey Tobin I have 2: To hire an SEO Rockstar who speaks in Plain English, and to tatoo, in reverse on my forehead: It’s all about being HUMAN. After all of these years, I’ve come back to understanding that online selling is made up of the same components that Real Life selling requires.

Jessica Funcannon If this is gearing towards students, the absolute number one most important tip would be to develop and nurture your online presence as early as possible. Use online social networks professionally and consistently and make as many connections as possible.

Nancy Leyes Myrland I had the engagement part of it down from the start, or that would definitely be my 1st suggestion. I wish the focus on content marketing, and re-purposing content to share our thoughts in multiple ways and places in order to engage, teach and build relationships had already matured. But that’s okay, it’s here now!

Lindsay Bell-Wheeler Analytics. And how to make sense of what they’re reporting.

Kim Phillips That everything is in perpetual beta.

Bob Reed Analytics for sure.

Sam Fiorella Simple is better. Fewer words drive greater response. Oh, and before you do anything, hire a copywriter/editor!

Justin Brackett Ask for help sooner vs later. Less and More. Have a good editor.

Kurt Scholle My first thoughts were what Nancy said; engagement and quality content, although I’ve always thought those should be important. I think they’re 2 big areas where people can improve, but also benefit from.

Lindsay and Bob bring up a great idea with analytics. Most people don’t know the ROI of what they’re doing and don’t have metrics that signal success or need for revision.

I think people don’t listen to their market enough. There’s a wealth of information out there and you can learn from customers, prospects, competitors and competitor clients. Listening, as with anything else, is a very important component. And there are hundreds of places to begin listening.

Tracy Samantha Schmidt Show, don’t tell–but they taught me that in J-school. Applies to digital marketing as well.

Stacey Hood That’s there’s more to life than marketing, learn from everywhere. Everything is an opportunity.

Leyla Arsan Do it all for the nookie.

Danny Brown Never listen to Gini Dietrich. And don’t silo it as digital marketing; you’ll limit your reach and resources. Instead, focus on the marketing strategy and strengths of a particular company, brand, product, service, etc, and then see how other toolsets (including digital) can complement.

Dallas Kincaid That solyent green is made of people.

Nancy Leyes Myrland I’d like to see people focus more on integrating ALL marketing tactics. Everything that a company does has a communication aspect to it, so the need to sit down and draft a plan for how to utilize all channels to complement that message is critical.

Old School House Classroom

Eric Pratum 1) Build it before you need it. Whether it’s a relationship, a tool, a website, an online presence, or something else, your efforts will be more costly and more likely to fall flat if you wait to build it only when you need it. 2) At the end of the day, 90% of what you’re working on comes down to money – your salary, the emails you send, the products and services customers purchase. They’re all measured in money. Don’t forget that. 3) Learn analytics early. 9 out of 10 of the best marketers I’ve ever met had some background in analytics.

Pam Moore Perfection is enemy of good! Embrace imperfect perfection!

Tara Geissinger Stick with what you know and do it better than anybody else. It can be tempting to jump on the latest bandwagon – “We need to develop an app now!” but ultimately you just wind up diluting your strengths.

George Manty Market with purpose. Every bit of marketing you do should have a purpose behind it. So many businesses setup a facebook page/twitter account/linked in account, etc. because they heard an expert say that everyone needs a facebook page, etc. Then they don’t do anything with it, because they did it without knowing what purpose it was going to serve in their marketing.

Lisa Gerber How to correlate the data. You know that expression – data lies trends don’t? ( wait. is that right?) anyway, it’s not that hard to look at data and draw conclusions but correlating to other factors is!!

Rusty Speidel How to manage SEO.

Mana Ionescu – To find the right balance between data, strategy and execution. Excessive eagerness for any one part of the process can ruin the delivery.

Many thanks to those who saw my post on Facebook and responded. I think this is a really great list of ingredients from a very wise group of smart digital marketers.

What about you? What ONE THING do you wish you knew back when you began your digital marketing career? What lesson that you learned later in your career do you wish you had known when you began it? Another way of asking the same question is this – if you hired a new employee to take on the role of digital marketing for your firm, what is the one things you would really want them to know? I hope you’ll share that lesson in the comments below. You may save someone’s sanity today…

Schoolhouse image courtesy Caitlyn Willows via Flickr creative commons

Sean McGinnis

Sean McGinnis is founder of 312 Digital, full service digital agency based in Chicago, Illinois. 312 digital provides high performing websites, SEO, content marketing and other online marketing services to small and medium sized businesses across the US. He speaks and blogs about SEO, content creation, social media and a number of other digital topics. Sean has been involved in Internet Marketing since 1998. You can find him on .

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Ha!  I didn't think you'd be quoting us... and very funny that Danny actually ragged on Gini IN your blog post.  Great stuff.... now, can you do one like this about relationships? ;)


Danny Brown's point about NOT listening to Gini, flies in the face of my policy of doing exactly what she tells me to do. I'm conflicted, now. I wouldn't be much of a groupie if I didn't do what she says.

Latest blog post: The Race is On


@barrettrossie thank you sir! Kind I hoping the comments heat up. I know there's more insights others could share.

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @AmyMccTobin I have a whole series of these in my head now. This was super fun to throw together and it's nice to showcase the views of my trusted colleagues and friends.

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis moderator

 @NancyMyrland I like the idea of the crowd-sourced blog post like this. Will probably make it a regular feature. Maybe via email instead of FB to try to get more participation. :)


@seanmcginnis I was going to comment, but I think I need to think more... :-)


@seanmcginnis Anytime! Hope you are well!


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