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Is Internet Marketing A Career Option?

Feb 18, 2008
Many moons ago when I worked in the recruitment industry, 'New Year , New Career' was among our favourite advertising mantras, wheeled out in January to catch that wave of optimism that sweeps through the job market each year - "out with the old, in with the new'. What interests more at this juncture is not so much a career for the new year but rather, a career for the new age.

As we all know, the internet pervades every part of our modern lives and increasingly, organizations both large and new are looking to the internet as a central part of their marketing strategies. Not to have an internet marketing strategy these days is akin to committing commercial suicide. It was not so long ago that the primary focus of having an internet marketing strategy was to have a decent website. Companies would list their web address on all their stationery and sales reps' business cards, get their web designer to submit it to the major search engines and, well that's just it, for most companies there wasn't and still isn't an 'and'. Just because there would be a bunch of online inquiries and some business conducted as a result of this, plenty of business managers and owners regarded it as 'job done' and maybe just made a diary note to get back in touch with their web designer in 3 to 5 years to give their site a makeover.

There is an argument that maybe, just maybe, this approach to internet marketing was good enough at the beginning of this century but there is no way it is good enough anymore. And one of the problems here is that many business owners are being advised by their web designers - 'techies'. Now I have nothing against techies per se, in fact, I think a good web designer and a good programmer are worth their weight in gold. But as much as they might know their way around the internet, they are not marketing professionals. Against this, way too many marketing professionals are happy to leave internet marketing to either junior members of the marketing team or out source it to third parties. Where's the strategy?

With paid search advertising spend predicted to overtake all other forms of advertising spend over the next few years - and this includes the amount of money spent on TV advertising - isn't it about time that businesses started to put internet marketing at the centre of their marketing strategy rather than just regarding it as a useful add on? Some do of course and these are the companies that are beginning to thrive in the modern business environment. Others, frankly, need to adapt or die.

So that's all fine in principle but where are companies going to find these internet marketing professionals? Are we just talking about upgrading the role of web techies? Or are we talking about giving marketing professionals some technical skills? I would suggest a combination of both and neither and if that sounds paradoxical, allow me to explain.

I believe that what industry needs going forward is a new breed of internet marketing professionals. Individuals who understand all things internet and all things marketing. This could be accomplished by training techies in marketing skills and awareness or by training marketing professionals in the vagaries of the internet. However, I think it is best accomplished by training people, whatever their background, in internet marketing, period. Really, how many true internet marketing professionals are there compared to how many will be needed over the next few years?

Let's put it to the test. You are reading this article on the internet and presumably, you have an interest in internet marketing whether from a technical, marketing or lay perspective. You tell me, which of the following do you have sufficient knowledge of and skills at to be regarded as an expert?

- Keyword analysis
- Content management
- Audience segmentation and targeting
- Link building strategies
- PPC advertising
- Search engine optimization
- Article marketing
- Directory marketing
- Viral marketing
- Online branding
- Landing page strategies
- Front door versus back door marketing
- eCommerce strategies
- Marketing analysis
- Budget Optimization

Now I reckon there are only a few thousand people worldwide who could put a tick next to every single one of those boxes. Maybe there's a few more who could tick a dozen or so of those boxes and I reckon a lot of those are keen amateurs - people who play at being internet entrepreneurs have probably learned a lot more about internet marketing than they realize.

The next challenge for companies looking to engage an internet marketing specialist is how do you find the right person and how much are you going to pay? There are a bunch of specialist consultancies around that have been quietly building up their portfolios in recent years - mainly web designers who woke up and smelt the coffee. But these guys are expensive, conservatively I would say $5000 per month for an all inclusive internet marketing service - that will be around 1 day per week of their time excluding a client's advertising spend. An employer isn't going to tempt one of these guys away from their consultancies for less than $250k, right?

Maybe they'll take a chance on a business graduate and let them learn on the job. Until they say, thanks very much for the training, I'm off to open my own consultancy. Maybe they'll take an offline marketer and help them become an online specialist - except, who is going to train them? Maybe they'll take a techie and train them as a marketer.

OK, I accept all these are workable possibilities but isn't it about time that internet marketing was a recognized professional career path in its own right? I believe it is which is why I spent a chunk of my time last year developing a professional study program for internet marketers. This program has now been approved as an Accredited Experiential Learning program and students gain a professional qualification at the end of it - The Diploma in Internet Marketing.

The way the course has been designed is that it is virtually 100% experiential. As you would expect, students study online and are expected to invest 3 - 5 hours per week study time. The program is divided into 12 modules (one per month) and at the end of the whole program they will be able to tick each of those 15 boxes I highlighted earlier in this article - not just to say, "I know about that" but also to say, "I can do that and I'm pretty good at it." The fact that students build up an experienced based portfolio and get a fully accredited professional qualification at the end of it means two major career paths open up at the end of it:

1. An Internet Marketing or Search Management role with a large organization.

2. An internet marketing role within a specialist consultancy or a generalist advertising/marketing agency.

Of course, the other option is that graduates who have sufficient drive, ambition and attitude for risk will opt to start their own specialist consultancies on the back of what they have learned.

And as secondary audiences go, I wouldn't ignore the benefits to small business owners. If the big boys are getting more and more professional at internet marketing, the small guys are unlikely to be able to afford to hire the services of specialist, high quality consultants. Maybe small business owners need to learn about internet marketing themselves and what better way than via a structured, experiential learning program?

To take this discussion back to the central theme of this article, is internet marketing a serious career option? I think we have to give the answer as a resounding 'yes'. Not only is it a serious career option but professionally qualified internet marketers, depending on territory, should be looking at a salary range of somewhere between $60k and $250k, maybe even more. Perhaps more importantly, the role is likely to be sustainable for many years to come.

A new career for a new age - I'll let others fret about how to make that rhyme for their advertising slogans.
About the Author
Simon is an internet marketer and a professional development specialist. netSuccess Professionals
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