It can be difficult to pin down a digital strategist’s job description.
Speak with a recruiter about digital strategy, and you’ll find a mix of job descriptions that sound much like variations on account executives, social media managers, web analytics managers, media planners, marketing strategists, or a combination of these marketing roles.
This outlines the unfortunate truth that jobs in Marketing can be challenging to unpack.
This handy guide will explore the intricacies of a digital strategist’s job and how it relates to other marketing roles.
Hopefully, by the end, you’ll be able to differentiate between digital strategists, marketing strategists, and brand strategists to better offer these services.
But first, a word or two on digital marketing.
What is Digital Marketing?
Digital marketing is a relatively new concept in the history of Marketing. The field has blossomed alongside the widespread use of the internet.
Over 4 billion people regularly use the internet. That is a transformative change in human behaviour over a relatively short period in history since the conception of the world wide web.
Advertising and marketing have always been about meeting the target audience wherever they are.
You need to engage with the audience in meaningful ways to help meet business objectives.
Since so many people interact with the digital space on a daily basis, businesses need to determine how to leverage this to their advantage to meet business goals.
In a big picture way of thinking, that’s the aim of digital marketing.
As businesses become increasingly digital, data-driven, and marketing campaigns move increasingly online, digital strategists will be responsible for paving the way and creating digital marketing strategies that lead to growth.
Digital Strategist v Marketing Strategist
A marketing strategy refers to a company’s overall game plan for reaching and targeting prospective consumers and then converting those prospects into customers.
It’s the marketing strategist’s job to establish marketing goals to direct marketing campaigns. Then, they analyse various metrics on an ongoing basis to evaluate success and inform future campaigns.
A digital marketing strategist is an extension of this position focusing on all digital aspects of Marketing.
However, we need to add another element here – brand strategy.
Brand Strategist v Marketing Strategist
A brand strategist’s job is to establish how you communicate the brand to the target audience.
They define the method the brand will use to connect and resonate with who the audience is through strategic positioning and messaging which is then mobilized by the marketing strategist.
It’s about shaping the brand’s perception in the mind of the audience.
So, brand strategy is about building relationships, whereas marketing strategy is more transactional and conversion-focused.
Though, ultimately, there is crossover in the responsibilities of marketing strategists and branding strategists since they both aim to attract customers to a business to grow that business.
Confused? Don’t worry; you’re not alone!
Branding v marketing is not a comparison that’s going away anytime soon.
On top of that, we’re throwing the job title ‘Digital strategist’ into the mix.
Depending on the size of the team, a digital strategist may encompass all branding and marketing responsibilities that relate to the digital space.
But, enough of the semantical exploration – let’s get into the ins and outs of what a digital strategist might actually do day-to-day.
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What Does a Digital Strategist Do?
The digital strategist within a business’ marketing team can have a variety of duties and responsibilities.
Read a job description template, and you’ll see phrases like
‘steer the company’s digital narrative’, ‘coordinate various digital mediums’, and ‘leverage digital touchpoints’ to pursue specific goals.
Let’s break those rather high-concept phrases into some of the specific responsibilities of a digital strategist.
Evaluate existing digital marketing strategy – identify weaknesses and areas for improvement
Analyze and report on digital campaigns using Google Analytics
Develop digital media branding and marketing guidelines to lead brand awareness campaigns
Evaluate paid media campaigns, and implement new ad campaigns across a variety of digital channels, including the use of PPC and Adwords campaigns
Oversee social media channels
Collaborate with clients, sales teams, and the Marketing manager
Implementing email marketing campaigns
Explore Brand Strategy
Programs & Tools
Digital Strategist = Jack of All Trades
It should be evident that a digital strategist needs a wide range of marketing expertise as they may need to bring that know-how to various tasks each week.
However, we can’t stress enough that each digital strategist position is different – a thorough understanding of each organization’s marketing team is necessary to ascertain what your focus as a digital strategist might be.
A small, overstretched team might need you to oversee online marketing in total (an intimidating task!)
Yet, in many marketing teams, some of these responsibilities are delegated elsewhere.
For instance, a social media strategist may oversee social media channels. There may be a graphic design team to work with a dedicated brand strategist to work on aspects of online branding.
In an ideal world, your role as a digital strategist will focus on the ‘strategy’ element, planning and directing digital campaigns and assessing their success as tasks are allocated to the relevant teams.
You need to collaborate and use your project management and communication skills to cooperate with all the different marketing teams, directing their efforts toward a shared digital vision.
That means keeping track of various aspects of digital marketing efforts- email marketing, content marketing, social media, and more – to ensure everybody is moving in the right direction.
Digital Strategist Job Requirements
Digital strategist roles usually have a list of general job requirements that can give you an idea of what’s needed for the position.
Check out the following bullet points for a list of standard requirements:
Bachelor’s degree in Marketing, Communication, Digital Marketing, or related field
Firm grasp of digital marketing tools
Thorough knowledge of business principles
Experience with social media
Experience with SEO
Knowledge of CRMs and content management systems
Often, listing requirements in this manner can be misleading. How do you evaluate what a ‘firm grasp of digital marketing tools’ looks like in reality?
A digital strategist needs to have a broad skillset with hard and soft skills to really excel in the role.
Ticking a box isn’t really good enough – you need a whole lot more to be an effective member of a marketing team.
To help you do that, let’s explore the characteristics of a good digital strategist.
What Makes a Great Digital Strategist?
A good digital strategist will spot trends and get ahead of them to leverage opportunities for the business.
Coming first to the party reaps the rewards when those coming second and third face diminishing returns.
If, in your data analysis, you can spot opportunities that allow you to get ahead of the curve, this can lead to great results for the business.
Sometimes digital marketing requires some out-of-the-box creative thinking to find solutions.
This could be creatively making connections between different elements of the marketing strategy to optimize workflow.
Creativity could manifest itself as an innovative idea for a new brand awareness campaign or a thoughtful, new application of existing technological tools.
A lot of digital marketing can feel like copying – there are industry standards for what works, and it often pays just to keep doing what works with your marketing channels to get by.
However, when ‘getting by’ isn’t enough, the best digital strategists innovate to drive growth.
Much of digital marketing is trial and error, so a good digital strategist will understand that it is unrealistic to expect unlimited successes from their campaigns and that any successes won’t come overnight.
The ultimate aim of digital marketing – procuring clients for the business – is an ongoing, neverending task.
Digital strategists need to constantly adjust their approaches based on analysis of what works and what doesn’t.
And, complacency is the enemy! Just because something is working now doesn’t mean it will continue doing so.
The realistic view is to understand that the industry changes, goals shift, and digital strategists need to be flexible to shift with them.
You can’t get away from it – to do all the tasks of a digital strategist job, you’re going to need some level of expertise.
As a puppet master of the overall digital strategy, you need to demonstrate expertise across many digital marketing channels and show an understanding of how everything works together.
This means knowing how your tools work, staying up to date with an ever-changing industry, needing a thorough understanding of digital processes, and knowing what works for users.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of a whole host of potential areas of expertise you need to perform the role.
It’s fair to say a growth mindset is beneficial for a digital strategist since you need to be enthusiastic about learning your field.
Of course, teamwork is a core skill for most professions and anybody who works in a team.
It seems especially pertinent to a digital strategist role since the very nature of the position relies on a shared understanding of the bigger picture.
You need to build trust within your marketing team and the sales teams you’re working with since they are the ones who will carry out the digital marketing strategy.
Where possible, you may have to educate team members on the reasoning behind your strategic decisions.
You should build this trust through effective communication and a clear and concise vision of the wider goals and how the team effort will drive the business forward.
How to Get a Job as a Digital Strategist
The median digital strategist salary in the US is just under $65,000. This rises to over $70,000 in cities like New York or San Francisco.
It is a competitive market for jobs and one that is expanding as more and more businesses understand the need for larger digital marketing teams.
This means that, for freelancers, agency owners, and entrepreneurs, offering digital strategy as a service is an increasing lucrative business.
Let’s run through some basic tips to give you the best chance of getting a digital strategist job.
Know The Role You Want
We’ve established that what constitutes a digital strategist will vary from team to team and company to company.
So, you should read job descriptions carefully to make sure the job aligns with your experience and expertise.
Build Your Skillset
There are many aspects of digital marketing requiring a broad skillset. It’s not that difficult to engage in training to fill some gaps in your expertise.
There are plenty of free digital marketing courses out there to take advantage of.
In an ever-changing industry, interviewers will expect you to want to engage in professional development anyway.
There’s nothing to gain from falsifying your expertise.
Making up a lot of skills and knowledge to impress the hiring manager may seem like a way to get your foot in the door, but, usually, a recruiter can see through this.
What’s more, they’ll expect you to perform the role’s duties based on your claims, so you’ll be in a sticky position when asked to produce reports when you have no knowledge of Google Analytics.
Refer to Years of Experience
By all means, if you do have years of experience in digital marketing, refer to them with authority.
Use concrete examples of quantifiable data to evidence your successes.
This helps to establish your credibility for and helps frame you as a viable candidate to offer your services.
Over To You
Digital strategy is an ever-evolving field. You have to keep up to date with the latest developments and know-how to use the technological tools at your disposal to make a positive impact for businesses.
What works now may not work in the future – that’s why good digital strategists always have an eye on the future to make new gains for their marketing teams.
Therefore, the nature of the work is a challenge as you face a never-ending cycle of learning, goal-setting, and adjustment to keep winning for businesses and ensure growth.
In temporary digital existence where strategy must adapt, there is one thing you can rely on – the field is going anywhere.
Offering digital strategy as a service should only increase in importance as businesses seek to gain competitive advantages.
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