Improvement can come in the most unexpected forms.
As a content strategist, I regularly deal with strange sources of inspiration. I've come up with new content topics from workout videos and watching my cat play with bugs on the floor. One time I drank two shots of espresso way too quickly and started spouting off new business ideas to my bosses (most of which, I realized after sobering up, made no sense). Maybe if I had more business sense they would've been good ideas.
The point is, you might be surprised what will improve your marketing efforts, and what skills or knowledge can make you a better marketer.
Here are 6 skills you can learn that will significantly improve your online marketing efforts.
Remember taking statistics back in high school or college? (It's probably been a while. Let's refresh your memory.)
To start, let's talk about the definition of statistics. Statistics is:
"the science of learning from data, and of measuring, controlling, and communicating uncertainty; and it thereby provides the navigation essential for controlling the course of scientific and societal advances." - ASA
In other words, it's not just gathering data. It's also the ability to infer and pull conclusions from data to drive societal progress (or in this case, business progress). It's the ability to understand cause vs. correlation, and to identify additional factors that may be influencing your data. There is more to data than just the numbers.
Understanding the nuances of data and probabilities can help keep your marketing goals and expectations realistic. For instance, making your content appealing to a broad audience will statistically bring more traffic to your website. However, what percentage of that broad audience is actually interested in your product or service?
On the other hand, appealing to a smaller, niche audience will naturally bring you less traffic. However, the traffic you DO attract is statistically more likely to be interested and convert. If you're interested in increasing conversions, download the 30 Greatest Lead Generation Tips, Tricks, and Ideas.
Smaller numbers aren't necessarily worse numbers. Growth is always nice, but quality is always more important than quantity. Understanding statistics and what influences your data will keep your marketing strategies on track.
Human Behavior & Psychology
You may also have studied psychology back in your school days. Psychology is:
"the scientific study of mental life and human behaviour. It helps explain how we think, feel and act both individually and as part of a social group." - University of Bath
It seems obvious that understanding human motivations will assist your marketing efforts. At the most basic level, marketing is about using common theories about human behavior to increase awareness about a company, product, or service.
In general, to reach your buyers, you need to understand what influences their purchasing decisions. You need to understand their motivations, frustrations, and what they care about. This information will help you tailor your content to the specific needs of your buyer personas. However, there are also specific ways you can use behavior and psychology to your advantage.
First, you can use online activity behavioral studies to optimize your online presence. Two famous pieces of data we marketers use are the F-shaped eye tracking study, and information on best times of day to post and share social media content.
The F-shape eye tracking study shows that humans (at least Western humans) display a very consistent eye movement pattern when browsing online (no matter the webpage). We start at the top left and move our eyes left to right, and then directly downward. The bottom right is the least viewed section of any given webpage. Here's an example heat mapped image:
Image from the Nielsen Norman Group
The red sections are where the subjects' eyes stayed the longest. You can use this information to optimize where you place the most important content on your website, and to increase your conversion rate.
The second piece of behavioral information mentioned above is when people are most active online. If you can time your social media posting with the times that your buyers are browsing social media, you increase the chances of being seen by your targets.
These are only two of many behavioral data points that you can integrate into your marketing efforts.
Beyond aligning our content to behaviors, we can also influence emotions to get marketing results. One famous tactic is anxiety marketing, which plays on our need to be accepted and our fear of missing out. When you break down how it works, it sounds bad. But it does work.
Remember, behavioral and psychological tactics are just another tool to increase your marketing effectiveness. The ultimate buying decision is on the buyer - they will choose whether or not to purchase your product or service.
Understanding the basics of HTML allows you to collect little pieces of information from websites.
Do you like the way a website organized their content? Do you really like the background color of some other website? If you know what you're looking at in a piece of HTML code, you can identify color codes, fonts, sizes, and other elements of the webpage that you can take and recreate as your own (obviously without plagiarizing copy or design).
Right clicking on a section of any webpage and selecting "Inspect" allows you to view the HTML source code. If you understand HTML, you can quickly pick out the information that caught your attention. For instance:
This is a really nice orange button. I think I want to use this orange for my own button.
Oh, look! Found the color code!
An additional perk is that you feel like a super hacker if you have no prior web dev experience. All the professional developers will roll their eyes when they read that.
(OK, you may have expected this one. However, it's an absolutely necessary skill for all marketers.)
Online marketing is juggling twenty different balls at once. You're trying to pump out three blog posts a week while updating every social media profile every day, following up on leads, producing new premium content offers to get more leads, optimizing all your web content, brainstorming ways to get ahead in your industry, tracking your metrics and analytics, researching your competitors, staying on top of trends, etc., etc.
It's hard to juggle all of that plus the other responsibilities of your position. This is where honing your time management skills becomes a major advantage for your online marketing.
There are many automated marketing platforms and services that can help you manage your time. On social media, you can schedule multiple posts at once. Spend an hour or two scheduling posts for the next month instead of stressing about it every day. If you're using Hootsuite or a CMS that integrates with your social media profiles (like HubSpot), you can post directly from those platforms.
Most CMS also allow you to schedule blog posts ahead of time. So, instead of sitting down every few days and agonizing over a blog post, write a bunch at once and schedule them to go out over the next few weeks.
Email marketing platforms and CRMs allow for automated lead follow up and workflows. So, instead of manually following up with every conversion, you can set a series of actions to trigger automatically when a visitor converts.
If you're struggling with topics for blog posts or premium offers, repurposing old content is a great way to save time and keep all of your content up to date.
These are only a few ways marketers manage their time more effectively. There's almost certainly a way to streamline any marketing component you're struggling with. (When all else fails, delegate!)
Yes, successful marketing requires creative writing skills. If you're not good at writing, you either need to learn how to do it or find someone who can.
Aside from the writing basics (grammar, spelling, structure - all of which are VERY IMPORTANT), you also need to know how to use language to capture attention. If your writing is bland and uninteresting, why would anyone stick around and read it?
To become a decent writer, you have to read. Learn from the masters. How do they use their words to draw you in? What literary devices are most effective at painting a picture in your head? What types of words and sentences make you lose interest? You don't have to be the next Shakespeare, but you should understand what makes a piece of writing effective or ineffective.
Effective writing will generate interest, no matter the topic.
Graphic design uses theories of visual communication, color theory, and other visual art theories to optimize images and graphics to match the way we absorb information. Graphic design is:
"the art and practice of planning and projecting ideas and experiences with visual and textual content. The form of the communication can be physical or virtual, and may include images, words, or graphic forms." - AIGA
You don't have to be an artist to understand (and take advantage of) basic graphic design elements. These include:
- Colors & Emotions
Graphic from Jay Mug
There are even more thorough breakdowns of color & emotion floating around the Internet. For instance, we also associate green with money, which is why many banks use green in their color schemes.
- White Space - White space isn't necessarily "white" as its name would imply - it's simply the empty spaces around text and graphics that make those design elements stand out.
- Typefaces, Kerning, Leading, Serifs, & Other Text Elements - Usually mislabeled as "fonts," typefaces are different styles of text (Arial, Times New Roman, Cambria). Fonts are actually more specific - Arial 12-point font is different from Arial 8-point font. Kerning is the space between the letters themselves, leading is the space between two lines of text, and serifs are the decorative embellishments on some typefaces. (See the T vs. T.)
Changes in all of these elements communicate different emotions, levels of professionalism, and other subtle meanings.
There are any other graphic design elements that influence how we absorb information. These are only some very basic things that you can easily control throughout your website.
What are your skills?
Everyone has their own unique skillsets, built up over years of personal experiences, schooling, and training. The skills you already have give you certain advantages over other marketers, and others have their own advantages over you.
Try to think about how your specific skillsets can positively influence your marketing. What have you learned from your years in the military, or from your college job working in the kitchens, or from your love of travel?
You may be surprised which skills you can apply to your marketing efforts.
If you're interested in improving your marketing in other ways, check out this guide to the 30 Greatest Lead Generation Tips.