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Experience Doesn’t Matter in Digital Marketing

Experience in traditional marketing or being a digital native doesn’t mean you will be good at digital marketing.

Photo Credit : Gadgets Now,

We all seek experience. Personally and professionally, experience captures what we’ve done and what we have the potential to do. In hiring, prior experience is used as a shortcut to qualify job-seekers for interviews, job offers, and higher compensation. This shortcut works well in steady fields where the practices of the industry rarely change. If someone has done it before, they can probably do it again.

But does this shortcut work in a field that is dramatically changing? Marketing is an occupation undergoing rapid change. Adults now spend six hours a day with digital media, compared to three hours a day in 2009. As consumers move social, professional, and personal interactions online, advertising has followed.

2016 was the first year that digital media overtook TV as the largest channel for ad spending. Successful digital campaigns now require proficiencies across a host of new platforms, and the question for veterans and aspiring marketers is: Does general experience in marketing still matter?

On one hand, many of the same principles apply across both digital and traditional marketing. All good marketers have to know their target audience, reach them, and engage them.

On the other hand, marketing has morphed from an offline world with limited data and imprecision in targeting audience segments, to an online world where every consumer action can be tracked analytics and every campaign can be personalized for micro-audience segments.

In this situation, it turns out that experience does not matter. More specifically, traditional marketing experience does not matter in predicting whether someone is a good digital marketer.

In a study it was explored whether years of experience predicted assessment scores among traditional marketers. We expected to see one of two things:

1. Experienced marketers would outperform newer professionals, indicating that traditional skills may translate over to the digital world.

2. Newer professionals would outperform their experienced counterparts, indicating that digital natives may hold a natural advantage.

We learned that both hypotheses were wrong.

This data does not support the notion that deep experience in traditional marketing translates to capability in digital marketing. Similarly, the data does not support the notion that digital natives are generally better at digital marketing.

These results probably shouldn’t surprise us too much. As marketing has changed, industry professionals have expressed doubt in their own digital capabilities, as documented in surveys from The Boston Consulting Group. Participants in the survey rated their own digital skills at just 57 out of 100. At the same time, there is no reason to expect that active use of social media leads to skills in social media marketing, which requires a keen knowledge of customer acquisition cost and lifetime value.

What does this all mean?

For companies, don’t use general experience in marketing as a proxy of capability. Instead, look for a track record of success in digital marketing or, given the short supply in experienced digital marketers, widen the talent funnel and consider a broader range of candidates by using objective measures of digital marketing skill.

For aspiring marketers, there’s never been a better time to enter the profession.

As marketing becomes an increasingly data-driven discipline, many of the open positions require analytical or data skills commonly found in fields like finance, business, statistics, IT, and project management. Individuals with these analytical skills, or with the capability to learn them, will be common among marketing executives in the future.

This is edited excerpt from an article titled, “Experience doesn’t matter.”
by Kieran Luke, lead at Credentials business at General Assembly and a teacher on Udemy, appearing at

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