The Five Disciplines You Need To Know To Practice Marketing Today

People often ask me—whether they’re hiring a marketing agency, looking to find a marketing staffer, or  simply want to get more customers to buy from them —what knowledge is now foundational in a world of marketing and advertising that is changing so rapidly?  What are the core knowledge areas needed to succeed for where the world is now moving? The reality is the skills needed as a marketer running a mass advertising campaign in 1995 across 3 networks and a few cable stations are completely different from the capabilities you need to succeed today.  So below I’ve outlined the new core five—and provided a few basic sources to start you off learning what you need to know.

The Five Disciplines of Modern Marketing

Search Engine Optimization

Today, every business and every marketer needs to know the basics of how Google works.  They also need to know the basics of what you can do to appear higher in search results.  They may not need to know the esoterics of 301 re-directs, XML site-maps or robots.txt files, but they need to understand basic ideas like keyword research and why it matters.  A good place to start? Marketing In The Age of Google by Vanessa Fox (one of the creators at Google of Webmaster Tools).

Paid Search

When pay per click advertising was first introduced by Bill Gross for his Overture search Engine in 2000—it marked the beginning of a complete revolution in marketing (a great read if you want to understand the context of the development of paid search is John Battelle’s book “The Search”).  When our team first tested paid search in 2002, we could tell in about 5 seconds that for a web based company the ROI blew away anything we’d ever seen.  You need to understand how this revolution works.  First take at some of the Google Adwords online guides and tutorials which are excellent and make it all easy to understand. If you want a 200 level course, read Andrew Goodman’s book: “Winning Results with Google Adwords“.  Then set up a Google Adwords account.  Try buying a few keywords.  You will never look back once you begin to experience this.

Web Analytics

A high ranking in Google is a wonderful thing and you need someone who understands how to make this happen.  But it’s only the first step.  If visitors aren’t interacting in the most important parts of your site, if conversions aren’t happening,  if you’re phone isn’t ringing, you need skills in anayltics to figure it out.  A very smart guy when it comes to Analytics—Ed Reese of Sixth Man Marketing, wrote:

“Search engine traffic is part of the discovery process of making a purchase or beginning to engage with a company. From that point, several things take place before a purchase takes place. Understanding website data and gleaning insight from analytics is essential in connecting with customers and making sure your messages are on target.”

(also check out his sales funnel on his site which is genius).

You also need to learn how to use Google analytics.  Again, they have great tutorials online, and their analytics tool is very simple and intuitive to use once you start diving in and playing around.  Believe me, once you start seeing all the incredible info you can get out of this, you will be hooked.

Want a good book to read to understand more?  Read Avanash Kushik’s- Web Analytics: An Hour A Day.

Content Marketing (also called Inbound Marketing)

Creating content that gets your site found online could be one of the most efficient strategies in the new marketer’s tool kit.  Saavy consumers today are starting with search engines to find information on the products and services they want to buy, and with Content Marketing you can put what your selling in front of them at exactly the right moment when they are actively making a purchase decision.  To learn more, check out the Inbound Marketing web site, or Ann Handley’s book “Content Rules“. 

Social Media Marketing

I’ve written before about the importance of Social Media Marketing here— why this is a fundamental part of what you need to know and how to get started.  A good thing to keep in mind– while Facebook is getting all the headlines today, it’s just one part of the larger social marketing ecosystem.  You’ll need to be fluent in Twitter, Linkedin, blogging as well as other social tools in order to be relevant in marketing today.

All these core knowledge areas are related to the new marketing “hiring criterea” and team “performance measurement” that Darmesh Shaw discusses in Inbound Marketing.  He describes those core qualities using the acronym “D.A.R.C.” meaning:

Digital: a deep grounding in the world of the web—they “speak web like a native”. They can answer yes to questions like—Do you have a blog?  Do you use Twitter regularly? Are you on LinkedIn and Facebook? Do you rank number one for your name in Google?

Analytical: In this world everything is completely measureable.  Modern marketing organizations need to analyze everything, because now you can figure out what tactics are most effective.  Anyone you work with needs to understand the quantitative aspects of marketing, concepts like multi-variate testing and how to use data to make better decisions.

Reach—meaning “Web Reach”.  The most saavy marketers today have strong networks in this new world.  They blog.  They have significant Twitter followers.  A large number of LinkedIn connections.  All this can be quantified as their web reach—which is hard to acquire and very valuable.

Content Creator:  they are fluent in generating content, and are saavy about creating keyword relevant copy that attracts links from authority sites– all of which is foundational to increasing visibility in Google.  Cranking out content like a mini publishing company– and the skill to do it rapidly– is one of the most valuable talents you can have in this world.

Hopefully all these ideas and information will help you think about marketing in a new way.  For many who have been steeped in the traditions of outbound marketing– and the old rules that worked so well in the era of mass advertising– the transition can be harder.  But for anyone who wants to thrive in this new  world, it’s time to start digging in and learning a whole new game.


John’s digital experience dates back over two decades, to before the web was born. He is currently VP Marketing for Advance Digital, and is a regular writer and speaker on topics including Search, Social Media, Content Marketing, Local Media and the Digital Marketing Revolution.

One response to “The Five Disciplines You Need To Know To Practice Marketing Today

  1. Pingback: Social Media: You need to participate to market with it | John H. Denny

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