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How To Improve Marketing Skills – 9 Essential Skills College Won’t Teach You

College is a great place for people to make lifelong experiences, learn about their industry, and overall find themselves. But there are some fundamental skills that you simply cannot learn from college. In fact, a lot of successful digital marketers didn’t even go to school for it. They possessed skills learned from the business world and translated them over to be successful at marketing. So how do we improve marketing skills outside of college? Here are 9 powerful marketing skills colleges won’t teach you.

Skill 1: Build Your Online Personal Branding

You should always be considering how you want to market yourself. Creating a strong personal branding throughout college is important to give you head start in the industry. Your conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception will help create more opportunities. Building your personal image is necessary in order to have strong credibility in the industry as well as showing your talent. Your credibility will increase the longer you have been active, so start early in college.

Keep in mind that you need to figure out what you want first before you try to sell it to others.  Prioritize what you want to focus on, develop passion, and the rest will follow. Tap into the niche you want to work with and create a story around you. To learn more in-depth on how to enhance your personal brand check out this link.

Your college courses won’t be able to teach you how to promote your digital presence. So practicing it yourself and learning by doing is a good place to start improving your digital marketing skills.

For example we can take a look at what people are doing on Twitter. When Twitter was first founded and internet trends were not yet a concept, the twitter account “Dril” started to share absurd posts and develop his comedic and nonsensical brand. His very first tweet of simply, “no”, has over 120 thousand likes and he remains prevalent more than a decade later. Dril is a good example of how establishing your brand early into your career can get you ahead.

Now it is definitely plausible to create a successful personal brand if you have a vision.  For example, after the release of the highly anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015, the character Kylo Ren quickly became a fan favorite.  Twitter users were quick to create accounts posing as Kylo Ren to entertain their audiences.  The account Emo Kylo Ren, gained traction and continues to post and engage with the twitter community today.

By creating a strong, credible brand, you will naturally build a network to connect with others. Having a reliable network will help expand your business ventures and develop more opportunities, another skill you’re unlikely to pick up in college.  A great example of having a established a brand and network is the death of Vine.  The popular video hosting app, Vine, gave rise to many popular internet personalities and stars.

However, once acquired by Twitter, the app was discontinued and left many of the users to either create content on a new platform or die with the app.  Many users with an established brand and loyal following found success elsewhere.  Some even taking their internet fame to traditional media.

In the case of Reddit, users can gain notoriety in certain subreddits and market their talents to make profit.  Reddit user “Gallowboob” even landed an executive position with the UK based media company, UNILAD, solely from his Reddit presence.  He consistently hit the front page of Reddit, not an easy task, and translated his knowledge to company that saw its value.

Skill 2: Keeping Up With Current  Marketing Trends

College courses can be outdated as trends and technology continue to evolve.  There is no way that you textbook can stay updated so the lessons you learn in college tend to deal with the past.  It’s important to think about the future of the marketing field as lessons from the past can only provide limited insight.  The marketing skills you learn by keeping up with trends can be far more valuable.

Keeping up with current trends means you have to listen and be open-minded about new data.  Social listening is important to gauge how your content or brand is doing.  Also to investigate competitors to see what they are doing well and what they are lacking.

Being on top of the trend also means learning various new platforms.  Tiktok, Twitch, and Reddit are all booming, and knowing how to grow on these platforms will get you ahead.  This will not only improve your marketing skills but also have a prepared strategy to tackle future trends.  Online trends tend to be less linear and more volatile, so dipping into multiple platforms will increase your chances of relevancy. You need to be up to date with the latest in algorithm changes of the platform (whether that’s TikTok) or other social media platforms.

Learn marketing skills and keep up with new platforms

With the recent announcement of Tiktok potentially being banned in the USA, now is the perfect opportunity to be an early adopter of Tiktok’s inevitable replacement.  Creating a brand or personality early into a trend will establish your credibility and if you make smart decisions, you can ride that wave for more and more profit.

Already, Instagram has developed a new feature within their app to replace Tiktok.  Instagram Reels is their new feature to create Tiktok style videos to share with the world.  If Tiktok has taught us anything, it’s that short creative videos will go viral.  On a platform where content is so easily spread, it’s just a matter of hopping onto a trend, or accidentally creating one yourself.  With the potential discontinuation of Tiktok, adopting the Instagram Reels will be a good place to start fresh, or shift your audience over.

Instagram Reels on feed

If you learn how to consistently make posts on these platforms go viral, your worth as a digital marketer will skyrocket.  Companies often don’t care about a degree or college grades.  They care about performance.  And if you understand new platforms, companies will know your value.  If you can gain a lot of subscribers for personal accounts, companies know you will be able to do that for them as well.

This is one of those skills that is mastered through repetition.  It costs nothing to practice and train but will pay off greatly once consistent.

The downfall of vine is an example of what could happen when complacency sets in and the innovation stops.  The people running Vine lacked cohesion and a unified vision, making it hard to establish what direction they wanted to move their brand.  At Vine’s prime, its competitors began to develop new features on their apps to create new trends and convert users.  Snapchat for example made steps to appeal to the younger demographic, the most influential when developing a social media app.

Skill 3: Marketing Is All About Writing A Compelling Story

Storytelling is the age-old marketing technique but you won’t learn it from textbooks.  Crafting a compelling story to go along with your marketing strategy will take you leagues beyond the competition.  A good narrative can be used in your advertorials, mission statement, and about page section if you have a blog.  Creating a human connection is key to winning over your audience and gaining potential customers and clients.

Good digital marketing is backed by a strong narrative.  The importance of developing a story to back your product, blog, or service is key to improving your marketing skills.

Two woman talking about a brand's story

Being able to craft a story is one of those skills that can carry your entire brand or product.  If you want to poor all your energy into mastering one skill to improve your digital marketing ability, storytelling is arguably the most important.    People want to associate a story, memory, or emotion to give meaning to their actions.  If you can successfully do that, your marketing skills are already above average.

Good storytellers can captivate a large audience.  Great storytellers can turn their audience into consumers.  Compelling stories will convert the curious.

Skill 4: Public Speaking

College is a very systematic way of getting a large cohort to develop similar skills and knowledge.  The class sizes can be upwards to 200 people.  It can be competitive and difficult for an individual to stand out.  When it comes to public speaking, there is no way a class will have opportunity for every student to practice with a presentation.  College does not give you an adequate amount of repetition to hone your public speaking skills.  The lack of exposure of presenting to an audience can set you back if you don’t find other ways to practice.

You will need to develop this skill elsewhere.  It is an especially important marketing skill when trying to win over new clients and gain new business.

Improve your marketing skills and public speaking skills

Public speaking is one of those skills you think you’re good at, but when it comes time to show up, you fall flat.  This is because many people don’t have a good foundation to practice.  Of course, there are people who are naturally charismatic and have no fear, but most people aren’t like that.  To get good at public speaking you have to get repeat exposure.  You might think why this is important in terms of digital marketing.

Well, being able to present yourself and your product to potential customers or even investors is vital to grow.  If you can’t make a good first impression, chances are your brand won’t go very far.  Say you’ve come this far in the digital marketing world without having to ever speak in front of an audience.  But now you’re so brand is so popular you get invited to speak about your experiences, or how market research can interpreted with out of the box solutions.

Skill 5: Creativity

Creativity is key when looking to stand out from others who may have more time, money, and resources.  College will teach you about processes and rule, but how you perceive them what you do with them is up to your creativity.  Limitless creativity is arguably more valuable than limitless resources.  You can have all the money you need to fund an idea, but if there is no idea of marketable content the resources is essentially useless.

Critical thinking also plays a part into one’s creativity.  College doesn’t tend to test students’ critical thinking ability.  If you can remember elementary school, you were often assigned homework or class activities that flex that part of the brain.  College studies and homework in general are linear and one-dimensional.  Critical thinking allows for out-of-the-box thinking and abstract problem solving to lead to solutions.

To improve marketing skills, abstract and out-of-the-box thinking will put you miles ahead of the competition.

Skill 6: Winner Takes All Mentality

Grades and participation awards hold no value in the business world.  When it comes to SEO, Google especially doesn’t care.  You need to learn how to get into a “winner takes all” mindset.  There is no 3rd place in ad campaigns.  Working with SEO you either rank at the top or not get traffic.  For example, what’s the #1 search engine? Google, right? What’s #2? Youtube? #3? Who cares.

If you want to be on the top of your game and improve marketing skills, this type of mentality is essential to defeat the competition.

Podium showing that when it comes to SEO you must rank high

The winner takes all mentality is especially important in the marketing industry because it’s all about competition.  You want to rank higher.  You want to have the better product.  You want to have the larger audience.  To get into the mindset you must dissociate yourself personal self from your business self.  You can practice compassion in your personal life, but when it comes to work, you must become ruthless.

Skill 7: Resilience

In college, you learn to work with the system.  Get A’s, do your work, go home.  Typically there’s no reality breaking beat down.  In the business world, you will get beat down.  A lot.  And you will have to come out of it stronger or be left behind.  Don’t get discouraged.  In college, the tests are designed to be taken in a traditional classroom environment.  You answer questions you hopefully studied for one-by-one.  But the working world has no true structure.  You have to be adaptable and work with what you have.

When faced with adversity you have to power through it.  In college, there are resources to help cushion that adversity and guide you through.  But when you start working, the leniency on failure is not as forgiving.  To be resilient is extremely valuable to make it in any industry.  And in terms of marketing skills, it is essential.  You’re not going to be an instant success over night, no matter how good your work is.  Resilience in the marketing world is being able to consistently produce quality work without losing motivation.


Skill 8: Experimentation

When studying for a college exam, you read through the material and go over notes, hoping they will show up on the test.  Then you take the test.  In the business world, it is a lot more trial and error.  The more efficient testing you do the quicker you will get your desired result.  But with experimentation, you won’t always find one answer.  There may be many viable options, and it is up to you to find the most optimal.

Good marketers find a cookie-cutter formula that works for them.  Great marketers learn from experimentation to continue to improve marketing skills.

Experimentation and how it will improve marketing skills

The benefit of continuous experimentation is that you can keep up with changes that are out of your control.  You don’t get complacent.  You’re less likely to get stuck.  If the UI of the platform you’re working on updates, you will be more accepting of it and adapt.  If the algorithm to getting viral traffic changes, you’re skill with experimentation will help you be on top of the game.

Skill 9: Patience And Delayed Gratification 

Many of the marketing skills you can’t learn from college are personality-based, and patience is very important.  Understand that results aren’t immediate.  Sometimes you will have to wait months to even see progress.  Despite how good you think the quality of your content is, patience is key to keep level-headed.  The most successful people are those who are able to bide their time and wait years to see large profits.  Looking for quick results and putting a dollar in to get 2 dollars out is a poor mindset if you want to make it far.

The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment was a very telling study on delayed gratification. If you do not know what the marshmallow experiment, you can read about it here.  Showing the ability of delayed gratification greatly increases an individual’s chances of success.  The results showed that the children who practiced delayed gratification were more likely to attend college and have a higher quality of living.



Further Reading

If you want to further convince yourself that these skills are incredibly valuable to improve your marketing skills, check out  The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle.  It covers a lot of what this article describes but also provides a motivational aspect as well as case studies.  A great read for anyone looking to be successful in the business world.  Learn the secret to developing your talent to do something meaningful with it.  This book isn’t fiction.  Science-based research shows how to unlock your potential.  What you gain from the book can be applied to reality and you can achieve tangible results.


Open book

The three points that are covered are:

  1. Practice
  2. Ignition
  3. Coaching

These three elements work to form myelin.  In short, myelin is a substance that covers neural connections in the brain that helps speed up brain function, movement, and thoughts.  The book discusses that myelin may be the key that creates greatness.  And myelin is something that you can continue to produce and isn’t set from birth.  The underlying theme is that learning never stops.

If you think you’ve hit a block in your marketing career, just know that developing the skills listed in this article can result in new life.  Your career and skills can be continued to be cultivated and nourished.

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