The Digital Five Tool Player

As the convergence of different marketing tactics takes root in agencies, vendors and marketing departments of companies of all sizes, I’ve started to think about what it takes to ultimately be a “five tool player” in the digital space.  Ed Boches wrote a great post yesterday about labels in creative and digital – and that got me thinking it was time to document these thoughts.  What did I miss?

1. Creativity and Appreciation for Technology

Being able to come up with creative concepts is important for anyone in the marketing business, but taking it to a new level with an appreciation for technology is what is going to make or break success with regard to digital.  I’ll be calling out some other technologies separately below, but understanding and being able to leverage tools available is critical to delivering impact.  One of my favorite examples of this application is the Converse Domaination effort (it’s worth the watch, go ahead, I’ll wait).

2. Understanding the Community

I contemplated using “customer,” “audience,” and even “constituents” here, but community seems to broadly cover business partners, customers, and prospects.  Understanding the needs, attitudes and behaviors of the community a digital player is trying to reach or interact with is a fundamental key to being relevant.  It’s more than just market research, it’s the practical application of it.

3. Understanding of Conversational Technology

Social media is providing new tools, technologies and techniques to identify, engage and activate.   Digital players today need to understand the etiquette, ins and outs of how these tools work and how people use them.  A most recent example for me is a conversation with a copywriter trying to craft the “voice of the brand.”  If that voice isn’t conversational, and they haven’t considered how to be so, an extension of any initiative into social media will be very challenging.  One person who has spent plenty of time studying behaviors and what makes social initiatives work is Dan Zarrella – worth subscribing to.

4. SEO

Another critical area of technology focus is search engine optimization.  A few years ago SEO as an industry was on par with voodoo, but today it’s both art and science to understand how people search online and how to best position digital assets to be found.  Without an appreciation for SEO, a digital player will have a harder time delivering the goods to the community who is searching for it.  One of the best speakers and evangelists in SEO is Lee Odden, always looking to understand and push the digital marketing industry along in this space.

5. Business Acumen

Those who have worked with me before know this is a space near and dear to me.  Perhaps it’s obvious, but to be successful in digital a player needs to understand marketing, the relevant industry (regulated industries have very different expectations and limitations), and how to work with people.  They need to be good team players and good leaders, especially in pushing through ideas that are new.  Honoring commitments, adjusting approach to who you are working with (C-level vs. junior resources), ability to multi-task are just some things I look for in a team player – regardless of digital background.

What other qualities make the most well-rounded digital athlete?  Does this apply to all areas of interactive marketing?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  And if you’re a Digital Five Tool player yourself, I know an agency who would love to hear from you 😉

Photo credit: StarrGazr via Flickr

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  • Anonymous

    I agree with all but number 4. In my mind I would take SEO and make it part of number 1. It is an important skill to be sure, but a digital marketer only has to be mindful of the concepts, and not necessarily steeped in the arcane skills of ranking a site within the search engines.
    As a replacement I would suggest a measurement mindset. No personal bias here or anything. I swear. 🙂

  • Great post Adam and I totally get the baseball analogy. The point being there are not that many 5 tool players in baseball and when you do talk about one, it’s in rarified air. Though having 4/5 ain’t bad either…It’s funny and I know you’ve been part of these convos-but we always talk about what skills would we want most out of a new hire and this post would almost be a template of desired skillsets versus mandatory ones..

    The converse domaination is utter brilliance btw..

  • Wow. After all these years of trying to explain to people where I excel professionally and what I’m passionate about, you’ve nailed it succinctly here, Adam!

    Converse is brilliant

  • After all these years of trying to explain where I excel professionally and what I’m passionate about, you’ve nailed it succinctly here, Adam. I’d only add that an appreciation and direct experience with some of the mechanics seem to be a prerequisite for success.

    For me, an all-star would internalize the opportunities and constraints associated with each tactic and channel, and also have an appreciation for design and code. Just because something “looks simple” or might be a “quick update” only the rookies would assume designers and developers would agree with that assessment of their craft. Following the baseball metaphor: there’s more to each position than where you stand on the field, so it helps to spend time in those shoes when it comes time to collaborate or empathize.

    I wish I had considered NYC, BOS, or CLE earlier; a spot in the Rosetta dugout sounds challenging and rewarding. 😉

    Converse Domaination is incredible… Love that creativity in concept and execution.

  • Great topic, Adam. Loved Edwards post last week, too. One key skill that’s missing her: Writing ability. Without that, all the tech know-how in the world is useless when it comes to building community and relationships online. And, I think that’s the tough part. The folks who have many of the skills you mention above are more on the tech side, while the writers all reside on the PR and in some cases, ad, side. I don’t see a ton of people that cross-over well. You?

  • I agree that writing and digital content creation is essential. The thing that makes great search marketers great, is the rare left/right brain capabilities to be equally creative and technical. One of the perspectives that I try and share is that SEO isn’t “SEO as we’ve known it” anymore, it’s just digital marketing.

    Hey Adam, thanks for the mention. There are many others before me that serve as great examples of evangelizing the changing definition/application of SEO. I do appreciate this post a great deal, because finding and hiring people with just 3, let alone 5 of these skills has been an interesting journey 🙂

  • #6 Great interpersonal skills. These translate across the digital divide, and will be the next tool you’ll use after understanding the community. And being able to effectively communicate within the company is also very important

    Great post!

  • Does this apply to all areas of interactive marketing? Though you mentioned about technology, I think you missed to note about mobile tech. 😉 However, the other points like search and social all fits into world wide marketing areas.

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