The Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing Training

Digital Strategy Article
20 mins

This report outlines the key ways in which teams and individuals and can improve their digital marketing skills and then keep them up to date. It includes analysis of demand for digital marketing training, a summary of key solutions and an in-depth guide to different training solutions and approaches.

Jump To Digital Marketing Training Comparison Table

The Digital Skills Gap

Digital Marketing is changing constantly and the pace of change continues to increase. ‘Digital Marketing’ also covers such a wide range if disciplines, including very broad topics like Social Media, which means that the need for these skills is impacting on a wide range of roles well beyond marketers. Managers of all types need to understand the impact that new technologies may have on their organisations, and pretty much every member of staff will need to understand the fundamentals of the web and social media. As such, increasing numbers of people are looking to improve their skills and trying and keep them up to date. In this report we’ll explore the best ways of improving your own skills or how you can help your team to improve their skills, we’ll then look at the best ways of keeping this skills up to date and relevant.

Digital Marketing Training and Jobs

Digital Skills Search VolumeSearches for Digital Marketing Jobs (Red), Digital Marketing Courses (Yellow) and Digital Marketing Training (Blue) in Google from Google Trends

It’s interesting to note that the level of searches for digital marketing jobs is far higher, but pretty much inline, with the searches for digital training and courses. You can also see in the word cloud below (form the excellent Brandwatch social media analysis tool), that when we analysed a huge range of terms related to the topic, the most popular terms related to training and job roles (and interestingly work/life balance, which we’ll return to later!).

Digital Skills Word CloudWord cloud showing most often mentioned phrases over a 1month period related to digital skills. Brandwatch

Global Digital Marketing Skills Shortage

Global Digital Skills Activity MapGlobal mentions over 61 days of terms related to digital skills on social media. Brandwatch


The global chart doesn’t show any great surprises, with English speaking countries including the UK, US, Canada and Australia having the highest level of conversations, but many european countries are also discussing digital skills in English. This reflects our practical experience that many people are struggling to find training in the own region an are traveling to the UK for training. We can also see the huge demand for improving knowledge in India, as we have seen based on the Likes and engagement we get on our Digital Marketing Podcast page in Facebook.

Digital Skills Mentions by DayMost active days of the week to engage around digital skills related topics. Brandwatch

Digital Skills Mentions by HourMost active time of day to engage around digital skills related topics. Brandwatch

The insights of day of week and time of day are inline with our previous research and practical experience. That is, that people are using their morning commute time to try and improve their skills via blogs, podcast, Tweets,etc and that upon reaching work, particularly on a Monday morning, one of the first things that many of us do is search for a new job! This actual makes perfect sense, as once you are sick of your job, Monday mornings are generally the toughest part of the week! What actionable insights can we take from this? First of all, if you are sending a recruitment message, do it on a Monday morning. Secondly, educational content around job skills works first thing in the morning, so we can absorb it when we travel. You can also see a peak at weekends, when people may take some time out to try and improve their skills. We’ve experienced this first hand with our Digital Marketing Podcast, seeing peaks of listens first thing in the morning and at weekends.

Digital Marketing Training: The Solutions

Having delivered thousands of hours of digital marketing training and running an organisation that specialises in improving digital capability within organisations, I have seen and tried pretty much every approach to improving digital skills. Below you’ll find a summary of each approach and its positives, and challenges. You’ll then find some more in-depth analysis and commentary below this for each approach.

Approach Description Positives Challenges
Classroom Face to face training normally delivered over half-day and day periods. Immersive and interactive.Lots of creative options for exercises and interaction. Very dependant on quality of trainer and other attendees.Implementation of learning after event.Time/Travel commitment.
Qualifications Series of formalised activities and study followed by assessment and qualification award. Good for demonstrating commitment and knowledge. Learning vs. passing assessment.Recency of content.Time commitment and potential costs.
Elearning/ Online Interactive Interactive online training. Learn at your own pace.Cross device and location independent.Lots of interaction and tracking options. Getting adoption from teams.Lots of low quality suppliers.
Webinar/ Real-Time Online Interactive online training in real time. Ability to interact as well as listen/watch.Location independant. Quality of interaction.Technology challenges.
Workshop/ Hackathon Interactive, output focusses, face to face sessions. Focus on hands on experience.Lots of interactive options. Complex organisation.Smaller maximum group size.
Conference Series of shorter topic focus speakers and training sessions. Networking opportunities.Range of speakers. Training becoming sales pitches.Variable quality of speakers.
Seminar Shorter face to face training session. Short time commitment.
Creative delivery options.
Travel commitment.Availability.

Informal Learning

Podcasts Audio training. Don’t need to be in font of computer.


Can be used when travelling/multi-tasking.

Technology adoption.


Lack of easy interaction.

Video Video training. Suited to many peoples learning styles. Not always easy to multitask so not suited travel.


Lots of low quality content.

Blogs/ Reports Written content. Bite size learning.


Huge range of sources and content.

Filtering of content.


Variable quality.

eBooks Long form written content. Topic focussed and in-depth content. Time commitment.


Lack of easy filtering.

Niche topics not covered.

Classroom Based Digital Marketing Training

Face to face training is still the king of training options in my opinion, as it offers a range of advantages that you just can’t get elsewhere. The level of interaction available, ability to share and develop ideas and the immersive experience of face to face training still can’t be 100% replaced by any online trading options currently available. However, the training is extremely dependant on the quality and experience of the trainer and the experience will also be impacted by other attendees.

The Digital Marketing courses currently on the market generally break down into two key options. Fastracks or generalist courses intend to build a wide range of digital skills over a day or number of days. Obviously what you can learn in a fixed period of time across a broad range of topics will be limited, but we have seen excellent results from 1-5 days courses. The most popular options are 2 and 3 day courses but these represent a significant time commitment.

Deep dive course are focussed on a particular topic and allow you develop more in-depth skills. My general advice on these is look for delivery by a practitioner. No end of theory can come close to hands on experience and you’ll learn from their hard earned skills. Also look for courses that have clearly defined outcomes and takeaways, as this will make it more likely you’ll actually implement things when you get back to work.

The biggest challenge of face to face learning are the time commitments and costs. As well as these fairly obviously challenges you probably also need to think about how often the course material is updated and how you will stay up to date after the session. In reality no one training solution is perfect and you need to combine them effectively to improve skills and then stay up to date. We talk about this approach of mixing approaches in the final section covering Blended Learning.

Digital Marketing Qualifications

There are an increasing number of qualifications options available, but be very careful. Although higher education organisations and official institutes can deliver officially accredited qualifications, there are a huge range of organisations offering their own ‘accredited’ courses. Many of these courses are only accredited by the organisation themselves, and offer no guarantee of the quality of the course.

In reality there are also challenges to the well established educational organisations. The way that many academic and official institutes work is not well suited to the fast moving world of digital marketing, and some qualifications and accreditations are hopelessly out of date. However some of the smarter organisations have partnered with real-world practitioners to help solve this problem.

Another key consideration is why have you chosen to do a qualification rather than other forms of training. The key answer is generally for recognition and having something that you can put on your CV/resume and that will demonstrate your knowledge and commitment to learning. This is perfectly valid, but you need to be wary of the learning vs. just trying to pass the course. Because of the time pressure we experience when doing a qualification, our key focus is often just passing, and this can be at the cost of learning effectively. Very often qualifications are best followed up with a personalised ongoing blended learning plan.

Elearning/Online Interactive Training

Interactive online training aims to each you skills in your own time in an interactive way that is easily digestible and help you track your own progress. There is a problem though, and a pretty fundamental one. Most elearning is terrible! Due to the fact that it is often used to deliver training that is repeated again and again, it ends up being used for topics like health and safety, that most people don’t find very interesting (sorry to those of you that do!) and it is produced badly. It can be too long, dull and an awful lot of what is currently available is pretty patronising in tone.

Its absolutely possible to deliver excellent elearning but it needs to be easily digestible, interactive, easy to understand and help you to track your own learning. We obvious believe this, as our online digital marketing courses are  one of the key parts of our business, but we’ve tested this content on thousand of people globally, and if you get it right it can work very effectively.

The other challenge of elearning is that custom elearning can be expensive to produce and take a long time to get to market. Again this is why we developed an ‘off the shelf’ approach that is added to every month. Make sure you are clear on production costs and timescales if you go down the custom content route.

Webinar/Real-time Online Training

Online webinars can work really well, and can work for very large groups, but realistically, attendees attention levels are not where they would be in a face to course. While watching a webinar most users will be checking their email and browsing social media. There are a number of techniques that can help maintain the audiences attention, such as doing regular interactive polls and questions. You can also add two-way video which tends to focus peoples minds, but the bandwidth required to do this often leads to other technical problems.

There are a wide range of platforms available for lots of different providers but many are expensive and you pay based on number of attendees. In my experience, including voice over IP, that is the audio is done via the Internet as well as the slides, is a simpler option than requiring people to dial in via telephone as well. Although you also want a dial-in option for backup for the presenter should things go wrong.

The biggest challenge is generally the technology limitations of the webinar platform being used (or rather the speed and consistency of your Internet connection that can cause these problems). If an Internet connection drops out part way through a course, particularly if it is the presenters connection, it will cause pretty severe problems! Presenting from a pre-defined and bandwidth tested location is essential, and some sort of backup connection is a great idea for really important sessions.

One of the other advantages of webinars is the ability to record the sessions and use the videos as a learning resource for a group beyond those that attended the original webinar as well.


The aim of a hackathon is simply to carry out a workshop with the aim of completing some form of activity during the session and have some form of output. The term originally comes from the world of software development were developers work together to generate a new piece of code, but this can equally be applied to instructor lead, and highly interactive digital marketing workshops.

These can work internally within organisations to help people learn the skills for creating things like videos and podcasts, as well as using digital marketing analysis tools to create reports and insights.

The key challenge is having small enough groups to really give the attendees enough attention in order to help them build their skills. If attending yourself, make sure group sizes are small or that they are enough instructors involved. If you are organising make sure you resource appropriately.


Most of us know from experience that conferences can be a hit and miss affair because of the quality of the speakers. Many of us will have also had the awful experience of attending what is supposed to be an informative session, and ends up being a sales pitch for the company giving the session. In my opinion this is much like going on to social media and demanding that people buy your product. It just doesn’t work, its entirely the wrong forum and will do nothing but alienate potential customers.

If you are attending a conference it’s now pretty easy to Google any speakers and take a look at their previous talks on YouTube. If you do attend and want to speak to the speaker, make sure you prepare in advance. It is likely a speaker will have a queue of people keen to speak to them after their talk (if they were any good!) and its hard for them to give everyone time when others are jostling for attention. My advice, is to present yourself briefly and provide a business card with the questions you want to ask. You can then request a response and follow up my email/social if you don’t receive a response. As a regular public speaker, I’ve always appreciated when people have done this and have always been happy to follow up afterwards.

If you are booking an event you must focus on high quality speakers, as even a terribly organised conference can go well if the audience feel they got value from the content. Make sure you see the person speak in person ideally before you book, as videos aren’t always good at communicating how a speakers connects with an audience. Also, if you are booking speakers, make sure you organise to film the event and get permission to use the content afterwards. You should also think about doing pre and post event videos, podcast and photos to provide content fro your social media feeds and other content you may be creating.


Seminars are just short face to face sessions and can be organised around the working day. This means there is a smaller barrier for people to sign up and attend, but bear in mind if you organise any of these type of events, people start with the best intentions, and then tend to drop out last minute due to work commitments (or the fact its a sunny day and the pub is more appealing than your session!). In my experience a 50% drop our rate of free events is not unusual.

If you are planning on attending paid for seminars you may experience similar problems, as many commercial organisers struggle to get enough paying customers on short events and very often end up cancelling events due to low numbers. Some of the best short sessions are put on by the larger digital marketing service providers for free as part of their marketing efforts, and these can be well worth attending for the content and networking opportunities. Think about companies like social media monitoring services, agencies, Email Service Providers,etc as many of these have extensive content marketing plans which include physical events.

Informal Learning

The next range of learning techniques are what we would describe as ‘informal’ learning. Informal learning refers to the various sources of content we can access that help keep us up to date and informed of the latest trends, tools and market insights. We’ll also look at some specific tools that can help us filter and select the best content.


We love podcasts, but we would because we publish one of iTunes most popular business podcasts! However, by running the Digital Marketing Podcast for many years we have learnt by trial and error what works and what doesn’t. If you are planning on creating your own podcast you can see our Podcasting Success Factors Infographic.

From a learning perspective though, Podcasts are fantastic as people listen for extended periods of time (generally at least 30 minutes) and don’t listen when sitting in front of their computer, but rather on a mobile device when travelling. This lends itself to a particular learning environment you don’t really get anywhere else.

There are many places you can find education podcasts, but the iTunes Podcast App is a great place to start for Apple users and take a look at Stitcher radio whatever platform you are on. You can also create internal podcasts (just an audio file) and host on your own intranet fairly easily using sound editing software.


Video learning is a fantastic option as it suits the learning style of many people that find it hard to absorb new knowledge via reading content. However it has its own challenges from both a learners and a providers point of view. First of all, from a learner looking for quality content around digital marketing, finding the good stuff can be tricky. One of the disadvantages of YouTube is the shear volume of education content, and much of it is not great. Once you find a good video provider, make sure you subscribe to their channel so you always find their content again in the future. The other disadvantage of using YouTube for learning content is that you can’t download content for later viewing (although the new YouTube Red allows you to do just that, but its only available in limited countries currently).

Another great source of video content for digital marketing knowledge is the video provider by the major service providers. People like AdobeMoz and Google provide a whole range of educational video content that you see via YouTube, but you can also download from their websites for later viewing in many cases as well. You’ll notice that Moz offer the videos from their annual conference for sale, to allow people that couldn’t attend in person to still get value from the content. Even those these videos are not cheap, I download them every year and its one of the most valuable forms of learning I’ve come across.

If you are looking to create video to help upskill your team, YouTube is a good place to start and you may find our Guide to Creating a YouTube Channel useful.


The explosion of content marketing has lead to a truly huge amount of blog content, and much like everything online, the quality is variable. My advice for using blogs effectively for learning is to use a filtering tool tat will bring all of the most relevant blog posts into once place where you can read them all without having to jump from one blog to the next. My favourite tool for doing this filtering and proving an interface to read all your blogs in one place is and you can find learn more in our Video Guide to Content Curation Tools.

Another very easy way of staying up to date with key blogs and industry news is to use Twitter for that purpose. I follow around 200 digital marketing influencers and bloggers, and their Tweets point me to their latest blog posts and news. If you are already using Twitter for other purposes or you want to group the accounts you follow on Twitter, you can use the Twitter Lists functionality. Using Twitter is a simple way of staying up to date, and allows you to dip in and out of the latest news when it suits you.


There is no shortage of digital marketing books, but one of the major problems with using these books for improving digital marketing skills, is actually how the publishing industry works. Most books take a least six months from being written to actual being published by the publisher. Six months is an eternity in digital marketing terms, and much of the detail can become out of date. However publishing time for ebook are getting better and many very good authors are also self-publishing, so take a look at those Amazon reviews and get reading.

The other challenge is that book aren’t bite size, but they do suit different ways of learning. They are also excellent for learning in different environments, but they do require commitment. One technique that I have seen work well is to have a form of educational book club. Agree with a group, maybe even online, to all read a particular book or book chapter, and then get together to discuss and debate your understanding.

Blended Learning – Bringing it all Together

As we have seen there are many different approaches to improving and keeping digital skills up to date, wether its for you or your team. However, no one approach will do all things for all people. For this reason the idea of ‘blended learning’ is very important. Blended learning is the idea of using a range of different learning formats and styles to suit each of your learners, and match the practicalities of their the learning environment and organisational challenges.

For many of our clients we use a combination of classroom based learning, a digital marketing elearning library and then a range of supporting informal learning resources like podcasts, videos and blogs.

I personally stay up to date by using a combination of videos I can download to my iPad and watch when I travel, podcasts, blog posts filtered via Twitter and ebooks.

Different channels suit different people at different times. Therefore if you are providing training, doing so across range of formats can help you be more effective. You are also going to need to sign-post this content, and we have found that by distributing regular emails to distinct groups of learners, with content matching their particular learning needs, we can achieve very high levels of engagement.

Good luck with all your digital marketing up-skilling efforts!

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