Top 7 Reasons To Make a Lateral Move in Digital Marketing Roles

Top 7 Reasons To Make a Lateral Move in Digital Marketing Roles | General | Emeritus

If a company’s go-to-market strategy didn’t include digital channels before the pandemic, it certainly does now. Despite an initial decline due to the Covid-19 pandemic, digital advertising spending grew 12.2% year over year in 2020, according to a report commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and conducted by PwC.

Research from the American Marketing Association’s 27th annual CMO Survey reports digital marketing spending has grown to comprise 58% of marketing budgets, reflecting 15.8% growth over the last year, and is projected to grow by 14.7% in the next year.

In the wake of this spending, the CMO Survey finds that digital marketing is the No. 1 responsibility reported by marketers, superseding a prevailing historic focus on brand-related activities. There does not appear to be an end in sight to this massive growth spurt in digital marketing.

What does this growth mean for you and your marketing career? It’s an opportunity to easily make a lateral move within the digital marketing field to leverage your existing skills and build some new ones. There is a lot of upside to making a lateral career shift, which we will dig into. But first, let’s review the key practice areas in the ever-evolving digital marketing landscape.

Key Practice Areas of Digital Marketing

As the field of digital marketing has erupted over the last decade, so too have the areas of specialization within the field. One key success factor for making a lateral career move is to position yourself for the move ahead of time. Oftentimes, taking a course for the specialty area you want to move into before you start applying is a great way to stand out as a candidate; it shows your capacity and motivation to learn new skills, which is highly desirable by employers.

Whether you remain at the exact same career level when making a lateral career largely depends on the size of the organization you are in now, the size of the target firm, and the skillset you bring to the table.

As you contemplate a career move, let’s look at the various levels that typically exist within an organization.

The Eight Domains of Digital Marketing Practice:

While there are many offshoots and niche areas, such as e-commerce specialists and social videographers, these are the eight main domains of digital marketing practice:

  1. Digital marketing strategy and planning:
    This is ‘big picture’ thinking and is often done at a higher level in the department, but increasingly, every person on a marketing team needs to think both tactically and strategically.
  2. Campaign planning:
    This is more tactical planning at the campaign level. This domain is critically tied to the higher-level strategy and planning domain; they might even be done by the same person or team, but either way, these 2 domains are highly interdependent and collaborative.
  3. Content marketing:
    One of the biggest growth areas in the field, content marketing is about adding value for customers and leads. According to CMI, it’s the process of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a defined audience to drive profitable customer action.
  4. Marketing analytics:
    One of the drivers for the meteoric rise of digital marketing (vs. traditional methods) is the ability to measure performance…to know what’s working and what’s not! Analysts not only measure performance, but also can identify opportunities for efficiency gains within the whole marketing department.
  5. Digital experience (UX, web design):
    What used to be relegated to a back room where programmers practiced their craft in relative isolation, is now at center stage: to create a compelling and dynamic user experience. This area includes both highly-technical and less-technical team members and is squarely part of marketing’s domain now.
  6. PPC/Paid media:
    PPC is online advertising that is deployed across any number of channels, including Google and Bing, operating with real-time bidding for ad placements. PPC is the ultimate marriage between art and science, and PPC experts go deep, very deep, into all things advertising.
  7. SEO/Organic:
    Get more (free) eyes to see your website. But not just any eyeballs, the right ones. It’s the process of getting traffic from free, organic, editorial, or natural search results in search engines. SEO aims to improve your website’s position in search results.
  8. Social media marketing:
    Go where the eyeballs are, especially for top-of-funnel lead generation. Develop content and advertising strategies that promote awareness and engagement on a variety of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

Top 7 Reasons to Make a Lateral Move in Digital Marketing:

  • Find More Flexibility
    In AMA’s CMO Survey, when asked about how post-pandemic work-from-home opportunities are impacting their marketing organizations, marketing leaders report more opportunities to hire people who want to work-from-home (74%) than to lose (33%) these workers. This means that the marketing employment landscape is further primed for flexible work arrangements, including work-from-home options. If your current position doesn’t offer enough flexibility, it’s a compelling reason to look around at complimentary job functions at other firms.
  • Be a Bigger Fish
    Smaller companies tend to have employees that wear more hats. According to an analysis of marketing trends during and beyond the pandemic, citing that most of the job gains in marketing over the last year were with smaller firms (50-99 employees), Forbes suggests that instead of chasing an elusive role at a big technology firm, you could win a role at a smaller company and help to build a talent stack there.
  • Go Sideways To Go Up
    If your sights are set on management roles in the future, then learn as many of the individual specialty skills as you can. Management roles tend to be filled by those who have a variety of experiences and might be dubbed generalists by the time they are ready to take on a management role. There are layers of usually many layers of skills that comprise the generalist’s toolkit.
  • Fall in Love Again
    Maybe you have fallen out of love with your current marketing practice area, you are burnt out, or you just need a change. Reignite your interest in the field by learning something new, while leveraging your current skillset.
  • Weather The Changing Tides
    One of the many lessons learned during the pandemic is to be nimble. Agility pays off. Making a lateral move to another area of practice allows you to be more marketable if the tides should turn and you need to change jobs. But currently, the opportunities are endless.
  • Grow Your Network
    Whether your move is internal or external to your current employer, developing a robust network will serve you well in your career. Develop new contacts and new mentors by joining a different area of specialization
  • Add More Value By Wearing Many Hats
    If you shift from SEO specialist to content marketing strategist, for example, you add value to your new role because you are leveraging your knowledge of SEO strategies and tactics for creating more effective content marketing.  Another example is an email marketing specialist who has dabbled in analytics, but who may ramp up her skills in marketing analytics so that she can dig deeper for insights.


Since all of the specialized areas of digital marketing need to work together to achieve maximum performance and efficiency, it makes sense to build your toolkit with several of these different skills. And if your ultimate goal is to land a senior marketing management role, such as CMO, VP, or director, think about going sideways to go up.

By Michelle Massa

Expand Your Skills:
To explore the range of online marketing programs offered by Emeritus in collaboration with our global university partners, including Kellogg School of Management, Columbia Business School, Wharton School of Management, London Business School, and Imperial College Business School, visit the digital marketing program page.

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