Successful digital marketers possess these 3 traits. Do you?

Contributor Matt Umbro lays out the qualities you should be looking for in new hires, while also cultivating them in yourself as you progress in your career.

Successful digital marketers possess these 3 traits. Do you?

When you think of traits successful digital marketing employees possess, what comes to mind? Maybe they are hard workers, pay attention to detail and are determined. Or they like tackling new and exciting challenges.

All these traits are wonderful, but they are generic in the sense most employees would classify themselves as having these skills.

In my view, the best digital marketing employees are those who are skillful when handling adverse situations and thrive under pressure.

When I say adverse situations, I mean when interactions with clients, or coworkers, don’t go smoothly. The most common example is when performance is suffering and the client is upset. Or if the client feels there is no clear strategy in place. A negative interaction may also occur when your colleagues doubt your abilities.

Though the traits I listed above are helpful, “hard work” and “determination” aren’t the boilerplate solutions to remedy these situations.

In today’s constantly evolving world of digital marketing, employees need to update the way they think about their skill sets. The employees I’ve witnessed who are the most consistent and successful possess these traits:

  • Adaptability.
  • Perseverance.
  • Fundamentals.

Let’s review each trait in further detail.


I hit on it earlier when I mentioned the world of digital marketing is always evolving. When I first started in pay-per-click (PPC) 10 years ago, the layout was simpler. Google AdWords was the big player, while Bing and Yahoo’s paid platform (which doesn’t exist anymore) were afterthoughts.

Paid social hadn’t begun yet since Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter were still relatively new.

It’s a given that we always need to be learning, but we also need to adapt to the ever-changing landscape. The prime example for me has come with audience targeting. I’ve always seen PPC primarily as keyword-based; however, that mentality has shifted over the past couple of years to focus more on audience targeting.

I’m comfortable with keyword-based PPC, as that’s how I was taught, but I had to adapt. Instead of thinking through the lens of people searching for a service or product, I had to figure out how to reach the audiences who weren’t looking but would be interested. It’s no different in other disciplines, as we’ve seen movements such as:

Stuck in an old way of thinking Adaptable thinking
Buying links to improve organic efforts. Focusing on stellar content creation.
Designing websites for desktop. Focusing on a mobile-first user experience.
Creating singular website experiences. Adopting a conversion-rate-optimization mentality.

You may consider adaptability to be akin to taking on new challenges. However, I would contend accepting new challenges is a subset of adaptability. If you are willing to adapt, new challenges are par for the course. You are always willing to step out of your comfort zone because you accept trends and common practices are constantly changing.

Clients will appreciate your work if you are constantly sharing and testing new ideas. The longest and most fruitful relationships come when you can see how the engagement has evolved over time to adapt to changes in industry trends, client goals, plans and opinions. Be adaptable.


One of the most common interview questions is “Can you please discuss a time when you failed or did something wrong, and explain how you reacted.”

I love this question and wish interviewers asked more like it. Too often, interviews focus solely on the successes and qualifications of potential employees. That’s not everyday work life. We’re constantly juggling many tasks, dealing with client issues and struggling to prove our worth to the company. Great employees consistently persevere through adversity and are better because of it.

Though they are difficult at the time, every adverse situation provides lessons to learn from. If you are willing to assess and adapt, your negative situations can produce future positive outcomes.

However, don’t confuse perseverance with being defensive. By nature, we are prideful and don’t always believe we need to learn from certain situations. We fight the negative situation and make it worse. In other words, don’t let your ego get in the way of a learning experience.

Being a persistent employee should lead to consistency. If you are learning from adverse situations, then theoretically, you should also be improving. As you improve, you produce consistent work. Some may argue consistency is synonymous with being average, but I disagree. Consistency means you take pride in your work, challenge yourself, provide positive results and are trustworthy. Others may argue with my wording, but consistency is a great mindset to strive for.


You may ask why fundamentals are on a list of traits that look at advanced skills which not all employees possess. I define fundamentals as:

  • Being a good writer.
  • Actively listening.
  • Communicating effectively.

Fundamentals are skills that are transferable to most jobs, regardless of the industry.

For example, being able to communicate effectively is imperative if you are a digital marketer or if you are a carpenter. Too often, we forget the fundamentals because we are focused on other, bigger initiatives.

Perhaps you have a great idea to boost traffic, but you don’t communicate it well to a client. Or you write an internal guide, but it is riddled with grammatical errors. It’s OK and encouraged to think big, but you first need to have the fundamentals down.

Final thoughts

As you’ve read this post, I hope these traits have resonated with you and your views of the most successful employees. Too often we focus on the job’s tactical skills but give less attention to the psyche behind the employee. That’s why even the most tactically savvy employees sometimes don’t work out if they don’t possess the internal desire to always get better.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Matt Umbro is the Associate Director of Search at Hanapin Marketing. He specializes in eCommerce PPC and client relations, and he also oversees content production for PPC Hero.

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