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Professional Development, University Extended Education, California State University, Fullerton

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Advances in digital and social media have dramatically transformed the business landscape, changing the way products and services are researched by consumers and marketed and sold by businesses. UEE's Digital Marketing Certificate program was designed to help today’s marketer stay up to speed with these new and emerging media platforms.

Given the fast-paced nature of digital marketing, it was vital that the program be developed and taught by industry experts who are passionate about the subject and have extensive real-world experience. No one better exemplifies that than Gabrielle Windsor, who has been working in digital marketing since 1998 (!), and currently serves as Director of Strategy and Planning for The Armory. We talked to her about this rapidly changing field.

Question Mark Icon Digital marketing sprung up so fast that most digital marketers don’t have formal training in the field. How did you become proficient, and what are the benefits and liabilities to learning that way?

Gabrielle WindsorGabrielle Windsor is a digital and integrated 360 marketer with online and offline strategic marketing, media and PR experience. She has managed and developed marketing strategies for Fortune 500, luxury, youth and lifestyle brands. She has also worked with companies such as Boost Mobile, Land Rover, Hitachi, Lincoln Mercury, Adidas and SONY. Gabrielle currently is the Director of Strategy and Planning for The Armory. She is also an instructor and Advisory Board member for Cal State Fullerton’s Digital Marketing Certificate program.

In 1998, I wanted to see what this whole Internet thing was about. I had a software background and I landed a job at an interactive agency; it was a lot of on-the-job training. I think one of the best ways to learn things is through reading and doing—working alongside smart people who know what they’re doing. I think a lot of online resources are great: blogs and sites dedicated to digital, mobile, social, analytics, and more.

Question Mark IconAre there any professional associations that you think are great resources for digital marketing training?

There’s a lot of conferences and online learning. And there’s a lot of learning opportunities at local universities. There’s websites like Mashable and Search Engine Land. And vendors, like Moz, that publish a lot of valuable information via their content-marketing efforts.

You start to read things online and you get exposed to different resources. And it’s a never-ending rabbit hole. E-marketer.com is good for stats, Pew Internet Research conducts a lot of research that you can access for free.

Question Mark Icon You didn’t have a marketing background when you got started. Did you feel that employers penalized you for having an engineering background?

No. I think of life as a tool box, and building skill sets over time, so I applied my math and requirements-analysis skills to the online world. I’ve been able to apply my skills with structured thinking to create results focused marketing including media, websites and analytics.

There are all kinds of opportunities, if you understand the basics of marketing and you get the opportunity to work on these kind of projects. You apply your skills and you learn from other people about how they are approaching these sorts of projects and problems.

Question Mark Icon According to a recent study, only one in three marketers think their companies are proficient in digital marketing. Why do you think this is?

Often companies are behind because they have been slow to invest in digital. There’s also a sort of mystery around it. It’s often perceived as technical, and that’s uncomfortable for some leadership.

There’s been a hesitancy to shift from traditional channels to digital. But digital marketing isn’t “non-traditional” anymore. It’s mainstream. People have just been slow to admit that the media landscape and people’s behavior really are different. Change is hard.

Question Mark IconMost marketers agree that there has been more change in the last two years than in the previous 50. How much change do you anticipate in the next two years?

I anticipate a lot of change in the next few years. I think one interesting area is the shift in behavior around search. People are doing a lot more searches using voice instead of typing. I think that’s an exciting change that will be interesting to watch.

And then, I think the latest buzzword is “content marketing.” It’s about creating experiences that are both educational and entertaining for consumers.

So brands can actually add value to the user’s life, instead of the old-fashioned, traditional one-way marketing. What’s really dynamic about digital is that there are conversations happening among consumers and between brands and consumers. It’s going to keep changing.

"The latest buzzword is 'content marketing' . . . brands can actually add value to the user’s life, instead of the old-fashioned, traditional one-way marketing."

Question Mark Icon What strategies have you developed to show return on investment (ROI)?

There’s always pressure to show ROI. People say, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Digital has always been more measurable than other marketing channels. So make sure that you have metrics tied to the objectives up front, and come to an agreement on what you are going to expect from a project. And then you track it along the way, and do an analysis at the end and say, “Did I get what I thought I would get?” “How can we make it even better next time?”

I would caution people not to get caught solely in the strict, direct response part of online. There is branding value. So looking at metrics like engagement rates, people talking about your brand, those word-of-mouth conversations have fantastic value and are more persuasive than a critic saying that your brand is great, or even advertising.

Question Mark Icon In your field are there some specific strategies that are more beneficial than others?

It all depends on your objective. So if it’s awareness or brand-building, or brand engagement, word of mouth, or website traffic, sales—I use a mix of strategies and tactics to achieve those objectives. Some objectives are loftier and squishier, and some are more specific and ROI-driven. There’s a lot of complexity in the data. As marketers we do our best to look at and optimize based on what we know, what we can measure, and the dots we can connect.