Open Colleges

How To Start a Rewarding Career in Digital Marketing

by Yvette McKenzie
Posted: June 28, 2016

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Are you thinking of transitioning into an exciting career in Digital Marketing? According to a worldwide survey of 3700 people by, Australia leads the pack in online marketing salaries, with the United States close behind. However, there is more to marketing than a great pay packet.  

Digital marketers use their skills to get good results for their clients and will research the marketplace, analyse the results and develop segmentation strategies based on their customers’ needs. They might primarily use the internet, but also mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium.

So, what is digital marketing and how does it differ from traditional marketing? If you’re looking at the Australian marketplace, the Australian Marketing Institute is a guiding light. It is a body that has existed to connect professional marketers, inspire best practice and to act as a connecting tool for stakeholders within the industry. 

To deliver a range of courses in marketing, Open Colleges partners with the Australian Marketing Institute to ensure that course materials for Digital Marketing courses are cutting edge and of the latest design. We spoke to Lee Tonitto, the Chief Executive Officer of AMI to find out why digital marketing is such a rewarding career. 

What does the Australian Marketing Institute aim to do? 

The Australian Marketing Institute has been created to progress the careers of professional marketers in Australia. We aim to improve marketers’ capabilities and we work with small businesses, all the way through to large organisations, the VET sector and universities. First of all, we are a professional association –  we are for the individual. Our tagline is “We are the science behind Growing Brand You”. 

If you look at LinkedIn, you’ll see that 16 of the top 25 jobs all have some sort of marketing component, if not a focus on marketing directly. The Australian Marketing Institute’s own data indicates that one in two adults working in Australia (which is six million adults) is involved in marketing in their role in one way or another, because who doesn’t’ want to increase customers, retain customers and improve the customer experience? The number of marketers within Australia is set to double by 2020. We aim to increase marketing capabilities and capacity to meet employer demand. 

Who makes use of AMI’s services and resources?

digital marketing from home

Our target audience would be people who are in leading institutions, the vocational education and training sector (the VET sector), those who want to keep in touch with leading marketing practice, and also those who seek to network within professional marketing communities. Our general target market would be those aged 25-40.

How has marketing changed within the last decade or so in Australia? 

We have really seen the rise of new marketing technologies including social media. We have also seen the development of design-led innovation and a rise in the focus on the customer experience. We’ve seen the rise of “big data” and analytics enabling better customer insights than ever before and to measure the effectiveness of marketing spend

Why is digital marketing such a “hot” job right now? 

With a digital marketing career, there is more opportunity for specialisation than ever before. I think last time I counted, there were around 63 “disciplines” of marketing, and opportunities to specialise. This has also been driven by the increase of the number of marketing platforms available to companies. Years ago, there wasn’t the opportunity to tailor your marketing message to the individual – to personalise it. Now with the range of platforms and technologies, personalisation is commonplace. 

Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat – all these new social channels – this has lead the rise in the ability for marketers to connect via these channels to their customers and to potential consumers. This is something we simply couldn’t do a few years ago. 

For example, I know from speaking to your digital marketing team at Open Colleges, that you use a variety of new channels to reach your student audience – I think it’s about 17-18 platforms, including YouTube. 

Previously, technology would never have allowed you to do that and Open Colleges wouldn’t have been able to achieve such strong results for digital marketing within the timeframe. 

How important are ethics in marketing?

casual digital marketing

At the Australian Marketing Institute, we really believe and practise what we call “conscious capitalism” and shared values. At the Australian Marketing Institute, all members follow the AMI Code of Ethics. We always advocate that ethics are a vital part of continued success in the industry. 

How has the AMI and Open Colleges partnership come about? 

Open Colleges initially approached us for a conversation, and this has been on my radar, actually, so the fit and timing was right. I knew Open Colleges to be one of the leading online educators in Australia and I was initially interested in the growth of the organisation and its digital presence. 

I met with the marketing team and I learned about the fabulous curriculum development, how you were improving marketing capability capacity, I thought it was interesting to learn about the sector and who studies with Open Colleges; to find that many of your students were “reskilling” to get back into the workforce or change careers. 

We had, as part of our professional relationships development, been seeking to make further connections within the VET sector. So, in fact, it was within my strategy planning to have a conversation and the partnership seemed like a great fit. 

During our following conversations we learned that Open Colleges and the Australian Marketing Institute had a lot in common, and many shared values. One of AMI’s core objectives is to continue to raise the bar for marketing within Australia and we saw a partnership with Open Colleges as one way which we could contribute to this aim. 

Who is the “ideal candidate” to enter into marketing: Writers, designers, digital specialists, strategists or data analysts? 

Marketing is becoming increasingly specialised. As the nature of marketing changes and takes on different forms, the diversity of marketing professionals will grow.

At its simplest level, anyone can have a passion for the customer, and an understanding of the customer, communicating with the customer and improving the experience of the customer. Also, there is the focus on nurturing customers, retaining customers – and all of the activities that relate to that - there are almost endless ways that creative people can have a successful career in marketing. 

Is it important to specialise in a niche, or do you need to be a generalist? 

career in digital marketing

I believe that it depends on what you want to achieve within your career and whether you want to be a generalist or a specialist – both paths could be relevant to you. You could work in an agency where you generalise and take on many roles for various clients, or you could use your niche skills to totally transform an individual organisation. This means you could have trajectories within your career that allow you to be a marketing technician, or a strategist, depending on what your strengths are. 

What personality traits (or interpersonal skills) do you need to work in marketing?

The ability to listen. The ability to influence. Change skills. An open mind. Curiosity. Those are some of the key attributes that marketers’ need to have. And also an intrinsic motivation for lifelong learning because if you don’t have an intrinsic motivation to lifelong learning you will become redundant. 

How often should a marketer look at updating her or his skillset?

Continuously, and through a variety of ways, including throughout their career and even before - from higher education to vocational education, a marketer needs to have a passion for learning. Personally, I try to learn something new every day. Yesterday I was working on a project for a sharable app widget. We always have a lot to learn. Going back to motivation – learning should be a continuous practice. 

Learning can be on all sorts of levels. Learning can take many forms, whether you enter vocational education and training, or are keeping up to date with new trends, or attending forums and programs. It’s continuous. 

What are some stand-out campaigns that you’ve worked on?

digital marketing meeting

I was involved in the Australian launch of Domestos. I had the pleasure of leading the Sydney 2000 Olympic sponsorship for AMP (an Australian wealth management company) where I lead a team of 40 marketers in a large multi-million-dollar marketing communications budget over a period of four years. 

I’ve also had the opportunity to use my marketing skills within financial planning recruitment. I helped design and implement the AMP Horizons Financial Planning Academy which set a new benchmark in recruiting financial planners in wealth management.

Finally, I am proud to have been influencing marketing education within this country for a total period of around 20 years through my membership with the AMI. I believe in advocating for the profession of marketing and I am very proud of AMI’s work. 

Name a couple of brands that you’ve noted that you believe have a strong digital marketing plan. 

In the digital space, one that really sticks out for me is John West (Created by Cummins and Partners). They’ve done a stunning job in regards to their digital marketing, it’s a “360-degree campaign” which includes TV, digital and BTL (below-the-line) marketing activity as well as PR.

From a celebrity space, I don’t think you can go past the world of the Kardashians. Kim Kardashian just received an award at the Webby Awards – it was the inaugural “Break The Internet” award.

I’ve listened to Kim speaking about her digital strategy and how she grew her Twitter audience. From a celebrity perspective and building a brand that really compliments this group of women who have done such a fine job of leveraging all the various aspects of social and really knowing how to create new business out of these social channels and seeing the different elements of the Kardashians, seeing the focus shift from Kim to the youngest sister, Kylie etc. It’s inter-generational. I have been very impressed with the way they do that. It’s a very interesting model.  

Lee Tonitto, CEO of the Australian Marketing Institute

Lee’s career spans over 30 years and encompasses leading large-scale campaigns and strategic marketing teams, brand management, distribution, customer value, digital, and channel management. Lee has worked with major brands in Asia Pacific including Unilever, Revlon, AMP and Commonwealth Bank’s Count Financial. In 2012, Lee founded a boutique consulting firm and added to her experience in wealth management and not-for-profit sectors. Lee has a long association with the AMI from a NSW Councillor in 2003, then NSW State President, and an appointment to the Board in 2007.  Lee served as Chair from 2010 to 2013 and is AMI’s current CEO since Sept 2014. 


Want to kick-start your career in Digital Marketing? 

Open Colleges now offers several courses that you may be interested in: 



Yvette has over a decade of professional experience at some of Australia’s largest media corporations, including Southern Cross Austereo and the Macquarie Media Network. With a degree in Communications (majoring in Journalism), she covers stories on education, new knowledge technologies and independent learning.

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