Marketing is in a constant state of flux but digital has meant that marketing changes at a faster pace. There are so many tools that can help marketers ‘do’ marketing nowadays, it makes you wonder whether studying for marketing qualifications is still worthwhile?
My experienced marketing peers bemoan that in today’s digitised world marketing is becoming ‘tactified’ – i.e. there’s been a shift away from marketers that apply a strategic approach to achieving business goals, and towards that of tactics; competence with Hubspot or Marketo, running a social media campaign, and development of content marketing material. I’m inclined to agree. I don’t think any of these should be considered a marketer’s core skills. As important as they are, they enable a means to an end.
Over the last few years I’ve seen a big rise in the number of employers focusing their search for new marketing staff on tactical skills – e.g. ‘can you use x package or platform?’. I’m against this because they tend to address an immediate need. Plus, being able to use a piece of software doesn’t make you a competent marketer. I would argue that most employers might be better off hiring for a combination of core technical marketing skills, soft skills and the right attitude. The first of these can be learnt in a CIM qualification, but what are they?
The technical skills I have in mind are those that provide marketers with business acumen: being able to analyse a business and its strengths and weaknesses, customer drivers, the environment that they operate in and competitor analysis. My postgraduate course taught me how to apply what I had learnt about segmenting customers, about targeting those customers and how I can position my business in their minds. I wouldn’t have known how to do any of that in a structured, strategic way without it.
Of course, you can learn much of this from a book or by watching a few Youtube videos, but by attending a course can you find out if you’re using what you’ve learnt in the right way. You also get to learn from fellow students working in other industries.
Year-long marketing qualifications are unlikely to teach you tactics but you can learn these on the job. If you’re starting out your proficiency at using certain apps, marketing platforms or social media will help you get a foot in the door. However, I would argue that you’re more employable if you can demonstrate how you can help your future employer grow their business, not how good you are at using Twitter or MailChimp. I don’t think you should ever be hired primarily because you can do social media or create email campaigns. You should be hired for the way in which you can use your core skills to help your future employer achieve its goals.
CIM marketing qualifications are unlikely to teach you the soft skills required to succeed in marketing but then I don’t think any marketing course does. That’s something you learn on the job or from management training courses. Sometimes, displaying the right soft skills is nothing more that choosing your mood.
Like any role, a lot of what you learn on the job will benefit your future career. However, a marketing qualification provides you with a grounding in marketing theory that you can rely on when planning. Importantly, it also gives you confidence when you’re speaking to senior management. It will help you perform better in your role and enable you to provide a more meaningful contribution to the growth of your business. If you want to be known and respected for being much more than ‘the colouring in department’ or even the ‘people that tweet stuff’, then I would always advocate becoming a qualified marketer. You might not feel its benefits immediately, but it will certainly influence how your career develops.