Do marketing experts need a marketing qualification?
Every month we ask a panel of experts from around the world to give us their views on an industry topic. At mfCEOs we work with business executives to build strategic marketing capability that can support their business objectives. With marketing a vital component of any organisation, we ask a deceptively simple question: Do marketing experts need a marketing qualification?
Not necessarily, would be my answer. I think it’s all dependent on the type of business and the industry sector. WIOCC operates in a niche area where relationship marketing and customer experience is key, and so much of our communication with customers is face-to-face. Breadth of knowledge, experience and understanding of the market is far more important to us than a classic marketing qualification. Our success has been due in part to breaking away from traditional operating models and looking at innovative ways to provide bespoke services that provide seemingly simple solutions to the complex challenges of the African market. And our marketing strategy has been a key element in achieving our business goals.
“I have a BSc in Biology and MSc in Computer Science and my first role was with BT, introducing leading-edge AI technologies to BT’s management systems. Ten years’ later, after some in-house training, I was responsible for marketing leading-edge technologies for the organisation. The skills set I brought to marketing in the first instance were an understanding of technologies and their capabilities, and an ability to take complex ideas and find ways to communicate them simply. Bringing people into my team, I’m looking for good communications skills, enthusiasm and an understanding of the industry. They learn in the department and train on the job, supported by part-time study on marketing courses.”
The best marketer I know has a bachelor degree in musical performance but it doesn’t surprise me that he’s incredible at his job. Rock stars in general are the best marketers on the planet – they command attention, are effortlessly authentic, they focus on their fans’ needs and have the most incredible lead generation pipelines and products. Many brands would kill to have people so perfectly suited to a marketing role.
Saying that, you can pick people with a marketing degree a mile away. The deep love of a spreadsheet, the addiction to segmenting everything in their life, the pull towards the big shiny thing (this isn’t a bad thing) – these are all deeply important skills people without marketing degrees often lack. The groundwork a marketing degree gives people is undoubtedly useful but the big question is should businesses be concerned about the ability of universities to keep up with best practice?
I am a former journalist but a marketing degree was always in the back of my mind. I hesitated because of the basic fact that the marketing around me always felt at best disingenuous and at worst insulting. Social media and content marketing has changed that in a big way; brands have no choice but to be helpful, tell amazing stories and speak to audiences with respect (lest they call bullshit on you, possibly quite publically). Luckily for me, marketing now suits journalists to a T. But I genuinely love the insights, organisation and thought processes working with university-trained marketers bring.
Yes and no. Ultimately, experience matters more. That said, early in your career a qualification can really help to boost your confidence and get you into your first few roles. Six or seven years into your career, you won’t be leveraging your education in a job interview so much as your recent marketing successes and your synergy with their business/sector. You’ll have learnt most of your practical skills on the job and from colleagues anyway. We know some top marketers without an official qualification to their name, but with such a strong track record you’d be mad to turn them down for the want of it.
Our ‘Fast Track’ programme for up-and-coming marketers, tends to recommend a qualification that can be gained part time while working, like a CIM diploma. That way you don’t lose out on valuable early career years. Practical application can also be lacking from marketing education out of context. If you can put your new knowledge to use in your current marketing role, it’ll be much more meaningful.
To me a marketing qualification shows an ability to get the theoretical element of our trade. However I think our base needs to be broader than that. And I would ask within which element of marketing does your qualification sit?
Marketing is a broad business topic and crucial to business growth. It spans both strategic and tactical components, and ranges from almost business strategy to tactical outputs. What do I mean by that? For example, when we are working with clients, we can be talking to them about how they enter a new market – that’s a long-term strategic decision. The marketing department can also be delivering digital marketing campaigns – a more tactical execution.
Most of my learning has come from the application of the qualification through my corporate roles and my client work in my current role. We work on a broad portfolio of clients and although their objective is to build a marketing strategy, their individual journeys to reach that objective can be completely different. It’s not one size fits all. Their appetite to grow, their market conditions, where they are in their business cycle, are all different and therefore the application of what we need to deliver is different.
I think more than anything, marketing needs a common language – we confuse the hell out of our users as a sector, hence the reason why we developed the 9 Boxes.
Do I think marketing experts need a qualification? Yes I do, however it’s only the start.
Next month: Have we lost the art of briefing?