In 2017, Econsultancy published a report entitled 'How Marketers Learn'. The goal was to identify how marketers were approaching their professional development. Its primary message can be simplified down to one mantra:
Always be learning.
It's a mantra that is ever more applicable. The world of marketing barrels along at an ever increasing rate - new tech, new platforms, new promises from vendors. Twenty-eight per cent of Marketers say they have a hard time keeping up with new technology - what role does TikTok play and should I use it in my marketing strategy? What exactly are AI and Machine Learning? And how the hell does Econometrics work anyway?
Is Training the answer?
There are those that believe that marketing qualifications aren't worth having. That the speed of change renders training out of date before it's even written. That spending money on a marketing qualification is, as result, a waste of time.
This article will seek to make the opposite case. It’ll start by showing it’s not just me who thinks way as this excerpt from an interview with Brand consultant, Professor Mark Ritson shows:
He reiterated his belief that training in marketing makes you a better marketer although, he said, 57% of marketers disagree.
“You need to learn about our discipline. It needs to be respected and studied, and then updated. But we seem to be proud of not being trained."
I have taken multiple marketing training courses in both the UK and Australia. I have earned Diplomas from the Institute of Direct Marketing and the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I studied marketing as part of my Bachelor's Degree. Each course or certificate made me a better marketer.
Here's what I have learned about training:
1. The point you are in your career matters
Of the two diplomas I have, the IDM Diploma has proven most useful day to day in my career. Partly that's due to choosing to specialise in CRM / Direct Marketing but a bigger part is the time at which I took the training.
The CIM diploma is an in-depth qualification based on Marketing Strategy and tactics. It provided tools to develop an overall marketing strategy - segmentation, targeting, positioning, brand hierarchy, brand architecture, etc. All very useful stuff.
But not at that point in my career. I was in the graduate scheme at Vodafone and understandably nowhere near the level where decisions were being made where that knowledge would come in handy. By the time I was in a position to use that which I had learned I probably could have done with a refresher course!
In contrast, the IDM was useful but it was more tactical in its nature. It gave me principles that I could use at the level I was at in the organisation (and still use to this day).
So simply put, look at where you are in your career, the decisions you are involved in and can impact. What would be most useful for you based on that and a look to the immediate future (say a year or two)?
2. There are indelible principles that transcend time
This is the bit that people who are unconvinced about training miss. There are unquestionably enduring principles that stand in every marketing discipline and strategic marketing as a whole. Investing in learning those principles will fundamentally make you a better marketer.
It's easy to forget that when new tools, tech, real-time data, AI and Machine Learning are flying around. People and their habits are changing right? How can any course or qualification keep up?
But principles matter precisely because the more things change the more they stay the same. Don't take my word for it. Take the advertising legend Bill Bernbach's word for it:
“Principles endure, formulas don’t. You must get attention to your ad. This is a principle that will always be true. How you get attention is an ever-changing thing. What is attractive one day may be dull the next."
Or even modern day guru Professor Byron Sharp - author of seminal work "How Brands Grow":
“How Brands Grow" is about fundamental laws; it doesn't discuss media tactics.
The reason this is all true is that people's underlying motivations and behaviours don't necessarily change despite the myriad of new ways and opportunities we have to express ourselves and interact with people or brands. Again to quote Bill Bernbach (in rather a sexist fashion but it was the 50s.):
“It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.”
And it's not just principles of behaviour that don't change much. The same is true of mathematical laws. I learned the basic principles of testing - control groups, statistical significance, power, p-values, etc - in order to run effective tests and ensure I could know what I was doing worked. You can read about those here. Those rules haven't changed and are now as applicable when running A/B testing on a website, through social media or within programmatic display.
Yes it can be important to learn the technological nuances of every new channel or tool depending on your job, but learning principles that underpin those tools is crucial.
3. Specialist or generalist
This decision is one that marketers face at some point in their career. Do you double down on a specialism (CRM, SEO, Social, etc) or do you try to be a generalist who can operate to a level across all marketing disciplines?
Both have an impact on your training. I invested my time (and Vodafone's money. Thanks Vodafone.) into the IDM Diploma because I knew that it was the discipline I enjoyed and wanted to stay in. If I was generalist, then a three day course may well have been sufficient to get enough of a grasp of the subject.
If you decide to be a generalist the point about principles not changing is crucial. You may not need to know about how dark modes affect email reading comprehension, but you will need to know about how to set up an experiment or what a Campaign Management tool is.
The bottom line
Training is tough. We all have busy lives. Jobs, kids, exercise commitments, and more. Fitting in training around all that is tough. But it is necessary. Whether its reading a book, watching a video or investing in yourself by paying for some formal training (of the like which LiquidCX can provide) you will be better at your job which can only lead to better things in your career.
Always be learning.