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Continuous learning in marketing should really be a requirement. Whether that’s in the form of getting specific marketing certificates, in-house training or going to conferences can be a matter of personal choice. But at the end of the day, marketing strategies change too quickly and too often for marketers to not continue to learn new things.
To dive into the topic, Hansen Hunt, of Certified Mastery, and Justin Champion, of the HubSpot Academy, joined me to discuss marketing certificates. We discussed what you should consider in your continuous learning, how to evaluate certificates and more.
As always there are several ways to learn and keep learning. Things change and marketers need to change and evolve with them. Let’s dive into some of ways marketers can keep learning and also earn marketing certificates at the same time.
Marketing certificates through companies
Personally, I find marketing certificates useful to establish a base level understanding and being able to highlight the certificates on your LinkedIn profile is a definite plus.
Hansen called this the concept of badging, which goes back to Boy and Girl Scouts and signifies somebody’s knowledge level of a certain topic.
Of course, make sure that you highlight your certifications on your website – whether that’s through a specific page like an awards page, in the footer or elsewhere.
Certainly, companies create marketing certificates that are in line with their business goals. For example, SEMRush is an SEO tool, so it makes sense for them to have an SEO certificate. Hubspot has a variety of courses available that its customers and prospects would find helpful.
But the certificate courses still need to be educational and the ones I’ve taken are. For example, the Drift course on conversational marketing taught me about this category. It’s good to know and understand it to:
- decide whether or not to implement the conversational marketing
- stay up to date on chatbots, which is where conversational marketing is often implemented
- at the very least know what conversational marketing is for when clients and bosses ask about it
Justin Champion reiterated on our podcast that it is important that marketing certificates truly teach and test your knowledge. Buying a badge from a company signifying you as the expert is not the same as taking and passing a course.
Of course, the marketing certifications offered by companies need to fit what the companies do. For example, Justin said it makes sense for Drift to offer a certification on conversational marketing, which is what they do.
“Education is a great marketing channel when it’s done correctly,” Justin said. “When you for the learner, the person going through the course, you are building trust with them and that can lead to a purchasing decision down the road.”
But, marketing certificates need to be “similar to higher ed,” Justin said. “Where you complete a curriculum … and you are showing you have the skills for this specific subject matter.”
Also keep in mind, as Justin mentioned, that not all marketing certificates are created equal.
”It depends on the brand that is offering them,” he said. “I would recommend on focusing on practicality. At that point you can walk the walk and not just talk the talk.”
Hansen added that it’s also important that others understand what a certification means. For example, if your employer is looking at the title and the issuer do they get what you just offered a certificate in?
“Transparency behind the certifications and how difficult it is to get them” is also important, said Hansen.
Omneya Nabil said she’s taken the Content Strategy and Storytelling certificate from the University of Washington.
”It was totally worth the nine months of work and sleepless nights,” she said.
I earned two marketing-related certificates from Cornell about a decade ago as I was making the move more full time from journalism into marketing. I would also agree that those courses and certificates were worth taking. The biggest negative so to speak is the cost. My Cornell certificates cost a few thousand dollars. The company marketing certificates above were free and other more in-depth certificates offered and discussed below appear to be in the hundreds of dollars.
Omneya joined me on the podcast to share why some certificates are overrated.
Another way to learn new things is by going into the weeds and collaborate as a team, which is also a chapter in my Content Performance Culture book.
Daily projects are a fantastic way to learn new things and test, test, test. Being in software tools, using them to run campaigns and actively participating in strategy development and implementation are a great way to keep learning.
The example I gave on the podcast was around the evolution of software tools. I hadn’t used a specific tool in about a year and the updates in that year were just tremendous.
Do keep in mind that it’s virtually impossible to know all software tools. As Scott Brinker mentioned on this episode of the Business Storytelling podcast: The number of software solutions has grown from 150 tools ten years ago to thousands today.
What tools specifically are learned depends on what the company uses. Hansen encourages companies to also take the opportunity to encourage and empower employees to take marketing certificate courses that help them and the company. For example, Hansen mentioned he took HubSpot courses because he needed to know the content for a previous job.
Companies like Smartbug offer quarterly learning days where employees can take courses to continue learning. In fact, I was made aware of the Drift course after a Smartbug employee posted on social media about it after taking it on that quarterly day.
In 2020, HubSpot even created the World Certification Day where the company is encouraging employers to allow their teams to take a certificate. In addition, HubSpot is donating $5 to UNICEF for each HubSpot Academy certification that day.
Another way to keep learning is to listen to podcasts. I currently have almost 100 active subscriptions to shows and listen on Google Podcasts while at the gym, traveling and even just in the background while working throughout the day. Not all of it is truly active listening but there are always new things I learn.
In 2020, most conferences moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic. Certainly, you can learn things from listening to online presentations and offline presentations. Conferences can also be hit and miss. When there’s a gazillion sessions how do you truly know which session will offer you the most value. And even if it’s valuable, will you be able to implement it?
In-depth marketing certificates
Understanding a topic is one thing. Implementing it is another. Of course, it’s important to understand the concept first, but then the next step needs to be taken to learn how to actually implement it. I talked about the over abundance of content theorists in this episode of the podcast as well.
That’s why Hansen started Certified Mastery. He said the courses will go deeper than theory and will help marketers learn how to implement.
While some certificates are free, these deeper courses usually aren’t. Justin mentioned that he doesn’t know of any of these more in-depth courses that are free.
Hansen’s company includes three elements in courses:
”We are learning with each other,” he said. “Now you get connected with a coach and a mentor and you apply what you learned.”
The implementation happens in real projects. After that you’ll teach it to somebody else – right in line with the sentiment of “if you can’t explain it, you don’t understand it.”
”This is not hypotheticals,” Hansen said. “They are real-world examples. If you drive results it’s going to impact that business.”
You can also read blogs from experts and here’s a list of 45 including myself that you could consider following.
I struggled with continuous learning a few years ago. Should I get a master’s degree in marketing? Would that help me? There certainly is value in being able to say “I have a master’s” but with the industry evolving so quickly and the higher cost I decided against that route.
So I took the certificates route through Cornell, which was still pricier, but cheaper than a master’s. I also questioned how a master’s program would keep up with rapid changes.
Change is also one reason why marketing certificates expire and aren’t valid for ever and ever. Justin explained the HubSpot certificates are valid for 24 months. After that time, it’s important for marketers to refresh their knowledge through updated content in those courses.
At the very least, find the way of continuous learning that works for you and that can help you in your career through badging and by expanding your knowledge and skillset.
What’s the right choice for each person, also depends on their motivation, Hansen said. Some people may want marketing certificates to learn, some need it to establish themselves as an expert and others need it as a job requirement.