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Why marketers should embrace learning

12 Nov 15:00 by Adam Pyle

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The marketing profession has always had an uneasy relationship with training - particular  when it’s estimated that up to 50% of those in the industry have had no formal marketing training. However, times of uncertainty have meant that individuals need to add skills to their CVs and businesses need to utilise their in-house knowledge. Some leading marketers reveal how they think marketing training will measure up on the uncertain road ahead.

When we asked our social media followers a simple question - Do you need a marketing qualification to advance as a marketer? - the results provide token validation of markers’ reluctance to engage with training. Twitter revealed a split of 52% believing that no qualification was needed, compared to the 48% who said that it was. Facebook had a bigger sweep, with 61% saying that marketers do need a qualification to advance their career.

Whilst social media polls do not provide an exhaustive conclusion to whether marketers value qualifications or not, they do provide a snapshot into a problem that has plagued marketing in recent times. Whilst other professions have moved towards placing greater importance on qualifications in recent years – think nursing and accounting as the prime examples – marketing has, arguably, remained slightly averse to it. With professionals flocking to marketing from a range of backgrounds, in some cases core marketing knowledge is still vastly undervalued.

In this article, hear from marketing leaders across a variety of sectors and regions on why qualifications are just one part of the toolkit that marketers can draw from. They all agree, however, that formal marketing knowledge is important; not just in the long-term, but for the uncertainty that lies ahead in the immediate moment.

Core knowledge is important

Whilst you don’t strictly need a qualification to advance your career in marketing, it is arguable now a definite chance for marketers to differentiate themselves. Particularly as many marketers do not hold qualifications themselves.

Martin Jordan, vice chair of events of CIM’s Scotland region and director of innovation at Equator, admits that “invariably there are those who are naturally gifted in marketing”, and that this shouldn’t be discouraged. Those individuals those will have their abilities enhanced, rather than hampered, by learning the long-term theories, because they still apply today.

 “Whilst tactics change almost constantly,” says Jordan, “the core principles remain the same. As often happens during tough times, the value of qualifications rises as marketers look to improve their value to prospective employers, and their current ones.”

John Paul Simpson, chair of CIM’s North West region, agrees: “The value of training will rise. The profession needs sound principles and frameworks that are adaptable. Qualifications, modular-based awards and training remain the best way to evidence this.”

Marketing is a crowded field, so give yourself a professional advantage

In terms of marketing in general, Rachael Mabe – chair of CIM’s Midlands region is adamant that its marketing has always been a tough market to break in to. “Marketing is a competitive industry and, whilst job opportunities frequently appeared and still will appear, the supply of candidates tend to outstrip the demand of employers to fill vacancies.”

That means that marketers must add those extra elements to their CV to give themselves a professional advantage. Qualifications will hold their value, so chasing up opportunities for them, or further training, has never been more important.

Paul Mackman, director of the Mackman Group and CIM East of England vice chair , believes that “the most important progression factor is evidence of results” but this cannot mean that experience and instinct alone is good enough, you just have to supplement it with training that is specific to your customer’s needs. “Marketers need a sound knowledge base as part of their toolbox of capabilities. Marketing is about meeting customer needs so, if you’re considering training, be sure to research the needs of your prospective, or current, employers to fulfil that.”

Either way, for many in the industry, the value of training has never been higher. Brian Doidge - chair of CIM’s South West region - states that “in normal times, the training itself could help you get a job, but, more importantly, it would give you the skills and knowledge to help you keep that job. Now, as investment from organisations into training may well decline, the value of training to the individual will resurrect itself.”

If the long-term is yet to be seen, then, in the short-term, qualifications and training in the industry matter more than ever.

Recovery and revival

Right now, brands need to focus on customer needs to ensure their survival, and strategic marketing leadership has never been more important. The theories of Herzberg and Maslow aligned with tried and tested practices such as the 4 Ps can keep businesses steady, as marketers continue to consolidate their role as the customer’s champion.

However, marketing will also play a hand in the recovery and, afterwards, that is when trained marketers will stand out. Richard Slee, a board member of the CIM North West Regional group, believes this to be true: “Properly trained marketing experts will play a vital role in reviving the economy when the health crisis is over but, as organisations become more risk averse in the period after, marketers with the credentials can hit the ground running; employers will need that reassurance.”

Now is the time to grab that extra advantage

If marketing has aligned itself closer to the needs of the business in recent years, it has far too often failed to absorb strategic responsibility. Marketers continue to be under-represented at board level and prominent marketers, such as Mike Berry, have insisted that most of marketing is now taken up by promotion, whilst the real drivers of business – price, place and product – sit elsewhere. That now must change, utilising the guiding principles of well-trodden theories and practices that have long secured marketing success. Only fully equipped strategically minded marketers can grapple with the full breadth of customer need, and only true marketing knowledge can provide the backbone for recovery.

How marketers get there is up to them; through training, modular-based awards, or full qualifications. Still, in a profession that has absorbed knowledge from elsewhere, it’s time we made the case for marketing knowledge to be taken in; now more than ever, marketing knowledge matters.


CIM offers a range of professionally recognised Marketing and Digital Marketing qualifications, designed to develop the core skills you need. And, in these challenging times, the majority of our UK Accredited Study Centres are providing virtual classes so you can study from the safety of your home. Find out more here.