Marketing is a skill. And like any skill, it takes effort to learn and master.
But what’s the best way to do that?
You could simply learn by doing. Get out there and start trying things—running ads, testing sales pages, and so on. Over time you’ll gradually start to discover what works and what doesn’t.
Another option is to take a training or certification course. Here at DigitalMarketer, for instance, they offer nearly a dozen Master Class & Certification Programs in topics like paid traffic, ecommerce, analytics, and more. And they not the only ones—more and more training programs for marketers are popping up all over the place.
But is this really the best way to learn how to become a better marketer? Are these courses worth your time and money? And can they really prepare you for the complicated reality of digital marketing today?
In this post I’m going to step back and look at this issue as objectively as I can. So with that in mind, let’s start by admitting some of the downsides of marketing courses.
Reasons Not to Pursue Formal Marketing Training
Thinking about opening your wallet to sign up for a new marketing course? Not so fast, partner. First consider these reasons why you might not want to get formal training as a marketer.
It Costs Money
Marketing courses cost money. That’s kind of an obvious point, but it certainly should factor into your decision. Depending on the course you’re considering, you could pay anywhere from $100 up to several thousand dollars.
It Takes Time
The other thing a marketing course requires is time. You’ll have to watch videos, read articles, and complete exercises. You’ll have to learn new principles and explore ways you can apply those ideas to real-world marketing campaigns.
Of course, that’s kind of the point of taking a class… but it’s also something that takes time. And depending on your situation, you may not have a lot of that to spare. You might even have to do most of your coursework in your free time during nights and weekends.
There Are a Lot of Outdated Courses Out There
You also need to think about how up-to-date the course is liable to be. The field of marketing, especially digital marketing, is changing rapidly as technology and traffic platforms evolve over time.
DigitalMarketer is constantly updating their EPs, Jumpstart Packs, and Certification programs to make sure they reflect the newest changes in the marketing landscape. But unfortunately, many other companies fail to do these regular updates—which means if you sign up for the wrong course, you could be wasting your time and money to learn marketing strategies that stopped working back in 2015.
You Will Learn from Experience Anyway
Finally, it’s only fair to point out that you don’t really have to take a class to learn this stuff. Experience, as they say, is a great teacher.
If you actually work in the marketing field, you’ll eventually learn how to market on your own. Sure, you might have to fumble your way through things at first. And it might take you longer to find out what works and what doesn’t. (And you might lose a lot of money on the wrong efforts in the process.) But your marketing skills will undoubtedly improve over time, even if you never take a course in your life. In a sense, you have to gamble how much money you may lose while you’re testing and learning what works and what doesn’t.
Reasons You Should Pursue Formal Marketing Training
Now that we’ve covered the downsides, let’s look at some of the benefits of getting formal training as a marketer.
It Will Help You Make More Money
This probably lies at the heart of why most people want to get marketing training. Yes, it costs some money (as I mentioned above). But over time, a good marketing program will help you make much more money over the long term—making it a great ROI.
Let’s think about why this is true. First, if you’re a student or employee, a marketing training program will increase your earning potential by giving you valuable skills that employers are desperate to find.
If you’re a marketing agency, a training program will help you get better results for your clients… resulting in (a) more clients and (b) clients who stick around longer.
And finally, if you’re an entrepreneur, then marketing training can lead directly to increased sales and revenue for your company—translating, once again, into more dollars in your pocket. If you can launch your own successful email marketing campaign, you’re going to be able to do great things for your company.
No matter how you slice it, one of the biggest arguments in favor of getting formal marketing training is that it can help you make more money.
It’s Less Expensive Than Making Mistakes
Marketing courses cost money, it’s true. But let’s look at the flipside. The cost of not pursuing marketing training is that you have to do your learning on the job—which means you’re much more likely to make a mistake that could be far more expensive than any course.
DigitalMarketer likes to say that they make the mistakes, so you don’t have to! We’re all marketers, and testing content and strategies is inevitably going to cost money, but when someone can tell you that something doesn’t work BEFORE you try it, it can make your life a whole lot easier.
It Keeps You Up-to-Date in a Rapidly Changing Field
The digital marketing landscape is constantly changing, and it’s changing fast. Just think—20 years ago there were no smartphones, no messaging apps, no search ads, no social media networks. And today these are huge marketing platforms driving billions of dollars of ad spend and revenue around the world.
You can bet the digital landscape will continue its rapid evolution going forward. New technology continues to come out all the time, and traffic platforms are constantly tweaking their algorithms and dashboards.
This makes digital marketing an exciting field, but a challenging one. You have to make a conscious effort to keep up (or else you’ll surely fall behind). A recent report from the Digital Marketing Institute found that there’s a worldwide “digital marketing skills gap” that continues to grow—which explains why the majority of marketing professionals feel that they need to improve their digital marketing skills:
Marketing courses are an excellent way to keep up with these changes. In fact, they’re probably even more effective than university programs, since they are much more agile and flexible. Updating a college degree curriculum is a slow-moving process for a giant school. By comparison, it’s much easier to keep an online certification program up-to-date with the latest marketing strategies.
It Gives You Confidence
One of the things that I personally loved about getting certified as a marketer is the confidence it gave me.
When you’re new to marketing, you often find yourself in the position of hoping and guessing. You create a new landing page, hoping it appeals to your audience. You set up a new Facebook ad, guessing at what kind of campaign structure will be most effective.
But with some formal training under your belt, you’ll feel much more confident that you know what you’re doing—even if it’s your first time setting up a landing page or a Facebook campaign. Because in effect, you’ll have gained the benefit of someone else’s experience. And that’s a comforting thought.
It Gives You More Credibility
Marketing training programs—and especially certification programs—give you the competitive advantage of third-party legitimacy. And in today’s day and age when anyone can claim to be a “marketing expert,” that is becoming more and more important.
The best certification programs will even provide you with tools to help take advantage of this newfound credibility. At DigitalMarketer, for example, they make it easy to display your certification badges on your website, in your email signature, or anywhere else you want to communicate your marketing expertise. It looks like this:
It Gives You a Broader Scope of Knowledge
We live in an age of specialization. It seems like there aren’t any “general marketers” left. Instead there are email marketers, media buyers, copywriters, and analytics specialists. And while there certainly is value in specialization, there’s also a compelling argument for having a well-rounded foundation.
DigitalMarketer calls that being a “full-stack marketer.” And one of the huge benefits of being a full-stack marketer is that you’ll have a broader understanding of the entire marketing ecosystem—a big-picture view about how all the different pieces fit together as a whole.
(RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Digital Marketing)
Unfortunately for many marketers working in a narrowly defined role, it can be difficult to get this breadth of knowledge though your job. That’s why a marketing training program can be so instrumental in expanding your horizons, helping you to do your job more effectively—while also preparing you for an expanded role down the line.
It Shows Initiative
Pretend you’re a recruiter, and these 3 resumes land on your desk:
Candidate A has 3 years of experience and no certifications.
Candidate B has 5 years of experience and no certifications.
Candidate C has only 2 year of experience, but they have 4 marketing certifications from a trusted institution.
Who are you going to hire?
It’s true that Candidates A and B have more experience. Candidate C, by comparison, is still relatively green. But that third candidate has also demonstrated a level of initiative that makes them stand out from the competition.
That kind of thing is a sign to many recruiters that this person is driven to succeed. That they’re more motivated and more dedicated to achieving a higher level of excellence. That they’re going places—and that they’re worth extending a generous offer to.
It Can Plug You into a New Community
One of the less well-known benefits of marketing training programs is the social and networking aspect. Not only will you gain more knowledge—you’ll also gain valuable connections, make new friends, and get instant access to an entire community of like-minded professionals.
DigitalMarketer has a private members-only community. Most people who join DMHQ or DM Lab don’t join for the community—they join for the knowledge. But after joining, they eventually come to realize that the community is actually one of the most valuable parts of their membership—and that community is a big reason why so many people stay with us for years and years.
What Makes the Most Sense for You?
At the end of the day, you’re the only one who can say if formal marketing training makes sense for you. As you can probably tell from this article, I believe that while marketing training programs can have some downsides, but overall, they’re 100% worth your time and money. Getting certified by a reputable company is basically like making a really smart investment in yourself, your knowledge base, and ultimately—your future.
I’ve certainly found that to be the case in my career. And whether you choose DigitalMarketer or someone else to be your source of up-to-date marketing training, I hope you get as much out of your marketing courses as I have.