3 reasons why an MBA is important for B2B marketers

31st July 2016

Marketing is what marketers do. (Don O’Sullivan)

We do what we know and learn. (Jordan Nikolovski)

In my last post I argued that B2B marketers don’t always have the qualifications necessary to become great marketers. That instead of formal training in the discipline of marketing we rely on the technical skills – the tactics and channels – we learn on the job. Thus, we do content, we do digital, we do social, etc, most often in marketing silos unconnected to the rest of the business.

But marketing is not just we do. The brilliant Peter Drucker said it best:

Marketing … is not a specialized activity at all. It encompasses the entire business. It is the whole business seen from the point of view of the final result, that is, from the customer’s point of view.

But this is the catch, because very few of us actually look at marketing in the context of the wider business or even the wider commercial landscape in which we operate, much less from a truly customer perspective. We don’t know any better than what we ‘do’, because this is how most of us have been taught, this is how most of us have learned.


3 reasons an MBA can be important for a career in B2B marketing:

  1. A holistic perspective and wide knowledge of the business world

I don’t doubt that we’re able to become technically proficient marketers without an MBA or other qualification.

But marketing is just one aspect of a business. Why wouldn’t we want to better understand the world in which we’re building our careers? Wouldn’t we be better marketers if we had greater insight into how Finance, Operations, HR and all the other parts of a business actually worked? As well as what it all means within the global environment in which we’re competing?

An MBA prepares us to think about business at a much higher level and to see the big picture. More importantly, it gives us the chance to learn and think about the issues that impact not only our business, but our customers. This, in turn, provides us with the opportunity to better understand if and how ‘what we do’ matters.

  1. New skills and knowledge

Chances are you will often need to work in teams in your current marketing role, and as you progress in your career you may lead and manage teams. Practical leadership, team-working and management skills are simply not taught ‘on the job’ in most of our organisations.

More importantly, how many of us have actually been taught the fundamental principles of marketing ‘on the job’? How many of us really understand strategy, brand, segmentation, targeting, positioning, communications and how it all integrates?

Furthermore, how many of us ever consider the impact of macro- and micro-economics on ‘what we do’? Do we learn about individual or organisational buying behaviour and decision-making? And how the wider economy might support or change those behaviours?

But we don’t know what we don’t know. And we don’t know what the people we’re learning from ‘on the job’ don’t know. An MBA programme provides a structured environment in which to learn not only the marketing discipline itself but also the far-reaching elements that influence marketing.

  1. Credibility

Having an MBA doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a better marketer.

Yet, rightly or wrongly, an MBA is a credential that sends a signal to the marketplace and to other people throughout our organisations. An MBA gives us the credibility that many marketers simply don’t have, especially if we’re in an industry where the people we work with outside of marketing are required to have a professional qualification.

For a profession that is struggling to be taken seriously at the highest levels of our organisations, an MBA better enables us to be seen as having an in-depth understanding of the entire business, as authorities in our own right and not ‘just’ as a support function. This then provides the foundation from which we can become more effective in ‘what we do’.

Of course, I realise that an MBA simply isn’t an option for a lot of people; it’s expensive, time-consuming and really hard work. So I’m making a blatant plug for Mark Ritson’s online ‘mini-MBA in marketing’ that starts in the latter part of September. It’s affordable, spans just 12 weeks, and, well, ok, it’s still hard work. But I passionately believe we must become better schooled in the wider marketing discipline. And Mark is one of the most qualified, interesting, irreverent, straight-talking, knowledgeable, real authorities on marketing I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet.

Heidi Taylor is an award-winning senior marketing strategist with 25 years' experience of helping organisations engage with their customers, creating impact and differentiation. She is a sought-after speaker at marketing conferences in the UK and internationally, and regularly contributes articles to marketing journals in print and online. You can follow her on Twitter @TaylorMadeInKew.

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