Are you qualified for B2B marketing?

17th July 2016

This past week Mark Ritson wrote yet another insightful Marketing Week article: ‘…shouldn’t an expert in marketing be trained in marketing?’. His premise is that the new breed of marketers – and particularly the ‘experts’ guiding them – are big on tactics and light on marketing fundamentals, ‘confined to a very small tactical box’ which is really only a small part of the entire marketing discipline.

Group of Business People in Back Lit

If you haven’t read the article you absolutely must, not least because of the extraordinary number of comments outraged by Mark’s suggestion that marketers learn the discipline before they call themselves a marketing ‘expert’.

And I’m left to wonder:

Does marketing have an inferiority complex?

Because the reality is that a preponderance of marketers within the majority of our organisations have no formal marketing training. They haven’t been schooled in what makes up the very foundation of all marketing activity: brand, strategy, customer and market segmentation, positioning, and all the other essential thinking and actions that must happen before we ever actually start in on the tactical elements of what we do.

And, because of this, I wonder if just maybe there is a niggling little suspicion in the back of our minds that we don’t quite know what we’re doing or why.

Here’s one of the challenges that goes to the heart of the qualifications debate:

There is a pervading perception within our organisations that marketing is not a ‘proper’ profession.

And although this really annoys me, how else do we explain the lingering epitaphs of ‘the colouring-in department’ and the ‘party-planners’? This perception is not helped by the tendency – especially in professional services organisations – to hire people who are great project managers or have the ‘right’ attitude, but have little else to recommend them as marketers.

In what other profession is it the norm to have no qualifications?

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m totally for anyone who wants to join this terrific profession of ours. And many things can and should be learned ‘on-the-job’, especially with today’s rapidly changing technology environment and constant proliferation of new tools and channels. But when was the last time any of us were taught marketing fundamentals on the job? Never.

I am becoming increasingly concerned about what we are teaching and how we are training the next generation of B2B marketers.

If you want to be a great marketer, and not just a good specialist, you must have a marketing qualification.

And I absolutely believe that if more marketers had an MBA, there would be more great marketers.

I’m not talking about the outliers here; we all know individuals and can point to people who have been hugely successful without any kind of formal qualifications. But these are the exception, not the rule.

Granted, having a marketing qualification or an MBA does not automatically equate to marketing success. But marketing does not exist in a vacuum; being exposed to the fundamentals of the wider business and undergoing training for the complete marketing discipline does create marketers who have a more holistic perspective of the business world and how marketing fits in that world.

Tactical expertise is not enough. Great project management is not enough.

We must be marketers who fundamentally understand what drives and grows a business, who intimately know the landscape and commercials for our businesses, and whose thinking begins and ends with a deep awareness of what motivates our customers’ buying behaviours.

This is the type of learning that is grounded in formal marketing training. Because what we learn here is the essence of marketing and it has not changed, no matter what the so-called experts are telling us.

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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