‘Marketers must find time for training and personal development’

The pace of change means marketers at all levels continually need to refresh their skills, and training plays a vital role.

For marketers, training and professional development can be a frequent headache. The fierce competition for the best jobs, combined with the rapidly changing nature of the discipline, puts pressure on everyone in marketing to continually update their skills. That is no easy task when the day-to-day duties of the average marketing job are already extensive and time consuming.

Marketing Week columnist and professor, Mark Ritson, offered a solution to this challenge last year with the launch of the Marketing Week Mini MBA. The six-week course, which is accredited by the Continuous Professional Development Standards Office, comprises video lectures and reading materials across the full breadth of marketing theory and practical application, from brand strategy to planning and execution. The next public programme of the course is due to begin on 25 April.

Alumni from last year’s course reveal that they decided to enrol for a variety of reasons. Will Burns, digital acceleration director at McDonald’s, took the course because he wanted a broader and more theoretical grounding in marketing, having specialised in digital throughout his career. Prior to joining McDonald’s he was global head of digital strategy at L’Occitane en Provence.

He notes that digital was once seen as a separate function but is becoming increasingly integrated within marketing. “I wanted to make sure I’m training to be ready for that change in functional responsibilities,” he explains. “Having come up from digital marketing, I wanted a more pure marketing training.”

You don’t even speak to a customer for the first month [at Google] because you’re just in classes the entire time learning.

Will Burns, McDonald’s

Burns studied law at university but went on to take a diploma in online marketing and advertising after joining Google as a relationship manager in 2007. “Google is a wonderful company for training,” he reflects. “You don’t even speak to a customer for the first month because you’re just in classes the entire time learning.”

Despite enjoying further opportunities to continue his training and personal development at McDonald’s, Burns opted to take the Mini MBA in order to gain an outside perspective and to learn through a different “lens”. He states that the module on positioning was among those he found most interesting, and expresses appreciation for Ritson’s emphasis on strategy over tactics.

“I think he’s completely right that digital marketing is [just] marketing and that you have to start at the strategy, think about the customer and then decide on whatever marketing channel makes sense – whether digital or non-digital,” he says.

READ MORE: BT and RBS on why marketers should kill off the word ‘digital’

Gaining perspective

James Davidson was keen to gain a qualification in marketing after joining online gift card company Moonpig.com as marketing manager in January last year. “I’m aware of the fundamentals of marketing but I thought it would be useful to have a refresher and make sure I’m not missing anything,” he explains.

“Whenever you move into a new business you use their methods, whether rightly or wrongly, and I just wanted to check I was still using the correct method.”

Davidson also has a background in digital, having worked in previous SEO roles at PhotoBox and digital agency Stickyeyes. The Mini MBA gave him greater confidence to take on a generalist marketing role, he says, and to embrace more strategic ways of thinking.

Whenever you move into a new business you use their methods, whether rightly or wrongly, and I just wanted to check I was still using the correct method.

James Davidson, Moonpig.com

He names the modules on segmentation, research and pricing as being among those he found most useful. “It’s given me the language to have better conversations with people and be able to demonstrate why certain parts of a strategy are important.”

Davidson’s degree is in economics but he does not believe his previous lack of marketing training has held him back. He adds, though, that he feels he is “definitely more valuable” to employers for having done the course. “It doesn’t matter how busy you are – it’s your responsibility to find the time to focus on your personal development,” he says.

This view is shared by Imre Kiss, senior research analyst at Vistaprint and another of last year’s Mini MBA alumni. He graduated in marketing from a university in his home country of Hungary, but has continually sought to update his marketing skills ever since.

Kiss previously held research roles at agencies GfK and Millward Brown, but wanted to draw together his past experiences and gain fresh insights through the Mini MBA. “As an insight professional at Vistaprint, I obviously have quite a good understanding of how we are doing things, but also it’s good to see the bigger picture of how others do things and what other companies are facing,” he says.

“With the case studies that Mark Ritson used, it was really good to see those examples. I’ve worked on different things over the past 15 years, such as product and package testing, commercial testing and segmentation, so I’ve seen different views of marketing, but this was good to refresh my knowledge and get a slightly different perspective.”

Turning to the idea of continual personal development, Kiss argues that marketers must seek new forms of learning in order to stay relevant. “Working in an online environment like Vistaprint means we need to be up to date,” he says. “If you don’t develop yourself or work on that aspect of your life you simply won’t be employable after a while.”

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