Are Marketing Certifications Worth It?

A very common question I receive from my readers is about my Professional Certified Marketer designation. More specifically, what kind of impact did it have on my professional career?

I think it’s time, many years since I received the certification, to answer this question publicly in more detail.

For those of you who don’t want to read the entire article, here is the short answer: personally, I haven’t had any professional benefit from becoming a PCM.

If anything, adding the designation to my signature generated more questions than recognition, which makes me question its popularity within the business community.

For those of you interested in getting a Marketing certification, I will try to answer the broader question: are marketing certifications worth it?

Marketing Certifications: Options Abound

There are plenty of options to obtain a Marketing certification, depending on your specific interest. It seems like every marketing organization, private company, blog and even apps are now issuing their own certification.

Here is a very short list:

Almost every certification requires an investment from you: your time, money, or both. Before you decide on what certification to pursue, ask yourself if going through the process is worth your effort.

Why Do Marketers Want to Get Certified?

In fields such as Accounting and Engineering certification is the entry ticket into management positions. Marketing does not employ such high standards: no certification is required to qualify for a specific Marketing job.

So why become certified?

Based on the feedback from my readers, the number one reason for wanting to pursue a marketing certification is building credibility with employers. In a field with no well-defined career path, a certification is hoped to be perceived as an independent endorsement of one’s Marketing knowledge and skills-but is this the case?

The answer is not easy and depends on personal circumstances. Regardless, some basic research is needed.

What Makes a Good Certification?

This is the first question a potential candidate should answer. Here are some questions that should guide your decision:

How selective is the process of getting certified? What kind of per-requirements does the certification have? Is registration open to everybody, regardless of the level of experience and education?  What is the level of commitment required in order to pass the final exam?

Generally speaking, reputable certifications tend to be very selective and have strict admission criteria and a considerable workload.

Is the business community aware of its existence? Awareness is the first step in building credibility. In order for any certification to be a difference maker it must be acknowledged by people in charge with recruiting in a particular field.

Every employer who want to hire for a senior accounting position requires a candidate with a Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) designation.

Based on my personal experience, employers and even marketing professionals are not even aware the PCM designation even exists. I believe there is more work to be done by the American Marketing Association in this regard.

What is its level of reputation? This is really what matters. Assuming decision makers are aware of its existing, does the certification add value to a resume? Reputation is built in time, through many generations of graduates who made a difference in their field.

If you decided to pursue a particular certification. there are a few things you can do to assess its merits.

Start with the institution issuing the certification. Usually it plays a huge role in establishing its credibility. A certification offered by Harvard University comes with a level of credibility already built in, versus a certification from an institution nobody’s heard of.

If the reason for getting certified is breaking into the marketing field, or getting a better job, study the  job postings for the position(s) you are targeting: is the certification listed as a must have, nice to have, or not listed at all ?

Also, take a look at the LinkedIn profiles of people already working in the same position your are targeting: how many of them are certified?

Finally, don’t be afraid to talk to recruiters about the value of the certification you are want to pursue. They can provide valuable and honest feedback on what employers are looking for.

What Really Matters to Employers

I would like to conclude with what I think really matters to employers looking to hire a marketing person.

The number one criteria that will get you closer to your dream job is work experience in the field- ideally, experience in the same industry your potential employers operates in. I know this causes a lot of frustration among candidates-but it’s a fact.

Secondly, I received many emails from my readers asking if they should pursue an MBA or the Professional Certified Marketer designation.

There is no doubt that post-secondary education still maters. A university degree will bring much more credibility to your resume than any Marketing certification.

And finally, the sad and ugly truth: who you know is more important than what you know. Your ability to network will help you get your dream job faster than getting certified and sending hundreds of applications. Many Ivy league school graduates admit that the value of attending a top university is not the quality of its courses, but the connections you make.

I don’t want to discourage you from pursuing a marketing certification. I am sure there are many marketing professionals who benefited greatly from being certified. Just do your due-diligence and make sure the certification you decide on is worth your effort.

How to Think Strategically

The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Strategy” is one of the most used and abused corporate buzzwords. People who use it often feel it adds an extra level of importance to their projects and actions.

While managers of all companies, big or small, are expected to show strategic leadership, many don’t really understand what that really means.

In fact, many businesses fail to capitalize on market opportunities for this exact reason: management’s lack of strategic thinking skills.

Strategy and Strategic Thinking

There should be nothing complicated and intimidating about strategy.

Strategy means having a goal, a plan and timeline to reach it, and the determination to stick to it.

Strategy means looking before immediate needs, towards how today’s actions will affect the “big picture”. It’s about saying no to today’s temptations that are not in line with “the plan”.

The benefits of strategic thinking go beyond the business world. In fact, it is a skill we can apply to almost all aspects of our daily lives.

You are actually using your strategic thinking skills more than you realize.

Let’s take those of us who have kids. We all want our kids to live a physically, mentally, and financially fulfilling life.

Achieving this very powerful goal is only possible without thinking strategically and having a plan.

If you let your kids watch TV or play video games all day long, the chances of them developing any interest in learning and being physically active are pretty slim.

To succeed, you need to plan and allocate time for reading and writing, playing outdoors, and meeting family and friends.

Furthermore, you also have to think of saving money for their university, starting when they are little. You also need to take them traveling so they discover the world and get a different perspective on life.

This is strategic thinking in action.

Tips On Improving Your Strategic Thinking Skills

In business, those who think strategically are able to anticipate market trends, predict new needs, and be first to develop products to satisfy them. They are able to be one step ahead of the competition, anticipate their moves and respond accordingly.

Here are some tips on how to improve your strategic thinking:

Have a Purpose

It sounds cliché, but there’s no way around it: the motivator behind thinking strategically is a powerful goal. In order words you need to know where you want to go, and be determined to get there.

In a famous speech at Stanford University, Steve Jobs said: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Start With The End in Mind

At the beginning of each project ask yourself: what do I want to achieve? What is the desired result of my actions? Think of the ultimate goal, not the steps in between.

Let’s say you’ve been assigned to manage a website design project. Listing “mobile friendly and modern looking website” as project goal displays a lack of strategic thinking. From a strategic perspective, your end goal for this project should be to help you sell more products, or generate more leads.

Seek Expertise From Outside Your Industry

One of the requirements that frustrate job seekers who are looking for a career change is “must have industry experience”. Meaning, the employer is only interested in candidates who currently work for the competition.

The strategy of stealing people from competition is partly responsible for the lack of innovation and differentiation within most categories. People who move from company to company within the same industry want to do things the same way they’ve always done it.

Strategic thinkers seek and embrace perspectives that “don’t fit the mould”. In most cases these unique ideas come from people who are not directly involved in the industry.

Avoid Daily Distractions

One of the biggest challenges we face today is finding time to think. Technology made us more connected, but also more distracted. We are able to multitask, but for no meaningful purpose.

Strategy requires focus for long periods.

Our computer and digital devices are the principal source of distractions, and, in order to think strategically, we need to reduce them to a minimum. If you are looking for inspiration on how to focus more by avoiding distractions, this excellent post by Nir Eyal will certainly help.

Pursue an Interest in Liberal Arts Education

One way to get better at what we do is to learn as much as we can about our particular field. While this strategy will make you a specialist in your field, it will not necessarily improve your strategic thinking skills.

Liberal arts teach us the fundamental skills applicable to any profession: how to write effectively, how to get our points across, and how to nurture your creativity. All these are fundamental skills that will make you better regardless of your profession, and improve your strategic thinking.

Find Time to Think

“Busy” is the number one excuse for not getting important things done, one that is often hide the inability to manage one’s professional and personal lives. Being constantly “busy” is the number one enemy of strategic thinking.

How many times have you left the office at the end of a busy day feeling you haven’t accomplished anything meaningful?

We often focus on things and situations that are urgent, concrete, and need our immediate attention, and rarely find time to work on this that make the biggest impact on our long-term plans.

Strategic thinking requires a conscious effort to detach yourself from the daily routine and stop responding to every stimulus.

Embrace Tradeoffs

A great strategic mind understands that in order to get something, you need to give up something else. You can’t get fit and healthy without giving up on junk food. You can’t launch your small business without giving up on your personal time.

Every sound strategy requires a tradeoff, and unfortunately not many business leaders are willing to accept them.

Examples abound: Blackberry chasing the consumer market. Dell abandoning its simple business model: one product (computers), one distribution channel (online, directly to consumer). And so on.

Surround Yourself With People Smarter Than You

You’re probably familiar with the saying “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the room.”

Narcissists usually make for terrible strategists, as they have a hard time accepting suggestions that make them feel weak, and love making every decision and following up on every action item.

And yet, the path to personal and professional growth is to listen and learn from others, and embrace their view even if it differs from yours.

Strategic thinking is a very powerful and sought-after skill acquired through training and experience.

Mastering it will have a huge impact on your personal and professional success. You will be able to respond to changes happening around you, improve your confidence and posses a valuable skill set you can apply in most professions.

How to Be A Successful Marketer

How to Be A Succesful Marketer

Professional success. A new year resolution for many of us.

Success in marketing, like anything in life, is fueled by results. And in order to get results, you need a personal plan.

A typical Marketing job is a combination of strategic thinking and repetitive tasks. Successful marketers find the time to think long term, and have the skills to juggle with multiple projects simultaneously.

I never believed that you have to “work hard” to achieve success. If you are working on the wrong thing, your hard work will lead to nothing.

Successful marketers work smart, not hard. Working efficiently is a great skill to master, as it allows you finish your projects faster, or getting more stuff done.

Below are the “key components” of my personal plan to achieve work efficiency.

Wake Up Early

I’ve always been a morning person. I don’t remember the last time I woke up past 7 am. Waking up early gives me time to think and to plan my day. I feel like I have the whole day ahead of me to enjoy and get things done.

It’s been documented that early risers are more productive and less stressed. The world around you is much quieter early in the morning, which gives you time to plan and even do things you would be able to do later (especially if you have small kids): reading, writing, exercising, or mediating.

Waking up early doesn’t mean that you have to sleep less. Having a good night sleep is equally important. Just go to bed earlier, and have something to look forward to in the morning, like a fresh cup of coffee.

Exercise

You all know the exercising is good for you. The challenge most of us have is finding time to do it.

It’s not easy to commit to a workout schedule. You will find any excuse in the world not to do it. But every time I finish my workouts I am so happy I found the strength to commit to it.

When I exercise I feel like I already accomplished something that day.

Exercising early morning gives me enough energy for the entire day (another reason to wake up early). It also motivates me and allow me to think about the projects I am working on.

Some of my best marketing ideas came on the elliptical.

Eliminate Distractions

This year I did something I should have done long time ago. I decided to “unsubscribe” from all the things that gave me the illusion I was busy, when in fact I was just wasting time.

I started with an audit of my email subscriptions. One quick look at my iPhone showed 10,152 unread emails accumulated in my inbox. Included here are Facebook and Twitter updates, LinkedIn group updates, Amazon daily offers, and other information that I very rarely read. Once these emails identified, I hit the Unsubscribe button.

Cable TV is another distraction I managed to eliminate. Since I switched to an over the air antenna two things happened: I have more time for what’s truly important, and I am watching more quality content (many over the air channels are less commercial and more educative).

Analyze how you spend your day. Getting rid of distractions will play a huge role in you becoming more efficient.

Use Modern Productivity Tools

If you’re like me you have days when you feel you worked a lot but didn’t accomplished much. That’s because you spent your day dealing with minor tasks (replying to emails, attending meetings) and not working on moving your projects forward.

My solution: everyday task automation.

I am not an early adopter of the latest cool gadgets and productivity apps, but I have a few favorite ones that make my day easier: Asana (project management), hootsuite (social media management), and OpenBrand (brand identity management).

Using these tools for repetitive tasks frees up your time to focus on what’s important. Nobody will reward you for replying to your emails, or for the time spend in meetings. So make sure you work on what produces visible results.

The “recipe” above is not for everybody. Some of you are more productive in the evening, and have a hard time waking up early. For some regular exercise is not an option.

Cultivating a habit or changing one takes discipline and commitment. Find out what works for you, and stick to it.

I would love to hear your tips for being more productive. Please share them with us in the Comments section below.

Business Etiquette Tips: 5 “Old-School” Habits That Still Matter

Business Etiquette Tips

Have you ever waited an important email reply to move a project forward that never came? Have you experienced the anxiety, uncertainty, that come with the wait?

Have you had a meeting re-scheduled at the last minute, after you spend many hours preparing for it?

I am sure you all experienced these frustrations at one point in your career. We are more connected than ever and yet we seem to forget about basic business etiquette.

“Lack of time” has become the overarching excuse for superficiality. We arm ourselves with the latest gadgets that gives us the illusion of accomplishing more in less time. We can easily multitask, but are not able to have a face-to-face meeting without checking our gadgets one hundred times.

In fact, what we really need is to go back to the fundamentals of doing business and interacting with people.

Below are five business etiquette tips I believe still make the difference in the business world.

Be Punctual

This is number one business etiquette tip on my list. Being late for appointments has almost become a norm, a badge of honor. It stopped being a sign of disrespect for the other people’s time-it just shows how busy we are.

It’s so easy to find excuses for being late these days: traffic, a last minute call that dragged longer then expected, an urgent e-mail that had to be dealt with. Appointments can be delayed or canceled with a touch of a button.

The reality is that being punctual is a sign of respect for the person you’re meeting with. I am not saying being late should not happen. Just make sure it doesn’t become a habit. Everybody’s time is valuable as we all need to get a lot of things done.

I am always stressed out about being late so I give myself a lot of time to get to my appointments. I would rather arrive early, even if I have to wait at the door.

Focus on the Conversation

Have you ever delivered a presentation that meant a lot to you to an audience that’s constantly checking their mobile devices? It can be argued that if your presentation is captivating, people will pay attention.

In most cases this is not a valid argument. Checking the e-mail, Twitter and Facebook feeds has become second nature for many, regardless of quality of information being delivered.

Some call it multitasking. I call it lack of respect.

Nobody has to be that connected, unless you work in an emergency service. So turn off your cell-phone, cancel your push notification and create a distraction-free environment for the meeting.

I realize this business etiquette tip is the hardest to commit to. But trust me, by doing so will be more productive and make better use of your time.

Take Some Meaningful Time Off

Here in North America vacation time is at a premium. Even people who have decent vacation time, waste it by taking one day here and there, instead of one or two weeks at the time.

Moreover, if they happen to be away for more than one day they still feel the need to regularly check what’s happening at the office.

There are many proven benefits vacation time brings: it improves creativity, reliefs stress, strengthens family bonds, and promotes the person’s overall well being.

So if you want to be more productive take a real vacation, see something new, get into a new hobby, and be as disconnected from everyday reality as possible.

You will feel recharged, more creative and have a better perspective on life.

Dress Professionally

I am a big believer in that first impression counts. People are judged by their physical appearance, including the way they dress.

The way we dress for a specific occasion tell a lot about our personality,  attitude, and the respect (or lack of) you are showing others.

The business world has become more “casual” in recent years. People choose to wear clothes that highlights their unique personality and beliefs, rather than outfits that  project a professional image.

However a business is about making money and our professionalism is what we get paid for.

I am not promoting the “suit and tie” image in all situations and professions. It’s all about knowing how to dress appropriately for your specific work environment.

And remember that overdressing, just like under dressing can be embarrassing.

Keep your Commitments

We all make commitments, big or small. When you commit to something, you create an expectation.

A promise to call your child from your business trip will have little impact to your schedule, but it means the world to your child.

When you make a promise, do everything in your power to keep it.

An excellent article in New York Times addresses the issue of people not replying to e-mails from co-workers and even best friends. The constant waiting for an answer leads to frustration, uncertainty, and questions about the appropriateness of the message being sent (did I say anything that might offend him?)

Here is the author Alina Tugend’s advice for those who habitually don’t respond to e-mails:

“…try sending a quick e-mail just to say you can’t answer now. And if you really mean no, say no. Most of us can handle rejection. We just can’t handle not knowing.”

We want to be trusted, recognized and admired. We want to be perceived as specialists in our field.

In our quest to become more socially recognizable we tend to forget one small detail: people prefer to deal with people, not virtual profiles.

A LinkedIn picture will never have the same impact as a face to face conversation.

A handshake is more valuable than a non disclosure agreement.

These business etiquette tips are in fact a reflection of good manners we learned as children. Applying them in the business world doesn’t require learning, just a lot of practice.

How To Find Marketing Work In a New Country (Part 2)

Looking for A Job

In part 1 of this article I talked about the “non-professional” challenges of a newcomer looking for a job in a new country.

Now that we have the fundamentals covered, it’s time to begin the job hunt.

I will start with the number one professional challenge most newcomers face.

The Biggest Hurdle

No employer will admit it, but all newcomers know it.

The first job is usually the most difficult to get for one single reason: lack of work experience in that country. It’s a chicken and egg situation: you need experience to get a job, however nobody is giving you a chance because you don’t have the experience.

I am still not sure what  the “lack of experience” meant in my case, a Marketer looking for a job in Canada. I think is has more to do with what I mentioned in the previous article: the ability to integrate in a team, and embrace a different culture.

There are a few ways to overcome this:

Volunteering

Many businesses are in desperate need of Marketing help. Since you volunteer, any “risk” associated with bringing you on board is eliminated. It’s a win-win situation: you get the experience you need, they get free Marketing help.

As an immigrant, volunteering solves only half the issue. You still need a job to feed your family, so you have to find a balance between offering your help for free and looking for a paying job.

Work for free

Another strategy you can try is to offer your services for free, ideally for a limited period of time (usually 3 months). In return you should get employer’s commitment that, if everything goes well, you will be offered a paying job.

Again, the idea here is to eliminate employer risk of hiring you. If at the end of the 3 months you will have to part ways with your employer at least you gained the much-needed experience. Same challenge here: you will still need a paying job to cover the living costs.

Get a job below your qualifications

That’s the most common strategy newcomers are forced to adopt  including myself. It’s also the one that generates most frustration and dissatisfaction. The key here is to maintain a positive attitude and do your job well. You never know whom you will meet, that will change your career for the better.

I worked for about 3 month in a store, in a position below my qualifications. Although I had my own frustration and disillusions  overall it was a positive experience. I met a lot of nice people, and was able to transfer some of the skills to the next Marketing  jobs.

Have a Top-Notch Resume (or CV)

North Americans call it resume. In other parts of the worlds it’s the curriculum vitae (CV). Employers spend on average 10 seconds scanning it. So you have a very limited time to make a first good impression.

Make sure you adapt your resume to the specific format of the job market you want to penetrate. For example, in some countries the CV will include personal information such as date of birth, military status, etc.

In North America any personal information except the name and contact info has to be left out.

You should be able to find a lot of valuable resources about how to create a resume. In Canada, governmental settlement agencies offer free consultations on how to write your resume for successful job search. Make sure you identify and take advantage of all these tools in your target country before you begin your job hunt.

One other important thing: make sure you customize your resume for each particular Marketing position you apply to.

Remember: you have less then 10 seconds to position yourself as the Marketer they need. Study the job description and re-write your skills to answer each particular requirement, even if you have to improvise. I am not saying you should lie in your resume, just be creative.

If you are looking for a job in Canada, below are some resource pages you might find useful:

How to Create your Canadian Resume

Employment information

Finding a Job: Explore All Options

There is no universal recipe for finding a job. If you talk to ten peolple you will hear ten different stories about how they found their jobs. Most common methods include:

  • job sites (such as workopolis.com, moster.ca for Canada)
  • newspaper ads
  • recruitment agencies
  • networking
  • referrals
  • free internship
  • social media

These methods are valid for finding any job, and I am not going to review all of them. My only advice: don’t focus on a single method, try them all if you can. You never know what works for you.

Back in the days when I was looking for a job social media was non-existent. I found my first marketing job through Workopolis, the second one through Monster, and the third through a recruitment agency. As you can see, I used three different tools to land a job.

Social Media Helps

Searching for a marketing job in the social media era is easier. Make a list of companies you want to work for, and follow them on Twitter and Facebook. Engage in conversation, make yourself noticed.

You can leverage the explosion of social media in a few ways:

  • offer companies free Marketing advice (even constructive criticism) on their Marketing materials and strategy. The good thing about social media is you don’t need any formal invitation to express your opinion.
  • Start a Marketing blog (in your adoptive country’s language) is a great way to build credibility and network with potential employers.
  • Ask for an informal interview through Twitter. Make it clear that only purpose of this interview is to learn more about the company, from the company itself. In some cases, this strategy might land you the job you want.

I will leave you with a funny video showing a Canadian employee’s first day at the new USA office:

 

I will continue to write about what it takes to have a successful Marketing career. Join the e-mail lists at the bottom of this post to receive the updates.

How to Find Marketing Work in A New Country: Part 1

How to Find Marketing Jobs

This article is based on a true story. My own.

The decision to move to Toronto from Bucharest was not an easy one. There was too much uncertainty: a new continent, a foreign language, a different culture.

All my wife and I had was the ambition and desire to succeed.

Nine years later we couldn’t be happier with our decision. Our family got bigger and we made some great friends. And we both work in our chosen fields.

This two-part article is dedicated to marketing professionals looking for temporary or permanent work in a new country. I encourage you to subscribe to updates so you won’t miss the second one.

I will start with the things that matter most when choosing to work abroad. And all are non-Marketing related.

Language

The biggest obstacle in finding a job in a new country is the language barrier. This is valid for any career you want to pursue, but even more so in Marketing.

Marketing is all about communication. Even entry level marketing jobs require good verbal and written communication skills.

So being able to communicate clearly and concisely is a must. When learning the new language, pay close attention to the terminology related to your chosen field, in our case Marketing.

How did I overcome this obstacle?

My previous education and work experience was a big help.

I started using English during my university years, mainly to translate marketing books for my research projects. I had no plans to move to Canada at that time.

As a bonus, my entire marketing career had an important international component, so communicating in English was a must.

My advice: the better you master your adoptive country’s language, the better you will succeed. But don’t wait to get there, start today.

The Ability to Integrate

I am talking about social integration.

The ability of a new employee to integrate into an existing team is a highly sought-after skill. You, as a foreigner, will invariably have a lot o prove (and improve).

It’s only natural: we are part of a new society, in most cases radically different from the ones we grew up in. We have to be able transfer our professional skills, but also to adapt socially and culturally to the new environment.

I personally spent a lot of time reading as much as you can about my adoptive country, Canada: its history, culture, values, society.

Another great way to understand the new socio-landscape is to connect with people as much as possible (not social media socializing, the old fashion face-to-face conversations).

Make as many friends as possible. Don’t be shy, engage in conversations, even if your language skills are not great.You would be surprised how many people are willing to help you succeed.

There are many non-profit or governmental organizations that can help with your integration. In Canada, many of these programs are available free of charge. Make sure you take advantage. If nothing else, you will practice the language and make new friends.

Perseverance

Unless you have a job ready for you when you move, finding one is emotionally draining. When looking for my first Marketing job in Canada I experienced everything: optimism, doubt, frustration, and pure happiness.

You will probably be tempted more than once to give up trying:a job below your qualifications, the frustration of being rejected for no obvious reason, the thought that your inability to get a job is because you are an immigrant, the doubt that you are just not good enough for the job,etc. Been there, done that.

“How important is luck in all this?” you ask.

In an article describing his experience finding work in London, graphic designer Iancu Barbarasa said it best:

“Luck plays an important role as well, but just as inspiration has to find you working, luck has to find you looking”.

The winning attitude: believe in yourself and keep trying. One day you will succeed.

In Summary

  • Focus on learning the official language of your adoptive country, including Marketing specific terminology
  • Be prepared to adapt not only professionally, but also socially and culturally to the new environment
  • Don’t give up, and one day you will be successful.

Part 2 of this article will contain some practical advice on how to find a Marketing job in a new country, based on my personal experience.

Becoming A Professional Certified Marketer™-My Personal Experience

Last week I have officially become a Professional Certified Marketer™. This marketing certification is offered by the American Marketing Association as a way of “enhancing your skills and highlighting your accomplishments”. According to AMA “PCM program meets strict national professional certification criteria and standards for excellence in marketing”.

While these are all nice words, during my preparation for the test I was looking for real-life feedback from people who have taken the exam and became certified. Honestly I couldn’t find a lot of info, so I decided to write about my personal experience preparing and passing the exam.

Professional Certified Marketer™: First Steps

In order to be accepted for the exam you have to hold a Bachelor’s Degree and have 4 years of work experience or a Master’s Degree and 2 years of work experience. I don’t think the education or work experiece have to be in the Marketing field, however I would confirm with AMA before submitting the documents and paying the registration fee.

You will become Professional Certified Marketer™ by successfully completing an online test at one of the Prometric examination centres in the US and Canada. The test consists of 210 multiple choice questions and must be completed in 5 hours. Unscheduled breaks are allowed during the exam, however the time will be deducted from the 5 hours you have to complete the test.

You can schedule the test by phone or online by visiting Prometric Services. On the Home page choose the NET Certification from the Academic, Professional, Government &Corporate drop down menu and follow the steps.

Preparing for the Exam

The exam is very comprehensive and covers all areas of marketing, as listed on the AMA website:

  • Legal, Ethical, and Professional Issues in Marketing
  • Use of the Marketing Mix
  • Relationship, Information, and Resource Management
  • Assessment and Planning of the Strategic Marketing Process
  • Marketing Evaluation

There is no mandatory training or reading material required to take the exam. Every marketer is free to schedule the exam whenever he/she feels prepared.

I used a single book to review the marketing concepts and, most importantly, definitions: Philip Kotler’s Marketing Management. I felt prepared for the questions regarding real life marketing decisions as during my everyday job I have good exposure to key areas such as as marketing mix, marketing planning, product development, distribution, brand positioning, and market segmentation. It comes done to a personal assessment of your knowledge and experience to gauge the level or theoretical study needed.

Potential Career Benefits Of Becoming Professional Certified Marketer™

Below are some examples of how this certification might be beneficial for you:

  • Building credibility. We are surrounded by so-called “marketing gurus”. This certification might be a way to set yourself appart and demonstrates that you have the expertise to look at a project from different angles.
  • Changing your career. I read online that people with an Engineering or Sales background decided to take the certification to increase their chances of working in the Marketing field.
  • Advancing in your career. Usually a move up to a better Marketing position involves managing a brand from multiple perspectives, including research, product development, marketing mix and advertising. Passing the exam might be proof that you have the knowledge and experience and are ready for the next step.
  • Expanding your Marketing knowledge. During my preparation for the exam I learned new things and remember tools and techniques that I have forgotten since my days in university.

The Exam-Personal Impressions

The exam was exactly as I expected from reading the sample questions provided by the American Marketing Association. The questions were a blend of theoretical knowledge of Marketing concepts, practical experience and common sense. My biggest issue was that although I apply the concepts in my everyday job I didn’t always remember how they’re called in the Marketing book. For this reason reading Phillip Kotler’s Marketing Management book helped me a lot. It took me 2 hours to answer all 210 questions and one hour reviewing everything. The final result are provided instantaneously once you click the “Submit” button.

The Bottom Line

I guess the question most of you have is: will this designation help in your Marketing career? Like most things in life, only time will tell. I will continue to share my experiences with you but it’s up to you to decide if pursuing this designation is worth your effort.

Feel free to contact me with your questions regarding this designation.

For the official PCM booklet click here:

http://www.marketingpower.com/Careers/Documents/AMA-PCM-Handbook.pdf

A Career in Brand Management: Everything You Need To Know

Photo credits: Brett Jordan on Flickr

A brand management career can be very rewarding. As a Brand Manager you are responsible for managing the company’s most important assets, its brands.

A strong brand increases profitability, builds customer loyalty and provides protection in difficult economic times.

Although many believe that only companies competing in the FMCG should invest in building strong brands, the reality is that every business that wants to succeed in its respective category has to have the same goal.

Increased competition in all industries, from fashion, cosmetics, bottled water to professional services has lead to companies fighting to attract the best and the brightest for Brand Management positions.

Brand Manager-The Face Behind the Brand

Behind every successful brand there is a brand manager, the person responsible for building and growing it to meet the company’s strategic objectives. In most companies the brand manager is responsible for the strategic management of the assigned brands in order to achieve the business targets including awareness, volume, spend, and penetration.

Although the job description varies depending on the industry, company size and geographical area, the most common brand manager job descriptions include:

  • Leading the strategic planning process for the assigned brands based on key consumer insights to enhance current portfolio and improve communication with consumers.
  • Involvement in the development of the company’s long term planning that identifies new business opportunities, markets and partners.
  • Working closely with distribution partners and Marketing Research companies to obtain relevant information, including the development and implementation of brand audit studies and focus groups.
  • Monitoring and analyzing business performance vis-à-vis business goals (awareness, share, consumer diagnostics, profitability, etc.) and the competition.
  • Implementing the marketing plans by working with internal and external suppliers to deliver in a timely manner and on budget.
  • Coordinating the development of communication materials such as catalogues, websites, brochures, packaging and in-store displays.
  • Traveling internally and internationally to ensure the relationship with distributors and suppliers is maintained.
  • Delivering internal and external presentations regarding new product introductions, marketing materials, business objective and communication strategy.
  • Establishing performance specifications, cost and price parameters, market applications and sales estimates.
  • Coordinating regular meetings and preparing regular reports outlining the brands’ performance.
  • Managing the status of projects, product testing and the evaluation of external agencies.

As seen above the tasks go beyond a typical marketing role, with responsibilities ranging from market research, product development, and managing the brand’s P & L.

Education and Training

In most countries Marketing (including Brand Management) is not a regulated profession, which means that theoretically there is no mandatory training required to work in the field.

That being said most Brand Management jobs require a Bachelor degree and some previous experience in a Marketing role, usually as Junior Brand Manager, Marketing Coordinator or Marketing Assistant.

Almost every university offers a Business degree with a Marketing focus that offers students a good understanding of fundamental concepts such as target market, segmentation, brand positioning, as well as the 4 Ps of marketing: product, placement, price and promotion.

An MBA will greatly increased your changes of getting a Brand Management job. Most companies, in particular in the FMCG, list this requirement under the “preferred skills” section of the job offering.

Beyond the typical marketing education the brand manager has to have a good understanding of statistics, basic Finance and Accounting principles.

Another great way to increase your chances of landing a job in brand management is to become a member of professional associations.

Some of the benefits of joining such associations include obtaining access to a wide variety of resources that will allow you to stay updated on the latest trends, benefiting from new networking opportunities and obtaining professional certification that will increase your credibility in the field.

In North America some of the most popular Marketing and Brand Management associations include the American Marketing Association, Canadian Marketing Association and Association of International Product Marketing and Management.

Intangible Skills-The Invisible Advantage

What sets a good brand manager apart from the rest is the set of intangible or soft skills. I talked about the skills required to be a great marketer in a separate article, however I feel the need to list them again:

  • Vision-a great marketer looks beyond today and knows exactly where he wants the brand to be in the next 5 years. He realizes that brands take years and discipline to build and is consistent in communicating the differentiating idea.
  • Curiosity-a good marketer is always interested in what happens around him. He/she has to have a decent understanding of the various marketing sub-disciplines: market research, communications, digital marketing, event marketing, public relations. Regular training is also mandatory.
  • Multi-tasking-usually a marketer has to manage multiple projects, such as a website, a catalogue, a new brand identity development, that have a similar deadline (usually the launch/refresh of a new brand): He/she has to be able to dedicate sufficient time to each project and get them accomplished in time for the big event.
  • Excellent communications skills. A good marketer should be able to communicate in a very straightforward and succinct manner, in order to avoid confusion and miss deadlines.
  • Good people skills. A typical marketer spends 90% of the time collaborating with graphic and web designers, market researchers, event coordinators and other service providers. He/she has to be able to understand their personalities, work style and abilities, and make them feel part of the projects.

A career in Brand Management can be very rewarding, both financially and professionally.

What I personally like about this profession is the opportunity to learn new things, the ability to meet new people and see new places.

But most importantly, it is very rewarding to see how the brand you are responsible occupies a distinct position in consumer’s mind and people are demanding it when making a purchase decision.

The Skills of A Great Marketer

Photo Credit: Ben Stanfield on Flickr

Marketing requires a very complex set of skills. Hiring a good marketer to build a brand and grow a business might be an intimidating task.

To make matters worse, with the array of self-promotion tools at their disposal, new “marketing specialists” seem to emerge daily, ready to help.

So how do you make sure you choose the right one?

A marketer is typically responsible for developing the company’s market positioning, elaborating the go-to-market strategy and tactics, and overseeing the implementation of those tactics to make sure the business goals are achieved.

During my marketing career I was fortunate to work with some excellent marketers, learn about their personality and admire their skills. Below is a list, by no means comprehensive, of the “ingredients” that a great marketer is made of:

Training– it might sound old-fashioned today, but I believe this is the foundation of a great marketer. He/she has to have a good understanding of concepts such as target market, segmentation, positioning as well as the 4 Ps of marketing: product, placement, price and promotion.

Vision-a great marketer looks beyond today and knows exactly where he wants the brand to be in the next 5 years. He realizes that brands take years and discipline to build and is consistent in communicating the differentiating idea.

Curiosity-a good marketer is always interested in what happens around him. He/she has to have a decent understanding of the various marketing sub-disciplines: market research, communications, digital marketing, event marketing, and public relations. Regular training is also mandatory.

The ability to multi-task-usually a marketer has to manage multiple projects, such as a website, a catalogue, a new brand identity development, that have a similar deadline (usually the launch/refresh of a new brand): He/she has to be able to dedicate sufficient time to each project and get them accomplished in time for the big event.

Excellent communications skills-a good marketer should be able to communicate in a very straightforward and succinct manner, in order to avoid confusion and miss deadlines.

Good people skills– typical brand management job for example involves spending 90% of the time collaborating with graphic and web designers, market researchers, event coordinators and other service providers. He/she has to be able to understand their personalities, work style and abilities, and make them feel part of the projects.

One last piece of advice: stay away from marketers who offer “marketing recipes” that they pretend are universally applicable to any business. Each successful brand has a unique competitive advantage, positioning, target market, distribution channel. As a result the marketing behind it should be unique too.