Online marketing and advertising are becoming a powerhouse in terms of reaching consumers. You would be hard pressed to find a company that wasn’t aware of the importance of its online brand and activities to its overall bottom line. This feeling is reflected in the amount of money being pumped into online marketing and advertising. Online advertising spending is due to overtake many traditional forms of media this year – radio in Ireland, TV in Australia, and print in the US. According to research firm eMarketer, total US online ad spend is expected to be just under $40 billion this year, rising to $62 billion by 2016.
With this field continuing to grow, there has been a corresponding rise in the availability of digital marketing services, both from independent specialists and as an offering from established marketing firms. Given the relative youth of the field, it can be difficult for individual agencies to display their expertise, and for clients to distinguish between the various options available to them.
In the early days of internet marketing, there were really only three ways to instill confidence in prospective clients – online experience and references, or a base in traditional marketing signified by either experience or a degree. However as the field matures, there are now specialty qualifications in digital marketing and related fields themselves. The question is: should you invest in them? Specific qualifications such as Google certification for Adwords and other products are definitely worthwhile, as they can give you access to special tools and discounts. However, general certificates in digital marketing, SEO qualifications, and so on are a little more up in the air.
If you already work in marketing, you know the importance of a first impression and a slew of certificates, diplomas, and so on can be helpful in displaying a level of knowledge and skill. However with many clients, all that they want to see is a track record of success. It might be better to save some of the money you would spend on these qualifications and use it to support yourself while you work on something that will show results – a volunteer campaign for a small charity, for example.
If you are just starting out, then some of the shorter courses may be helpful. While they often don’t actually cover information that is not available for free elsewhere, it can be helpful to have a structured learning environment. In addition, feedback from experienced industry professionals on staff and working on a specific project can give you the soft skills you need to become established.