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How best to learn marketing skills for strategy

Author's avatar By Amelia Cooper 31 May, 2024
Essential Essential topic

Our recommended process and tools to help you grow your marketing career with strategic skill development

As marketers, we understand how challenging it can be to keep all your plates spinning. You’re trying to manage your day job, while staying up to date with all the latest industry and platform changes, while making sure you are fed and watered and clean and getting enough sleep to keep your brain in gear. Not to mention remembering Auntie Wendy’s birthday and making sure the dog has had enough exercise. With all this going on, setting time to learn marketing skills is often pushed to the back of your priority list. Over time, you drop the plate.

There are a few reasons for this. From speaking to marketers over the years, Continuous Professional Development (CPD), feels like something you should be doing, but often gets ‘saved for later’, while we try to keep on top of our busy schedules and business-as-usual tasks. CPD is something we know is important, but not important enough to be consistent with. Some organizations offer allocated work time for CPD (which we encourage!), but many don’t. The onus falls on you, as the individual, to find that time.

“Continuing professional development (CPD) is the intentional maintenance and development of the knowledge and skills needed to perform in a professional context.” (CPD Standards Office).

By neglecting your personal development, you are doing yourself and your future career prospects a disservice. Not only are you missing out on opportunities to improve your current marketing output, but your short and long-term career opportunities are severely worsened if you do not invest time to improve your skillset.

Why do I need to develop and learn marketing skills?

There are so many benefits to developing your marketing skills. Continuously working on your marketing skillset will help you:

  • Become adaptable: The marketing landscape is in constant flux. Having the ability to adapt to new trends and technologies is crucial to staying relevant and making sure you can optimize your performance in your role.
  • Gain a competitive edge: As the saying goes, "knowledge is power." A well-rounded skillset gives you a competitive advantage in a popular and saturated job market and helps you stand out in your own organization. According to the Digital Marketing Institute, social media, data & analytics, MarTech and SEO, skills are among the top in-demand skills for marketers.
  • Learn to innovate: Strong marketing skills enable you to think creatively and come up with fresh, effective strategies that can set your brand apart. Innovation is particularly important for team-building and advancing into more senior marketing positions.
  • Grow your career prospects: Marketing professionals with diverse skills and knowledge are more likely to advance their careers and take on leadership roles. You are much more likely to get the roles and opportunities you want by investing in your knowledge.

Becoming a certified RACE digital strategist

Research shows that employers seek marketing professionals who combine practical knowledge of getting results from digital channels that reach and engage today's audiences plus they must know how to plan an integrated approach to strategy, campaigns and always-on marketing...

A digital marketing strategist is an expert in creating and implementing integrated digital marketing strategies and optimizing the success factors for implementing best practices to support the goals of a business.

The Smart Insights learning approach is to help support your career development so that you can become a strategic T-Shaped marketer who has a wide breadth of knowledge of modern marketing channels and an in-depth knowledge of detailed best practices for effective use of these channels. But it goes beyond that, since employers are looking for a broader skill-set than digital media. They need self-starters who know how to create strategy and plans for the business and individual channels. Unlike most online learning, all our toolkits start with goals and strategy rather than diving straight into tactics.

See our article 'What is a T-Shaped Marketer?' for details on why it's useful for your career to aspire to be a T-shaped marketer!

Smart Insights strategic T-shaped marketer graphic

Top Tip: Use our free Digital Skills Assessment to assess your skills gaps and create your own Personalized Learning Plan.

Creating a CPD plan

You may be thinking, this is all well and good. You know that CPD is important and you want to be a T-shaped marketer who can consistently learn marketing skills. However, the main roadblock for implementation is our old friend, time. This is a common problem, and often where well-intending marketers abandon CPD altogether. Small businesses in particular are often very busy and under resourced, how do individuals find the time?

The biggest mistake with building CPD into your schedule is not making a plan. Creating a CPD plan can help you focus your development goals, personal skills and track progress. Having a structured plan can help you schedule when you will do your learning, and set a realistic frequency for your CPD to be manageable for you.

Top Tip: When you want to achieve your goals will impact the time-scale and amount of CPD in your plan. Work out what your main priorities are and how long you need for each.

In our free Marketing careers and skills development workbook, we include a development plan template which you can edit to create your own custom plan.

Example of a completed Personal Development Plan

Once you have set your goals, you can start building CPD into your weekly/monthly/quarterly schedule.

Accredited Learning Paths

Now you have a plan, how do you find the information you need, quickly and clearly? To stay on track, CPD should be manageable. For it to be manageable, it needs to be broken up.

We created our Learning Paths to help marketers improve their skills in short, bite-sized interactive modules. We have 10 accredited Learning Paths that cover all aspects of digital marketing, and come with recommended guides and templates to further your knowledge and help you apply it to your day-to-day activities.

What is a Learning Path?

Smart Insights Learning Paths provide a flexible e-learning solution where learners can complete individual modules, curated topics or structured courses based on their skill development needs. Learning Paths use an engaging, interactive learning format featuring text, images, video and questions to explain concepts, give examples and test understanding. This segmented approach allows you to dip in and out of your learning, all of which is regularly updated by a team of experts.

Unlike many online learning courses, it is not mandatory to complete each Learning Path in its entirety. You only need to complete all modules if you want a CPD certificate.

Screenshot of a sample of Smart Insights Learning Paths: Campaign Planning, Content Marketing, Digital Experience and Digital Transformation

Our accreditation

Each Smart Insights Learning Path has been independently assessed and accredited by the Continuing Professional Development Standards Office (CPDSO). You can be confident that our learning has been audited by a trusted authority and recognized for its quality.

The best part? It means that all of our Learning Paths count towards your CPD points as part of your development.

The CPD Standards Office provider certificate for Smart Insights: 2023-2025

With Smart Insights Learning Paths you will get:

  • Comprehensive Coverage: Our Learning Paths cover all key marketing fundamentals, from digital strategy and content marketing to email and SEO. You can choose the areas that align with your career goals and where you need to learn marketing skills.
  • Flexible Learning: Our resources fit into your busy schedule. Whether you have a few minutes or hours spare, conveniently access our content online for ultimate flexibility. Each module takes approximately 15 minutes to complete.
  • Expert Insights: Industry experts with real-world experience and the latest insights write the resources at Smart Insights. You can trust that you're learning from the best.
  • Practical Application: The resources guide you on how to apply what you've learned in your day-to-day tasks, making it a valuable investment in your career.
  • CPD Points: And, finally, you get those important CPD points and certificates on completion of each Learning Path.

Woman with a completed CPD certificate

How many CPD points should I aim for?

CPD points equate to roughly: 1 hour of active learning = 1 point. Each module takes approximately 15 minutes, so if you completed one a week for a month, you’d have 1 CPD point at the end.

There is no set amount of points required as a general rule, though your company may set you a unique quota. Chartered Marketers (with CIM) must complete 35 hours per year, as a benchmark.

Unlock your potential

It's increasingly up to you to take ownership of your career development and personal learning journey. To start taking control of your future, download our free marketing careers and skills workbook to:

  • Map out your personal short-term and long-term career goals
  • Identify current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that can or could affect your marketing career
  • Identify the key elements that will motivate you to take action
  • Understand the different paths you can take to get to your destination
  • Analyze yourself against 25 digital marketing skills
Author's avatar

By Amelia Cooper

Amelia Cooper (née Mayes) is Head of Content at Smart Insights, managing the creation and optimization of paid member resources to ensure customers get the most from their memberships. She is a University of Southampton and Chartered Institute of Marketing graduate with over 8 years’ experience in digital marketing, specializing in content marketing. She spends her spare time painting animals and hanging out with her canine assistant Merlin and house bunny Rolo. You can connect with Amelia on LinkedIn.

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