The message from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) is that qualifications are in demand. The good news is that the number of courses at all levels are at an all-time high and they cover more marketing disciplines than ever.
The CIM has devised a new range of awards that are not linked to any set level of experience. They are defined not as courses, but as free-floating, small chunks of learning that can be studied in a flexible way.
Heather Davison, deputy director of education at the CIM, says: 'The first award focuses on e-marketing for those who want to develop a broad understanding about emerging marketing in the connected economy. We will provide online assessment based on multiple-choice questions and a management report, which is about applying what you have learned within your own organisation.'
The awards join a range of education products available from the CIM, including its new Foundation Course, the Certificate, Advanced Certificate and Post-Graduate Diploma. The awards can be studied either full- or part-time, through distance learning, and online.
The Advanced Certificate, to be renamed as the 'Diploma', is proving very popular, says Davison. Focusing on operational and management skills, and understanding the implication of marketing decisions, it has a high take-up with new graduates and those who need to grasp the 'how to' of marketing rather than strategy.
The impact of the relocation of the Communication, Advertising and Marketing (CAM) Education Foundation to the same site as the CIM has yet to filter through, but it should in the long-term enhance the overall offering.
'It will provide more specialised training opportunities for managers interested in direct marketing, sales promotion or similar functional specialisms,' says Davison.
The Institute of Direct Marketing (IDM) diploma began life with the Direct Marketing Centre - as the IDM was then known - in 1987. Since its launch, 3500 direct marketers have acquired the qualification and a further 467 are set to complete it this year. Here too, there have been modifications: a revamped diploma, with a new e-marketing module, and the first raft of certificate graduates in the UK, Hong Kong and Australia.
Take-up shows the value of such courses to employers. 'A degree is simply a stepping-stone to interview; it is vocational qualifications that help you progress your career,' says Derek Holder, managing director of the IDM. 'Such qualifications should provide core competencies and skills for on-the-job application.
'The qualifications covering technological aspects provide the most value, as technology is driving marketing today and anyone not familiar with IT and its impact on marketing is likely to be left behind. Marketers therefore need to continually refresh their knowledge if they are to remain on a par, let alone forge ahead.'
That's why the IDM now offers a three-year warranty with its e-marketing certificate, building continuous learning into its structure. The warranty entitles graduates to a one-day senior-level update on the latest theories and techniques.
There are also a number of other options available. Darrell Kofkin, CIM course director at Emile Woolf College, says taking a CIM course provides employers proof that a candidate is serious about a career in marketing, but Kofkin is also involved with alternatives.
Using the college's international network, he is able to tailor courses for sales and marketing staff in the Ukraine, Estonia and Siberia, so they can be brought up to date on marketing issues, encouraged to debate them and make a real difference to their companies. 'The Russians, for example, have no formal understanding of marketing, so we can structure a course to their company's particular needs,' he says.
But despite the range of courses that can help marketers bone up on the business, is there any firm evidence that they will help their career progression and salaries?
The CIM Marketing Rewards Survey 2000, which questioned 2276 CIM members from June to July shows a distinct correlation between qualifications and pay (see panel, page 43).
But this represents only part of the story. 'Qualifications are just one of the things that affect pay,' says Craig Sankey, a marketing executive at the Reward Group, which carried out the survey. 'You also have to look at everything from turnover, number of staff, location and, in marketing, the sales activity and areas of responsibility. National ownership has an effect on pay, too. Job titles are important to some organisations, less so to others, and you can't compare like with like.'
There may, for example, be no truly equivalent post for a marketing director in a large company to a smaller one. The role might rather be taken by a senior manager, who handles the day-to-day running of the marketing function and forms part of an executive management team, but lacks the title 'director'.
Other companies focus on the person rather than on paper qualifications. Market research company Mintel is a case in point. Steve Charlton, the marketing director, has a general business degree with a marketing focus, but admits that it did not cover the fundamentals of media, like direct mail.
His first job was as a marketing executive at Caterpillar, before moving to Keynote, then joining Mintel in telesales. He moved on to face-to-face sales and then PR, before landing the post of marketing director two-and-a-half years ago. 'Lack of qualifications has not had an impact on my career to date, but I have been fortunate,' he says.
'Mintel promotes on merit and attitude, rather than academic qualifications. But if I went to look for a new job tomorrow, I think I would find the lack of marketing qualifications a hindrance, as they all ask for them.'
His experience, and the company's attitude, means he can judge potential staff by their character, rather than their qualifications. It is when they come on board that he looks to training opportunities, and specifically, the CIM, as a supplier of qualifications.
'I think training is an important commitment from the company,' Charlton says. 'It is all very well taking people on, but there is a certain responsibility to train people so they can better themselves. The CIM is very good in this area, because it knows that people don't want to study every night; it is flexible.'
The emphasis he places on training makes him feel 'a bit of a hypocrite', but he too goes on courses 'because the pace of change is so rapid. It's a case of those I went on a year ago already being out of date.'
This emphasises the need to deliver to new recruits a good grasp of the marketing basics, to enhance their skills with on-the-job experience and to provide them with the chance to learn about new technologies via the most opportune media.
Simon Marsh, marketing manager at Maritz, chose the CIM route. He was a graduate recruit at Land Rover in 1987, left to run his own consultancy in 1994, then became a senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Central England.
While working as a sales manager at Land Rover, he attained the first of the CIM qualifications. He holds a BA in Geography, a diploma in marketing (DipM) from the CIM, is a member of the CIM (MCIM), has a postgraduate certificate of education (PGCE) and a market research certificate (MRS) from De Montfort University in Leicester.
'Having qualifications has made an impact on my career, both positively and negatively,' he says. 'It gives you a structure to work from and allows other people to recognise that you should know what you are talking about.
'It can be a negative, though, when you are talking to an audience that is not necessarily as well qualified as yourself. In job interviews, for example, it can be a problem.
'But there are plus points,' he adds. 'At Land Rover, I was lucky enough to do a lot of travelling. When you land in Indonesia and work on re-launching a product, it is useful to have a framework. Courses teach you the right questions to ask and what data you need so you don't turn up and wonder what you should be doing.'
Professional marketing qualification courses have never been so popular. But there is no clear reason for this. One theory is that the quality of university degrees is falling, particularly because of the way they are funded, with levels based on the previous year's results.
It is thought that employers realise this and insist staff take professional qualifications to fill in the gaps.
Then there is the additional theory that in-house graduate training schemes of old are no longer quite as good as they used to be - with both staff and management fully aware of the fact.
The outcome? 'The number of people coming to us on their own initiative has increased, as well as those coming to us from companies,' says David Coates, managing director of Martran College, a provider of CAM and CIM courses based in Covent Garden, London. 'They realise they need professional qualifications.'
Yet those who work in recruitment remain ambivalent toward these courses.
'There is still no definite call for chartered-type qualifications as an absolute,' says David Pakeman, chief executive of the Lloyd Group.
'Everything helps and they are improving all the time, but as part of the selection process, it is very rare that they are required.'
Maybe, he points out, it would be better to think of such qualifications as being useful in working one's way up in a company rather than gaining initial employment. 'A marketing qualification would normally assist employees in an internal move, rather than on a CV to promote it to the outside world. They need experience of the function having learned about it to move up,' he says.
In his view, courses have tried very hard to push themselves on to the list of employers' 'must-haves', but they haven't quite achieved it yet.
Recruitment agency Michael Page has noticed an increase in the number of companies sponsoring employees to take a CIM diploma course. The qualification will never take the place of experience, but it can play a vital role in instilling knowledge about a lot of the basic facts.
The agency view is that for general marketing, the CIM is hard to beat, but for a move into direct marketing, sales promotion or other specialist disciplines, marketers are advised to seek information from the relevant trade body.
In the long-term, it is more a matter of what people do with the knowledge than the paper certificate that comes with it. 'They need to go through the basics of marketing and then apply them through the range of disciplines,' says Charles Endacott, managing director of Endacott RJB Marketing. 'That way you get a well-rounded person able to apply that knowledge across the board.'
It sounds so simple, but success still depends on an employee's attitude, creativity, numeracy and sheer common sense.
Average basic salary according to qualification and rank
Qualification Snr Mngr Senior Junior/ Supervisor/
or Middle Middle Junior Senior
Director Specialist Manager Manager Manager Technician
pounds pounds pounds pounds pounds pounds
Master''s 56,000 47,100 33,000 26,500 21,000 n/a
Sample 40 61 31 25 9 n/a
Professional 55,000 41,750 32,120 25,000 21,424 17,875
Sample 28 46 46 45 48 18
Bachelor''s 49,500 43,000 33,600 27,000 20,000 16,500
Sample 80 168 171 196 139 49
HNC/HND n/a 39,500 34,250 30,350 17,861 n/a
Sample n/a 6 10 10 12 n/a
A-Level n/a 38,020 n/a n/a 20,130 18,000
Sample n/a 10 n/a n/a 10 5
GCSE n/a n/a n/a n/a 20,600 17,000
Sample n/a n/a n/a n/a 11 7
Source: CIM Marketing Rewards Survey 2000, which surveyed 2276 CIM
members during June/July 2000
WITHOUT MARKETING QUALIFICATIONS
Marketers without professional qualifications need not be apologists - the profession risks a certain sterility if it hampers their progress.
Paul Cousins is a case in point. He is now a director at Catalyst Marketing Consultancy. His marketing credentials are impeccable, from time spent at Charles Letts, before working his way up through the ranks at Spillers, becoming marketing director at Homepride, and then moving to Jacobs as group marketing director. All of which he has done without marketing qualifications.
His first degree was in biology, and he went on to do a post-graduate certificate of education, spending a few years teaching A-level students. It was, he says, the best training for marketing.
'As a teacher, you spend your whole day selling your subject to an audience that is at best disinterested and at worst hostile,' he says.
As he worked his way up the ladder, lack of qualifications did not prove an issue. 'It was never questioned and a lot of the people I worked with did not have them either,' he says. But there are a number of issues to consider before taking this route now, he adds. 'Good companies used to have good training programmes,' he says.
'At Spillers, I did graduate training at Ashridge, for example. Marketing is not a science, nor an art; it is pure common sense. A lot of people don't have it, and a degree in marketing won't make up for the lack of it.
'I have had plenty of brand managers through my hands, some with degrees and some without, and the crucial aspect was always whether they were good thinkers and creative.'
Given his background, his view that education needs to be an ongoing process is hardly surprising, but he chose an alternative route to most who now enter the profession. 'I read an awful lot to catch up on the basics,' he says. 'And I ask a lot of questions.'
WITH MARKETING QUALIFICATIONS
Frank Hammerton, sales and marketing director at Girobank, opted to take a CIM postgraduate diploma in marketing.
Following stints at NatWest and TSB, he joined Girobank in 1988, where he worked his way up to head of key accounts and London sales in 1995. He was promoted to his current post in 1997.
'I was responsible for marketing for a while before I embarked on the training and was conscious that there was a whole language I did not understand,' he says. 'I had to go on a course.' Working the occasional weekend, he put himself through the course in nine months and, he says, 'learnt an awful lot in the process'.
The company has also changed around him. 'At about the time I started, we re-organised the marketing department and, as part of that, the people who now join are expected to have a marketing qualification and those already here know that there is a need to be qualified,' he says.
It could be, he admits, that there are potential employees without marketing qualifications who could prove the exception to the rule, 'but our experience is if you take people on who have qualified, you improve the whole department'.
So has Hammerton seen any clear tangible benefits in terms of career prospects or pay, post-diploma? 'It has not had any impact on my salary, and as marketing director, I am not about to be made managing director - but it has made me better at my job,' he says.