I went into digital marketing out of necessity.

It was around 2007 when I started a family-owned music school business. We suddenly found ourselves having to market the business. And we did what we observed other local businesses do:

  • Put up unlicensed banners around the area.
  • Printed flyers and dropped them in people's houses.
  • Did public performances for free.

The tactics worked. It wasn't game-changing, but it did get us our first handful of customers.

Then one day a salesman visited me. He said the business could be listed on their business directory and it would get its own URL. We would need to pay a few hundred Ringgit a month to have our 'website' and receive lots of traffic.

I can't remember the name of the business (they're gone now), but I remember thinking in the 2nd month of paying, can't I build my own website?

learn build website with wordpress

So I joined a course to learn how to build a website with WordPress, discovered how to do SEO, and the rest somehow just fell in place.

Is a digital marketing course necessary?

Yes and no.

In my story, I did join a marketing course. Although most of what I know right now came through experience, the course was the very thing that started everything for me.

Joining a digital marketing course won't make you an instant expert. But people who sign up for a course show commitment. These days, you can browse tutorials and videos for free online. But it's always the lack of commitment that kills your growth.

So yes, I think a digital marketing course is necessary for you to make that commitment. Sure, we've heard about people who somehow became a marketing genius on their own, watching videos on YouTube, etc.

But if you want a sure pathway – join a digital marketing course.

Think about it this way. What's the worst that could happen? Other than losing the fees you paid and a bit of time?

Is a digital marketing certificate necessary?

I still wonder if the certificate actually helped them be where they are today.

A digital marketing certificate does not mean you'll be good at marketing.

Digital marketing is different from other professions like a doctor. Yes, you probably shouldn't allow a doctor who learned his practice from YouTube, to operate on you.

But marketing is different.

All businesses want is to grow their revenue. They hire marketers for that. You don't need to have a certificate to begin helping these businesses.

In marketing, your skillsets and experience are more valuable than a certificate.

Okay, so how do I tell people that I'm really good at marketing then? Well, instead of having a certificate, what about having:

  • A reputation in the market?
  • A list of businesses you've helped, now happy to recommend you.
  • A blog where people can see your work?

So what makes a digital marketing course – good?

There are hundreds of digital marketing courses in the market. One reason for that is because of how accessible digital marketing has become. I mean, any kid with a laptop can actually do digital marketing, right?

I get it, you want a course that will help you stand out from the crowd. Well, here's how to identify a good marketing course.

1 – Case studies vs theory.

Is the course taught based on case studies on based on theory?

Theoretically, most marketing tactics sound exciting. Start a Facebook page, invite your friends, do a weekly live video, and get customers!

Only till you do the exact thing, and find that the only viewer for your weekly live sessions is your supportive aunty, Mary.

Marketing is a moving target. Often what works in theory, doesn't translate to how it works practically.

To learn any serious marketing, it's better to learn it through case studies. You'll see the exact steps the instructor has taken, the mistakes he made, and the reasons why a marketing strategy was successful.

Here is an example of a case study. Read here

Many digital marketing courses focus on textbook lessons. It's more important to evaluate if the lessons will help you do better marketing

2 - How wide does it cover?

Good marketers are T-shaped marketers. They have a broad knowledge covering a wide range of marketing strategies, with in-depth knowledge in 1 or more specific areas.  

Broad knowledge vs in-depth knowledge

When faced with a marketing challenge – a good marketer should be resourceful. What are other marketing tactics or platforms you could leverage on?

With this said, I'd advise you to enroll in a digital marketing course that covers a wide range of subjects, from:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Paid Ads (Google, Facebook, Linkedin)
  • Social media marketing
  • Content marketing
  • Web analytics
  • Email marketing
  • Marketing automation
  • Influencer marketing

So, no need to specialize?

Not quite – but I found that specializing in a skill, let's say copywriting, comes from the act of doing it, rather than studying it.

This brings us to the next point.

3 - Apply lessons to actual work.

If you want to watch videos, go to YouTube.

But the real reason, a course – or any program at all, works, is when the participant does the work.

It's like attending a fitness bootcamp, but instead of exercising – you just sit on the side watching the instructor demonstrate.

Don't just watch it, but also do it.

We don't need more information. Today, we've got more information than ever. What we need is more action.

Choose a digital marketing course that prompts you to apply what you learned in real-world situations quickly.

Better yet, if you can build a business as you go through the course. That way, you're actively applying what you've learned to something real.

4 – Work opportunities.

You'll make silly marketing mistakes as you go about doing your job. There's no way around it.

Every seasoned marketer I know has one or many blunders, that caused them (or the company they work for) a lot of money. Maybe it's a failed paid advertising campaign. Maybe it's accidentally getting the company's Facebook ad account banned.

Yeah, I've caused that for a client. ouch!

But the scars and battle wounds will build your character and experience as a marketer.

So choose a marketing course or program that provides you with opportunities to work for people – be it for free or as a paid gig.

I love giving students work opportunities. It's the best way to learn marketing.

Better yet, if your coach or instructor can advise you as you carry out the work.

Just remember to find marketing work quickly. Theory can only get you so far. It's through doing the actual work that will transform you into a great marketer.  

Final thoughts.  

So is taking a digital marketing course necessary?

I would say so.

Think of it this way. Even the best athletes have a coach. Shouldn't you get some help too?

P.S. I'm running a marketing meet-up in Kuala Lumpur for 200 attendees. The event is called Underdog Con and we're inviting chief marketing officers (CMOs) from various companies to share their best case studies. Pre-sale is open today, available for the first 50 registrants.

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