Qualifications: 5 London marketers on why experts matter

"People have had enough of experts," asserted Conservative Government Minister Michael Gove in the run-up to the EU Referendum. Granted he wasn’t talking about marketers, but leading figures in British institutions from the CBI and NHS to the TUC. Their expertise led them to conclude that Britain would be better served by remaining within the EU, in contrast to Gove’s campaigning stance. His comment sparked media focus on the value of experts. Marketing Week columnist, Mark Ritson stated "Maybe it’s just me, but shouldn’t an ‘expert’ in marketing be trained in marketing? Before anyone is declared an expert / ninja / guru / visionary in marketing they need to learn the discipline. You need a qualification to be qualified."

When it comes to qualifications, CIM provides a suite of internationally recognised marketing qualifications. But what do London marketers think about formal qualifications, in a fast-paced industry that values experience? In response to questions on staff recruitment, team development and their own personal experience, five senior London CIM members give their views.

Three questions

  • When you recruit marketing staff do you look for people who are CIM-qualified?
  • What would you say about CIM qualifications to a marketing manager looking to build their team?
  • Have you seen a benefit from your own CIM qualifications?

I look for CIM qualifications when recruiting

Some description“I do tend to look for a CIM qualification on a CV when I am recruiting, principally because I know they will have a good knowledge and practice of marketing. I know they will have a good all-round appreciation for marketing tactics and also the softer skills required in a fast-moving retail business.

I think CIM is a great course for your team to undertake - not only will it improve their skills, but it will also provide them with the confidence they need to do their job well. I believe it is good to have a well-rounded marketer on the team and the CIM qualification helps to build just that.

On a personal level, I believe being qualified has enabled me to further my career at a faster pace, it has provided me with the knowledge, tools and confidence that I can make decisions that are right for the business and meet growth targets.  It has also provided me with a network of industry peers that I can turn to should I need to discuss a problem or get a second opinion.”

Natalie Crane
Digital Marketing Manager

Natalie Crane is an award-winning marketing professional with over 15 years’ experience in leading digital marketing and communications across diverse industries. She’s experienced in conceptualising and orchestrating marketing campaigns that reinforce and build brands. Natalie has proven ability to drive record-high campaign response rates and execute successful campaign launches.


It has a transformative effect on confidence

Some description“I believe anyone who invests time into professional development on top of their job deserves recognition. It’s hard work to be disciplined and stay on top of things in both areas. This is especially the case if you are progressing quickly in your current role and the expectation is you will take on more responsibility or you are also balancing other life events, such as buying a house, getting married, starting a family, or supporting a sick loved one. I have taught students in all of these situations and marvelled at each individual’s resilience given the circumstances. Life throws a lot of challenges at you and you don’t know when you start your studies what lies ahead. Someone who completes their course at a professional level, whilst balancing so many competing priorities, is exactly the kind of person you would want to hire and have on your team.

The CIM is a particularly challenging professional qualification and most students study for a full year so this is a huge commitment. I believe it has a transformative effect on the confidence of marketers and demonstrates a commitment to the marketing profession. All of which have a positive impact when recruiting.

The CIM qualifications offer a great blend of the strategic and tactical skills all marketers need. By building your team with CIM qualified players you are increasing your chances that your team can operate at all levels. Those starting out in their careers will understand where they fit into the broader business strategy, whilst also understanding the role they have to play in a particular function or channel, such as digital marketing, communications, product. They will understand how to strategically plan, how to put KPIs in place to meet the plan, and how to report against it. There are many candidates who understand technical skills in the delivery of certain aspects of marketing campaigns but those that have CIM qualifications understand how the plan comes together.

I continue to benefit from my CIM qualification years (…many years!) later. The quality of the content stands the test of time, especially the strategic content. There is not a day since studying where I don’t think it was a great personal investment and I always recommend it to both new and experienced marketers who want to make sure they are strategically trained.”

Sarah Hernandez
Chief Marketing Officer
The Key

Sarah Hernandez is currently CMO at The Key, a leading edtech company providing information and online solutions to schools and named by the Sunday Times as one of the companies making a ‘big impact on Britain’. She’s also currently a tutor at The Marketer’s Forum in London teaching the Diploma and Certificate level CIM courses. Previously, Sarah worked in fast growth digital companies across martech, adtech and ecommerce and has 15 years’ experience in the delivery of effective marketing strategies for start-up, SME and global companies. In 2016, Sarah was named one of the top 100 B2B tech marketers in Europe by Hot Topics.


See more from Sarah Hernandez: Studying? Sarah Hernandez shares 5 ways to succeed


CIM qualifications show a candidate is serious

Some description“Whenever I look for marketing staff, whether in-house or on behalf of my consulting clients, I always prefer candidates that have CIM qualifications or are working towards them.  

Why? It shows me that they are serious about marketing as a profession and are keen to become formally qualified to an internationally-renowned set of standards. It also helps to have an entire team that are trained in the disciplines of strategic marketing management.

As well as looking for CIM qualifications during the recruitment process, they can also be useful as part of your team’s personal development plan. It will not only improve the team’s level of technical expertise, it will also help show senior management that you are committed to building a professionally qualified function.  

The main benefit of my qualifications has been the tools and mindset they provide to developing and implementing marketing strategy. Whilst I can’t say I’ve ever won a consulting client purely because I am a Fellow of CIM and Chartered Marketer, these are differentiators I always include in any proposal document I prepare.”

Steve Revill
Marketing & Business Development Consultant
Unlimited Perspective

Steve Revill is an international marketing, communications and employee engagement consultant. He has over 20 years of achievement in client-side and international consulting roles across a broad range of industry sectors including Technology, FinTech, Financial Services and Professional Services. Commercially focused, Steve has a proven track record in multi-channel lead generation, sales pipeline management and P&L ownership - both direct to market and through online and offline channel partnerships. Steve is a Chartered Marketer and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.


Experience isn’t as valuable without qualifications

Some description“As Mark Ritson has recently highlighted, there are a lot of great marketers because of education and qualification. Without that education, there is a risk that the marketing theories that have stood the test of time wouldn't be acknowledged and the science of marketing wouldn't be correctly applied. I also teach the CIM Level 4 Certificate in Marketing, and those students are ones that are wanting to hone their marketing skills and refine the skills they have started to learn from experience in the workplace.

The skillset that lacks massively within the marketing industry is skilled strategists. A strategist needs to be able to understand all of the fundamental principles of marketing and then be able to recommend and set the marketing direction for a business. Experience naturally has a big part to play, but that experience wouldn't be as valuable without the qualifications.

There is a vast range of CIM qualifications available, all at different levels. The first starting point is to establish the learning level that your team members are currently at and the direction they would like to head to in their career. If that is for example, in the direction of strategy, then the courses chosen need to include and develop those skills. Training is essential to improve your team in the here and now, but they are prominently an investment for the future, so it's critical that the choice made aligns with that too.

I undertook the CIM Professional Marketing Diploma a few years ago and had since taken the 2-day Strategy course at CIM house. Both courses have helped me to improve my marketing knowledge, skills and expertise. The two-day strategy course provided peer insight into how I presented myself in meetings, pitches and enhanced my negotiation skills! Even my manager at the time, after returning from that course witnessed the change in my approach!”

Jenna Tiffany
Founder & Strategy Director
Let’sTalk Strategy

Jenna Tiffany is Founder & Strategy Director at Let'sTalk Strategy providing strategic consultancy services across the digital marketing mix and is also a marketing tutor and public speaker. Jenna is a Chartered Marketer and elected Fellow of the IDM with over ten years’ marketing experience across both B2B and B2C. Jenna has consulted with brands such as Shell, Hilton and World Duty Free, on digital and email marketing strategy. She is an elected member of the prestigious DMA UK Email Marketing Council, the Chair of the Email Best Practice hub shaping the industry’s best practice and involved in developing the latest research.


Taking the CIM Certificate was the best thing I ever did

Some description“In 2014 I was working in a role which was split between Business Development and Marketing. I wanted to move into a pure marketing rule and found that with my experience alone I was struggling to find a suitable role as a lot of the roles I was interested all required a CIM qualification. I honestly think that taking the CIM certificate was the best thing I ever did as it opened up so many doors for me. I found straight away once I added it to my CV that I began to have more interviews and much more of a response to my applications than without it. It has considerably helped in my career development, and while it was hard work at the time, it means I am now CIM qualified and working my way towards becoming chartered.

Since completing my studies I have become a member and volunteer for the CIM. There are a variety of events in London, which have really helped improve my personal development and soft skills. While the formal education has been completed (for now!) I think it is still important to attend these events to learn about new trends, in particular for digital which is constantly evolving, to continue to build on my knowledge. I’ve been involved with the CIM now for over 4 years and have recently become the Ambassador of Communication for Ireland. Getting involved with the CIM has opened a lot of doors for me personally in my career and I am happy to speak to anyone who is considering studies or membership.

For anyone considering taking a CIM qualification don't let the hard work put you off as you will reap the rewards for many years to come afterwards!”

Eileen Donaghey
Eileen Donaghey Marketing

Eileen Donaghey’s career began in magazine and event marketing. Then in 2015 she joined the law firm Anthony Gold, as Communications Executive, progressing to Marketing Manager, before moving to Doughty Street Chambers as Senior Marketing Manager. Writing is a passion for Eileen and she was appointed official blogger for the CIM Professional Marketer event series in London. She is also Ambassador for Communications for CIM Ireland.  As a consultant Eileen supports businesses with event management, marketing and business development planning , content writing and copywriting, and social media strategy.


Marketing recruitment market report

The 2018 salary and market report from recruiters EMR, reveals that 20% of marketers had CIM qualifications. The report states: “The more experienced marketers are, the higher the likelihood they have studied a marketing or digital qualification, which proves the importance of training and development in an ever-evolving industry.” The report sets a positive note for earnings potential: “Marketers are earning more. 9% increase in marketers earning over £40,000. Those with sought-after skills, such as digital and CRM, continue to see better than average pay rises when moving roles.”

CIM qualifications in a nutshell

See the overview for Marketing Managers, including seven things you may not know about CIM qualifications - Development: marketing managers’ overview of CIM qualifications