Between February and December of 2014, every other week (bar a four week summer break), I have been attending seminars in London as part of my continued marketing studies. Earlier in my blog I mentioned my long term ambition to complete an MSc in digital marketing and this is a step towards doing just that.
The Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing, or IDM, is a government approved membership institute that offers a range of marketing training courses and qualifications. I decided to take the course as genuine learning opportunities in marketing are uncommon, the industry moves very quickly and will leave you behind if you let it. I want to build my understanding and capabilities around delivering a marketing strategy whilst furthering my understanding of the tools and processes I am already familiar with.
The course consisted of a series of four hour classes in which one of 10 modules would be covered or a guest speaker would demonstrate case studies and best practice guides on every aspect of digital marketing. The guest lecturers were engaging and the content generally consisted of case studies rather than just theory. The case studies really add context and I personally hate learning from theory and textbooks. The continual link between the topics and strategic application was very helpful, understanding the complexities of integrated marketing can be difficult but the structure of the course deals with this challenge superbly. The two course assignments were challenging marketing strategy formulation documents of 5000 words each on real companies (A charity called Get Kids Going! and a gap year travel company called GAP 360) that I suspect may be seeing our work (or at least the better ones), initial fears that the word count was fairly large considering spare time is short with a full time job and hefty sporting commitment were allayed, soon hitting around 7500 words with the first assignment and having to selectively trim my work down to size. The final stage was three exams, each three hours long that covered various topics from the course.
What did I get from the course:
A better understanding of strategic marketing
Making the step from a tactical and ‘hands on’ marketer is a difficult one. Starting my marketing journey in digital gave me solid set of technical skills but learning how to use those skills, and the others I have acquired along the way, to formulate longer term plans that adhere to a pre-set structure and measurably contribute to to set goals and objectives is far more rewarding. The key to becoming more strategic in my approach was most certainly understanding how to measure data and key performance indicators around all aspects of digital marketing. This continual self-auditing allowed me to move from being incredibly busy with managing multiple projects and almost all facets of the marketing process to budget permitting best practice standards, examining past activities and prioritising my time investment based on likely return. This approach along with a more thorough understanding of analytics within the process has given me a lot more confidence to outsource technical skills to agencies and freelancers. Additionally, strategically planning marketing activity has provided clearer objectives which in turn made creating plans and paths to achieve those objectives more straightforward.
Using the SOSTAC framework
The SOSTAC Framework is an incredible useful marketing planning template, developed by PR Smith and available at Dave Chaffey’s Smart Insights. It’s simple and logical framework is easy to follow and unlike other planning tools I have used in the past, everything you might need seems to have its place within SOSTAC:
- Situation – where are we?
- Objectives – where do we want to be?
- Strategy – how do we get there?
- Tactics – how exactly do we get there?
- Action – what is our plan?
- Control – did we get there?
It is equally useful for traditional and digital marketing and it really helps to structure the information into one useful document that can be referred back to over the course of the strategy implementation to ensure you are on track to complete the marketing objectives and goals set within it. It works best over the period of a year but with a view for anywhere up to 5 years of recommendations and future plans, after the initial year you would likely want to adapt and reconfigure it to encompass what you have learned about your campaign effectiveness. I fully recommend any budding marketers download the template and start creating a strategy document. I used the SOSTAC framework for both assignments and have since used it several times at work and found that it has allowed non-marketing colleagues to understand the structure and long term ambitions of marketing with more clarity (and that we don’t just mess around on Twitter all day).
Meeting similar individuals and finding out they have the same day to day marketing problems that I do! Sharing ideas and experiences with peers and learning that everyone comes up against the same objections to marketing actions, the same issues getting buy-in from senior colleagues, the same issue in getting that individual to write that blog post they have been procrastinating their way around for 3 months!
Should you take the course?
Overall, the IDM offer a very complete course, some sections of it will be familiar for some marketers as we all have our strengths and affinities to certain methods or channels, but other components will be completely out of your normal comfort zone which is exactly what I needed. I still found the topics of B2B and SEO and other aspects closely tied to my past experience to be helpful and stimulating, even if they were just reassuring some things I already knew and giving me faith to persevere with some of the less immediately productive pursuits! If you are looking to expand your tactical ability to deliver various individual aspects of marketing, this might not be the right choice for you as it doesn’t have the depth of a skills based training course but it has enough depth to give you the understanding on how to develop individual skills further.
In conclusion I think the IDM course is a great call for marketers with 2-6 years experience, preparing to take the next step up the ladder and wanting to ensure they are soundly versed in understanding applying strategy to digital marketing but I will admit I still hate exams!