Accountants have to pass the CPA exam; Financial Planners – the CFP; Engineers – the PE; Lawyers – the JD and Doctors – the MD.  When all of these worthy professions have entrance exams and marketing doesn’t, what does that say about us?  Can anyone be called a marketing professional and if not, what are the criteria from stopping them?

Lately, I have thought quite a bit about this question as I continue to meet more and more “marketers” who weren’t educated in business and never took a marketing class.  There are lawyers, accountants, social workers, and administrative assistants all turned professional “marketers.”  There is no doubt that some people, no matter what their profession, are just naturally creative and others have a way with words, a gift for gab, or a knack for technology. None of these characteristics, however, in and of themselves, make up a true marketing professional.  Like any discipline, I believe that there are marketing principles that need to be learned in order to be a master at the trade.

  • A public relations specialists – understands media and nurtures connections but is not a marketer
  • A social media guru – can “tweet,” “post,” “like,” and “friend” but is not a marketer
  • A graphic designer – highly artistic and can bring concepts to life but is not a marketer

A marketing professional has usually studied business and has taken courses in market research / statistics; finance / ROI; strategy & positioning; social influence; innovation; entrepreneurship; economics; accounting; logistics and more.  Not to mention, we’ve taken an entire curriculum of marketing classes – B2B, B2C, product and service marketing.

I have been impressed to see that some professional marketing certifications have cropped up in recent years, which is a step in the right direction. For example, the Society for Marketing Professional Services offers a program where participants can become a Certified Professional Services Marketer. This is a voluntary certification program and requires the completion of an examination of marketing competency along with other credentials. Similarly the American Marketing Association offers a Professional Certified Marketer program which is also a voluntary program and requires an examination on marketing concepts and processes. Both of these certifications demonstrate a commitment to continuing education in the field of marketing and progress towards creating a baseline knowledge among marketing professionals – but is this enough?  Shouldn’t programs like these be an industry standard required for entrance rather than a gold star for your resume?

In order to be able to move a business forward, a professional needs a solid understanding of business.  While many things can be mastered over time and some of our great leaders of today didn’t finish college, we all aren’t Steve Jobs!   A solid understanding of positioning, segmentation and integrated marketing are pretty essential to a sustained, long-term, successful marketing program that drives business results.  Even with this knowledge, there are some marketers who are unbelievable at what they do and some that are fine.  But regardless of level of talent, all professional marketers, especially those that hold themselves out as consultants, should have the marketing basics down pat.  Why shouldn’t all marketers need to pass a standardized exam?  I would welcome it – how about you?