NOTE: Link to published article

Recently, I sparked a bit of a debate on LinkedIn. I asked how important it was when choosing a marketing agency, that staff within that agency have ‘Chartered Status’? After submitting my annual reflective statements to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) for the 15th year in a row and paying my annual subscription, I pondered whether it mattered. No one in my 20-year marketing career had ever asked me.

The response was interesting. A few marketers who are not Chartered said it didn’t matter (they would, right?). Those who have worked hard to achieve (and sustain) it, obviously think it is important. I declare now that I am one of them. But my question was really to the market – those commissioning marketing agencies or marketing people – or even hiring them. How important is it to them? It turns out not very much. Most didn’t even know it existed and if it should even be a key consideration or a question to ask.

It got me thinking. Do some people think anyone can ‘do’ marketing? Some clearly do by the response: “the landscape is changing so rapidly, creativity, adaptability and a great attitude are greater qualities” and “creative industries usually don’t need qualifications to prove you’re good at it”.

When hiring an accountant, surveyor or engineer, it is largely expected that these professionals are Chartered and have achieved a certain level of qualification. But I rarely see and hear the same expectation placed on marketing professionals. “What does Chartered even mean?” said one marketer. “It’s not something that has ever come up at any stage in any of the projects I have been a part of” said another. Apparently, “most SMEs wouldn’t care”, said a business coach. Their decision would be based on their “interaction with people in the agency, their reputation, recommendations and examples of past campaigns”.

This is interesting. Because Chartered Marketer status recognises those marketers achieving the highest level in the profession. It is a mark of an up to date, experienced and qualified marketing professional. It provides an assurance of standards and professionalism. Hiring someone with Chartered Status should make you feel that you are in safe hands. But perhaps you don’t need to experience a feeling of safety when it comes to marketing?

Chartered Status is not easy to achieve. It is usually only attainable by seasoned marketing professionals with several years of experience under their belts. It requires dedication to continuing professional development. Just to be a member of the Institute you need a CIM qualification and/or five to ten years’ relevant experience. It’s only when you reach this point that you can begin the process of working towards Chartered Marketer status and that could be take a few more years.

But who cares? Not everyone, that’s for sure. “It’s different for professional services like accountants, solicitors and doctors” said one marketer. Really? Ok, so we aren’t performing heart surgery, but people do trust us with their business and marketing budget. Surely, some sort of check or mark of experience is necessary? A little taken aback I asked whether they thought marketing was a professional service. “Not really” he said. To hear that from a fellow marketer shocked me. If we can’t believe and convince ourselves that our skills and experience is professional and worthy, how can we convince our clients and those outside of our profession?

I know you would expect me to say this because I am a marketer, a Chartered one. But I am also a business owner. Marketing is one of the most important things a business can do. Not only does it build brand awareness, but it increases sales, helps you grow and engage customers.

Business is marketing and marketing is business. With increased competition, a potential looming recession and changes afoot in technology and how we actually ‘do business’ who you trust with your marketing budget has never been more critical. Perhaps gut feeling, personality and “I’ll give you my word” is enough.

Personally, I know where I’d invest my marketing budget.