“Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism.” – David M. Burns

2015 has been a busy year for me. I got married, changed jobs and completed my IDM Professional diploma in Digital Marketing all within the space of 2 weeks.

Rather than doing a blog looking at trends for 2016 (or lazier still, listing out my top posts from the year), I wanted to share my experience of studying and working full time, as this has been an important part of my professional and personal growth.

I’ve always enjoyed education both formal and vocational. Though after nearly 5 years in the digital marketing industry and no formal training I knew I wanted to broaden my understanding beyond building websites.

There’s an array of courses out there and at first I was overwhelmed with the choices available;there’s the classic Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) which for me lacked specific digitally focused courses, Google Squared which I came very close to signing up to, however the course is made up of group projects which I didn’t fancy risking my grades to other students who perhaps wouldn’t put in the same effort. And of course the material centred around google products such as AdWords and analytics.

So after extensive research I went for the IDM and started the year long course which ran from July 2014 and consisted of 2 assignments and culminated in 2 exams in June 2015, just 4 days before my wedding!!

Below is my list of benefits of taking an IDM course

  • Flexible – you can choose to do intensive face to face classes in London or just do online only, there are also various intakes as well to allow for people starting at different times of the year. For me online was the best option as it offered greater flexibility, for example they even recorded the bi-weekly webinars with our tutor so if you couldn’t attend you didn’t miss out and could catch up on demand!

  • Online portal – when taking any course you get access to a virtual portal where all your learning materials are accessible in bitesize chunks. About 2 months into my course they updated the system so you could track progress of modules and lessons making it easier to pick up where you left off and see what you haven’t covered.
  • Peer support through forums – this is one of the most valuable elements to the course, especially if doing it online, though you get out of it what you put in. We shared our highs and lows and it was so important during assessment time to see how we approached the questions.

  • Up to date content and current trends – the course covered lots of current materials and on the forums we also shared best practice examples of marketing and topics that were circulating online. This also helped to feel like I was keeping up to date with the latest thinking which we can all feel the pressure to know what’s happening right now!
  • Guest lecturers- while we had an industry practitioner for our teacher, for certain modules we also had guest lecturers from their respective specialisms for example, SEO, mobile, and legal frameworks were all delivered from excellent industry experts giving the course a rounded perspective.

  • Networking events – there’s also an array of events that you can sign up to, I attended the  annual IDM lecture at Google’s offices in London which was a highlight to hear how HSBC had approached marketing in today’s always on environment.

  • Graduation – this for me was a real highlight, as after 12 months of hard work and determination to get a formal ceremony to celebrate with your peers and quite often meet them face to face for the first time was fantastic and to top it off I won tickets to attend YSM – London  conference in March.

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My key takeaways

  • Strategy is The Key – the IDM course really taught me the importance of marketing strategy. Throughout the course we used PR Smith’s SOSTAC framework and this has been immensely useful when considering any client brief to help question and challenge the purpose and objectives the project needs to address.  

  • Demonstrate value – It also gave me a much greater awareness of ROI and customer lifetime value – something that more agencies need to be aware of, as we should all try to show how digital spend is cost effective and adds value.

  • Data and CRM – we’ve all heard plenty on big data these last few years but what is often overlooked is the value of having some form of CRM system and the data capture methods used. Even in 2016 there’s a huge value to intelligent targeting and segmentation and all this rests on the opportunity to make the most of the abundance of data we can now have access to.

  • Integration –  again another buzzword we hear all to often, as marketers we need to avoid working in silos! ensuring a campaign works across the omni-channel environment we now operate in is key. In 2016 there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to make the most of the technology and analytics available to us simple things such as phone analytics can make a huge difference!

 

Don’t get me wrong it’s been tough! Without the support of my husband, family, friends and fellow students I don’t think I would have stuck it out. The peer support made all the difference as we were all struggling at some point and knowing we all had these challenges made you realise you weren’t on your own.

My top tip for studying and working full time is without a doubt to set aside a block of time everyday if you can and do the work little and often. It made the workload more manageable for me, rather than having to do big chunks on the weekends. I’m a morning person so I made sure whenever I could that doing 1 hour before work was the best time of day so I then had my evenings free and didn’t sack it off as I was too tired!

I was the only student from an agency background and it seemed that IDM qualifications are generally better supported and recognised within in-house teams. Though I think more agencies could benefit from the material covered within the courses especially the strategic side as too many agencies are focused on tactical implementation.

Though I’m never one to stand still, and so after a few months break from studying the next course I’ll be doing is an online course provided by Udemy – ‘Programming for non programmers’ which I’m excited to learn more about how websites and apps are built.

So what courses do you recommend or plan to take in 2016?