3 Marketing Skills They Don’t Teach You In College

I’ll just start this off by saying I love the  University of Massachusetts Lowell and the endless lessons I learned while studying. They do a lot to prepare us for careers in business and how to be quality people, as well. This article is in no way a critique on our business school individually, but it is a critique to business schools throughout the US.
A common trend I notice when I talk with people I know in marketing/advertising programs across the US is that many of them are still stuck in the old days of marketing where you market AT your consumers. For lack of a better word, these types of marketers are looking to exploit and not enter a relationship with a consumer that is mutually beneficial.

Anyways, I’ve noticed this myself with some of my classes. Granted, Drake has done a good job at rolling with the punches in the ever-changing marketing world by offering classes like Internet Marketing with Josh Fleming, but they still leave a lot to be desired.

Here’s a list of 3 marketing skills they don’t teach in college that every aspiring marketer needs to succeed:

Marketing Analytics

Collective groan of marketing students* “We didn’t go into marketing to look at numbers!” Whelp, sorry kids, numbers and marketing go together like college girls and Starbucks.

The rise of Big Data is making marketers everywhere scramble to find ways to organize and utilize data from social networks, web traffic, transaction patterns, and more. Before, marketers would just be allocated a portion of the budget to run traditional print and media advertising hoping for an increase in sales for the quarter. Now managers are demanding substantiation, which makes a lot of sense. Why would you spend money on something if you can’t prove that it works?

If you’re a student reading this you may be asking yourself, “Thanks for telling me I’m not learning enough on analytics so what do I do about it?” Great question! Here’s some stuff you can do:

Become familiar with Google Analytics. Even though you probably won’t be able to fully experiment with it, it’s great to know how to work with one of the most popular website analytic platforms out there. Google Analytics let’s you run campaigns to track conversions on your websites, let’s you track the order of pages people visit when they hit your site, and much more. I’d recommend tracking your blog with it like I do to get a feel for the dashboard.
Actually listen in your statistics classes. Trust me, I didn’t listen enough and now I have to re-learn how to run regressions in Excel and all that fun stuff. You’ll be asked by your employer to justify promotion expenditures and determine sample sizes for market research.
Read marketing analytics blogs. My favorite are KISSmetrics, Moz, and CrazyEgg. You’ll be able to find other ones pretty easy since marketers are now realizing the power of being able to use data in meaningful ways.
Learn how to make infographics. If you can present your data in a meaningful and visually appealing way, you’ll leave your boss starry-eyed and ready to give you some kind of promotion. Infographics are some of the most shareable content on the web, so you’ve got that going for you.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing is all the rage right now in digital marketing. Probably because it works. It generates 54% more leads than outbound; I’d say that’s pretty staggering. Marketing departments are also increasing their inbound budgets by 50%over the last 3 years. As inbound becomes more of a norm in agencies and corporate marketing departments students will need to become more familiar with the inner workings of inbound marketing strategy.

Inbound marketing is basically providing useful content for people and making it easy for them to find. This is contrary to outbound marketing where you project your message to customers in the hopes that they become interested and buy your product or service. Inbound marketing includes:

  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • Blogging & content creation
  • Social Media Marketing (Paid & Non-Paid)
  • Landing Page Creation
  • Paid Search
  • Email Marketing & Lead Nurturing
  • Marketing Automation

All of these tactics are really important for marketers to understand, but schools are slow to jump on bandwagon. Many thought social media would be a fadwe all know how that turned out. Blogging is just a hobby for soccer moms and a way for people to vent their political beliefs, right? Nope. Organizations now more than ever need inbound marketing to drive sales from the top of the marketing funnel (inbound) to conversion (sales) and too many students don’t know enough about it.

How can I learn inbound marketing skills?



That’s what I do every single day. I’ve learned more on inbound from reading the blogs I mentioned before than I have during my 3.5 years at Drake. Again, this isn’t a knock on Drake alone. I’ve heard this from students at schools from around the country. Another good inbound marketing educational resource is the Hubspot blog. They are a driving force in the adoption of inbound marketing strategies.
Attend webinars given by companies like Hubspot, Wildfire, and Moz.
Practice inbound using your own blog and social media accounts. Your personal online brand is really important to establish in an increasingly digital world, so why not gain experience while improving your online likeness? There’s nothing to lose here, people.
Read more blogs every single day.
Trust me, it’s not as complicated as it looks.

Web development and design is often overlooked in marketing curriculum, which is a shame because it’s becoming even more important now to know basic HTML and CSS as a marketer. Marketers are in charge of website design, landing page development, blog design, and email design which all require HTML and CSS knowledge. Drag and drop editors are cool, but don’t allow for companies to customize and create a unique experience for customers. I also see more often now that a knowledge of HTML and CSS is required for entry level marketing jobs and marketing internships.

Drake has done an okay job with this requiring a basic HTML/CSS/Intro Javascript class for a certain track within the marketing major, but I don’t think that’s enough. Programming of any sort takes repetition and taking one class your junior year of college won’t make it stick. I would offer a Web Development for Marketers class within the business school that takes a hands-on approach to developing interactive web pages, customized email, and other fun stuff like that.

So, how can you learn web development on your own?

Join Treehouse to learn everything and anything on web development. I’ve been on Treehouse for 2 years and have learned so much on web development it isn’t even funny. They have classes on design, HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, PHP, Ruby on Rails, Java, and so much more. You can join for just $9 a month for unlimited access to content. I’d say it’s a great deal.
You can also use other web education tools like Udacity, Khan Academy, or any number of free online courses.
Take a computer science class at your school. If you have some extra credit hours to fill in your schedule for the semester. I took intro to Java and that really helped me think like a programmer.
It’s difficult at first to learn how to program, but all it takes is repetition and some hard work. You have to start to think like a programmer; which is a different, but valuable, way of thinking because it introduces you to systems thinking and being a critical thinker. Being a critical thinker is what separates us from the newest robot out there.

Marketing is an increasingly volatile field that requires a thirst for learning and change. In order to keep up as students, we have to continue to learn outside of the class and think towards the future of marketing rather than the past. What are some of the most valuable classes you’ve taken in your marketing program? Let me know in the comments below!


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