It’s possible to obtain a marketing degree from most colleges and universities. In the course of your education through a marketing program, you’ll likely learn fundamentals like branding, the importance of demographic research, and historical marketing and advertising campaigns that have gone well. It can certainly be beneficial for you if you plan to pursue a career in marketing, or if you plan on marketing your own business online.
But is a degree truly necessary to pull this off?
Learning Online Marketing on Your Own
Much of your marketing degree’s purpose is going to be proving that you know your stuff. If you’re resourceful enough, you can learn the fundamentals of online marketing and advertising almost completely on your own. Any sufficiently detailed online marketing guide can give you the high-level vision you need to establish a foundation of knowledge. The online marketing world is diverse and expansive, so every newcomer to the marketing industry needs to start with the basics.
From there, you’ll be able to expand and refine your knowledge in the areas most relevant to your online business. For example, if you decide that search engine optimization (SEO) is going to be the best strategy for your business, you can dedicate your attention to learning the nuances of SEO, including onsite optimization, content writing, and link building. To become a true expert in a specific field, you’ll eventually need to accumulate years of education and experience.
It’s important to recognize that even with “perfect” marketing knowledge, there’s no such thing as a campaign that goes perfectly well from the start. All campaigns will require some trial and error, with marketers experimenting with different variables and evaluating how they impact your results.
Accordingly, if you’re learning marketing on your own, you can adopt a learn-as-you-go process. You’ll inevitably waste a portion of your budget as you make initial mistakes, but if the stakes are sufficiently low and you’re patient enough, you can ultimately make something work.
Working With an Expert
Another option is to work with a marketing expert, rather than relying on your own instincts. There are a few different options here, including:
- Hiring in-house experts. The first and most common option is to hire a marketing professional to work for you full-time. This option gives you the most control and transparency over the execution of your campaign, but it also tends to be the most expensive. Accordingly, it’s not a favorable option for new and small businesses.
- Contracting an agency. Agency rates vary, and often look expensive on paper, but they’re usually cheaper than hiring a full-time team in-house. Marketing agencies have the benefit of operating with a full team of specialists, so you can get experts in every category or field of expertise you need. They’re also extremely reliable; they care about client retention (and about their reputations), so they’re inclined to work hard to make sure you’re satisfied with the results.
- Working with independent contractors. Thanks to the gig economy, independent contractors in the marketing field are plentiful. Depending on your needs, you could compose a high-level outline for your marketing campaign, then contract with individual freelancers to execute that campaign at the ground level. Independent contractors are typically inexpensive, but may be hard to find—and less reliable than an agency.
In any case, it’s good to have some ground-level marketing knowledge, which you can get with some cursory research, so you can hold your own in a conversation with your partners.
The Evolution of Marketing
It’s also worth noting that marketing isn’t a stagnant field. There are some fundamental principles that apply to businesses in every era, like the process of research, execution, and analysis, but the most common and most effective channels for marketing are always evolving. On top of that, new tactics are constantly emerging. Even if you have a marketing degree, you need to commit to ongoing learning so you can stay up-to-date; in other words, there’s a half-life to the knowledge you get from a marketing degree.
Is a Marketing Degree Helpful?
After considering the options available to your business, you may wonder if a degree in marketing is helpful or worthwhile if your primary goal is starting and supporting your own business. The short answer is yes—it just isn’t strictly necessary. There are some things that a marketing degree can’t teach you, including things you can only learn from experience and new tactics that continually emerge. And even if you have gaps in your marketing knowledge, you can make up for them by committing to ongoing learning and relying on other experts. Still, the knowledge and training you’ll get in a marketing program will be worthwhile in helping you achieve your goals.