Episode 148: Marketing Myth Busting: Certifications Are Proof Of Expertise

I did a coaching certification back in 2010 to  2012. It was intense. Six months of one three-day weekend each month for coaching retreats (that were incredibly draining) followed by coaching practice in between retreats each month. 

Microsoft paid for my certification since I was still employed there — and thank goodness for that because the total cost was over $10,000 in between retreats, travel and accommodations. For $10,000, six months and over 100 hours of time I got a coaching certificate.

Then the trainers started the “sell” about how this was just the beginning. Now, we knew enough to do a little coaching BUT we weren’t yet qualified — and couldn’t use the coaching school’s name on our marketing materials or LinkedIn because now we needed MORE. 

I’ll never forget how at the end of this certification the instructors spent almost a whole day showing us how much we didn’t know… all to sell us an additional certification. This was the PROFESSIONAL coaching certificate that cost another six months plus $8,500 for the certification AND over $400 a month in paid coaching.

All in all, by the time I got my professional certification, I’d spent over 500 hours attending training, doing coaching practice with fellow certification people, getting my own clients and coaching them PLUS getting coached myself. All for the bargain price of over $20,000. 

At the end I passed my exam and got my professional coaching certificate. I was all ready to hit the road and create my coaching business when this same company came knocking again… to sell me yet another certification in marketing so I could actually make a business. 

Thankfully I had a marketing background so I didn’t need that certification BUT a few of my classmates took it on. And that marketing certificate led to another certificate, which led to another certificate, which led to another, and on and on it went. 

You get the idea, right? 

I’m glad I got off the certification train when I did, but let me tell you it’s EASY to get sucked into it.

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Certifications Don’t Guarantee More Money

There are entire business models created around making me and you feel like we’re not good enough and we MUST invest in some bogus certification program. 

I know, because I’ve met people who have that business model. And it really makes me frustrated. 

So, why do I tell you that story? 

Well, I want you to see how easy it is to get sucked into the certification game. It’s easy to love learning and want to be your best, but this can lead us to unethical businesses. It’s a way for people to take advantage of that by promising all the answers just through a certification. 

Which leads us to today. 

Today, times are changing faster than ever, especially in the online digital marketing world. And with that change comes uneasiness and a desire to do things right for many people. 

Which leads us to look for teachers, classes and certifications to prove that we are, in fact, doing things right. 

But what’s beneath that is this feeling of not being good enough. 

You see, when I was doing coaching I never had one single client who asked to see my certification certificates. I never had one single client who said “Wow, I’m glad you invested in the PROFESSIONAL certificate instead of the generic certificate.”.  

I don’t think I ever made a single extra dollar from investing over $8,000 more in that professional certificate. 

The same goes for all the other certificates and courses I’ve taken. Because MANY people out there are selling you the idea of a certification — NOT selling you a better way to do business or a better way to serve your clients. 

There’s a big difference. 

Asking the Right Questions

Here’s the thing. We’re indoctrinated to believe this is what we need to do. 

I know I have a degree from the University of Washington in Business Administration and Marketing. But when I graduated from college, the thing that got me my first job wasn’t my degree, it was the internships and volunteering I’d done to get real-life experience. 

I invested all that time and money into a degree, when the volunteering, internships and real-life experience I gained was actually much more valuable. 

I needed to have the guts to actually roll up my sleeves and start doing real work versus learning theory. The results are what mattered, not so much how I got there. 

I’d say the same is even more true today, especially in the online business and digital marketing spaces where things move FAST. 

Before you decide to invest in another course, certificate program or other training, I want you to ask yourself a few really key questions that I ask myself too: 

  1. Instructor Qualifications: Is the instructor (not the company, the actual instructor) transparent about who they are and what their experience is? What current projects are they THEMSELVES doing? When you Google the instructor do they have evidence of their professional experience AND results to back up their expertise? If not, don’t buy. 
  2. Results: Will this certificate or course actually help you serve your customer better? Or is it more to make you feel better about who you are? Tough question, I know but it’s so necessary. 
  3. Return on Investment: Bottom line, will this help you make more money? If not, it’s likely a waste of your time, money and attention. As a business owner, your time and attention are just as important — if not more important — to make sure you spend wisely. You can always make more money, but you can’t get back your wasted time and effort. So invest yourself wisely. 

Often, when I get through asking myself those questions and being honest with myself the answer is NO, I don’t need this training or certification. 

I urge you to really consider this before jumping into the next new, hot or interesting thing. Ask yourself — do you really need that certificate or online course? Or is your time and attention better spent serving your clients and creating your own path to profit and success? 

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