Apr 16, 2018

How to Market & Sell Professional Certifications

by Digital Marketing Institute

A study from Pew Research suggests, 55% of full or part-time workers participate in work or career learning to maintain or enhance their professional skills.

Now while the demand is there, and it may seem simple to market and sell professional certifications, or any product for that matter, doing so successfully takes time and effort.

Following the initial phase of research in which your institution has identified personas, viable promotional channels, campaign keywords, and developed an engaging product page, comes the next phase - a stage of the journey that can prove more challenging to execute.

In this article, we look at how to plan a campaign through to execution followed by lead nurturing and measurement refinement right through to establishing a successful marketing and sales campaign.

Campaign Planning

Campaign Planning

To ensure a digital marketing campaign offers the level of value that connects with your target audience and inspires them to engage, planning and preparation are essential.

To plan a marketing campaign successfully, the RACE model to help visualize the typical buyer journey:

Reach: This is the exploration stage of the buyer journey. Here you should publish, promote and share content via marketing channels such as a blog or social media channels to draw people to content.

Act: Often executed at the decision-making stage of the buyer journey, a blog, website and other online communities can help to identify customer journeys to help tailor content that generates leads.

Convert: The conversion or purchasing stage of the journey requires a focus on e-commerce process, product promotion, course pricing, marketing automation and retargeting efforts to close the deal and in time, boost customer retention rates.

Engage: After the purchasing journey comes advocacy. As today's consumers trust the values, opinions, and testimonials of their peers more than adverts, customer advocacy is essential to the success of any brand. In fact, swiftly answering a social media complaint increases customer advocacy by as much as 25%.

Once a campaign is outlined using the RACE model, outcomes should be evaluated and the marketing plan aligned with sales objectives, so they work together to nurture and convert leads.

Campaign Execution

As mentioned, there are several elements to executing a marketing campaign.

First of all, to build awareness, provide true value and showcase educational authority, it’s key to build relevant written and visual content that speaks to a target audience.


For the top of the funnel, it's best to focus on blogs/articles that will answer questions and solve the problems of your audience. High value gated content such as eBooks, best practice guides, webinars, videos, whitepapers and original research will also prove incredibly valuable assets.

Take the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for example. Not only does the institution have a beautifully-designed easy to navigate website, but its unique content published on Medium and campaigns including The Power of AND, ranks it in the top 5 of the Top Public Schools in Mid-Western America.

Once you've planned and produced the kind of content that you feel will resonate with prospective students, the next step is to tailor each asset to your primary promotional platforms. These may include:

  • Google Adwords (PPC marketing) and GDN - paid marketing.
  • LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat Pinterest, etc. - social networks for advertising and content distribution or amplification.


In addition to tried and tested content marketing platforms and disciplines, email is still a valuable and potent marketing channel. In fact, as one of the oldest and best-performing promotional channels, senders are 6 times more likely to get a click-through email than from a tweet. And there are many elements that dictate the success of marketing emails.

Once an individual has converted, there should be a focus on retargeting. A sustainable means of turning your customers into brand advocates, retargeting encourages repeat enrollment and boosts referral rates.

  • One in five marketers has a dedicated budget for retargeting.
  • Retargeting can boost ad response up to 400%.
  • 46% of search engine marketing professionals believe retargeting is the most underused online marketing proficiencies.
  • Retargeting sees 50 to 60% higher conversion rates among consumers.

From these insights alone, it’s plain to see the value of retargeting and its essential role in the buyer journey. By retargeting consumers based on website visits or through databases, and using Google Adwords and social media channels, your institution is likely to see a noticeable boost in engagement and conversion rates.

Lead nurturing

Obtaining valuable leads takes a great deal of investment regarding both time and budget - so making sure they are nurtured is essential.

To ensure leads convert, you should only send them to sales once they are qualified, working together to make clear-cut definitions between what qualifies as an SQL and what qualifies as an MQL.

To communicate this throughout the business, all lead-based information and activity should be documented in the CRM for tracking and clarity at each stage of the journey.

There are several ways you can nurture a lead, and here are the most effective of them all are targeted content with leads nurtured with content boosting sales opportunities by more than 20%.

While many marketers feel that delivering the right content to the right people at the right time is a major challenge, consulting personas and conducting consumer research based on leads, will help to inform blogs, social media posts, emails and video that resonates with the relationships you’re looking to nurture.

Studies suggest that prospects receive around 10 touches from the time they enter the top of the funnel until they’re converted. Work to ensure your content is varied, multi-tiered and relevant to each stage of the journey and you will stand a far greater chance of closing in on your leads.


Lead nurturing

Subtle persistence is an integral part of the lead nurturing process. By providing timely follow-ups and acting quickly to communicate with a lead, your odds of a lead entering the sales process, or becoming qualified, are 21 times higher if you contact them within five minutes, as opposed to 30 minutes after an inbound lead converts on your website.

By using your wealth of insights and data on a lead to your advantage, a timely, well-researched call or email can prove incredibly effective. And as personalized emails generate up to six times more revenue per email than non-personalized email, this is an avenue worth exploring.


In all digital marketing proficiencies, measuring your success is essential to development and growth - the lead nurturing process is no exception.

Some crucial metrics to track on CRM or platforms including Google Analytics and various social media platforms include:

  • Lead nurturing budgets
  • Website performance
  • Traffic (new versus repeat; organic versus paid)
  • Leads (CPL, number of leads)
  • Customers (Customer Acquisition Cost)
  • Content (views, shares and downloads)

By tracking each of these metrics, you will quickly be able to identify what efforts are working and which areas require improvement. As a result, you'll be able to evolve your lead nurturing process, converting more educational prospects and developing your offerings over time.

Working professionals across the world over are looking to improve their skills and prospects through professional certifications. By understanding how to market certifications to engage and inspire potential prospects, your institution will be able to increase brand awareness and drive enrollments.

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