So, a couple of months ago I acquired the HubSpot Inbound Marketing Certification after deciding that it would be useful to learn a bit more about the concepts of inbound. If the world of inbound seems a bit foreign, or you just want to broaden your knowledge, you might be considering doing the same. But how useful is it really? Ultimately, is the HubSpot Inbound Certification worth it?
What is the HubSpot Inbound Certification?
The Inbound Marketing Certification is a free course offered by HubSpot. HubSpot is an inbound marketing and sales company that is famed not only for its software but also for its mastery of content, one of the key components of the inbound approach. If you search for a question related to digital marketing, there’s a good chance that one of HubSpot’s blog posts will be on the first page of the search results.
The certification is essentially a way for HubSpot to share the fundamentals of this successful “inbound” strategy with the world, via 12 classes and around 4.5 hours of video lectures. Incidentally, the fact that they offer it all for free – in return for taking your details – reflects HubSpot’s own philosophy of inbound marketing, particularly when it comes to content offerings and “delighting” customers.
Inbound marketing is an approach that is in stark contrast to traditional marketing: rather than hard-selling to a bunch of people who probably aren’t interested or ready to buy, inbound marketing attracts and helps potential customers (often via content), guiding them through the sales funnel until they become customers. Fundamental to all of this is HubSpot’s Inbound Methodology: “Attract, Convert, Close, Delight”.
- Inbound marketing works. The days of cold-calling and spammy emails are largely over for modern businesses, and inbound should now have an important place within your overall digital strategy. This certification is a great introduction to inbound, with practical advice you can start implementing immediately.
- The content is great. Unsurprisingly for HubSpot, the video lectures and additional resources are really helpful. The content is a fantastic introduction to inbound, lectures are all delivered well, and there’s an appropriate level of detail. Generally, there isn’t much that seems out of place or superfluous.
- The course platform makes it easy to study. If you already know a topic well or you want to make notes, you can speed up or slow down videos. If you need to go offline or want to study at your own pace, slides and transcripts of the lectures can be downloaded. There’s extra reading (all from HubSpot of course) provided for each class if you’re struggling or just interested. Finally, you can test your knowledge via short class quizzes before you take on the main exam.
- It only takes a few hours. The video lectures are around 4.5 hours in total, and the exam takes 75 minutes. With any extra reading, studying and quizzes you do, the whole thing will probably take around 7-10 hours if you pass the first time.
- The certification looks good on your CV. The Inbound Certification is pretty well recognised in the digital marketing industry, and while it probably won’t land you a job at HubSpot it demonstrates at least a basic understanding of inbound marketing. Plus, taking a course in your own free time shows some initiative.
- It’s free! You just need to sign up and give HubSpot some of your details.
- It feels a bit like you’re in a cult. And I’m not the first person to notice this about HubSpot. While I appreciate someone who’s enthusiastic about their subject, the relentless positivity about every single thing feels slightly forced, and it can become irritating at times. And then there’s the extra “quirks” such as “an internet high five”, which are usually unnecessary and often patronising. It doesn’t spoil the content, but it can be annoying if you’re not in the mood.
- EVERYTHING is for the customer’s benefit… supposedly. My main criticism of the content is that every aspect of the inbound methodology is presented as being beneficial to the customer: digital marketers just want to help everyone out. Not only is this an inaccurate representation of what is at its heart still a sales process, but it also depicts savvy shoppers as poor little darlings who need to be shown what’s best for them. Let me be clear: inbound marketing is considerably more beneficial (and enjoyable) for consumers compared to traditional methods. However, some aspects – such as content in return for contact details or HubSpot’s suggested sales process – are still very much designed to increase sales, and may not actually be in the customer’s best interest. But it’s okay to admit that sometimes- that’s just how business works.
- Some things are subjective. There is a fair amount of of debate when it comes to digital marketing strategy, and inbound is no exception. This isn’t really HubSpot’s fault, and in most cases they’ve managed to stick to general best practices. However, there are always going to be differing opinions, and this can be somewhat problematic with a multiple choice assessment (e.g. versus an essay) where there is only one “right” answer. For example, I personally don’t think that the “CTA -> Landing Page -> Thank You Page” process is always appropriate or necessary for every business. Despite this, you have to give the answers that HubSpot probably wants, which can sometimes be a bit unclear even if you understand the processes and methodology fairly well.
- The sales classes feel out of place. Near the end of the course are two classes: “The Power of Smarketing”, about integrating inbound marketing and sales, and “Taking Your Sales Process Inbound”, which discusses personalised “inbound” selling techniques. There’s nothing particularly wrong with these classes, but they don’t concern inbound marketing, and so for many people (e.g. bloggers and agency professionals) they aren’t relevant or useful. Despite this, you have to learn it as you’ll still be tested on the content in the exam. I think it would be a lot more valuable if this content could be moved to and elaborated on in a separate course about applying the inbound methodology to a business.
- It won’t teach you everything. This isn’t a criticism so much as a disclaimer. If you’re already reasonably familiar with inbound marketing then you might not learn a lot of new information, and either way you won’t be an inbound expert as soon as you pass the test. However, it’s an excellent introduction to the concepts, and I think HubSpot have found a pretty good balance between required prior knowledge, level of detail, and the time required to complete the course.
Conclusion: Is the Inbound Certification Worth It?
Ultimately, is the HubSpot Inbound Certification worth it? Yes.
Overall, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to broaden their understanding of inbound or digital marketing in general, particularly considering that it’s free and will only take a few hours of your time. However, it’s worth remembering that the certification won’t suddenly make you an expert in all aspects of inbound marketing, and inbound should only be part of your overall digital marketing strategy.
Note: last updated on 27th August 2016. I guess HubSpot also thought the sales classes deserved their own course: they have now released a free Inbound Sales Certification.