The following is an exclusive excerpt from Paul Roetzer's new book, The Marketing Performance Blueprint: Strategies and Technologies to Build and Measure Business Success (Wiley).

As demand for performance-driven, digital-savvy marketing talent rises, universities are struggling to prepare students for the reality of a rapidly changing industry. Courses in analytics, automation, content, email, mobile, social, and other critical areas are rarely deeply integrated into marketing programs.

Rather than relying on undergraduate and graduate programs, businesses can tap into the wealth of content and experts available online to build their own internal academies and modern marketing teams.

Universities still play an instrumental role in preparing students for professional marketing careers, but for the foreseeable future, businesses must take the initiative to mold their own modern marketers.

High-performing companies find candidates at all levels with the necessary core competencies and traits (strong writing abilities, detail-oriented, analytical, strategic, curious, intrinsically motivated); they then train their employees through a blend of internal and external resources, and immerse them in marketing technology and strategy.

Only 28% of large enterprises plan to introduce formal training programs to improve digital marketing skills, according to the Online Marketing Institute; so the opportunity exists for businesses, large and small, to create a competitive advantage through talent.

Whether you are constructing a new marketing team from scratch, or enhancing the skills and capabilities of your current staff, consider the following 11 steps when building your internal marketing academy. For large-scale programs, you can implement enterprise-level learning management systems, but most organizations can run effective initiatives with spreadsheets, email, and project management software.

Step 1: Appoint an academy leader

Install an academy leader who will champion the program with internal stakeholders and function as the project manager to facilitate all planning and activation. In large enterprises, this is likely a Human Resources function; in SMBs, look for a team member who understands the significance of digital transformation to the organization and wants to play an integral role in moving your marketing forward.

Step 2: Define academy goals

The academy must have clear goals to win executive support and employee buy-in. Start with the "why": Why are you creating an internal academy? How do academy goals tie to the overall marketing strategy, and how do they support achievement of business and personal career goals?

Only 4% of companies studied ensured their training efforts were aligned with overall digital strategy, according to Capgemini Consulting's The Digital Talent Gap: Developing Skills for Today's Digital Organizations. Do not make the same mistake as the vast majority.

For example, if your business has strong brand awareness and so excels at driving website traffic and building reach, yet it struggles at all aspects of lead generation and nurturing, then one academy goal may be to enhance lead-generation skills and technology usage. You can measure improvement by establishing benchmarks in an up-front skills assessment.

Step 3: Conduct a skills assessment

Once you have identified the skills critical for marketing success, develop an assessment to rate your current and future marketers. An overall team rating is a good starting point, but you will want to perform assessments at an individual level to identify team members' strengths and weaknesses—helping to guide the curriculum and construct personalized development plans.

Assessments also assist in determining the need for outsourced services from agencies and consultants. For example, if you have an outside agency that handles all your coding and mobile, and you have no intention of bringing those skills in-house, then those areas will not be high priority when you build your curriculum.

Step 4: Build the curriculum

Use a mix of internal training and exercises, combined with third-party resources, to compile your academy curriculum. You can easily manage recommended and required coursework through a Google Sheet or Excel file, allowing your academy leader to monitor progress at an individual professional level while seeing the big picture of how the team is developing as a whole.

Potential curriculum components include online courses, industry certifications, conferences, books, webinars, internal topic experts, guest lecturers, and knowledge transfer via internal source networks.

Step 5: Map standard paths

Once you have conducted the skills assessment and built the academy curriculum, it is time to map learning paths—featuring a collection of tracks and courses with associated timelines. Common ways to structure paths are by career stage, skill set, and performance goals. For example:

  • Foundations track: Ideal for onboarding new marketers and outside partners, a foundations track may offer courses in digital marketing principles, proprietary processes, core technologies, business and industry fundamentals, historical marketing performance, marketing strategy, and priority certifications.
  • Analytics track: Marketers must be able to turn data into intelligence, intelligence into actions, and actions into outcomes. An analytics track could feature advanced Google Analytics training and a collection of ongoing internal workshops.
  • Lead generation track: Marketers are taking on greater responsibility for lead generation and lead quality. A lead generation track may include an introduction to marketing automation, content strategy, social selling, analytics basics, sales integration, and website management.

Step 6: Personalize individual assessment plans
Standard paths lay the framework, but personalized advancement plans optimize the learning experience. Individual plans take into account strengths and weaknesses identified in the skills assessment, roles and responsibilities, career paths, performance goals, and unique learning styles.

Modern marketing talent may be your greatest asset and competitive advantage. Take the time to tailor the approach on an individual professional level.

Step 7: Establish a feedback loop

Encourage your team to share concerns, questions, and ideas. Use surveys and open forums to gain valuable feedback on the curriculum, and constantly look for ways to improve the academy, increase engagement, and drive performance.

Step 8: Develop support systems

Consider adding a mentor program to nurture professionals along their designated learning paths.

For entry-level professionals, adjusting to the real-world pace, along with managing ongoing education requirements, can be daunting. Mentors help to ease the transition and provide much needed guidance as they adapt. The same can be true of traditional marketers who are faced with the choice of evolution or obsolescence. Mentors can serve as confidants, supporters, and companions to keep teammates motivated and focused.

Group learning is another great way to provide support systems for team members going through the same training and certifications. For example, form an internal marketing book club to read and discuss a new marketing or business book each month.

Step 9: Automate management emails

Schedule regular emails to remind professionals of training milestones, and provide recommended resources to continually advance their knowledge and capabilities. At
PR 20/20, we use our marketing automation software to streamline the process. For example, when a new employee is hired, we activate an automated email workflow that sends prewritten messages at regular intervals. Each email contains upcoming training milestone reminders, along with relevant resources.

Step 10: Create a measurement and recognition system

Everyone loves to see and feel progress. Points and badges are common ways to measure and recognize achievements as your team advances through the academy. Consider assigning standard point values to each activity in your curriculum. Points can be used to set professional development goals, monitor individual efforts, and compare individuals against their peers.

Step 11: Conduct performance reviews

Internal academies, like marketing campaigns, must produce an ROI. Integrate professional development efforts into employee performance reviews, and, ideally, tie professional development to career advancement and compensation. The skills assessment in Step 3 establishes competency benchmarks, and the point system from Step 10 provides a quantifiable means to measure and monitor progress.

Move your marketing forward

What is your organization doing to build a modern marketing team, and differentiate through talent?

Enter your email address to continue reading

11 Steps to Build an Internal Marketing Academy

Don't's free!

Already a member? Sign in now.

Sign in with your preferred account, below.

Did you like this article?
Know someone who would enjoy it too? Share with your friends, free of charge, no sign up required! Simply share this link, and they will get instant access…
  • Copy Link

  • Email

  • Twitter

  • Facebook

  • Pinterest

  • Linkedin


image of Paul Roetzer

Paul Roetzer is the founder and CEO of Marketing AI Institute and founder of Ready North (formerly PR 20/20), HubSpot's first partner agency. He's the author of Marketing Artificial Intelligence and the creator of the Marketing AI Conference (MAICON). Paul is focused on making AI approachable and actionable for marketers and business leaders.