10 questions with my Marketing Tutor - Dave Thackeray's Guest Blog - Part 2

Published: 30 September 2014

A CIM Marketing Student Journey

As CIM Level 6 Diploma in Professional Marketing student Dave Thackeray prepares for his first two-day workshop in Manchester with Professional Academy tutor Carol Laing, he quizzes the marketing expert on what to expect from it and the course at large...

I'm right in the middle of a holiday. I don't say this to induce jealousy but simply to show how obsessive I have become about boosting my career prospects since discovering this CIM Level 6 Diploma in Professional Marketing.

It's still early days but I'm already counting down the weeks to the first assessment. December 2. It's like Christmas only horrendously scary. I haven't been in a proper studying environment for years and if it wasn't for the promise of these two-day workshops offered by Professional Academy to help you make the grade, I'd probably have buckled or simply found solace at the bottom of a big bottle of bubbles.

I'm really excited about the first one. If you read my first blog post (if not, congratulations on having good taste) you'll know I'm working on the Strategic Marketing module. And figuratively taking my hand by hosting this and all Manchester's double-day workshops (which conveniently fall on a Friday and Saturday or Sunday and Monday to keep the boss sweet) is Carol Laing.

I've not met Carol yet but doubtless if you're doing the course you want to get 'the skinny' on what's going through your tutor's mind. So I asked her a few questions to get the measure of what makes Carol such a great marketing mentor...

Getting in the Swing of things with Carol LaingDAVE: Give us an idea of the kind of people who sign up for a marketing course with CIM and Professional Academy:

CAROL: It runs the gamut - we see those coming straight out of college or university who have only heard of marketing and fancy it as a potential career path, right through to those who have worked in marketing for many years and are looking to keep their knowledge fresh and maybe fill in some skills gaps.

D: Sometimes you look at courses and wonder whether there’s more in it for the providers than the students. What makes CIM courses any different?

C: CIM courses delivered through Professional Academy, have always been professionally applicable from day one. Knowledge gained via reading, interaction with peers and tutors alongside the assignments (or examinations) will, when applied to your chosen profession, help to make you a better marketer. CIM courses have been created to develop marketers to their full potential, and we do our best to help with that development.  

D: I was initially a bit sceptical about doing this course because I thought I couldn’t fit it in alongside a demanding full-time job. Convince me otherwise.

C: I won’t lie - it takes a lot of hard work and commitment to complete the CIM courses but it’s worthwhile. I’ve developed so much since I completed the postgraduate diploma and have certainly extended my career as a result.  The kudos and the respect that you acquire through the qualification makes it all worthwhile. Since becoming a ‘dippy mare’ (as one of my friends affectionately calls my DipM status), I haven’t looked back.  These courses enhance your demanding full time job and make you look differently at all aspects of marketing, some of which you may not have thought of before.  It’s also possible to attend the Professional Academy workshops in an evening after work, so there’s no disruption to your working day.

D: As a tutor, how much work is involved for you in helping us students achieve greatness with Professional Academy?

C: There is a lot of work involved if, like me, you are serious about giving everything in your power to your students to help them achieve their qualifications.  I personally get an absolute buzz out of seeing my students learn and develop.  It’s amazing when the ‘penny drops’ at some point during the workshop. I can be presenting real life examples of a theory when suddenly someone will say: “Yes! I get it!” which gives me such a rush.  That’s why I now teach part time, it’s so rewarding.  I am a full time marketing consultant but my teaching with the Professional Academy is what gives me the buzz; l love to share my 30 odd years in business and marketing with my students.

D: What’s the greatest success story you can remember of a past student after finishing one of your courses with the Professional Academy:

C: There are two. A past student from Jersey (Joe McKenna) is a senior project manager at a prominent market research company in the UK & Channel Islands (4Insight) and has also returned to us as one of our most well respected tutors on the island.

And Kathryn, a young lady from my workshops has recently become Regional Fundraising Manager for a large North West charity – as a direct result of taking her CIM qualifications. She has just passed her first module. Kathryn is a natural marketer and has taken to studying really well.  She has thrived in the short time I have known her – and that’s what studying for the CIM qualifications does!

I am of course a past student of the CIM and my story could also highlight the success of doing such qualifications.  I left school at 16 with just one O Level (as they were in my day). I started work with an insurance company and realised very quickly that qualifications were good to have so  I started by taking my insurance examinations, then when I got a job as a marketing assistant progressed to the CIM qualifications. I then got myself a job with GE as a marketing manager where I set up a marketing function and progressed to European Marketing Manager. I set up my own marketing agency in 2002 and can hand on heart say that I wouldn’t be where I am today but for the CIM Diploma.

D: Give me a couple of study tips to help me make the most of my time and give me the best chance of succeeding first time...

C: Be committed; be well prepared (plan your study time, do your research, open your eyes to the marketing and business world around you); listen and make good notes in the workshops; participate fully in the activities during the workshop and do any homework he/she sets you – it will really help you!

D: I’ve heard Professional Academy guarantee you’ll pass the course. That sounds too good to be true. What’s the catch?

C: There really is no catch, there are Ts and Cs of course but those are based around one solid principle – if you work as hard as you can and do what you feel is the best of your ability to pass the course, the Professional Academy will back you to pass the qualification at no extra cost to you (in regards to Professional Academy, there are CIM resubmit and membership fees out of our control) whether this means you need some extra assistance, to attend another workshop or just need another crack at the exam we are happy to help. That being said those students who use all the tutor support, attend workshops and fully use all the resources rarely need to take advantage of this but we know life can sometimes throw an unexpected spanner in the works from time to time.

D: Is digital marketing as important as some people say?

C: You only have to look around you when you are on the train, in a bar or even in a restaurant: everyone is online, whether checking messages, using social media, or shopping. if we marketers don’t keep up to date with it then we are likely to get left behind. Simple things like making sure you have a website that is mobile-friendly is a must. I also think it is getting slightly out of hand with lots of companies wanting to ‘go digital’.  Many of our clients have gone down this route with varied degrees of success.  The key to going digital is to have a digital marketing strategy, which many companies just don’t have. Digital marketing should enhance, and be closely aligned with, other marketing activities and not stand alone.

D: What current marketing trends excite you most?

C: I think the trend towards customer experience marketing is really exciting, as it looks like it’s bringing back good old fashioned marketing approaches and focusing on the customer again. The use of customer data and personal interaction with customers really appeals to me – maybe that’s because I’m an old fashioned marketer! The other trend is the new attitude towards market research. There seems to be a trend towards calling it marketing insight or market insight, which is exciting. Research is such an old fashioned word and it to me it says ‘researching, investigating, looking into’, whereas in actual fact it is so much more than that. Insight is such a good word – so yes, I’m excited about how that develops.

D: Describe the future of marketing from your perspective in 75 words.

C: Marketing is an exciting industry to be in.  The use of digital and social media is fantastic and incredibly successful in certain industries – it’s just so powerful. CIM qualifications are also helping to give recognition to marketers as serious business professionals. In the past there has been a tendency to see marketing as the ‘mugs and pens’ department – this is definitely changing.


Dave Thackeray Documents his CIM Student JourneyFormer journalist, editor and company owner Dave is now the web and social media officer at WLCT, a charity operating leisure services for councils. After years making his way through the marketing maze he decided to go back to basics and learn how to do it properly with Professional Academy and CIM. Follow his progress on this blog and feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter to ask about his experiences. 

If you would like to Join Dave on a CIM Marketing Qualification Course you can contact Professional Academy for some advice or Download a copy of the Marketing Prospectus today

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Digital Marketing Advice - How can my business best use Twitter?

Published: 23 September 2014

How can my business best use twitter?

Twitter is a platform for which we receive a huge amount of questions about when we run Social Media Marketing workshops. For some businesses it is an unknown entity, and for others it is time consuming and yields little or no results. Some are using this platform but have received a backlash about how it is being managed, from the general public. Whether your company falls into one of these situations or you have a different barrier to successful Twitter use, the platform can indeed be a tricky one to master.

So what simple things can you bear in mind when using Twitter from a business perspective ?


Twitter the new home of Customer Service1 – Customer Service

The primary reason why people contact a company on Twitter is to complain - a quick 140 character rant about why your company has disappointed them as a consumer of your product or service. If you are not monitoring Twitter these tweets can fester and in the worst case they can go viral, so treat Twitter as any other form of customer service and respond as quickly as possible. The rule used to be 24 hours in Customer service, but with Twitter 1 hour is the longest you can really leave a tweet out there without a response.

There is also a positive side to the customer service element in that people will say nice things as well - whether it is a picture and post from a restaurant saying “@yourbrand just served me an excellent meal – Look at this picture” or “Speaking to @yourbrand on the phone today was painless – [employee name] was so nice it was wonderful”. These are things that can be retweeted, shared and used to promote your company for the positive responses from customers.


Quality content will be shared2 – Content Sharing & Conversations

Twitter is a great place to share content and comments on other people's content. Many experts will share blogs, articles and tit-bits of their own knowledge via Twitter – You may have even discovered this blog via Twitter.

The joy of sharing content online is that if it is of a high enough quality other people may re-share the content via retweets and favourites extending the reach of the original post.

You can also build some great content sharing relationships on Twitter with other companies, experts or even customers by having public conversations about certain topics relating to your company’s area of expertise. These conversations will once again raise exposure and show you are not just a programmed update machine but an active, contributing user on the platform.  


Nothing wrong with a classic bulletin board3 – Bulletin Posts

There is nothing wrong, however, with keeping people in the loop with short, sharp and snappy bulletin posts along the lines of “This week we will be at [insert event here] come and join us” or “For one week only [insert special promo]".

You can even let people into the background of your company, celebrations of company anniversaries, staff achievements or some facts about your company as long as people would actually find them interesting. Twitter is, after all, a place where people come to be entertained and informed 140 Characters at a time.   


Your staff can be your best ambassadors 4 – Use the people in your company as spokespeople

Real people can sometimes carry more weight than a company on Twitter so using your team as formal or informal spokespeople can be great. We would however, recommend a social media code of conduct.  If an employee is a prolific personal tweeter, adding a “These views are my own and not that of my employer” may be worth it to prevent company embarrassment or the need for disciplinary action.

These real people can talk about the things they do in the company, personal projects and build online relationships with customers they speak to on a day to day basis as well as promoting and sharing company content.

It is easier to build a relationship with a person than a brand so always bear in mind the human element when creating a Twitter strategy.


No one wants to be sold to on twitter5 – By not using it to “Market” yourself or your product

“Marketing” and “Advertising” on Twitter can sometimes be ill-received by the users. Large brands have sometimes received rather negative responses (especially with the Twitter Ads popping up in “targeted feeds”) No one really wants to be sold to on Twitter - as stated previously, people use the platform to be entertained and informed.

Look at Twitter as more of an inbound marketing exercise than outbound. Like fishing, you bait the hook and wait to see who bites. If your content is strong with links back to your website there should be plenty of opportunities to convert the lead into a customer once they are better acquainted with your business.


Don't be the next Marketing #fail6 – By taking a step back and thinking “Does my company really have something to say here?”

One of the big mistakes that can be made by companies is jumping on the bandwagon with a popular #Hashtag to gain further exposure even if the company has no real relevance to the topic.

Recently Comedian John Oliver used his satirical news show as a chance to warn corporations away from hashtags (find a great article and link to the video here) where he made some valid points and shared some NSFW examples of companies jumping on a hashtag inappropriately. Our advice would be quiet simple - if the hashtag does not directly relate to your company or something your company would have a valid opinion on please avoid, it’s just not worth it.

Also if you create a hashtag, always get someone to double check it before you go live or else this could happen….

#susanalbumparty on twitter #fail

If you’d like to amuse yourself whilst learning about more Hashtag fails there is a great article from thesempost.com with some truly terrible Twitter choices on display.

So there you have some simple non-technical tips to bear in mind when using Twitter for your business.


If you would like to develop your digital knowledge looking at topics from Social Media to SEO then you may want to look at the CAM Diploma in Digital Marketing. You can download a Digital Marketing Prospectus or contact Professional Academy for some advice on the right course for you at any time. 

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Sales Advice Blog – Why objections are a good thing!

Published: 16 September 2014

No can be a good thing

In the world of sales the word No can often be a demoralising and hard word to swallow. It can cause nightmares at every level, from front line tele-sales to key account mangers but should sales people really be scared to hear the word “No”? At Professional Academy we don’t think so - in fact we believe the opposite. No is good, no is positive, and no is the opportunity all sales people should look to that will allow them to flex their “negotiation muscles”. No is potentially the best word you can hear on the phone secondary to yes.

The “No” response doesn’t have to be a definitive “No thank you” as it can be a “but” or something similar but what we are addressing here is the objection and how this can open a whole new level in a potential sale.

So what are the positives of what initially seems so negative?

Identify the problemIdentify and address the potential issues

This is probably the best thing about an objection - finding out what the issue could be. Is it price? Could it be service or delivery? Is it a logistical problem or just a general concern? Once you are both aware of the potential problem it can be addressed instead of lingering in the background causing an issue further down the line in negotiations, or worse, post-sale.


Explore the optionsExplore the issues and find potential solutions

After the issue has been found the next logical step is to explore the problem, investigate and put all of the information out on the table to discuss it freely and openly. Honesty is always a good thing. With honesty in mind it is worth remembering that there is no shame in saying “sorry I don’t know the answer to that right now but can we come back to that point later?” instead of agreeing to something you may find out at a later stage, was wrong.

Show your strengths

Show off your strengths

Flex your subtle bragging muscles by addressing the issues whilst at the same time highlighting the areas where your product or service is strongest. The fact you are addressing the objection in the first place is a strength and shows your ability to work with the client in overcoming issues not only now but post-sale within the post-sale relationship.



Fix the problemFix the potential issue….together

Hopefully by this stage there should be a few options on the table for the client to discuss with you. After further investigation into the options you should be able to reach a mutual conclusion allaying the customer’s fears and allowing the negotiation process to continue.



Respond to body language and toneRespond to those all-important signals

The entire objection experience should give you a good gauge of the overall sales negotiation so far. If the body language or tone of the conversation has changed during the exchange this may allow you to be more bold and push on to close the sale - alternatively it could highlight the need to err on the side of caution, implement a softer approach or maybe the need to reschedule for a time when you can have a follow up meeting to present the solutions to potential issues after investigation.

In summary you can do a lot with a no, and it doesn’t have to be the end of the conversation - in fact the ensuing back and forth could tell you more about your customer and allow for not only a better sales negotiation but a stronger relationship post sale.


For those interested in more detailed information on handling objections and closing sales, this subject is a key component of the ISMM Level 3 qualification in Sales & Marketing delivered by Professional Academy.

Feel free to contact our advisors about this qualification today or download a copy of the Professional Academy Sales Prospectus which includes breakdowns of all available ISMM qualifications

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Marketing Guest Blog - The Importance of Segmenting a Market

Published: 11 September 2014

Segmentation - Like an orange

In a world of ‘big data’, where data mining is done by laptops rather than giant boreing machines and data warehousing is stored in smaller spaces than an Argos catalogue content, the importance of extracting information for understanding target markets has never been more prevalent. Yet some organisations still don’t collate or use the gold dust that is right in front of them in terms of customer details.

Why is this so important? Well if you’ve ever been in a supermarket without a shopping list and spent twice as much as you thought you would you may understand my meaning. If not, read on…

Supermarket Sweep

Supermarket Sweep

Not defining your target market (i.e. creating a shopping list of all the criteria that makes up the perfect customer) means that you are effectively targeting everyone you possibly can, meaning you are spending a lot of money trying to reach consumers who, for all the best will in the world, will never be interested in what you are selling. Basically, you enter a supermarket just for milk and come out with cheese, bread, sun tan lotion and a bbq set (which you don't really need).

Segmenting the target market

Segmenting a Target Market

There are a number of ways to segment a target market and it is very much dependent on what you are selling and what you need to know about your customer base. For example in a butchers shop the likelihood is that you would be interested to find out who is a vegetarian and who eats meat, but if you are selling books then this probably isn’t very relevant at all.

So how do you segment your market? This can be done in three different ways:

  • Demographics

Demographics cover a wide range of distinguishing factors that facilitate categorising a population by the similarities between each individual (a little like a census). Gender, age, employee status, marital status and even geographical location can be quantified in order to segment a market that express similar characteristics.

Example: If you were running a school or nursery you would benefit from knowing which household has children and their age.

  • Behavioural

Why consumers behave in a specific way helps to understand what is important to them and why they show such behaviour.

Example: Consider a leisure facility. Knowing and understanding the different customer habits will allow them to target marketing activity more effectively (i.e. someone only using the swimming pool would be interested in knowing when the pool timetable changes whereas this would not be of interest to someone who only uses the gymnasium).

  • Psychographics

Probably the hardest to quantify of the three, psychographics provides a deeper understanding into consumer values, attitudes and lifestyles (VALs). The potential questioning here is almost endless and requires a level of knowing exactly what you want to understand or need to know. Understanding why consumers buy a particular product or service over another is a powerful asset that cannot be underestimated.

Example: If you sell musical instruments it would be beneficial to understand the VALs of consumers, are they interested in learning and what type of music do they listen to and why? If everyone that comes into the store has distaste for classical tones, then playing Bach’s Toccata And Fugue In D Minor in store would not create the right ambiance.


Businesses BusinessA Businesses Business

In the same way market segmentation is used in the business to consumer world, it can also be utilised in the business to business domain, it is just a slightly different list of variables being used to compile a database of businesses. Instead of focusing on age and gender, these statitics are replaced with business size, usage rates, industry type and product useage.


Ready Aim FireReady, Aim, Fire!

Once you are in a position to start to communicate effectively with your segmented market, then the efficiencies in both time and monetary savings will be apparent.

Remember, it is all about understanding the who, what, why, where and when. Positioning yourself as the organisation that provides what your target market is looking for in a way they are happy to consume it. In defining your target market you will be more efficient and effective in your marketing communications, gaining a greater ROI.

So next time you end up holding a host of unwanted toiletries waiting to pay, just think, if you had written a shopping list then you would have segmented the supermarket into the items you are specifically targeting saving you a fortune on unrequired toilet roll!

Remember, every little helps!

This blog was created by Pete Sumpton the very knowledgable Marketing Director for moocreations and a Digital Marketing Communications Tutor for Professional Academy. For more of his insights in to the world of Digital Marketing Communications follow moocreations on Twitter or download a prospectus for a Digital Marketing or Marketing Communications Qualification accredited by the CIM's CAM Foundation!


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Extend your knowledge with the new CMI Extended Management & Leadership Diplomas.

Published: 09 September 2014

CMI Extended Diploma

CMI recently updated their Management & Leadership qualifications to provide a brand new additional level of qualification for those wishing to develop past the point of the standard management and leadership course.

The new extended diploma has created a series of positives across the board for CMI students.

  • Increased flexibility

The updated syllabus offers a new level of flexibility for those studying at a Diploma level. CMI Level 5 Diploma and CMI Level 7 Diploma students will be able to select the 6 units most appropriate to their job role giving diploma students the flexibility of choice. Extended Diploma students will be able to achieve this level by completing all 9 modules offered by Professional Academy which cover the broad range of management & leadership training.

  • Updated unit content

With any syllabus update there is always the added advantage of updated content. As we all know the main fundamentals of strong business practice can be set in stone for decades but business itself is fluid meaning that any management training should keep up with the times. A syllabus change on this scale allows the CMI and Professional Academy a chance to review reading, study materials and course content to deliver the most up to date and relevant qualification available.

  • Time to completion

With this structural change there have also been some changes to time periods of the qualification. It will now take just 9 to 12 months to complete the CMI Diploma and 12 to 18 months to complete the Extended Diploma. This time period has been constructed with your day to day work schedule in mind but if this time period needs to be changed Professional Academy will support you on your studies for up to 2 years as standard.

  • Fully covered by the Professional Academy Pass Guarantee

As a Professional Academy qualification, the Diploma and Extended Management & Leadership qualifications are covered by our 100% Pass Guarantee. We believe that all of our students have the ability to achieve their desired qualification and as such will be supported as much as is needed to help make the qualification a reality.

To celebrate the launch of the new CMI Diploma – This September Professional Academy are offering the Extended Diploma for the price of the standard diploma! That’s right – you can receive Nine units and all study materials for the price of Six if you sign up before the 30th of September!

If you would like some more information on the September offer you can contact us today or download a copy of the Management prospectus for more information on the options available to you.  

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