In 2009, HubSpot launched their Inbound Marketing University, a free (re)training program and inbound marketing certification exam designed to help marketing professionals gain new skills and hone existing ones.
The curriculum is one of the most comprehensive introductions to all facets of inbound marketing. In fact, we've implemented the entire curriculum as part of our new hire orientation program. That means all new Slingshotters will become Inbound Marketing Certified within their first month of employment.
To help you obtain the Inbound Marketing Certification with Honors Distinction, I've outlined some advice based on my success in the program.
First, register an account at http://www.inboundmarketing.com/user/register and complete your profile.
Eventually, your certification credentials will live on your profile. For now, be sure to fill out as much information about yourself and upload a photo.
Tip: the bio portion accepts HTML, so be sure to include relevant links. You can see an example of a complete profile here: http://inboundmarketing.com/user/314823
Preparing for the Exam
1. Go through the Training
The training itself will be the most time-intensive aspect of obtaining the Inbound Marketing Certification. While it’s possible for a true expert to take and pass the exam without going through the curriculum, the knowledge contained within the training will be invaluable to any professional who manages or contributes to an online marketing campaign.
The training is comprised of 18 sessions covering a variety of topics – including email, social media, landing page optimization, blogging and SEO – and administered by recognized experts in the field. Each session includes an (approximately) hour-long video and accompanying study materials. Many include case studies pertaining to the topic being discussed in that lesson, as well as homework assignments to put what you learn to the test.
The 18 sessions (as of the publication of this post) are:
- How to Blog Effectively for Business – Ann Handley & Mack Collier, MarketingProfs
- Crash Course in SEO – Brian Whalley, HubSpot
- Social Media & Building Community – Chris Brogan, New Marketing Labs
- Developing a Keyword Strategy – Michael Briggs, Website Publicity
- Viral Marketing & World Wide Raves – David Meerman Scott , New Rules of Marketing & PR
- Advanced SEO Tactics – Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz
- Calls to Action & Landing Page Best Practices – Jeanne Hopkins, HubSpot
- Inbound Lead Nurturing – Brian Carroll, MECLABS, InTouch
- Successful Email Marketing – Eric Groves, Constant Contact
- PR for Inbound Marketing – Todd Defren, SHIFT Communications
- Twitter for Business – Laura Fitton, co-author of Twitter for Dummies
- Advanced Marketing Analytics – Avinash Kaushik, Google, author of Web Analytics 2.0
- Social Media for Big Business – Paula Berg, Southwest Airlines, Linhart PR
- The Science of Social Media – Dan Zarrella, HubSpot and The Facebook Marketing Book
- Enchanting Your Prospects – Guy Kawasaki, AllTop and Enchantment
- Social & Mobile Marketing – Jamie Turner, The 60 Second Marketer
- Internet Marketing Comprehensive Review – Mitch Joel, author of Six Pixels of Separation
- Inbound Marketing Exam Review – Mike Volpe, HubSpot
Chances are, you'll recognize some of those names and organizations. You can "complete" the sessions at your own pace, access them in any order and revisit them as many times as you wish prior to taking the exam. Before tackling the curriculum, ask yourself how best you absorb information. Is it best to complete every session in a chunk, or to space them out to one per week? Either way, don't wait too long to take the exam. You'll want to take the exam while all of the information is fresh in your mind.
2. Take Notes
As you watch each session video, it’s recommended that you take notes. Since the exam is essentially open book, you'll be able to reference your notes as you go along.
3. Familiarize Yourself with HubSpot
Since the Inbound Marketing Certification is administered by HubSpot, it’s worth your while to familiarize yourself with their philosophy on inbound marketing prior to taking the test. The Marketing Tools tab on Inbound Marketing University will connect you to free HubSpot resources like eBooks and white papers. Their blog is also an excellent resource, and being exposed to its vernacular will serve you well while taking the exam.
Taking the Exam
Once you've gone through the training, it's time to take the exam:
The exam is comprised of 50 multiple choice (usually four choices) and true/false questions. Each question has one correct answer (unless specifically stated otherwise) and the test taker has 50 minutes to complete the exam.
1. Set Time Aside
It's important to set aside a full hour to take the exam uninterrupted and in a dedicated environment. Having a reliable Internet connection goes without saying. You might even consider sequestering yourself from family, friends, pets and co-workers. Schedule your exam time in advance and stick to it. Having a goal date in mind will help motivate you and hold you accountable.
2. Pace Yourself
The 50-question exam averages out to one question per minute. It's important to move quickly and not agonize over questions that give you trouble. Answer the easy ones quickly, and take note of the questions you aren't so sure of.
3. Check Your Answers
After answering the 50th question, you’ll have the opportunity to review all of your answers prior to submitting the exam. Review the questions that you were unsure of, and use your remaining time to think through each possible response. Don't hesitate to reference your notes from the training curriculum.
Passing the Exam
In order to receive your Inbound Marketing Certification, you must receive a score of 75% or higher. That amounts to a 37.5/50. To receive Honors Distinction, you'll need a 90% or a 45/50.
If you don't pass, you won't be able to retake the exam for 30 days - plenty of time to revisit the training resources.
If you do pass, you'll be notified by email within a few days. You can check your profile almost immediately to see if the certification badge appears below your profile photo. About a week later, you'll receive a certificate by email.
The certification badge is a nice addition to any personal website, email signature or LinkedIn profile as a sign of your expertise. Even if you don't pass the first time around, don't be discouraged to try again next month. It's worth the time and effort.
Best of luck!