Anyone looking for an MBA program that provides solid training in marketing should seek communication-focused and technically oriented marketing courses, experts in this field suggest.
A common misconception about the marketing sector is the idea that the only competency necessary for success in the industry is eloquence, says Tim Derdenger, an associate professor of marketing and strategy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.
“Marketing is not just about communication,” Derdenger says. “People always … have the misunderstanding that marketing is only about communicating something to consumers.”
While crafting an effective sales pitch is a crucial component of good marketing, he says, it is only one aspect of it. Marketers have a role to play in business discussions about how to design a product that appeals to consumers, and they can contribute to discussions about which types of consumers to target with a product, Derdenger adds.
Marketers may also have ideas about which features of the product to emphasize in advertisements and how to get a product out to consumers, he says.
“All of those things really come back to understanding the product and the business model and doing that most efficiently and profitably for the firm,” Derdenger explains. He adds that marketers need insight into the consumers they are selling to and knowledge of the product they are selling.
What Is a Marketing MBA?
A marketing-focused MBA program sometimes focuses on a specific type of marketing, such as technology marketing or consumer packaged goods marketing, in which case prospective students should ensure that the emphasis of the program aligns with their interests, Derdenger says.
Linda Abraham, founder and CEO of the Accepted admissions consulting firm, cites numerous types of marketing management positions for which a marketing MBA can prepare someone.
“‘Marketing’ is a very broad field,” Abraham wrote in an email. “Brand management, product management, advertising, or strategy, are all part of ‘marketing.'”
She adds that business-to-business marketing is distinct from business-to-consumer marketing. “Furthermore, ‘marketing’ also differs by industry and sometimes sub-sets of industry,” she says. “So luxury goods marketing is different than consumer packaged goods marketing.”
M. Kim Saxton, clinical professor of marketing at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, offers this advice to prospective marketing MBA students: “When considering a business school, consider what part of marketing you’d like to be involved in,” she wrote in an email. “I think it’s fair to say there are four different career paths that’ve evolved in marketing, and they each require different skills.”
According to Saxton, they are:
- Product and brand management. Marketers with this area of expertise focus on creating a product or service that consumers want, and driving up demand for that product or service. “This is where you have generally some type of profit and loss responsibility for a product or a brand, which means you’ll be involved with everything from developing the product and its evolution, building the brand online, sourcing and supply chain, pricing and overall profitability,” Saxton says.
- Lead generation. Experts in this kind of marketing know how to entice consumers who are interested in a company’s products to provide their contact information so that they can be contacted later. “This career is all about getting people to raise their hands and opt in to messaging,” Saxton says.
- Lead nurturing. This type of marketing involves cultivating relationships with potential buyers. “In this career, you’ll need the skills to understand the customer journey and decision-making processes, content creation, promotion and amplification, influencer strategies, blogging, video production, white papers, testimonials and email marketing,” Saxton explains.
- Marketing analytics and insights. Professionals in this marketing discipline investigate what consumers want and why they want it, and they also use data to assess the results of various marketing initiatives. “This career will involve marketing research; database mining; predictive analytics; the use of software like R, Python and SQL; data visualization; metrics and dashboards,” Saxton says.
Saxton notes that the types of MBA courses that are desirable for a particular marketing MBA student depend on what kind of marketing he or she is most interested in. “If you’re not sure which career path you’d like to pursue,” she says, “find a school that lets you take any route.”
Liza Kirkpatrick, managing director of the Career Management Center at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, advises prospective marketing MBA students to look for a program that not only provides the knowledge they need for the job they hope to get immediately after receiving an MBA, but also gives them skills they can use later in their career.
“There is no ‘one size fits all’ on the type of MBA marketing classes you should take,” she says. “Depending on the industry and/or the role within marketing, we encourage you to pursue industry-specific courses or specialty pathways in order to prepare to be a cross-functional leader.”
Signs of a Top-Notch Marketing MBA Program
Because of the complexity of the marketing profession and the nuances involved in excellent marketing, a comprehensive marketing MBA program includes a wide range of courses, according to experts.
For instance, Derdenger says aspiring marketing executives should seek B-schools with classes on technology strategy, new business models, product pricing and economics. It’s also valuable, he says, to have coursework in business analytics, so that students can learn the quantitative skills they need to understand consumer behaviors and gauge consumers’ preferences.
Abraham says prospective marketing MBA students should ask themselves the following question about each program they are considering: “Does the program teach what you want to learn in the way you want to learn it?” They should also inquire about the program’s marketing placement statistics and see whether the B-school’s marketing MBA recipients tend to get the same types of jobs they hope to get, she says.
“Strong placement in marketing functions and at companies known for their marketing would be the best indicator that the school provides great preparation for a career in marketing,” Abraham says.
She adds that extracurricular activities are another important factor to consider, since it’s helpful if a business school offers career-relevant clubs, treks and competitions.
Another consideration, she says, is the location of the MBA program and whether that place is somewhere that offers abundant marketing internships and networking opportunities, such as New York City, Seattle or Paris. If a school is not in a region with plentiful marketing career options, it’s important to inquire about whether the school takes students on trips to those areas, Abraham says.
Derdenger suggests that the availability of a formal MBA concentration in marketing may be important to prospective MBA students who do not have prior marketing work experience, since pursuing one of these MBA majors allows them to signal to employers their expertise and interest in marketing.
“It really depends upon one’s background,” he says, adding that if an MBA hopeful already has marketing work experience, a specialization is less valuable for that person than it may be for someone who lacks that experience.
Jenna Hess, a Chicago-based professional career coach and a former associate director of employer development at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, notes that it’s worthwhile to see if many of a B-school’s alumni are working as chief marketing officers or chief brand officers. It’s also helpful, she says, to investigate the proportion of marketing alumni who work in various industries, such as the retail and tech sectors, and who specialize in different types of marketing such as digital marketing and brand marketing.
“The essential things to consider when researching business schools for a marketing career are the volume and type of companies recruiting their students for marketing roles, and the strength of their marketing alumni network,” Hess says. “MBA schools publish employment reports that include the number and percent of students with internships and full-time roles in marketing, their median compensation, and often the specific companies that recruit their students.”
Saxton recommends that aspiring marketing MBAs research whether a business school offers opportunities to meet working marketing professionals or if the school provides other marketing-related career exploration programs.
“You’ll also want to make sure that any business school you choose to attend offers hands-on learning opportunities,” she adds. “If an MBA program gives hands-on experiences like consulting projects, this will adequately prepare you for the real world – and will allow you to show that you’ve successfully marketed something.”