The Web Site Marketing Group

Why Certification of Internet Marketers Matters

By Mike Freedman, CeM, CIMBS

It is often difficult for non-specialists to recognize competency in new and emerging professional disciplines. The development of fair and equitable systems of recognizing competency is often a key step in the growth and evolution of a professional specialization.

Internet marketing is a relatively new profession. The first Internet banner ad was displayed in Hotwired.com in 1994, but the growth of the industry became nothing short of frantic with the Internet boom that started with the Netscape IPO in August of 1995. An explosion of educational and training opportunities could not keep pace with the hiring pace created by the Internet bubble.

There has been a substantial decline in Internet marketing employment opportunities since the bubble burst. At the same time, Internet marketing is increasingly adopting more stable and sustainable management practices and utilizing more advanced and more complex technologies.

Only "Internet Services" is now broken out with its own NAICS (previously known as SICs) Code 7374-15 - there is no separate industry code for e-marketing. But according to the eMarketing Association there are more than 35 million web sites in operation. There are at least thousands of sites where Internet marketing competence is critical to business success.

After the crash, Internet marketing is a smaller but even more exciting area of specialization. Long-term indications that Internet marketing is emerging as an important new field include:

  • Dedicated Professional Associations: EMA, IIMA
  • Dedicated magazines and publications: Business 2.0, Journal of Interactive Marketing
  • Websites: ClickZ, Iconocast.com, WilsonWeb, I-Advertising, ChannelSeven, SeachEngineWatch.com
  • Dedicated Conferences and online training.
  • Development of professional certification programs.
  • Expanded graduate and undergraduate programs.

Although there is much that is unique regarding the effort to identify competency in Internet marketing, there are also some important lessons that can be learned from other important efforts to measure professional competency.

From 1995 through 2000, as principal of American Healthcare Consultants, Inc., I advised a group physicians who created the American Academy of Wound Management (AAWM), the first certifying board for physicians, nurses, therapists and other health professionals involved caring for patients with acute and chronic wounds.

We knew that building AAWM was important because, in 1995, because most physicians had a day at most of training on how to treat wounds. There were studies that indicated that almost half of all amputations could be avoided by simple, modern clinical techniques. Limbs and probably lives depended on patients and health providers being able to find competent doctors, nurses and therapists.

We created the Certified Wound Specialist (CWS) designation, initially attained via a 2-step portfolio review process and later only via both portfolio and proctored exam. We took many of the same steps as the EMA and IIMA in marketing our certification program: AAWM was involved in numerous meetings, conferences and workshops. We developed a web-based message board. We developed a media relations and advertising program targeting niche publications. We focused exclusively of health professionals who were eligible for certification.

But another key step that AAWM took was development of a Registry of Certified Wound Specialists, which was a directory offering complete contact information on every health professional who attained the certification. Importantly, the Registry also included information on each professional's area of specialization. The Registry greatly enhanced communication among the certified professionals.

Soon we also found that hospitals, nursing homes, home care companies, HMOs and other health entities also wanted copies of the Registry. Increased distribution of the Registry and a communications program focused on these new audiences helped certified professionals gain recognition, raises, jobs, lower professional liability insurance rates. The communication program included volunteer-led efforts, including a speaker's bureau

Internet marketers have no Registry. With a few exceptions we mostly don't know each other. There are also plenty of frauds. Each week I seem to get more Spam, including many of it from clueless individuals who claim to be Internet marketing professionals. Working to promote the discipline of Internet marketing and ethical online communication to key external audiences could help everyone involved.

The EMA uses a 200-question examination based on the excellent textbook "E-Marketing" by Judy Strauss and Raymond Frost (Prentice Hall, 2001). The IIMA offers certification following extensive academic training in internet marketing at the University of British Colombia, or alternatively via the experiential method, involving committee review of a portfolio of documents indicating professional experience and competence in the field.

From what I have experienced, both the eMA and the IIMA certification processes were effective and equitable and are worthy of recognition by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies(NCCA), the leading ertification body for certification organizations in the United States.

If somehow an unethical or incompetent person were certified, no one would die and no limbs would be lost. On the other hand, the future of many businesses, the tone and ethics of Internet communication and the future of the most important medium to hit the planet could be at stake.


eMarketing Association

International Internet Marketing Association

National Commission For Certifing Agencies

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