Why an MBA in Marketing is not the best for online success

MBA in MarketingThe best MBA in Marketing programs like Kellogg get thousands of applications from across the world. However, Adarsh Thampy, feels there are many things about marketing that are best learnt outside the MBA class.

Adarsh doesn’t have an MBA in Marketing. In fact, forget specialisation, he doesn’t even have a regular MBA (related posts: best online MBA in the world & best executive MBA in India & abroad). So why are his views important?

For starters, he’s achieved a fair bit of success in the online digital world where the rules of the game can be very different than the theory that’s taught in the top MBA classrooms. To put it in simple terms, Adarsh is an expert in building, optimising and selling websites. But there’s a huge amount of complexity behind that sentence. He’s made significant profits by building and selling blogs (each selling for between $500-$8000, not bad for a few months of focussed marketing effort).

His website (conversionchamp.com) gets a huge amount of traffic and is ranked in the Top 100 small business blogs at Technorati. He has landed assignments with popular websites – like Jombay where he is currently optimizing a campaign to the tune of lakhs of visitors per month – completely via organic means. He has been published in several popular blogs like Problogger, Askdavetaylor, DailyBlogTips…and did we mention MBA Crystal Ball? He’s achieved it without the need for an MBA in Marketing. At the ripe old age of 24!

All this requires quite a bit of online marketing knowledge that an MBA in marketing may not deliver. Adarsh shares his marketing secrets.

Why an MBA in Marketing isn’t always the best option


10 Things I Learned About Marketing without an MBA Degree
by Adarsh Thampy

This post is going to sound odd to most of you reading this post- especially since it’s coming from a blog which is all about MBA!

Although I am not against the idea of an MBA program when the expectations are set right, I don’t necessarily believe that you need an MBA degree to crack into the corporate sector- at least in marketing.

Top 10 Things I Learned About Marketing without an MBA Degree to My Name

#1: You don’t need an MBA in Marketing to get a marketing job

Back in 2010 I was employed with an MNC and was working in a technical role. Since my passion was marketing, I tried to get into a couple of companies (including the marketing department of my then employer). Most of them rejected me because I did not have an MBA degree to my name.

This set the wrong notion in my head that you needed a management degree to get a marketing job.

However, as I started focusing more on building my personal brand through blogging and establishing my credibility as a marketer (I had 3 years of freelance digital marketing experience by this time), opportunities started flooding in.

Now I was in a position to choose who I should accept and who I should not. Most of the opportunities came from service based companies which offered me handsome salary packages but limited learning opportunity.

Finally, one day I came across my current employer- Jombay.com. Their vision, founding team, and the role I was offered excited me. So I decided to jump in!

That’s how I changed my career from being an engineer and part time marketer to being a full time marketer. Now I get to do what I love throughout the day!

#2: A day in the life of a marketer is not what most MBA graduates think it is

I have interacted with a lot of people who are currently pursuing MBA or already completed their program and are looking for their first job in the field of marketing.

Problem is, most of them think that marketing is all about sitting in conference rooms, brainstorming ideas and spending money on advertising campaigns.

While all of those maybe part of the marketing campaigns you might be executing, majority of the work is getting your hands dirty by doing tasks that might seem “menial labour” or at times simple “data entry work”.

The thing is, even if you have fancy MBA’s from big name B-Schools, you should be ready to do any marketing task that needs to be done. No point in relying on someone else. If you are in charge of a project and something goes wrong, guess who’ll be held responsible?

And the biggest problem with MBA holders is the mentality “I have an MBA. Get executives to do this stuff.” Well, set your expectations right before you join your first job.

#3: Traditional marketing is not dead- at least for now

With all the rage about big data and digital marketing being the next big thing, most businesses are taking the digital marketing route and slowly phasing out their traditional marketing.

The biggest example of companies embracing digital marketing (content marketing to be more precise) is Coca Cola.

While it makes sense for some brands, most brands will still need traditional forms of marketing to reach their right audience. So don’t expect traditional marketing to be on its way out- at least for another 5 years.

I have tried to implement digital marketing campaigns for a couple of small businesses in India and it did not work well- while similar campaigns have given amazing results for my clients in US and Canada.

The marketing strategy you need to choose should be based on your audience demographics and not based on case studies put out there. What worked for one company might not work for yours.

#4: Content is King

I am an evangelist of content marketing and not without reason.

Brands everywhere and of all sizes have started to recognize the power of content and have started experimenting with content marketing.

Not only does it allow you to generate lot of traffic to your business website, it also helps you generate customer engagement and brand loyalty like no other means of marketing.

If your audience is online, content marketing is definitely worth trying.

#5: Text book knowledge helps very little

When I did my computer science engineering degree, I thought everything I learn is going to be useful when I enter the corporate world. Soon, as any other engineering graduate, I also realized that most of what I learned is pretty much useless when it comes to the real world.

I have talked with several MBA graduates who specialized in marketing and they all tell me the same thing.

I am certainly not discounting the skills you’ll acquire from B-Schools. It’s just that your text book learning will not directly translate into marketing success. (If that’s the case you could just purchase all the MBA books and then study on your own instead of spending 2 years for a full time program)

#6: MBA can be a powerful launch pad

There are times when an MBA degree really helps you.

I have seen a couple of times where my profile- even though more qualified than an MBA graduate- got dumped because I do not have an MBA degree.

I don’t blame HR’s. They have a tough task dealing with all the applicants that come their way. So instead of spending hours trying to find the hidden gems from within thousands of resume, they opt to set cut offs to make their life easier (or keep them sane). This follows the same logic of setting cut offs during campus placements.

If you don’t have the real passion for the job as well as the drive to go on even after several rejections, not having an MBA degree can be a serious blow to your job hunt.

#7: MBA’s have a better ‘overall picture’

I’ll have to admit it.

When it comes to understanding the bigger picture, MBA graduates are far better than people without MBA degrees (there are rare exceptions though).

You’ll see that management graduates have better business sense, can understand finance jargons better, and overall quickly adapt to the marketing environment they are thrown into.

If you suddenly through me into traditional marketing, I’d take much more time adapting to it than a normal MBA person who’d be asked to handle marketing he’s not familiar with.

#8: MBA means better business contacts

Whether you are trying to close a deal with a vendor or are trying to manage a campaign that requires some level of guidance, if you have the contacts that you develop during your MBA program, it’s going to be of immense value.

I have tapped into the contact pool of friends who are MBA graduates and have received very valuable advice- something which I would never have received without the help of my friends and their MBA connections.

That being said, a management degree does not always guarantee powerful connections. You can forge connections online as well as through years of experience working in your domain. Consider MBA as a fast track lane where you reach connections much faster!

#9: Marketing is not deception

A lot of people have the concept that marketing is all about deceiving the users and trying to sell the product- kind of like snake oil salesman.

Well, if you asked me what marketers do 5 years back, probably I’d have answered the same.

However, marketing is not about deception, or anything shady. It’s about truly understanding your target audience, and trying to connect with them in a way that builds trust and creates engagement.

A sale is simply a by-product of effective marketing.

#10: Opportunities come knocking with or without an MBA

Whether you have an MBA degree or not opportunities will come to you. The way you decide to use those opportunities decides your business success.

When it comes to marketing, there are several ways to tackle challenges. If you have real world experience, you can tap into it and try to come up with a solution. If you did an MBA program and read case studies of businesses solving similar problems, you could use that knowledge to tackle the situation. If you don’t have access to either, you could ask your colleagues or peers in your industry.

There is no problem that cannot be solved if you can reach out to the right people. And of course, networking with the right people is very important. Even without an MBA degree, I was able to network with some top influencers through my blog.

The basic idea is – either tap into an existing resource pool (your MBA colleagues) or create a pool yourself (gather readers via blogging or other outreach methods).

#11: Marketing is all about under-promising and over-delivering

Like this post where I said I’d give you top 10 things I learned about marketing and gave you 1 bonus tip, marketing is also about promising something of value and then giving something more valuable.

It’s all about helping users understand the real value the product or service you are selling provides and helping them achieve their goals.

Over to You:

What is your take on marketing? Are your pursuing MBA to get your foot in the door or because you genuinely want to learn and network? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

About the Author: Adarsh is a passionate marketer and blogs @ conversionchamp.com.

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  1. Tara says:

    Very interesting post.

    Resonated 100% with me, as I have almost the same educational background, made the same career choices (CSE to Marketing), am a huge fan of Digital Mktg (obviously been learning my way up on the job), and yet I also understand the value of an MBA degree.


  2. Adarsh Thampy says:

    Glad to meet people who can connect with my story, Tara.

    Do you have plan to go for a MBA degree?

  3. Gurpreet Singh says:

    Very nice article. Not all get such opportunities, but I m glad to got what you want without MBA. And life is all about running for what makes us happy and satisfied.

  4. Ramya says:

    Hi Adarsh,
    #marketing is not deception
    that is exactly how i wrote about sales today in a resume :)

    I am glad that I have come across your article at the right time. I am looking for a switch in my career to marketing from IT field.
    I scored a 740 in GMAT and had good amount of experience in running an NGO but however, I got a reject recently from ISB.

    I am not disappointed as I always felt that MBA is just one of the ways and probably the easiest of the ones to switch career.

    I would love to know how you got work as a freelancer in marketing.

  5. Matthew says:

    Good article. It resonated with my position. Currently I’m studying MBA in Chinese business practices yet I am fully aware that MBA program gives you good overview of business and adaptation. It does not teaches you how to start from the scratch that’s the reason I have chosen an internship in digital ecommerce company in Shanghai. I know while being useful to a certain extend mba will not give you the learning you get at the job. I have graduated in marketing then studied NLP for 1 year started my company but unfortunately i have failed especially because degree in marketing does not teaches you a loot about marketing you need to start your own company without budget. If I succeed in my business i wouldn’t consider mba. But it good to recharge your batteries get up and start again. Yet digital skills you can learn either on your own or best work in a company and despite your education start from scratch and get your hands dirty :)

  6. adtya says:

    Sir, you mentioned that we have to get our hands dirty in marketing.
    could you please tell me what all specific jobs we do when we enter into a job as a marketer for the first time.

  7. Anisha says:

    MBA has a better job to do. They excel in managing people like you and utilizing your skills to upscale the productivity of the organization.
    Understand one thing that being skillful in a component of Marketing (of course Marketing is a vast ocean) doesn’t enhances someone’s strategic decision making capabilities and overall understanding of the marketing mix. Online marketing is merely a part of the marketing mix which an MBA (experienced or from a premium institute) would decide how and how much to use it. There are certain industries such as cement, construction, PEB manufacturers etc. which still rely on the traditional methods of marketing with a lesser percentage of online branding as they need to connect with people at the ground level which cannot be attained sitting on a computer and blindly releasing campaigns via different mediums. A niche market always require a more comprehensive and data oriented approach which most of the developers or Engineers without MBA fail to understand.
    Even I am an engineer who did her MBA later on and I felt the difference. So I would suggest you to go for an MBA program and feel what you have missed.

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