By Nicki Kamau

As someone who firmly believes all people should be actively learning their entire lives, today is one of my favorite days. And no, it’s not “enjoy a cup of tea in your cozy home office while learning from your colleagues” day. That’s every day when you work for an awesome remote company like SmartBug. Today is Certification Day.

Maybe you’ve heard us talking about it on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram. If not, I’ll fill you in. For one day each quarter, we set aside our normal operations to invest our time in professional development. It's days like these that allow us to provide the best experiences and results for our clients, and help us grow individually into the best marketers, web developers, designers, copywriters … that we can be.

Our Founder and CEO, Ryan Malone, started Certification Day to create a company culture that encourages us to always be learning:

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Certification Day

What is Certification Day all about, and how do we do it? I’d love to tell you, so you can start preparing for your own Certification Day. Planning begins months in advance, but that’s not to say it’s difficult. Our CEO Ryan Malone (who, by the way, was just featured on USA Today’s list of best CEOs for small- and mid-sized companies) lets the team know the date for Certification Day one quarter out. This allows everyone plenty of time to block their calendars, move any standing meetings, and plan ahead for client work. Then comes the fun part. Each employee spends the next few months paying special attention to up-and-coming technology and trends, areas that clients might need a little extra TLC in, and identifying topics that he/she can dig into on the upcoming Certification Day.

Our team loves it. Hear what the SmartBugs had to say about our third quarter Certification Day:

Certification Day Sep 2018

 

The Day of

This morning, we all opened our laptops to start the day—maybe dressed a little cozier than usual, knowing that we wouldn’t be seeing any clients or partners—and instead of jumping straight into meetings and executing on projects or running analytics, we all got to take a deep breath and learn. The beauty about this is that Certification Day is not structured to be one size fits all. One of our marketing consultants might be looking to dive deeper into growth-driven design and is setting out to work on the HubSpot Academy GDD course and certification, while one of our paid media specialists might be brushing up on ABM strategies and technology, and another may be taking the Google Shopping Advertisement Assessment. Each SmartBug gets the opportunity to choose what they want to learn about on Certification Day to help not only provide exceptional service to their clients, but also help them advance individually in their careers.

“The great thing about Certification Day is that it forces you to step outside of your own work bubble and learn about other aspects of the inbound process. In the inbound methodology, every aspect of marketing and sales is connected. The more you know about different pieces of that puzzle, the more effectively you can work as part of a team.

As a writer, I spend most of my time creating content for clients. Certification Day has given me the opportunity to learn about everything from inbound sales to using HubSpot’s SEO, web design, and email automation tools. Although I don’t use these features in my day-to-day, understanding how they work has helped me better tailor content to different mediums and business objectives.” — Meryl Kremer, Copywriter

“Certification Day is an awesome opportunity for all of us to expand our breadth of marketing knowledge, which better helps our clients achieve their goals. Learning not just about inbound marketing but also inbound sales has helped me recommend types of content that help a business throughout the entire Buyer's Journey.” — Heather Quitos, Marketing Consultant

“Design is always evolving and changing but Certification Days give me the opportunity to stay on top of those changes and understand what trends are worth exploring and which ones are just fads.” — Hilary Coles, Senior Designer

Our Resources

With 59 employees and counting, we are dedicating over 500 hours to learning today, and you better believe we have resources lined up to fuel all of that wisdom. Most of the SmartBugs will be filling their day with courses from HubSpot Academy—we didn’t become the number one ranked HubSpot Partner Agency by accident. And with 33 tracks to currently choose from, there is no shortage of topics covered. Of course, we have many employees who are only missing one HubSpot Academy certification and others whose focus is outside of inbound marketing, so our learning expands to other digital resources as well. Today, we have employees working through courses on SEMrush Academy for SEO, Google Academy for Ads for optimizing paid media, Udemy for design courses, ABM University for account-based marketing goodness, and Alison for business process management.

“As the highest rated HubSpot agency in the world, we are expected to be the gold standard in both marketing expertise and HubSpot knowledge. HubSpot Academy is the most comprehensive source for training with actionable insights that are backed by real-world data. Certification Day enables us to provide our team members uninterrupted time to grow their skills.” — Ryan Malone, Founder and CEO

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Molly Rigatti, Marketing Strategist

“As someone who focuses mainly on the development side of things, the HubSpot certifications are a great resource to give me a better understanding and knowledge of inbound marketing. As the HubSpot CMS continues to grow and evolve, the certifications also serve as refreshers for various features and tools.” — Tessa Flores, Developer

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Joe Gillespie, Senior Copywriter

“What I've learned from leading SmartBug's sales team is that it's incredibly important that anyone communicating with our customers doesn't just understand their pains, but truly understands how we can help them achieve their goals. Courses like the ones HubSpot Academy creates provide me with the resources I need to ensure our sales team is equipped to truly help those who come to SmartBug for help practicing intelligent inbound for revenue growth.” — Jen Spencer, Vice President of Sales and Marketing

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Mallory Fetchu, Marketing Consultant

“Hubspot Academy is a tremendous resource that I refer to often when crafting client strategies. The lessons are interactive and actionable, and really help me focus time diving deep into a given topic. I also find it helpful to continually revisit topics in the academy—even when I’ve already watched a video or completed a lesson, I seem get new ideas and inspiration every time I come back!” — Sarah Mead, Marketing Strategist

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Chris Hutchens, Marketing Consultant

“The time I've spent on lessons in HubSpot Academy has been well worth it. The knowledge that HubSpot delivers, backed by data and research, is the kind of firepower that can help you bring success to clients. “I've been relying on HubSpot Academy for several years. They continue to deliver new, valuable content that has helped me stay up to date on all things inbound. I can't imagine doing my job successfully without having that resource.” — Benji Bateman, Marketing Consultant

Our Successes

What’s the result of having a quarterly Certification Day?

Paid promotion, social media, and organic search that efficiently attract visitors. Stunning websites that provide an intuitive user experience, guiding visitors through their own journeys while being educated. Lead nurturing emails that turn your subscribers into evangelists. Ultimately? Happy clients that are experiencing the best service we have to offer. This is why we have expanded Certification Day from a day that happens once a year to a day that happens once a quarter: To constantly improve our clients’ prospects’ experiences.

“Staying on top of my marketing game and providing my clients with up-to-date information is something I take very seriously. The HubSpot Academy courses that I've taken have been so worthwhile. I've been able to grab key takeaways from any course I've completed and apply them in real-life strategies for my clients. Each course is valuable in its own way. For example, the Content Marketing Certification Course helped me produce content ideas for new blogs for a client of mine! It's nice to have a refresher on general topics.” — Sofia Pompeo, Marketing Consultant

“I like taking some time on Certification Day to review any recent HubSpot product updates. I've found that most clients don't keep up with these, and there have been some exciting feature updates (such as the in-depth Ads Add-On features that were recently released to all Professional and Enterprise customers). These can be game changers in terms of how we can work with clients to better measure, track, and analyze results, and make strategic decisions that impact business revenue.” — Brooke Tomasetti, Social Media Strategist

“By completing the Sales Software Certification, I've been able to train clients on using the HubSpot CRM and walk them through all the features step by step.” — Sandra Moore, Marketing Strategist

“The clients I work with love HubSpot and the automation features that come with it, but most of them don't have the time to keep up with the platform's innovative rollouts and updates. By keeping up with certifications from HubSpot Academy, I can stay on top of the latest features and help clients save time, while also getting the most out of the platform.” — Mike Wolfe, Marketing Strategist

“As a designer, it was particularly interesting to take the Inbound Certification because it gave some great insight into the fundamentals of inbound marketing. I was then able to take what I had learned and incorporate it into the various types of content that I design for our clients so we can ensure that the right types of content are being created to suit the needs of our clients and their clients, at whichever stage of the Buyer’s Journey they are.” — Andy Williams, Senior Designer

The reason I’m telling you about this awesome day of betterment is not to brag about how cool it is to work at SmartBug, but because we want you to join in. It’s amazing to see the camaraderie and excitement from everyone getting a full day of learning in, and it’s fulfilling to hear all of the kudos pouring in from our clients when a newly researched and implemented strategy is two weeks in and already delivering amazing results. By encouraging the inbound marketing community to invest time in professional development by joining us for Certification Day, we’re striving to create a more sophisticated internet of marketing. A rising tide lifts all boats—now let’s fill that knowledge pool! Will you join us?

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Nicki Kamau

About the author

Nicki Kamau is the Marketing Director for SmartBug Media. With experience in inbound, social media and event marketing, Nicki has been a part of building lead gen marketing teams within the B2B space at tech startups, mid-market organizations, and publicly traded corporations. Nicki strives to educate potential and current clients through content marketing, empowering them to make informed business decisions. She enjoys exploring the outdoors with her dog and husband, right-brained activities, and tasting every tea she can get her hands on. Read more articles by Nicki Kamau.

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