Certification Day: Why SmartBug Invests 480 Hours on Training per Quarter

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Ryan Malone
Ryan Malone


Markets change. Consumer behavior changes even faster. New technologies are introduced, and some thrive while others die. That tactic that used to be your secret weapon is now overused by your marketing peers. Making things even more complicated, there’s an onslaught of new regulations that can fundamentally change the way you interact with data, systems, prospects, and customers.


Sound familiar?

As a marketer, how do you keep up with so many moving parts and so much new information? The obvious answer is training. Unfortunately, finding the time for training is a major challenge for marketers—one of the top 10 challenges marketers face, according to HubSpot’s State of Inbound report. In fact, keeping up with marketing technologies presents a similar dilemma. According to a recent survey by WalkerSands, 63 percent of marketers believe the technology landscape is in the midst of rapid change, but only 28 percent believe their companies have kept up with that change. 

With the whole world trying to hack this and hack that, learning and development isn’t something you can hack. It’s why Malcolm Gladwell says you need to spend 10,000 hours on something to be an expert. Training and development is a brute force type of thing that simply takes time. 


The Need for Thorough and Actional Training Options

We did a thorough analysis of the training options available. Some were heavy on theory and light on application. Others were incredibly tactical, but unless you already knew the theory, you would not learn much.

But HubSpot Academy was different.

HubSpot Academy was the only training option we found that provided strong theory, clear application of that theory, and a how-to element that illustrated how to achieve mastery using HubSpot’s platform when it mattered. Without sounding like too much of a fanboy, HubSpot Academy had the broadest and most useful training platform we could find.

However, even with a solid solution such as HubSpot Academy, there are no shortcuts. That’s why SmartBug decided years ago to put our money where our mouth is and make continuous training a major company priority.


Why SmartBug Invests 480 Hours per Quarter

You have heard the clichés, right?

It’s all about the company you keep.

You are only as strong as your weakest link.

Always be testing.

That list can go on for days. But for marketers, these are not really clichés—they’re truths. They’re truths that drive SmartBug to take training as one of the most serious parts of our work. We look at training as the real secret weapon to our success. Most people don’t train enough, but we decided to make an event out of it—and we think you should, too. Here are four big reasons why we did it: 


1. Customers depend on our knowledge and ability

We’re hired because our customers are looking for skills, knowledge, and advice outside of what they already have. They have an expectation that by hiring HubSpot's highest-rated agency, they’ll get a well-trained, disciplined team to help them reach their goals. For us to meet and exceed client expectations and stay ahead of the curve, we have to invest in training—a lot of it. 


2. Calculating ROI on training is pretty easy

Many marketers look at training as one of those fuzzy math ROI calculations. Let’s be honest: How many times have you struggled to get the budget to go to a conference or buy an online training program? But rather than try to apply a direct calculation to your ROI analysis, consider this: Do you think that learning a new skill for eight hours a quarter will earn more than eight hours of your salary in revenue? If the answer is yes, or even probably, your ROI calculation is good enough, and you need to start training. The fact is, even the smallest tip from a training session can yield big benefits.

More simply put: ROI analysis to justify training is a bit of a farce because the only way you won’t benefit from training is if you don’t use what you learned. 


3. It’s part of being a good HubSpot partner

As a HubSpot partner, SmartBug’s brand is linked to HubSpot’s brand. HubSpot depends on us to be a good steward of our customer base and to ensure maximum benefit from our customers’ use of HubSpot. At the same time, we depend on HubSpot to ensure we have the tools to deliver the highest possible results using its growth stack. We see training as a no-brainer investment, and we see our dedication to training and to using HubSpot Academy as a key part of a strong partnership. 


4. It reinforces SmartBug’s culture

One of our most important values is Be Curious. We hire SmartBugs that love to learn, ask deep questions, and are driven to understand how things work and how to make them work better. Introducing structured learning opportunities to a driven bunch of curious marketers creates a lot of energy and enthusiasm that only makes our brand stronger.


Enter Certification Day: SmartBug’s Training Secret Weapon

Let’s get back to that idea that training is a brute force tactic.

So how do you ensure people have time to train? There are no shortcuts, no hacks, and no silver bullets. You shut down the company for a day and make it happen. Literally.

Enter Certification Day. We believe that the only way to learn is to invest in training at the expense of something else—to make it top company priority.

We recognized long ago at SmartBug that our team needs the headspace to push themselves. They need the time to learn, and they need the camaraderie to learn together. We found that learning together creates tight bonds within our team, pushes them to consume more training curriculum, and makes learning a fun activity to look forward to.

Certification Day is a quarterly event where we shut down the company for a day so that our team can focus 100 percent of their energy on training. Everyone on the team creates their own attack plan, starting with HubSpot Academy content. We start the day with a video-based stand-up, and everyone declares their training goals for the day. It’s pretty magical to see people achieving certifications and sharing their wins in the chat. For every win, there are 50 high-fives, GIFs, and congratulations. It’s magical.

But magic isn’t everything. Certification Day has quickly become a recruiting advantage and a competitive advantage, offering a development promise to new SmartBugs and an expertise promise to clients.


How Did the SmartBug Team Respond?

Certification Day has been a huge catalyst in expanding our knowledge and bringing our team closer together. Here are a few quotes from our team:

“Because HubSpot is always improving and rolling out new features, I love that I can take one day a quarter and catch up on the very latest marketing strategies and methodologies. As a team leader, Certification Day helps me make sure my team has everything they need to provide intelligent, revenue-driving inbound strategies and execute them flawlessly.”

— Juli Durante, Team Lead and Marketing Strategist


“My biggest successes for clients have included creating more contextual experiences for their prospects and customers. This comes from the types of creative we use on their website to the hyper-targeted email/chat/social communication they receive. Sales Enablement has also made my clients' sales reps more effective because they are only spending time on the leads that are a good customer fit and have shown intent to purchase. These two HubSpot certifications have opened doors for my clients because we can focus on marketing and on selling smarter, not louder.”

— Paul Schmidt, Marketing Strategist


“I use my Academy certifications every day. Whether I'm explaining the nuances of a buyer’s persona to a new client or talking conversion paths with a client who has worked with us for years, the language, the concepts, and the strategy are all based on the inbound marketing concepts I learned through HubSpot.”

— Kate Uhry, Marketing Consultant 


How to Start Your Own Certification Day

Starting your own Certification Day is easy:

  1. Pick one day a quarter for your Certification Day and set the dates well in advance.
  2. Empower your team to clear their calendar of ALL meetings—even the ones from your CEO.
  3. Tell your customers that training matters to you and that you’ve closed for an off-site training program (Side benefit: Customers will love how dedicated to growth your team is).
  4. Have your team publicly declare their learning goals for the day—own it!
  5. Have a lot of fun doing your training—make it a fun learning experience.
  6. Celebrate each other’s victories on Zoom, Slack, or whatever tool you use for collaboration.
  7. Tally up the certifications and share your team’s accomplishments with the rest of the company.

We recently had our Certification Day on December 14, and we’d love to see you on social — use #CertificationDay to join in the conversation.

Agency or other types of organizations, small or large, you must take training seriously. The marketing world will only get more complex, and you’ll reap many benefits from a simple dedication to what marketers have done their whole lives: learn.

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