When Eliot Harper's consulting clients want advice on what kind of questions they should ask job applicants for...
marketing positions, he instead offers one suggestion:
"If they don't have a Salesforce Marketing Cloud certification, don't interview them," Harper said. "That's because I really think it is a great litmus test."
With eight areas of study -- including marketing, app building and development -- Salesforce accreditation allows certificate holders to show they have mastered specific niches of Salesforce concepts. Harper himself has two certifications: Marketing Cloud Consultant and Marketing Cloud Email Specialist. Of the two, he views the consultant recognition as the "pinnacle" of the marketing certification umbrella. "It's highly sought after," he said. "It is a hard certification. It separates the pretenders from the contenders."
That's because certificate holders can't earn accreditation simply by studying, Harper offered. "You pass it because you have to have hands-on experience with the marketing platform, together with knowledge gained from studying," he said.
Study for a year
Harper recommends working with Salesforce Marketing Cloud for at least a year before taking the Salesforce Marketing Cloud certification exam. It's the only way marketing professionals will experience errors on the platform, which ultimately builds a true understanding of how it all works, he said. "I recall specific exam questions about a data binding error, and that's for Journey Builder (a feature in Marketing Cloud that manages the customer lifecycle). You wouldn't know that until you experienced it," he said.
Harper continues to get his hands dirty in the vast garden of Salesforce marketing products by working as a consultant in Melbourne, Australia. He offers design, training, technical architecture and consulting services on the Salesforce Marketing Cloud platform.
For him, having a Salesforce Marketing Cloud certification demonstrates not only expertise in the technology that underlies Salesforce's marketing capabilities, but it also proves that certificate holders understand how to best conduct social media and email marketing campaigns. The questions for the certification exams are "tough and well considered," he added. Harper should know. Aside from holding two of the three certifications in the Marketing Cloud category, he also helped write many of the questions on the exams.
Salesforce invited Harper to craft exam questions because of his status as a Salesforce MVP, a peer-nominated honor that recognizes knowledge and leadership in the larger Salesforce community, and his self-published book Journey Builder Developer's Guide: Customer Journey Integration with Salesforce Marketing Cloud. He devised certification exam questions in 2017, a year after he had first taken the tests.
Boosting consultant's hourly rate
A few years ago, Harper was "forced" into Salesforce, he chuckled, because his previous employer had become a partner of the CRM and marketing software company, and he realized he had to get up to speed on the platform. He became so fluent in Salesforce marketing concepts that in summer 2017, he decided to hang out his own shingle and become a consultant. "It was initially terrifying putting my eggs into one basket by focusing solely on Salesforce Marketing Cloud," he said. "It could be perceived by many as a bit of a gamble, but it is indeed the leading digital marketing platform out there."
Job placement data and a survey of more than 3,700 employees in 2017 by the Salesforce recruiting firm Mason Frank International show that freelance Marketing Cloud consultant work pays as much as $1,300 per day in Australian dollars. A similar position in the U.S. pays as much as $125 per hour.
Harper didn't specify his fees but said that his two Salesforce certifications, including the Salesforce Marketing Cloud certification, allow him to add a premium to his hourly rate. "I'm reaffirmed every day I made the right move," he said of becoming a consultant.
Learning personalization is key
The Marketing Cloud Email Specialist certification was easier to earn than the consultant one, Harper said, but he puts skills learned from that course of study into practice almost daily. "It helps you get the most of out of emails by creating highly sophisticated personalization and highly segmented email campaigns. You go beyond the batch-and-blast list campaigns."
The Salesforce Marketing Cloud certification and the Marketing Cloud Email Specialist certification both have "currency in the marketing community," he added. "If I didn't have those certifications, I think that clients would be hesitant to hire me, and it's really about expectations."
Having a leg up matters in the competitive marketing field, and Salesforce accreditation allows Harper to demonstrate he can help clients break through a crowded landscape and reach customers.
"We are bombarded with digital communications," he said. "Just think of how with email, we've trained ourselves to get to a zero-email inbox as quickly as possible. There's a great challenge to creating marketing messaging that's effective. The way to do that is send the right message to the right person at the right time."