Credential Marketing Success Means Knowing Your Customer

According to Lenora and Joan Knapp, authors of the book, This Business of Certification, the market for a certification program can’t simply be described as all prospects eligible to apply for the credential. Not all prospects are candidates. 


The target market should be those for whom the credential offers the greatest value. If your certification is an entrée to your industry, it may offer considerable value for newcomers, but far less value for practitioners with years of experience.

By concentrating on specific segments of your market, you’ll spend your marketing dollars more effectively and better serve your certification candidates.

Knowing your customers will allow you to better position your certification. Positioning exists in the minds of your candidates and customers.

It’s how they feel about the credibility and value of your certification compared to that of your competition. According to This Business of Certification, knowing your customers will impact the content you create, the conferences you attend, the events you sponsor and the places you advertise.

Those decisions require time or money or both. Your resources will be used to greatest effect when they speak to your prospects’ core desires.

Hidden Desires

Powerful desires fuel human behavior. People will work two jobs to attain the larger benefit of home ownership or the satisfaction of showing off an expensive car.


Prospects will pay for and study for a rigorous exam solely for the perceived self-esteem they’ll gain by passing. Internal rewards are often the motivation for pursuing certifications in professional associations. Other certification candidates, especially those in fast-changing industries like IT, may be more highly motivated by the external benefits of career advancement, a promotion or a raise.

Core desires influence the perceptions that drive your prospect. When your marketing speaks to core desires like pride, exclusivity, enhanced self-esteem, wealth or personal power, your message will hit home. You’ll influence their perceptions as candidates align their personal emotions and expectations with the benefits your certification offers. We all seek congruence where behaviors are consistent with beliefs.

Survey your target market to understand the outcome they seek, and what’s preventing them from getting it. If your certification is the solution, position it so in their minds. Incorporate into your marketing message their own words from the survey to ensure that your message is congruent and familiar.

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