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Certification Branding

In addition to an open platform approach, the brand behind a certification program will become increasingly important as an industry differentiator. Today, the number of certifications is growing, with many new, highly specialized programs becoming available. Selecting a certification is not only a matter of how much benefit it offers in technical skills, but also the value-add it brings through its status and credibility in the industry.

This is clearly illustrated in today's certification market. The most popular certifications—Microsoft, Cisco, Novell, etc.—are all backed by the large market brands. Some of the smaller specialist certifications may be technically superior for specific areas, but they lack the value-add as a business or career differentiator. The status and credibility that a market-leading brand establishes for a certification go a long way to convince potential customers or employers that it represents an accepted measure of the quality.

Consequently, to maximize the value of certification as a marketing tool, it is vital that it is backed by a recognizable brand, typically used as a stamp on individuals' business cards. A recent report from IDC entitled "The IT Certification Training and Testing Market, 1998-2003" spoke to this issue. Figure 1 shows IT marketing strategies traditionally and with certification.

Figure 1 IT marketing strategies.

The IDC report shows how competency is becoming one of the components that a reseller can use as part of its marketing mix. Certifications backed by an industry brand provide resellers with a visible symbol they can use to reinforce the competency of their teams. "Resellers had to make a decision whether it was worth the hassle and cost to get their staffs certified, but for many resellers the decision was easy—if a product had large market share and pent-up demand, it was probably worth the certification investment," the IDC report states.

"Flashecom layers its logos on its business and marketing materials," Hajj said. "The layered logos communicate the credibility of its engineers' knowledge and skills to both customers and prospects. The certification logos serve as validation of the company's technology track record showing that they have training and experience in the evolution of today's available technology. Certifying with an industry giant like Intel has been instrumental in helping us to demonstrate our stability and expertise."

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