My Squared Online Course Review
Squared Online is in association with Google and delivered by Avado. It's not a new course, it's been pretty popular with agencies and in-house teams for over a decade. But I'd like to think, with the speed that digital moves, there's been significant changes in that time. So, as a new graduate, I thought I'd share my thoughts, in the hope that this helps you make a decision on whether it's worth the investment. Because it is an investment, an investment in your time as much as anything. So my first observation is make sure you're really up for. It's going to eat into a significant amount of your free time for a whole 6 months.
A bit about me
I'm an experienced marketer, with over 15 years under my belt. I started in marketing before digital was as prevalent as it is today. I signed-up for Squared Online with the goal of almost double-checking I've not missed anything digital-wise. That there aren't hot new trends that I'm unaware of.
I wanted to discover some new ideas and channels that I could take back to the office and implement, like the next day. The office of course being Synergist, B2B agency management software provider (more on the types of marketing roles this course works best for later).
Who does the course benefit?
The course casts a wide net of recruits. Avado say "Whether you’re just starting out in your marketing career or you’re an experienced marketing professional looking to expand the scope of your digital skillset, Squared Online will equip you with an action plan to get the best results from a marketing strategy."
Ummmm. I'm not sure I agree. I think there was something for everyone but as an experienced marketer, there was an awful lot to wade through to get to the real nuggets of "oh I didn't know that" (but there were some of those moments.) Given many people, actually most on my cohort, were experienced, I’d say this is a bit of an issue with their positioning.
Similarly, if you've just graduated you've likely covered everything on this course, and in more detail, already. Some of this stuff is very whistle stop. The course does sell itself as a 'digital leadership' course, which may appeal to someone who’s fresh into the workplace. But honestly, you'll learn more about teamwork and leadership on the job.
So who would benefit? Someone who's early in their marketing career and perhaps doesn’t have formal qualifications yet, would get a great deal out of this course.
Does it matter if you're B2B or B2C?
I'd say so. Efforts are made to cover both but I'd say if you work for a very large company selling B2C products with relatively short sales cycles then that’s this course’s sweet spot.
An effort was made to cover B2B, and you could argue B2B should be learning from B2C, but working for a medium-sized, B2B company this didn't really resonate that much with my day-to-day.
How is the course structured?
The course is split into five modules. For each module you have a combination of live online classes, self-completed exercises (which you have to complete but aren't graded) and group work.
I was very lucky with my groups and worked with friendly, committed and smart marketers. But I did still question the group work format. Mainly because with any new group, it takes an awful lot of time, organising, chatting, scheduling, updating etc.
But that's just me, and it’s a bit miserable I admit. There are clear reasons for structuring the bulk of the work in groups. The course is a leadership course so it's teaching you to work with different personality types, when to lead, when to listen. But if like me, you've done this your whole career, I can't help but feel, especially with the more technical modules, that I would have liked to just be told the answer in black and white. Sometimes with the group work I felt there was lots of discussion but did we always leave knowing we knew the right answer? And the group work really did double, if not triple the time you have to invest in this. I know, I know, that's not very 'squared' of me.
Regarding the content in the live classes and the self-complete tasks, I did find the pitching a little strange at times. This is perhaps because it's written in conjunction with lots of different experts. And I guess, because there is such a broad cohort. As an example, one module started with an explanation of what a search engine is and in next breath discussed quite a complicated set-up in AdWords.
More on the live classes below because they were a highlight for me.
The live classes were all very upbeat, very 'Google', which did make listening easier. And they really did stress that there were no stupid questions, so some very open and supportive conversations took place.
You were also given the forum to ask very specific questions. So if there was something in particular you wanted to solve or better-understand you had the opportunity to ask. This was very useful as you could ask questions that took the ideas shared from pie in the sky down to you being able to implement them in your company. Generally, the live classes were a highlight.
This is a little contrary of me, but I feel I do have to put my group as a highlight too. Not the format of group work, but the lovely humans I worked with. I did the course during Covid and it was nice to see some not-so-familiar faces, albeit online.
Surprisingly, I suffered technical issue after technical issue. It really did hinder my experience and make tasks take a lot longer as I could never seem to log on, or complete something when I needed to. There was even technical issues throughout the live classes. This was quite irritating, when the course hammers home the importance of seamless customer experiences and how customers crave ease when getting 'jobs' done.
The course was OK - this isn't very expressive of me but OK really does sum it up. There was value and it has boosted my confidence as a marketer. Digital moves so fast, it's nice to spend some time focusing on this, and being able to say 'yeah, I still got this.'
But it comes at a price. This course felt so long and quite invasive. Even taking a holiday can be hard as, if you're a worrier like me, you don't want to let your group down so have to time it around deadlines (as well as your work deadlines and other commitments.)
Before you enrol on this course, my advice is to have a dig around and see what you can learn elsewhere for free and in your own time. You could try some of Google's free resources like the Google Academy .See how you feel before plunging into Squared Online.
I’d also recommend spending some time on key digital marketing sites like Moz and SEMrush. These are great resources for building your knowledge. You may find dedicating a day or two to this, gives you what you need.