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Preparing for the Marketing Cloud Administrator Certification
The Marketing Cloud Administrator certification is aimed at admins who run a Marketing Cloud account day-to-day, carrying out tasks such as user access requests, monitoring, generating reports, and troubleshooting account configuration.
In this guide, I will share my experiences preparing for the Marketing Cloud Administrator exam, including key topics, my approach to studying, and resources to help you on your journey!
I want to start by saying how great it is to see the number of Marketing Cloud certifications increasing. For many years, the only certifications available for us SFMC specialists were Marketing Cloud Email Specialist and Marketing Cloud Consultant. The challenge was that there is a big leap between using one Studio and advancing on to advise others on how to implement the full platform.
When I took these certifications a number of years ago it stood out that they only examined the setup up and use of Email Studio (ExactTarget), with no mention of other foundational components of Marketing Cloud (like Mobile Studio). While it was great to have these, they did not give the opportunity to illustrate broad knowledge of the platform.
Enter the newest certifications, Marketing Cloud Administrator and Developer, introduced in November 2019.
Who's the Ideal Candidate?
Due to Marketing Cloud Admin being a relatively late addition to the Marketing Cloud certification pathway, there will be two groups of professionals considering getting this credential.
New Marketing Cloud Admins:
If you are at the very beginning of your Marketing Cloud journey, I recommend starting with the Email Specialist exam. This certification focuses on the capability of only one Marketing Cloud Studio. It has been around the longest so there are many learning resources available which includes a Preparation Trailmix that has a mixture of resources.
If you are a day-to-day admin using Email Studio for 3+ months then consider the Marketing Admin certification. Be sure to check out the Email Specialist Exam Guide and do your reading on any functionality you don’t use day-to-day.
Experienced Marketing Cloud Admins and Consultants:
If you’re an experienced Marketing Cloud practitioner, but just haven’t got around to gaining this certification then I strongly recommend that you do.
Taking exams can seem quite daunting but getting certified is definitely a differentiator. I was able to answer the vast majority of the MC Administrator questions based on my hands-on experience (4 years). If what is holding you back is fear of taking an exam rather than the content, I will share ways to take the pressure off yourself when studying and taking the exam itself later.
It’s also worth noting that you can retake these exams and if you don’t pass the first time then do not be disheartened.
As of Sept 28th 2020, Marketing Cloud Admin has been the prerequisite for the Consultant Certification (rather than Email Specialist as it was previously). Those that already have the Consultant certification are now required to complete the Trailhead maintenance module for the Marketing Cloud Administrator certification.
Nevertheless, it’s important to master the foundational knowledge (both Email Specialist and Marketing Cloud Admin) before progressing onto other, more advanced certifications.
Salesforce Exams are made up of different topics, comprised of different weightings for each. It’s important to pay attention to these, as just a few sections will most likely take up the majority of the exam, such as the key topics below (Totalling 54% which is 32/60 questions).
After passing the certification exam, these are some topics you definitely want to be familiar with:
- Know the Standard Marketing Cloud Roles
- Review Email Bounce Types and Behaviours
- Understanding the Sender Authentication Profile (SAP) capability including how that impacts URLs and Custom Domains
- Refresh your knowledge on reporting, particularly tracking data
- Know the difference between Journey and Contact Data
- Know password policies and setup options.
Marketing cloud administrator is definitely a much broader certification than Email Specialist.
The types of questions in this exam cover multiple studios and important administration capabilities such as security, roles, managing data and troubleshooting.
The official Trailhead Study Guide is the first place to go.
The first thing you will notice is that the descriptions in each section of the exam guide are brief – they don’t give too much away! For example, ‘Given a scenario, determine how to configure integrations.’ or ‘Describe the features in Setup Home.’
This is where having practical experience is an advantage. The good news is that the number of Marketing Cloud learning resources is growing daily so it is possible to gain the knowledge you need theoretically (see: Resources).
Getting Practical Experience
As it isn’t possible to get a Marketing Cloud development environment, it means that a lot of people pass this exam based on a higher proportion of theoretical knowledge rather than practical.
My first experience of Marketing Cloud was from a Salesforce training course. It provided me with the foundational knowledge, which in turn, gave the MC Org owner the confidence to give me access. From there, I was able to gain practical experience. If you are able to take a Trailhead Academy course you will get access to a training org which is a huge plus.
Whatever you do, don’t resort to looking for exam answers online. If you don’t have the practical experience and you haven’t put in the time learning how the tool works you will be found out.
Practice with a Mock Exam
If what is holding you back is fear of taking an exam rather than the content, you could practise with a mock test. Although there aren’t mock versions of the two recent Marketing Cloud exams, there is for the Email Specialist certification. It costs $20, which is a lower financial risk than the exam itself. Taking this will give you some practice and reassurance.
Find a Study Buddy
In addition, you can also join your local Salesforce Marketer Group (Marketing Cloud) to find other people to buddy up with who are also preparing for the exam and keep each other going. Join your local community group on trailblazercommunitygroups.com.
As I said before, taking exams can seem quite daunting but getting certified is definitely a differentiator. Here is what I did in the exam itself to take some of the pressure of myself!
When I wasn’t 100% sure of an answer, I was able to make reasonable deductions based on my understanding of how the various acquisitions have been integrated and my overall expectations of the platform’s behaviour.
I was able to answer the vast majority of the MC Administrator questions based on my hands-on experience (4 years).
It’s also worth noting that you can retake these exams. The retake does cost less than the first attempt. If you don’t pass the first time then do not be disheartened. Write down the topics that you need to know in more depth, create a plan and keep up the momentum by trying to take it again in the next couple of months. It is all too easy to give a failure too much meaning and lose focus. Everyone who’s trying to achieve a goal fails, even if it’s not public knowledge. I’ve failed Salesforce exams, most recently Platform Developer 1 (PD1), but identified my knowledge gaps and persisting resulted in a pass.
I think it is so great to see the number of Marketing Cloud certifications increasing. The Marketing Cloud Administrator exam (a relatively new addition to the Marketing Cloud certification pathway) gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your broad knowledge of the platform, by testing the foundational components of Marketing Cloud (like Mobile Studio and Journey Builder) that the other certifications don’t.
Use of Marketing Cloud is growing, and there is a shortage of people who know the tool so if you are thinking about your next career step, this is an option to consider. There has never been a better time.