Image via Gettysburg College/Flickr CC
Spring is the time of year when bright-eyed college grads skip into marketing departments and…get hip-checked by reality.
Some people think new grads are too “entitled” or “idealistic” to succeed in companies, but I think that’s false. Rather, most grads, especially in marketing, haven’t practiced their craft.
Fresh grads are used to classrooms where interesting perspectives earn respect. They instead find an environment where relentless focus, fast action, and measurable results matter more.
What could marketing professors teach new grads to better prepare them for our world? I have six suggestions:
1. Launch or Run a Business
In the first semester, require marketing majors to launch a business or run an existing one. They’ll manage it for all four years. It could deliver brownies on Fridays, cater tailgates, or teach coding. The type of business doesn’t matter.
My marketing colleague Brian, who joined Widen a year ago, paid for college with Big Balloon Tycoon, a balloon artistry company he founded. Brian says that running a business enabled him to apply everything he learned in class to real-world scenarios. As a result, Brian learned firsthand the strengths and weaknesses of academic marketing concepts.
Is it so crazy to ask that students practice the craft they are going into debt to learn?
2. Learn Real Business Writing
Have you ever read an email chain ten times because no one wrote in clear English? Let’s nip that problem in the bud.
Most students learn the five-paragraph essay in junior high, write longer versions of it in high school, and then maybe learn press releases and business memos in college. Unsurprisingly, they feel paralyzed when they need to write a five-line email for 50 people in five minutes. No topic sentences? What about a thesis? Do I need a comma here?
Colleges could teach the fundamentals. How do you structure an email so that readers retain the key information (bullets and selective bolding)? What are proper salutations for different scenarios (Yo…)? What about subject lines for customers, partners, or coworkers?
3. Immerse in the Martech Stack
Technology fads cycle too quickly for professors to put individual solutions on the curriculum. What if you spent four years learning [insert failed platform] and it went under as you were graduating?
However, professors can teach the design, construction, and philosophy of a marketing technology (martech) stack. As Scott Brinker’s annual “Stackies” competition shows, marketing technologists put deep thought into the workflow and systems that enable their teams to function. Designing martech stacks is a great way to learn how a digital company reaches and acquires customers.
4. Meeting and Conference Calls 101
Product launches, content brainstorming, and campaign strategies do not happen without three or more people meeting in a room or dialing into a “bridge.”
How do you lead those meetings and calls? How do you interrupt a CEO after he hijacks the conversation? How do you keep people focused and avoid those ‘no-you-go’ battles? How do you handle tough, unexpected questions from customers?
Meetings and conference calls are difficult. Grads should experience them before stepping into entry-level marketing jobs.
5. Add B2B Curricula
Most professors teach business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing because it’s ‘sexy’ and relatable. Who wants to read white papers when you could watch Coke commercials, compare Crest and Colgate, or unlock the secrets of Whole Foods?
I would urge professors to teach B2B case studies too. Students have goods odds of landing at a B2B company, and everything is different. The messaging, audience targeting, sales cycles, content, etc. resemble nothing grads hear about in the classroom. B2B marketers deal with calculated buyers (What’s the ROI?) versus emotive consumers (Leather-bound journal? Of course I need another blank one).
6. Teach for the Jobs
Colleges should continue teaching grads how to learn and think. Those skills are invaluable, but they are not mutually exclusive with providing a practical education.
If you’re going to be a marketer, action and experience will serve you better than theory. Let’s encourage our professors to close the divide between education and the “real world.”
By Jake Athey, VP of Marketing, Widen
About the Author: As VP of Marketing at Widen Enterprises, Jake Athey has worked with several popular marketing technologies, including customer relationship management (CRM), campaign management, digital asset management (DAM), email marketing, blogging, and social media management platforms. His experience in multiple projects with public relations, product and sales teams has made him deeply interested in making organizations explore DAM to ease their content marketer’s life immensely.