What I Wish I Learned in Business School

I learned a lot about management, SWOT analyses, and consumer behavior — but where was content marketing, community management or the value of search marketing?

I came into my position with a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Florida (Go Gators!). When I graduated in 2010, the marketing department in the Warrington College of Business was ranked 8th in the nation for public schools by U.S.News & World Report. So how could a top school have forgotten to teach me about digital marketing?

At the end of the day, we are all running businesses (so the business background is great), but we are in a digital marketing age where businesses have to be increasingly creative in order to reach their bottom lines.

Whose responsibility is it to teach business executives about getting creative online?

From my experience, it hasn’t been the business schools; although I have seen some digital marketing and media programs emerge. While I feel I received a great education on the ins and outs of a business, and am so grateful for my professors at the University of Florida, I think it’s important to better integrate the business of digital marketing into the curriculum. This will not only be helpful to current students looking for jobs, but the alumni who need to continue their education in this ever-changing industry.

In this post, I am going to:

  • revisit some core classes involved in earning my marketing degree;
  • explain what I wish I had learned more of along the way; and
  • explore how I can make the most of it now in order to continue to learn and grow at the rate of the digital marketing industry.

1. Consumer Behavior

What I Learned:

  • Informative influence
  • Exposure, attention, sensation, perception, attitude
  • Conditioning, reinforcement, memory, reasoning
  • Prediction and judgment
  • Consumption and satisfaction

This granular class dove so deep into memory, conditioning, and learning, the psychophysics was a lot to handle. What did it really matter if I remembered the components of the Theory of Reasoned Action and Pavlov’s classical conditioning?

What I Wish I Had Learned:

While I did have some brief notes on social influences, they mainly touched on mass media, word of mouth, and influence. Meanwhile, they only made mention of the negative relationship between age and Internet access and the the income-based digital divide that exists. It would have been great if these concepts of group polarization and social proofing had been applied to how people interact in an online community and what that means for relationship building and brand loyalty.

What I Can Do Now:

One thing I have noticed is many companies believe establishing social media pages is the answer to reaching people online and to best promote their businesses. Social media is not the only answer; you want to become the authority in your industry through great content. Use social promotion to increase and leverage the authority you’ve earned. Use it to reach the users who will want to read and interact with your content, share it, and help grow your social assets. This leads to other sites picking up and linking to your content, which leads to increased traffic to your site.

By building relationships, connecting with influencers, and developing brand advocates through your content, your company can build long term value as you work towards becoming a recognized authority within online communities, and by search engines.

2. Principles of Marketing

What I Learned:

  • SWOT Analyses
  • Relationship Marketing
  • Product, pricing, distribution, and promotion

What I Wish I Had Learned:

  • Content Marketing & SEO

I’d be curious to know how many marketing executives know the definition of SEO (search engine optimization), or even the value of maximizing traffic from search engines. And from there, what are the best methods to complement their current branding, marketing, and advertising efforts? I wish I had learned more about how a general piece of content that educates, informs, or entertains (without being overly branded or even mentioning a business) can help add value to the bottom line.

Differentiating you and your brand with a marketing campaign goes beyond advertising and direct marketing. I believe it was put best in the Content Marketing Session at BlueGlassX: A great content marketing campaign is counterintuitive to traditional business stakeholders and, at the same time, executing one requires a lot of cross-functional stakeholder approval.

What I Can Do Now:

My position as Client Services Specialist requires that I thoroughly understand the process of internal approvals, as well as what information I can provide to ensure the campaign runs smoothly and all goals are met. Because each client and campaign is different, the biggest challenge is the absence of exact metrics up-front to help demonstrate how content that doesn’t sell directly can actually drive very measurable sales increases via SEO.

Content is great, but it is the context of the campaign that gets results. That’s why it is important to understand all the pieces involved in producing and executing a content marketing strategy. The best thing we can do is provide an accurate but simple explanation of the process along with case studies of past results. Breaking down the verticals also helps to make it make sense.

3. Marketing Management

What I Learned:

  • How to analyze an existing business strategy
  • Target markets, positioning
  • Segmentation, competitors, in-channel collaborators
  • Financial justification, viability
  • Global branding

There was one handout during my most significant marketing class that covered anything close to digital marketing; it was titled “Internet Psychographics” and outlined five Internet user profiles of 2006 by MediaScreen. The types were: Content King, Social Clickers, Online Insider, Fast Trackers, and Everyday Pro. This had evolved from a 2003 list and was completely different. What I was not taught at the time was the significance of this evolution, and the importance of preparing a strategy around such users to optimize the marketing efforts of a business.

What I Wish I Had Learned:

  • Value of rankings, traffic, conversions
  • Finding more creative opportunities online
  • Integrating a non-traditional digital strategy with the traditional marketing strategy

Educating your internal teams is one of the most undervalued content marketing and SEO tactics. While social sharing metrics are easier to measure, the number of links and the publisher’s level of authority are the true measures of the value a content marketing campaign can bring.

What I Can Do Now:

First, it’s important to establish a mutual understanding with your client that while this is a marketing campaign, it is not about heavy branding and advertising. Rather, it’s about adding value through search rankings and online traffic. Making that shift from a marketer to more of a publisher mindset is crucial to the effectiveness of a campaign. This allows you to work with your internal teams to look at the original marketing strategy and its goals — as well as the data and statistics used to get there — to form a digital strategy that is visualized through dynamic content people will want to share and engage with.

Dear Current and Future Business Executives,

We all have the same goal — to add value to your business. The best way to plant seeds for more controlled, higher quality growth in the future is to shift your traditional business school mindset of advertising and marketing, and to open your eyes to the world of digital marketing and consumer/client engagement.

As we learned in some of our top takeaways from BlueGlassX,  “Change, for better or worse, is the only constant.”

In 2009, I learned marketing is no longer just a department, but a company-wide undertaking that drives the company’s vision, mission, and strategic planning. If it took that long to learn that, when will that definition continue on to include “…and is best achieved with an integrated campaign that includes digital marketing”?  If marketing is all about entering markets, establishing profitable positions, and building consumer relationships, you can’t afford to not understand the Internet and the value of digital marketing.

Is there anything you wish you had learned more about during college? Please share in the comments below!

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What I Wish I Learned in Business School

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