Business Marketing Class Tests B-To-B Training Software
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA (December 20, 2006) – Smeal College of Business students in Marketing Instructor Carolyn Todd's Business Marketing course had a semester-long assignment from the Business Marketing Institute (BMI) to beta test a new online business-to-business marketing training program.
Todd volunteered her class to test the product when she heard a presentation about the new tool by BMI Executive Director Rick Kean at the Marketing Educators' Conference sponsored by Smeal's Institute for the Study of Business Markets.
In his presentation, Kean described a new online training program about to be launched that taught business-to-business marketing professionals how to execute effective marketing plans in business markets. Todd asked whether it would be useful to have the 112 students in her business marketing class test this new product. Ten days later, she had her students engaged in a unique learning experience.
"My primary objective was to give students an actual experience in testing a new product," Todd explained. "We teach students academic theory about new product development and the stage-gate process of "go/no go" decisions. A beta test is an important step in the go/no go decision on a new product, and I wanted students to experience what it is like to evaluate a new product and decide whether or not to launch the product."
The training product is based on The Marketing Manager's Handbook by Eric Gagnon and describes the craft of marketing. It includes step-by-step instructions on how to put together a direct mail campaign, how to develop a business-to-business Web site, how to develop advertising that works to support sales objectives, and how to organize a trade show booth.
"It is very tactical, intended for the relatively new marketing professional who has transferred into the job, has little or no marketing experience, and is given 45 days to complete a project," said Todd.
The training program in her class had three components: a marketing skills assessment, which gave a baseline view of student knowledge; a marketing skills builder, an online 18-module training program focused on building knowledge; and a Marketing Skills Certification, a comprehensive exam that results in a certificate of completion from BMI.
For the students, it was an opportunity to develop valuable, career-relevant job skills while earning a BMI business marketing certificate, which might serve as a differentiator on their resumes.
"The program was a great way to advance my marketing techniques, and I find myself referring back to my handbook quite often," said Kristin Bozella, a senior marketing major who also works in marketing for a kitchen and bath design company. "I am currently planning a trade show for this spring and am fortunate to have learned the steps needed to carryout a successful presentation for my company."
In sessions held Dec. 6 and 7 in each of the three class sections, Kean and Gagnon listened to the students' beta test reports. They heard about problems with the software, and absorbed suggestions on the quality of the training and how to enhance the program to make it more marketable to universities and marketing professionals.
"Had we not done a beta test with these 112 students, it would have taken two years to find all the problems they discovered in 12 weeks," said Gagnon. "This process has been extremely valuable in helping us develop a product that will be successful in the marketplace."
Kean added: "The students came up with new ideas for other markets to tap and partnerships to explore that will help us in the future. They were also at times brutally honest and challenged me to rethink some of our approaches to the marketplace."
Todd hopes to keep this training component in the course in future semesters while still addressing the unique strategy components of business marketing.
"The students were unanimous in their recommendation to keep this component," she said.