The Marketing Team of Tomorrow
Ever wonder how marketing teams are birthed? Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy has developed four Schools of Distinction that focus on providing an experiential, project-based, education to aid students in discerning a potential field of study as they prep for college. Students get to choose if they would like to apply to one of these schools during their sophomore year, then spend their junior and senior years participating in the coursework and activities it provides.
The School of Business & Entrepreneurship is one of these options and consists of four courses (Accounting, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, & Business Management). Each course has a “real-world” capstone project that bridges the gap between the educational classroom and the professional practice of these concepts.
For the Marketing course, as junior students learn the elements of an effective marketing plan, they choose a local business that they frequent and collaborate with the store owners to learn as much as they can about the business. They then work to analyze the current condition of the business and its needs, and create a compelling marketing strategy. They deliver their presentations at an annual Marketing Event in front a panel of judges pulled from the professional world. And this year, our Cassel Bear team had the privilege of meeting these students, listening to their presentations, and evaluating their products.
The Marketing Event – May 17, 2017
Jessica, Matt and I attended the event at the school and quickly realized how old we were upon entering a room full of smartly-dressed teenagers. The air of professionalism and enthusiasm was palpable; we knew that we were in for a treat.
I was also impressed to realize that the local business owners with whom the students were collaborating were in attendance as well. Speaking to the owner of a coffee shop, I learned that his student team had been very proactive in gathering information from him, was very responsive and reactive to his suggestions, and had even suggested some marketing tactics he had not considered. Far from treating this as a hypothetical exercise, he seemed to actively be considering some of their recommendations. This boded well for the caliber of the presentations we were about to watch.
Each of the five teams had chosen a local food related business: 2 coffee shops, a cold pressed juice shop, a gourmet popcorn maker, and a macaron bakery. They were each given 10 minutes to present, followed by a five minute Q & A session with us, the judges.
In the presentations, each team addressed the current strengths and weaknesses of the business, then identified a target market they felt would best bring increased revenue to their business. They also crafted unique marketing messages that would differentiate their client in the market and offer a compelling case for a consumer to choose this shop over another. Their marketing strategies each included 4-5 specific suggestions, and we were impressed by the range of ideas the students offered. We listened to specific plans for a variety of social media platforms, evaluated some new logo designs and ideas for window displays, held prototypes of flyers and coupons, learned of promotions for new and seasonal products, heard proposals for new packaging and food service methods, and even got invited to a Popcorn Ball event! Signage, newsletters, direct mail, radio ads: many different marketing avenues were explored, and it was clear that the students had thought through the most compelling reasons for selecting the platforms they did.
The presentations were far more skilled and thorough than any of us had expected, so many of our questions focused on the nitty gritty aspects of the marketing plans. Had the team thought through practical implementation of the plan? How was a small business owner, already doing a million different things, going to find time and energy to execute what had been designed? If the identified target market didn’t bring the hoped-for revenue, what demographic would be targeted next? What opportunities for marketing to families with small children had been explored?
Our deliberations were difficult. Quite honestly, all five groups exceeded our expectations and delivered beyond what we would have expected even from a first-year college level course. But we awarded the judges’ award to a very close favorite, and were glad to see that the assembled audience’s vote for Peoples Choice went to a different group. Truthfully, it would have been easy to find something to commend about each marketing team’s plan.
We’re excited to see what’s in store for each of these young marketers as they pursue further education, and hope to rub shoulders with them some day in the professional world as well!