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Blowing Up the Gap Created by Traditional Marketing Curriculums

September 12, 2016 | Andrea Lechner-Becker | 2 Comments |

Marketing education at the university level is, at best, tremendously flawed and, at worst, completely irrelevant.

That’s not a bold claim at all. Go to any senior-level capstone marketing course and watch the final presentations. You’ll see gallant attempts to provide driven tactics, social media platform utilization, AdWord buying campaigns and other such fluff that shows zero understanding for the target audience or competitive landscape.

How do I know? Because I was there

Even back in my capstone course days, classmates (through little fault of their own) were putting together semester-long projects that should have been laughed out of the room by any self-respecting business. Except, the opposite happened. The local businesses being pitched actually wanted to hire these students to implement their ideas. It was case after case of the blind leading the blind, then wondering why their marketing is failing them.

I actually thought marketing education may have improved since then, but research shows that is but a dream. According to a McKinsey study, while 72% of educational institutions believe recent grads are ready for work, only 42% of employers agree.

Today’s marketing education is little more than an expensive line-item on your resume, run by professors who haven’t been marketers for years.

Put it this way: did you major in your current role? How about demand gen—did you learn about it in school? Today’s curriculums haven’t even remotely caught up with the needs of the current marketing landscape, creating gaps that are only widening by the day. Here’s what’s going on and how to fix it.

The pace of the business is too quick for schools

As soon as a piece of technology comes onto the scene, there are adjustments to that technology seemingly already in place. New tech means new strategies; when Google decides to change their algorithm, you have to know how to change course, fast.

Without even the fundamentals of CRM and account-based marketing in place, there’s no way to adjust. Google “CRM Fundamentals Course” and see what you get – instead of educational institutions, you’ll find CRM products themselves, teaching people the basics to leapfrog into a purchase of their platform.

How can traditional education prepare students for changing trends and entirely new way to market? Great marketing isn’t a secret, it’s just hard. It takes more than one course, created in 1999 and referencing a large brand’s B2C case study to teach young marketers how to define an audience and create a message that resonates.

Tactics and outcomes are much more important to your average marketing manager than an accredited diploma. The problem is, with the pace that marketing moves at, it’s hard to make sure that those tactics and outcomes are agreed upon.

Part of the problem: the marketing major’s “fluffy” reputation

Marketing is a popular major because, well, there’s no math. The classes themselves aren’t too complicated, the reading requirement is little or none, and it’s a good major for undecided students to stumble into since the pre-reqs cast a wide net. Sure, there are strivers and achievers like any major, but how many people are getting a degree in marketing with dreams of adhering to lead numbers and revenue figures?

Tools like marketing automation have made proving ROI easier than ever. But most grads aren’t prepared for this aspect of the job. Many of them have a creative bent and pick marketing thinking it will be the springboard to glamorous copywriter or art director jobs in an ad agency.

So courses allow these students to have creative ideas but give them no guidelines for proving their ideas can actually work. It’s a disservice all around.

Takeaway: Education doesn’t lend itself to disruption.

Where’s the incentive to change a course curriculum? Teachers certainly aren’t motivated to do it, not when they’re comfortable with the same principles they’ve been lecturing on for years. Why would they want to get uncomfortable? If professors are not incentivized to learn new things, then hope is lost for their students. The gap will continue to grow wider.

Bottom line, traditional education does not build full-spectrum marketers. Online learning options that are career-centered and give young professionals the opportunity to quickly close the gap are the only way to disrupt the current system.

Marketers need a comprehensive program taught by fellow marketers who understand the demands and expectations of the current world and can predict where things are going. Not one-off classes, not on-the-job training, not “going back to school” in the traditional sense.

If marketers aren’t born ready, it’s time to mold them into the marketers of the future!

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  1. Scott Cowley on September 13, 2016 at 3:13 pm

    Good points for discussion, Andrea.

    So let me ask: do employers actually know what they want? Can they effectively articulate which skills they need in order to determine whether graduates are “work-ready?” You’ve presented some conflicting evidence here. Employers seem excited to hire tacticians. Technology seems to move faster than the majority of businesses are capable of keeping up with themselves. So who, exactly, is hiring entry-level marketing automation specialists and what kind of management and mentoring are they actually prepared to provide?

    • jgray@leadmd.com jgray@leadmd.com on September 13, 2016 at 3:21 pm

      Scott, good question. My short answer, no. Lack of marketing curriculum and thus a true marketing profession affects everyone. If you want to hire an accountant, you look for a professional who went to a good school, who knows GAP accounting practices who has varying degrees of experience depending on the level of position. Now look at the same process for hiring marketers. The first two are largely irrelevant and the last is unmeasurable.

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