New research fund helping develop students' digital marketing skills

Header image for the article New research fund helping develop students' digital marketing skills Credit: HANNAH THEODORE
Students involved in the competition will receive hands-on training that will put them a step ahead as prospective employees.

A new competition co-funded by Northern Commerce and Fanshawe College is giving students the chance to put their digital marketing skills to the test.

A selection of students enrolled in the business administration marketing, marketing management, and honours bachelor of commerce (digital marketing) programs will all take part in a two-month long challenge. They will be required to put together a digital marketing campaign for a participating local business.

Liz Gray is a faculty member of the Lawrence Kinlin School of Business and will be overseeing the competition.

“We have about $7,000 that is spread across fourteen teams that are working with small businesses in the London region,” said Gray.

“Each team has $450 in cash that they can choose to spend on Google and/or Facebook to drive website traffic for the organization with whom they have been partnered.”

Due to the funding from Northern Commerce, Gray said the students will be able to get hands-on experience that they may not have been able to get otherwise. Gray said that this hands-on training will be highly beneficial to students in their pursuit of a career in digital marketing.

“They’re all approaching graduation and many of them are looking to work in digital marketing,” she said. “So they’re able to go into an interview and say to a prospective employer, ‘I have run a campaign, I have spent money, I understand the way that the live, real time digital ads auction works.’ And that goes a long way to ensuring employers that they can sort of hit the ground running and they would not as much onboard training as other candidates would because they’re already familiar with how the platforms work.”

The businesses taking part are wildly diverse, ranging from a local florist to a massage therapist to an escape room. Gray said that this means the way teams are judged will be affected.

“I’m working with the panel of judges to determine what the criteria is that will be used to determine what is better than the other,” she said. “In the real world, you take a look at your return on your investment. The only problem with the competition is that it’s not that easy because we have such a diversity of clients that we’re working with.”

Gray said it may be hard to judge the traffic generated for a massage therapist compared to a flower shop, but that the overall use of the $450 budget by the students will likely be taken in account, as well as improvements to search engine optimization tactics over the twomonth period.

The final step in the competition will be a presentation of the students’ campaign at the end of the two-month period, before a panel of judges from Northern Commerce. Students will learn directly from members of the industry, and garner a better understanding of what to expect in the working world of digital marketing.