If you’ve interviewed candidates from the marketing background (MBA, BBA, etc) straight out of college, you must have noticed a surprising trend. These rising young professionals may be sharp, thoughtful digital natives – but, they don’t have the online marketing skills required in today’s marketplace. The reason being, University marketing departments are not up to the current trends and they are behind the curve.
The whole world is online now and so the center of gravity for much of the marketing world too – has moved online. In my firm’s area of specialty which is educational services, the landscape has changed quickly from one of brochures, flyers and direct mail to online content marketing, SEO and social media campaigns. In a study of more than 2,000 professional services purchasers, we found that more than 75% of buyers look to a company’s website to check them out; making websites the first step of resource for purchasing evaluations.
Today’s businesses started recognizing that the rules have changed and are way different than they were few years ago. But it’s very clear that colleges haven’t caught up with the rapid pace of the online transformation, and students are paying the price.
WHAT STUDENTS LEARN—AND WHAT THEY DON’T
Typically, the marketing programs/courses offered by universities covers topics like marketing analytics, quantitative analysis, marketing research techniques, and marketing management. These are useful skills, but they often haven’t been revised for the world of digital marketing which is fast moving and evolving.
But the most serious problem is in the topics which students don’t cover at length—or don’t learn at all. The list is long: Content marketing, search engine optimization, social media, marketing software skills (CRMs, content management systems, and marketing automation), online lead generation strategies, and more. The one thing common in all of these skills are: they’re the bread and butter of successful digital marketing programs. But they are severely under-taught in universities and colleges.
For students from the marketing background to succeed in the industry, they will need at least training in the below three key areas.
- SOCIAL MEDIA
Many college students today are already social media experts, using most of the popular platforms regularly in their personal lives. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are fluent in social media for business. In the marketing industry, social media is a way to promote content, showcase a firm’s culture and brand, build brand awareness, connect with prospects and industry influencers, demonstrate expertise, and more. But most university marketing programs are failing to explore these topics.
Students seeking marketing jobs have to understand how to use social media to generate website referral traffic and increase firm visibility, and how social media relates to being found in search engines. Their knowledge has to go beyond everyday use—they need to know the ins-and-outs of LinkedIn Groups, Google+ Communities, social advertising, and other features. For many colleges and universities, this will mean getting serious about their approach to social media-–and changing social media programs as and when the industry evolves.
- CONTENT MARKETING AND SEO
Closing business used to be a matter of the hard sell, but this is no longer the case. Consumers today have become more cynical of direct pitches. Instead, they’re seeking out firms that have established their expertise, can educate them, and that can help deal with their challenges. As they seek out such firms, buyers are searching online, and the businesses that rank highly in search engines enjoy a clear advantage. Search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t new, but the discipline has undergone fundamental changes in the span of only a few years.
Google makes over 500 algorithmic updates annually, and SEO tactics that worked just a few years ago—some “black hat” and some rather harmless—can result in a penalty on your website or a considerable drop in rankings. Add to the level of how SEO can affect a business’s website, LinkedIn recently ranked SEO as the fifth most valuable professional skill of 2015.
It is important that students learn how businesses use educational content to demonstrate expertise and educate prospects, projecting their knowledge and problem-solving approach over a variety of modern marketing channels. This encompasses everything from writing engaging blogs to utilizing online video.