Ball State University
Hey, everyone. Thanks for tuning in to the Teacher's Lounge, HubSpot's podcast for the Education Partner Program. I'm Isaac Moche, your host for the podcast. Today we'll be talking to Eric Harvey, marketing instructor and director of the Center for Advancement of Digital Marketing and Analytics at Ball State University. Welcome, Eric.
Oh, thank you, Isaac, for inviting me.
Tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself and your role at Ball State.
I'm the director of the Center for Advancement of Digital Marketing and Analytics. My center has come from a grant that we started about three years ago. I was doing some research in digital marketing and looking at the employment gap for students, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.
Yeah, I think we'll be talking a ton about the center, but before we jump too much into that, you had first career in industry. Is that correct?
Yeah. I actually spent about 20 years in telecommunications. Started way back with GTE, and was a merge with Verizon, so went through a program. It was a management associate program where was kind of like a lottery pick. They get to pick. The executives got to pick where they felt like you needed to go, so I was fortunate enough I got picked to go into actually operations, I started, and then marketing and sales was kind of my bailiwick and I kind of grew from there.
Do you feel like that first sting in industry impacted your thoughts on the skills gaps or made you especially cognizant of that, heading into your career in teaching?
Certainly. I'm a business guy. I have a business degree, so my focus from a corporate standpoint or industry standpoint certainly has allowed me to assess the market, always looking to see what's out there, what's next, what's needed, so certainly I would say that certainly helped. I mean, just writing this grant, the skills that I had from that, that business environment certainly helped me position myself too. You got to put the right words in there, you've got set objectives, all those things that the C-suites want to see to make that decision, so yeah, you learn how to do that and I think that certainly has helped me here at Ball State.
What were those objectives? You wrote your grant. What were the things, and are those the things that are still the objectives today?
Well, this grant is three years, so we wanted to set at least three objectives. We want to do a social media competition, we want to do a digital marketing summit, and we want to a student-run social media marketing agency, so all those things are smart objectives. Those are things that we can accomplish within the three years and then I think we can grow from those, but these are things that kind of relevant in the environment today and kind of ties back into three things from Ball State's purpose, and that's the student, the university, and the engagement in the community. When I say community, it's local but also the business community, so sponsorships, partners, growing those things to help you stay relevant in the industry.
You mentioned three things. You mentioned the student-run agency, the social media competition, and the digital marketing summit. I'm curious, were there anything else that was on the table or were those the clearer things in your mind that you had to do?
I think we had like five to seven other things that were out there, but these three things were really relevant. The social media competition, we have professional cells part of marketing group of here and they do competitions every year. They rank nationally, so we wanted to emulate something like that to get the awareness and the interest so we can kind of build that from a standpoint, but we want to be known from a digital marketing standpoint or social media standpoint. The student-run agency, that's something that has not been done, okay? There's plenty student-run marketing agencies, but to be specific in that niche market in the social media marketing and our focus there, from a digital marketing standpoint, we want to do that.
Then the third thing, the digital marketing summit, we want to bring the industry to Ball State, okay? We want all of these pioneers, all of the individuals that are actually working in the marketplace to come and speak to our students and to the community to kind of do that thing, so that was the third thing. Some of the other things, we just felt like you couldn't measure it and I think that's the thing that we rolled these other things out, is that they didn't help with the sustainability and you couldn't really measure them, and they're nice and shiny things to do, but how does that provide the value and show that you spent the money the right way to do those things?
I'm curious what you think is the, if we were the take an analogy, what the foundation is built of for a sustainable center? One thing might be economic. It might be that the stakeholders, whether it's the school, the students, and industry, are involved. What do you think is that mix for building a sustainable center?
Well, you got to provide value, so the partners, the donors, the sponsors, they are critically important to the sustainability model, I believe, but you just can't take everybody. You have to pick and choose. You got to be selective, right? The value for CADMA or the student-run agency, let's say for example State Farm Insurance, so if we can provide workshops for State Farm Insurance to help their salespeople set up their social media platforms, help manage their daily stuff, that's value to them, so I'm sure they would be willing to donate or sponsor and kind of do those things, so it's value, so value for the students. They're learning, real world activity there, and then the sponsorships. Hey, these guys are actually helping them get clients and helping them manage their social media platforms.
Have you found any hesitation from the industry to take on work from students? I know the agency isn't fully built out yet, but either to judge the competition or to come to the summit, and how have you overcome that, or how do you position it so you think you don't have that? I think many of our listeners would be curious to know.
One of the things I thought that was important is that you've got to show the value. Our social media agency last year, they had four clients. We just said, "We're just going to do four clients." We've got them lined up, you know, to do a million clients, but we're not ready to take that on, so we want to make sure that we're professional, we're value-based, and I learned this from Verizon. You know, the brand is so important, so we've spent 18 months building that brand for us, that we're providing a good service and value in what we're doing, so before you can even go out and approach a client, you've got to have the stuff in place. They need to know that you're serious in what you're doing. The CADMA brand is there. We're building that, but the big brand is Ball State University and we want to make them proud and we want to help maintain what they're doing.
Do you see that importance of saying no showing up in the classroom as well, as to why you decide to integrate? The pace of change can be so overwhelming, and figuring out what to put in and what to put not, it feels like sometimes folks bite off too much than they can chew and that being able to say no is really becoming a virtue.
Yeah. I mean, so just kind of an interesting story from a class. One of the classes that I teach is Product and Branding. I was like, "Students ..." I gave them this example of the white t-shirt that Kanye West ... it's a $500 t-shirt, right? I'm like, "Who's your target market?" They were like, "Oh, everybody. Entertainers and like ..." I was like, "No way, okay? Those aren't your customers, okay?" So you have to really think about what you're doing, you know? We don't want college students to find us. We're not even thinking about them, but maybe the entertainers or the rappers or the football players and whatever, telling them that not everybody is going to buy that product. Not everybody is going to want to come to CADMA and be a sponsor, or we don't want that sponsor, okay? It's not associated, affiliated with what we're trying to do, so you have to be honest and communicate and tell them no, and figure out a way to teach them that this is the right way to approach the business.
I want to shift a little bit to another thing that you mentioned right at the beginning, which was the digital skills gap. Do you feel like that's the North Star in a lot of ways for your center and for your teaching?
That was the initial concept of why we did this, exactly, so part of my research, I visited a lot of agencies, talked to a lot of corporations, and they saw that new shiny object about, "Hey, we need to be in social media, so let's hire a snake person to come in and work for me and they know how to do it." It's like wow. It's like the worst hiring decision they've ever made because yeah, they know how to use it, but do they know how to articulate that with your business? Do they know how to look at the analytics? Do they know how to do this thing? That was like, oh, man. I said, "Wow. This is a big deal out there." That to me is the gap. I mean, I just spoke with an individual a couple of weeks ago. They are in that situation right now. They've hired three or four snake people that were marketing majors and they just said, "Hey, take over my social media." Wow. It's just like, oh my goodness. It's a bad penny, so organizations, they're losing money, things like that.
That's where I said, "Well, look, here's a gap and this is how I think we can fill it, okay? Let's get them trained. Let's get them certified in HubSpot. They got wonderful tools. Let's get that out there." I'm talking to the university and our curriculum development committee. I'm like, "Look, we need a social media class. We need a digital marketing class. This is going to differentiate the marketing students when they leave our university and they go out there." All the marketing coordinator jobs have social media management in them today. They weren't in there three or four years ago. They're in there today. That's what they're looking for these guys to do, so not just put up a page. They want them to manage that page. They want them to do the content marketing. They want them to look at the analytics. They want them to tell their client that they're spending too much money on the traditional marketing. This is how we can help you from a digital marketing standpoint to kind of help with your budget and those things.
Do you feel like students ever get caught off guard because they feel like they've been using social media their whole life and then suddenly they get in here, it's like, "Oh, you're going to have a bad time if you try and do what you did for yourself, for a company"?
Well, I will tell you my social media marketing class, the first day, I just tell them like, "You guys, I know you guys probably can teach me some tricks and that's wonderful, but you're going to learn the backend. You're going to learn the strategy. You're going to learn how to talk to your boss. You're going to learn how to talk to your client about the value of this and what it can do for your business and how you can save money and what the ROI is based on what you're doing." Yeah, they're like, they're think they're going to Snapchat all day or tweet or whatever. They're doing nothing like that in my class. They're doing some hands-off stuff, but we are looking at the analytics to determine what you say in your content marketing, how that changes, how you take that into a storytelling and all those different things there, but certainly I have to get them removed from them just taking a picture and instagraming and doing that.
How do you bridge that gap? You have the students that are coming in and then you have calculating the ROI of social media, and I'd imagine it's hard maybe not to have their eyes not glaze over, but for them to immediately feel kind of taken aback or overwhelmed as they're like, "Oh, I thought I was ..." whether they thought it was going to be a "gimme" class or whether they genuinely are interested, what that transition is like for a student who comes in to the student that you see three or four months later. I mean, how do you get them there?
I always set the stage, you know? "This is a marketing strategy class, so all the foundationals that you learn in your principles class or your consumer behavior or your marketing research, you're going to use those in this class, okay? So you need to think about that. You're going to have a client to manage. You need to look at their marketing plan. You need to look at their personas or their target market, and identify those and then create that content." Actually give them a chance to actually hands-on and do those things. Then, "Okay, this is what you've done. Let's look back further. What did they do last year if they had a platform? Okay, and then what did you do last month? Let's look at the analytics there. How did that change based on you shooting the video or putting the picture of the cat? What are those reactions? Then from a strategy standpoint, how do you take that back to your client and have that discussion with them on how that can help them do those things?"
That seems like that fits really well with the long-term goal for the student-run agency, and probably the summit and the competition too. Are you pulling the students from those courses, or from an actual organizational perspective, how does the center fit into the rest of the marketing in Ball State ecosystem?
Let's say the agency, so we open call the agency. A lot of them will come from my advanced class. This past year, I've handpicked a couple of leaders because I felt like they would be good with the startup, those things, so the whole student campus is open to come there, not just the marketing students, so we've got T-com students, advertising, journalism, PR, graphic, so they all come and they're very interested, so how we position them on the team is really open.
I feel like a lot of magic probably happens in letting students of different disciplines and different passions get in there together, and actually probably is going to end up being a big benefit and a big part of the brand of that agency, is that we're going to be able to tackle problems from a couple of different angles with different skill sets.
Yeah. I think as long as we deliver, I think we'll be fine.
I'm curious because I think the industry and higher ed are in this inflection point where a lot of folks started out with one course or they started out with the principles of marketing course that has a little bit of digital, and they're finally getting to this point where they're building one digital marketing course, two digital marketing courses. What has that been like, watching this grow? I'm curious to hear what you were most nervous about as you were expanding this and also what's been most exciting about that process of growing that.
Well, it's exciting because it's new, you know? Me coming here and getting the chance to kind of create my own class, that was pretty awesome. I think the thing is that I don't have a social media background. I don't have a digital marketing background. I've managed agencies, but that's as far as it ... so I did take the time to do the research, but I think the hardest thing is digital marketing is so broad and so wide, and for us, I'm in the marketing department, so we're focused on business and strategy, okay? Across the street, you've got advertising, you've got PR and journalism, and that's normally where the digital media, that stuff is, so I had to be very careful to pick and choose what classes that I could actually do for this. That was very difficult.
Then the whole, "What do you pick from digital marketing?" Oh my gosh, you know? We just felt like social media marketing, had to be that, so the first time was very tough. You know, what do you teach? I actually looked at a lot of other professors that were out there doing some things, went to a couple of conferences, and it's just new. I mean, there weren't a lot of books and a lot of people not teaching it. I kind of, the first time, dabbled out there and just got a book and went with what they were doing. Then I didn't like it, but that's like every book I get, I don't like it either because I come from industry. I'm like, "That's good conceptually, but how do you do that in a business environment and do that?" It's the practical standpoint that I think that I'm good at and I want the students to understand that.
I leveraged by partnering with such as you at HubSpot, you know? You guys had a great program and that helped educate me. I said, "Well, this is great for the students. Let's just continue to leverage what the industry is doing." That was the hardest thing for me, is to kind of say, "What can I teach in 16 weeks that's going to be relevant, it's going to be practical for them." Actually, it was already in place for me. I don't know why I was looking around for it. I mean, the industry has put the resources available for you to do that.
It sounds like a key principle for you of bridging that skills gap is combining the theory and the practice, and putting those things together, so it sounds like certifications are one. Learning within the center is another. Any other tips for how you've done that? I mean, it sounds like, again going back to that saying no, one of them is no to textbooks.
Yeah. I mean, and don't get me wrong, I know the heart and soul that goes into those textbooks and the research that's done, and the theory is there. For me, it's got to be relevant. You know, somebody is doing it in the industry and they figured something out, or I went to a conference and this is what Taco Bell is doing or this is what Oracle is doing or whatever. That's how I learned and I put that directly through the class to make sure that they're kind of doing those things.
What advice you have on the actual execution of it? You know, some of the things that I'm hearing are like stakeholder engagement. Really important that the students, the community, your peers, your colleagues are involved. What else in the day-to-day ... okay, we've got the vision. We've got the buy-in. I think a lot of times people struggle with, "Oh, I almost wasn't expecting to get that course and wasn't expecting to have this mandate." What do you do?
I think if you're doing what you say you're doing, that kind of helps, you know? We said we were going to those things. That what we're doing, so we're on par there. You've got to communicate with your peers and then upward. You got to let them know what you're doing. You got to toot your horn. If you're doing something good, "Hey, this is what we're doing." We've had 500 certified students in social media. They're getting jobs, people are calling us, so the most important thing is the brand. If it's not helping the brand, I'm not working on it. I'm not doing it. We have the message. We repeat the same message over and over and over again so that they know this is our spout, so I think that's very important that you have to have that positive communication about what you're doing, and impacting the students and impacting the community and the university. Those things are so important. I think as long as you're sticking to that, I think things will fall in place.
Even in us talking, you know the number of certified students, you know how much time it's been out for, you know how many ... it's those numbers, right? It's those numbers and being able to say, "This is the quantified impact in X amount of time." Do you set up any feedback loop so that you get that data, whether it's staying in touch with students or anything like that so that you can quantify the impact of it?
Yeah. Absolutely. I know with the agency, we meet regularly every week to follow up those things. I know in my center, we capture data, so we're data-driven. How many students got jobs in digital marketing? We're counting that. How many people got certified this week, or how many people didn't get into my marketing class? That's important because, "Hey, let's go talk to the dean to see if we can add another section."
You're 18 months in. Zoom that out 14 more months, three years. Where are you at? What's the brand? What does that look like 14 months from now?
Our goal in the next 14 months is to grow our brand with the conference, with the summit, with the agency. The agency is going to take on a lot more clients this year. We're going to move to where we're managing in the summer, okay? We might even try to work in getting some of the students paid or on scholarship to kind of help manage, so that's one of the things that I've noticed. I think that's kind of important, so I'll be looking for another grant to keep this thing going, and sponsors, recruiting. We've got some collateral material that's going to go out. Do some marketing with some sponsors and land a big sponsor. Working with our donors to keep this thing maintained, so I think what we've done the first 18 months is to get us out there, maintain our brand.
The last 14 months is to keep it going, but to plan for the next three years. After the three years, putting Ball State on the map for digital marketing. Students will be coming here at Ball State University for digital marketing because we've got the brand, we're getting them job, so we're providing value for these students.
Yeah. I love it, so two things. I think I cut you a little short and I didn't mean to give you an anxiety. You got a few more than 14 months.
Yeah. Right, yeah.
You got 18 months.
I got 18 months. I'm like, "14? Oh my god."
Yeah, but it does remind me a little bit of trying to get elected, right? It's like, just because you got that mandate of the first cycle, you got to kick yourself back into reelection mode.
Yeah. I feel that's my responsibility. I'm the director of the center, you know? If I want to see it successful, you got to have a sustainability in place to do that, so I'll be campaigning for the next 18 months.
Well, then. All right, well, Eric I just want to say thank you so much for stopping in. It's been great to talk to you and I really look forward. What we'll have to do is have you on in 18 months so that we can hear the conclusion of this.
Oh, I would love that. That would be great for us to do that. Certainly what you're doing for us, from a professor standpoint, is really important and we value that, the sources that you provide us.
We're here to help. Like you said, it's collaboration between higher ed and industry.
And it's for the students.
Yeah. That is a great point right there.
Folks, thanks for listening. This has been Teacher's Lounge, HubSpot's podcast for the Education Partner Program. You can listen on SoundCloud, Stitcher, iTunes, whatever software you use to listen to your podcasts. The Education Partner Program provides colleges and university professors with everything they need to teach sales, entrepreneurship, marketing, and communications. That's software, resources, and a community of professors, all for free. Until next time, folks.
Eric Harvey joined Ball State as an instructor of marketing in 2013. Previously, Professor Harvey spent 17 years in various marketing positions in the telecommunications industry at GTE and then at Verizon. He currently remains active as a business and marketing consultant within the telecommunications industry.