Top 10 Tips for Teaching Marketing

Teaching Marketing is Different

Marketing is an interesting and challenging profession. I have spent my entire career in the marketing field. Firstly, in the corporate sector, followed by a stint in entrepreneurship, and then in academia and online education.

In many regards, marketing education is quite different to teaching other business disciplines. This is because the scope of marketing spans into interdisciplinary areas, such as finance, human resources, logistics, and analytics.

Plus, marketers need understanding of psychology, strategy, communication, product design, staff motivation, numbers and pricing, trade and channel relationships, as well as many more skill areas.

In addition to its broad scope, marketing needs to be taught from both a theoretical and practical perspective, in a field that is constantly evolving.

That’s why I believe that effectively teaching marketing is quite a challenging task, and that’s why I prepared this list of my top 10 tips for teaching marketing.

Tip 1: Make it practical and real world based

Probably the most important component to effective marketing education is to make it very practical and utilize many real-world examples and case studies.

While the theoretical concepts of models used in marketing can generally be understood by students relatively quickly, the application and decision-making of these models is far more complex.

Utilizing real case studies, hypothetical situations, YouTube videos, media stories, and so on – will not only make lectures and classes more interesting to students but will bring the theory alive.

It is also a great way of improving the understanding of students in the material. As we know, rote learning of models and concepts does not equip the student for the future marketing careers. The use and application of theory and evaluating firms in real life will provide a significant step forward in the level of understanding of the material by the students.

Suggested Activities to Make it Practical

Tip 2 = Use a variety of challenges and activities

As we know, people have different learning styles and the traditional chalk and talk method has been proven to be fairly ineffective in teaching. I learned this very early on in my teaching career and quickly modified my approach to be more hands-on and activity based.

These days we often refer to it as flipped classroom teaching. But essentially it is teaching the students through doing, considering, debating, and deciding. In other words, they take an active learning role, rather than passively have information wash over them.

Suggested Activities to Use Variety

Tip 3 = Link marketing activities back to profits

One of the potential traps of teaching marketing is to focus too heavily on marketing tactics, or individual elements of the marketing mix. This is how most textbooks are structured for ease of communication. But it does tend to send the message that the marketing mix elements can be used independently and for their own purpose.

However, as we know, the marketing mix elements need to work collectively to achieve the top-level goals of the business. For most organizations this is a profit goal, but it could be an awareness or participation goal for a not-for-profit organization.

Either way, in our marketing classes we need to remind students of the overall purpose of each marketing tactic (or marketing campaign). For example, while it’s nice to get clicks and views on social media, that needs to contribute to the acquisition of customer and enhance sales and profits.

Suggested Activities to Link Marketing to Profits

Tip 4 = There are multiple solutions, but some are better than others

One of the comments you have probably heard from your students is that “marketing is easy” because there are multiple solutions to any business problem.

And that is the case in many business situations – but not every solution is a good one – there are some that are much better than others.

We need to get students to the stage of constructing their own criteria and/or assessment checklist for their solution to a particular marketing problem. This means that instead of jumping quickly to answer, they first think about what they’re trying to achieve for the business.

They can then construct a simple criteria of what a good solution would contain. This then helps them independently evaluate possible alternatives.

Without this skill set, students get the impression that any logical argument is effective in improving their point and therefore any solution can be implemented.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, otherwise every new business would succeed regardless of their marketing strategy. However, many new businesses fail – and these businesses truly believed in their business model a marketing strategy enough to invest money in the venture.

Suggested Activities for Evaluating the Best Solution

Tip 5 = Marketing is more than promotion and advertising

There is a potential danger in teaching marketing and focusing on the promotional mix only. This happens because it is the more visible marketing mix element and students are very aware of advertising and social media campaigns, making it a rich reservoir of examples and ideas.

However, probably from the first marketing class it is important to communicate that that was one element of marketing only and often only implemented once the other marketing mix elements are in place – especially product and price.

There is a bit of trade off key which will depend upon your student cohort. Obviously, some students are attracted to marketing because they see it as communications and creativity. But if you are preparing students for a marketing career, then a much broader perspective of marketing is critical.

Suggested Activities for Pushing Beyond Promotion

Tip 6 = Balance digital and traditional marketing tactics

Because we live in a very digital world which many of your students have grown up in, students are far more familiar with digital marketing tactics – social media, websites, apps, video platforms, and so on.

But the reality is that for many businesses digital plays a relatively minor part in their business model. For example, B2B firms, small retailers, accounting and legal firms, to name a few. Sure, they still have digital marketing, but it plays a minor part in their overall business success.

Therefore, we need to strike a balance between the teaching of digital tools and techniques and the teaching of more traditional marketing approaches.

Suggested Activities for Balancing Digital and Traditional

Tip 7 = Marketing means different things to different people

There are many perceptions of marketing in the business community and in the broader community. There are still many business people who see marketing as purely sales and advertising. This is quite different to a standard principles of marketing textbook, where marketing spans analysis, strategy, consumer behavior, targeting and positioning, the 7P’s of the marketing mix.

It is helpful to prepare students for different views of marketing in the real world. They may have family or friends who indicate that marketing is purely a creative discipline, or is a minor part of the business world.

In my situation, I would highlight to students that there is a continuum of views of marketing which is evolving. And that marketing is becoming more professional through the use of analytics, and even the emergence of new roles such as Chief Customer Officer, where the voice of the customer is paramount to decision-making.

Suggested Activities for Communicating What Marketing Means

Tip 8 = Push students to make decisions

As marketing is a practical discipline, where things can go wrong and people can make poor decisions, it is very important to push your students into decision-making with activities and mini case studies.

Sometimes, marketing debates or conflicting information is helpful for helping students navigate through the for and against different decision options.

Students who safely sit on the sidelines and simply take notes of key points of theory will not have a strong understanding of the material for their future careers, which is usually the ultimate goal of their education.

Suggested Activities for Student Decision Making

Tip 9 = Marketing is numbers too

For some reason students tend to think that marketing has limited use of numbers. This relates back to the traditional role of marketing, which grew out of sales and advertising many years ago. But this is no longer the case.

We have seen a significant increase in data and analytics, and a shift from marketing being an art to being a balance of art and science. And in many companies, data-driven decision-making for marketing is compulsory.

And given that the key goal of marketing is often to drive long-term profits, students need a good understanding of numbers to be effective – and to be taken seriously – in their role as marketers.

Suggested Activities for Building Numbers Expertise with Students

Tip 10 = Marketing is solving a series of puzzles

Possibly a very effective way of communicating what marketing is all about, is to communicate that marketing is essentially a game of solving puzzles.

Businesses operate in an evolving marketing environment (internal, micro, and macro environments). Our goal as marketers is to best match the firm’s resources to the marketplace, considering competitors and other aspects of the environment.

So how do we do that? We need to work out the right combination of our marketing tactics an overall strategy to be successful. And even when we are successful, things will change, and marketing efforts become less/more effective before we need to work out why and how to fix it.

Suggested Activities for Solving Puzzles for Marketing Decisions

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