Dr. Debra Zahay
Associate Professor of Interactive Marketing
Northern Illinois University
What is your background?
Direct and database marketing. I started the interactive marketing program at NIU. It includes 5-6 classes in interactive on top of standard marketing curriculum. [There are] currently 30+ in the tgraduating class. We’re growing 30% each year. It’s tough to find teachers who are academically qualified (have PhDs).
How do you teach interactive marketing with the changes that are happening out in the field every day?
Our program is very experiential. We used the Google AdWords Challenge as a textbook for my Advanced Marketing Technology class.
Students created YouTube viral videos in Internet Marketing. One of the groups created videos promoting the NIU interactive marketing program and landed NIU a page 1 ranking for “Interactive Marketing” on Google.
It takes 4-5 years for something to become codified. New mediums are popping up all the time. Email was the wild, wild west in the early days of the web. Now we know it is effective as a retention tool, not for acquisition.
There are a number of good webinars that can be used to supplement classroom material. Mary Lou Roberts has a good textbook on integrating online and offline internet strategies.
Will textbooks become obsolete?
No, because there is currently no special incentive at most universities for writing online textbooks and it is a lot of work to keep updated.
[There are] other resources available to create dynamic learning atmosphere. We set up a Ning network for students to share posts, comments (and are using it now). We’re opening it up to the public to foster interaction with industry practitioners. We also have LinkedIn and Facebook groups. We set up wiki for Google AdWords Challenge last year and were also page 1 for “google online challenge.”
Why do you think Google offers its AdWords Challenge for students?
Google offers the AdWords challenge to help students foremost, learn SEM. The program was started by professors. Other benefits are exposing more companies to the benefits of PPC and creating a new generation of marketers that are familiar with AdWords.
What was the outcome of your participation? What did your students learn from the experience?
Students learn how to plan and execute and measure a marketing campaign. They can do this in a semester which is great experience for them. They also become familiar with PPC and SEO in general and how difficult it can be to get the keywords necessary to get good results. Good keywords can be expensive so the students must be creative.
What are the most important skills for students to develop in order to succeed in the field?
I go back to readng, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. Students need to have the basics; they need to be able to digest information, sell their ideas persuasively and use math and stats skills to make their case.
We teach certain technologies but can’t teach every technology. The technology is a means to an end. Ultimately, employers are looking for people who can think, who can be creative and come up with new revenue ideas and ways of solving problems.
That said we try to make sure most folks leaving our program understand data analytics and data mining, web site design, email marketing, and SEO and SEM technologies as well as how to plan, implement and measure direct and interactive campaigns.
I see some of the job descriptions today and they are very advanced. People are looking for lots of advanced skills even from new grads so it is harder than ever to compete in the job market.
What is the role of the Internet in relationship marketing?
The Internet itself allows for connectivity so it can be used in many ways. The basic customer lifecycle is attract, acquire and retain. For example, email campaigns focus on customer retention, SEO on attraction and the Web site on “stickiness. “ And social networks can be used as retention tools.
What’s the biggest difference in marketing now vs. 20 years ago?
The pace is a lot faster than 20 years ago. I remember doing direct mail in the early 1990s and it was ok to wait three weeks to get all the responses. Now all email responses are obtained within three days and most in the first 24 hours. So marketers really have to work to keep up the pace and so do professors!
What will be the biggest difference in marketing now vs. 20 years from now?
Well, I think the pace is going to keep accelerating and we will use many more diagnostic tools to help us make decisions so rapidly. Marketers will rely more on real time, analytical tools to manage campaigns and programs.
Multichannel has been a trend and the measurement and attribution challenges will continue; did the customer respond after conducting a search, seeing our ad, getting our mailing? W
hat never seems to change is the basic process of marketing, finding the best customers and marketing to them in a way that is relevant and makes customers want to respond and stay around.