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Pictured, from left, are WIU students Davron Boyd, a senior marketing major from Chicago (IL); Anthony Morici, a senior marketing major from Chicago (IL); Woodrum Toyota General Manager Mike Woodrum; Matt Chaney, a senior marketing major from Mount Sterling (IL) and Jake Hofer, a junior law enforcement and justice administration major, marketing minor from Henry (IL).
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WIU Marketing Class Works With Macomb Businesses

December 15, 2015


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MACOMB, IL – A unique classroom opportunity at Western Illinois University is offering students and Macomb business owners a chance to collaborate, learn from each other and improve promotional opportunities.

WIU Marketing and Management Instructor Shanna Bruer-Hess said she began the Fall 2015 semester teaching her Marketing 371 Internet Marketing class from a textbook.

"After the first few chapters, I realized that things change so fast, especially in terms of the Internet and social media," said Bruer-Hess.

So Bruer-Hess began searching for a chance for her 26 students to have a hands-on opportunity to learn. The search led to a partnership between the class and Kathy Waters, president and CEO of the Macomb Area Chamber of Commerce.

The students were divided into seven groups and assigned a business to collaborate with on a marketing plan to improve customer traffic and sales. Local businesses include: Woodrum Ford, Lincoln and Woodrum Toyota; Jackson Street Market; the Kozmic Game Emporium; Nostalgia; Brown's Shoe Fit. Co.; Spring Lake and the WIU Choral program.

"Each group became consultants, and they had to understand what their business does and identify two or three of its biggest problems, such as customer misunderstanding, awareness or a misrepresentation of what that business does," said Bruer-Hess. "The goal is to then increase awareness and change perception."

WIU senior English major and marketing minor Rebecca Gonner, of Dubuque, IA, said the class is the "most hands-on learning experience I've had here at Western."

"The project that constitutes the backbone of the course really allows students a look inside the world of marketing: analyzing an actual target audience and developing strategies to reach them, learning about the different social media tools that could help our businesses, and - most importantly - having the chance to work with real clients," said Gonner. "My group took a somewhat unconventional route in choosing to work for the WIU Choir Department rather than an actual business, so we've had to get creative in the way we think about our marketing goals, target audience, competitors and so on. Still, I've learned a lot by working through these complications, and being forced to think about these marketing concepts in different ways has helped me to better understand them."

Gonner added that while she had to learn some of the marketing jargon necessary for the project, the hands-on approach made "it all much more accessible to me."

Nostalgia owner Lara Dively said the students are developing a plan to help her handle the time consumption issues social media creates.

"As a small business owner, managing social media can take so much time, and so I am looking forward to the Internet marketing students submitting a marketing and social media platform that I can manage easily and successfully," said Dively.

Bruer-Hess said the program is evolving as the fall semester progresses and is a "learning process for everyone."

"Some of the groups are trying to get the business owners to relinquish control over all of their Tweets and social media posts and allow the students to generate the content," she said. "They also have to create a 12-month calendar and plan for marketing their business."

One way students identified the goals of each business was to survey its existing customers and potential customers to find the target demographic for each. Students also talked with "opinion leaders," who are people who set local trends, such as fashion or buying patterns.

"Each student group has a unique set of challenges and I am interested to see how they react to each of them," said Bruer-Hess.

For more information on the WIU Department of Management and Marketing, visit wiu.edu/cbt.

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (JK-Pospeschil@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations