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Bentley University Partners with HubSpot to Bring Market Skills to the Classroom
Just because college students grew up with the Internet doesn’t mean that they are natural experts at digital marketing. It’s one reason that Bentley marketing professor Ian Cross forged a first-of-its-kind educational partnership with the digital marketing platform HubSpot, providing Bentley students the opportunity to become certified on the fast-growing platform and giving them a leg up on their post-college job search.
“Familiarity with technology and social media is just one component of digital marketing,” Cross said. “Knowing the tried and tested rules of traditional marketing along with the new rules of digital marketing will help students learn the difference between communicating with friends and communicating in business. HubSpot gives them a platform — blogging software, social media tools, web analytics, marketing automation software — to practice what they’ve learned.”
Integrated into an honors course in e-marketing, the curriculum includes marketing basics: Who is your customer? What is the company’s position? Cross also uses HubSpot’s curriculum to train students to compete in the digital world, including inbound marketing, email and content marketing, and a process known as “contextual marketing” by which websites are built with personalized, customer-specific content.
“Marketing is often seen as a more creative area of business, but Professor Cross does a great job of explaining how important it is for marketers to make rational decisions based on hard data,” said marketing major Juliana de Groot, a junior. “For example, a marketer can’t design the packaging for a product without doing research on the target market to determine what information is most important and what words are most influential in the buyer's journey.”
Students not only learn the theory of HubSpot’s digital marketing approach, they get to apply it by creating digital campaigns for HubSpot clients including Sperry Topsider, Decas Cranberry Products and Customer Portfolios. They have free access to the HubSpot customer relationship management system to put theory into practice as they create blogs, emails and customer personas. The course includes a visit to HubSpot’s corporate office in Boston to tour the office, learn about the company’s mission and ideology, and network with Bentley alumni who are HubSpot employees.
The power of content
Digital marketing isn’t about selling products; it’s about solving problems. The message came through loud and clear for Bentley University senior Michelle Ohlson as she put her skills to the test.
“Today’s consumers have a lot of power in deciding where, when and how to shop, especially online,” said Ohlson. “Because of this, it is critical for companies to shift their perspectives. Instead of focusing on how to sell a product, they need to focus on how to engage customers with useful or enjoyable online content and form that relationship that drives the customer to want to make a purchase.”
Through certification with HubSpot’s technology and by using HubSpot tools with real clients, Ohlson says she not only learned the concept of “inbound marketing,” but also learned how to apply it to her client’s blogs, social media, email campaigns, online forms and search engine optimization.
“There’s a big difference between learning how something should work and how it does work in a real-world situation,” Ohlson said.
The Princeton Review reported that experiential learning in college can help launch careers, noting the top three benefits: Discover what you love; take a risk; and learn to talk about your skills. According to the report, employers value soft skills like work ethic, teamwork, oral communication and problem solving — in addition to job-specific training.
“We’re working with the tools that companies are really using for their marketing,” de Groot said. “Bentley is providing its students with an opportunity to learn about them in an educational environment so that we are prepared to jump right into our first full-time job. This class will definitely shorten the learning curve after graduation.”
As much as anything, Cross aims to prepare students for the incredibly rapid pace of change in the marketplace. “Successful marketing communicators understand that the idea they started out with this morning may have changed by this afternoon. It’s about knowing that and being proactive.”
The work students do speaks to potential employers. “Do you want to walk into a job interview and tell them you took a digital marketing course, or walk in saying that you’re HubSpot inbound-certified and you created a digital campaign estimated to produce a 5 percent uplift of sales over the first six months of 2017? The training and certification puts you way ahead of the game.”
HubSpot is also launching a new educational component and certification for students in select Bentley sales courses, incorporating HubSpot’s CRM sales platform and SalesForce cloud platform.
Bentley was also named No. 1 for Highest Freshman Retention Rate, No. 3 for Most Innovative Schools and No. 4 for Best Undergraduate Teaching among the regional universities in the “2019 Best Colleges” report.