Are Marketing Professors Playing Hooky?

Laura Patterson



marketing-studentsI've had the privilege of attending various marketing and business academic conferences in the past few years, and at each conference, a few hundred professors from all over the world gathered to share their latest research and discuss best practices, both in terms of their disciplines and for the classroom.

It was quite an eye-opening experience when it came to the sessions on marketing measurement, operations, and dashboards: Hardly anyone showed up -- the profs were playing hooky.

The weather at the conferences was not exactly pleasant, so they weren't on the golf course -- maybe they just slept in, thinking they've already aced the topic. If our marketing capabilities are any testament to what our students need to learn to be effective in their marketing jobs, the profs are missing the mark.

Coffee and hallway conversations with various marketing profs didn't leave me feeling confident that our future marketers are going to be any better at tackling data and analytics. Their point of view: They teach statistics, define CPMs, GPR, and response rates; talk about mix models; and lecture on how to measure advertising campaign campaigns and direct mail.

They seemed to think that about covers it.

Marketing measurement courses not taught at many universities worldwide.

So out of curiosity, I wondered: How many universities actually offer a marketing measurement course? According to the first dozen pages of Google, only about 35 universities around the world offer a specific course related to marketing measurement. That's a little disappointing when you take into account that according to the International Association of Universities, there are close to 9,000 universities in the world.

And here's another little tidbit I picked up over those coffee conversations: When it comes to marketing measurement, they tend to focus on the business-to-consumer (B2C) world, with a strong penchant for retail and consumer packaged goods.

The U.S. Census Bureau tells me there are about 100 million registered businesses in the United States. A significant number -- like in the millions -- are actually business-to-business (B2B). The odds of a person going to work for a B2B company are fairly high, so it would seem to make sense for more academic programs to increase their attention on B2B.

To add to that challenge, many of the professors tend to emphasize big brand names such as Dell, Procter & Gamble, Walmart, Southwest Airlines, Apple, Progressive, Microsoft, Bank of America, USAA, and Coca-Cola -- at least those were among some of the firms mentioned.

Not that these aren't great companies and can't provide excellent examples, but many students will be working for companies with much smaller budgets and will need examples of how to measure and improve marketing when you don't have the resources of these big names.

Executives place great importance on marketing data when making decisions.

So ... should the profs be preparing marketers for measuring what really matters? Nothing like turning to two professors for the answer.

In 2009, Don O'Sullivan and Patrick Butler from the Melbourne Business School shared the preliminary findings from their Corporate Executives' Perceptions of Marketing Performance study. For the report, the duo surveyed 190 senior non-marketing executives in high-technology firms drawn from a BusinessWeek research panel.

The principal preliminary discovery in this study confirmed that marketing's ability to measure performance impacts how CEOs and other non-marketing senior managers assess marketing's contribution and value -- and most marketers aren't able to do it. Maybe the other professors skipped this study.

Future marketers need to know more about the modern industry landscape.

Nearly every company we work with is looking for marketing people who understand the numbers -- who can focus on and improve marketing ROI. They want people who have the relevant skills in analytics and measurement.

The marketers of tomorrow -- meaning the students of today -- need to be ready to do the math when it comes to marketing.

When someone says marketing automation system or a marketing dashboard, they shouldn't look like deer in the headlights. And when we talk about conversion ratios, win/loss analysis, pipeline contribution and velocity, etc. in the B2B world, they shouldn't think we're talking in a foreign language.

So, how do we get the profs to show up to class?

A proven marketing practitioner, respected consultant, and dynamic speaker, VisionEdge Marketing President Laura Patterson (@LauraVEM) is known for her practical, no-nonsense approach to providing actionable recommendations and solutions. To learn more about VisionEdge Marketing and how you can prove and improve the value of marketing, visit the VisionEdge Marketing website.

What do you think marketing programs at universities across the globe are missing in terms of curriculum?

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