Students help local startups ZuluTime and LogicBox through Portland State’s Digital Marketing Strategies Certificate program


Portland State University’s Market Square building was abuzz with excitement and hushed whispers during the final class. The Digital Marketing Strategies Certificate students were waiting for their “clients,” ZuluTime and LogicBox Software, to arrive for their final presentations.

Intel’s Bryan Rhoads was concluding the course, Integrating Digital Media – Best Practices, the final leg of PSU’s 5-course Digital Marketing Strategies Certificate offered through the Professional Development Center. Bryan’s challenging 3-week journey walks each student through a marketing project brief towards a final team presentation to the business owners outlining an integrated digital marketing strategy. Armed with the knowledge from the previous courses, the two teams of students were wearing their best duds to impress their new “clients.”

Since late February, these 30 students have been taking classes conducted by local digital marketing experts. Industry instructors Dennis Hahn, Carri Bugbee, Johnny Hartman, Kent Lewis, Hallie Janssen, Aaron Gray, and now Bryan Rhoads lead the digital marketing courses, covering everything pertaining to digital strategies, SEO/SEM, social media, and Web analytics.

“The Portland State Digital Marketing Strategies certificate has grown out of instructors from different agencies identifying critical skills that are needed in the industry,” said Jennifer Portis, PSU Program Director. “Understanding how these skills are used in businesses is critical. The courses are helping people integrate this into their working lives.”

Rhoads splits his class into two brand teams, and each team works on a local brand and business. The teams have been developing a 360-degree marketing plan for each business that includes Web, social, PR, mobile, experiential, and emerging media strategies rolled up into one comprehensive plan. Each team had one hour to present their best approaches and then took some tough questions from the company’s stakeholders.

“The reality is my MBA program did not teach me about the specifics of digital marketing,” said Mathew Weber, one of the students. “It also didn’t outline how digital strategy complements marketing objectives.”

ZuluTime

Up first was Team ZuluTime, presenting their plan to local startup ZuluTime Corp.

Larry Logan, Zulutime CEO, and CTO Geoff Rhoads arrived and were eager to hear the strategies put together by the team. ZuluTime offers next-generation Location-Awareness technology and patented techniques for precise and accurate positioning of mobile devices—a technology they feel surpasses GPS for location-based services, indoors and urban canyons where GPS is limited and imprecise. After brief introductions, the team leads hit the ground running outlining objectives, target markets, and a “persona” outlining their ideal prospect.

The students’ primary recommendation was to increase digital communications around ZuluTime’s product LiveFind™ technology. They reasoned that “LiveFind” is iconic, “ownable,” and represents the technology’s benefit quickly and easily—all important traits in a fast moving, attention-deficit, digital marketplace.

LogicBox

Next up, Team LogicBox, for Portland startup LogicBox Software.

Representing LogicBox Software was company co-founder and COO Craig Hubbard. LogicBox offers customized SAAS products aimed at small to mid-sized businesses that directly rival Salesforce.com and NetSuite.

The student presentation featured an integrated approach with the website being the hub of the entire strategy. They explored marketing channels, including social media, PR and events, emerging media, and SEO/SEM. The presentation also included a series of slides comparing LogicBox to their primary competitors, information that most executives find very compelling.

Each student on the team discussed objectives, strategies, and tactics, all core components that were taught in the first courses, “Intro to Digital Marketing Strategies,” presented by Dennis Hahn. Hahn does an excellent job of boiling down the key concepts to building out a comprehensive strategy that meets overall business objectives. His course lays the foundation for the entire certificate.

Social media recommendations included creation of a LinkedIn group, participating in LinkedIn Q&A, a YouTube channel, and creation of a Facebook business page. Social media team lead, Joanne Collins, claimed that social media wasn’t a fad but “a revolution.”

And the winner is…

According to Bryan Rhoads, every student is a winner and the local businesses receive some pro-bono digital advice. “I provide my class with a real-world scenario of business objects, needs, and the final litmus test of presenting their strategies to the business owners themselves. This adds excitement and pressure, and manifests their aggregate knowledge into something valuable and tangible.” Rhoads congratulated both teams, saying that these presentations were the best in the history of the program.

Now in its third year, the Digital Marketing Strategies Certificate resumes classes in September 2011.

For more information, visit PSU Digital Marketing Strategies Certificate.

(Image courtesy Hans van de Bruggen. Used under Creative Commons.)