Marketing students partner with Platteville community
PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – In an effort to provide hands-on opportunities for business students at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Les Hollingsworth, associate professor of marketing in the School of Business, offers Market Research, a course where students partner with local businesses to provide real-life marketing solutions.
“The course gives students direct experience with conducting a client-based marketing research project,” Hollingsworth said. “Students are tasked with finding their own client and then working closely with that client to deliver a project that actually meets their needs. It’s as real as it gets.”
After students select their clients, they conduct needs analyses to establish the company’s problems that should be addressed. From there, students conduct surveys and select a second method of data collection, ranging from focus groups to field experiments. After compiling all data, students are then able to suggest recommendations for their client.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to practice what they’re learning and for the university to give back to the community at the same time,” Hollingsworth said.
This year, Hollingsworth’s Market Research class has partnered with numerous local businesses, including Milio’s Sandwiches, Platteville Human Powered Trails, Platteville Golf and Country Club, Wisconsin Bank & Trust and UW-Platteville’s Textbook Center. The realistic nature of the project challenges students to integrate their knowledge from a wide variety of courses such as marketing, business, economics, statistics and interpersonal communication to conduct the research in a precise and professional manner.
For years, Milio’s has provided Platteville with a large menu of soups and sandwiches. In August, the business implemented its BlendCard, a marketing and loyalty platform that aims to increase engagement, target ideal patrons and boost the company’s bottom line. Students working with Milio’s spent the semester analyzing surveys and compiling data to see if the card is improving the sandwich shop’s business. By implementing methods taught in previous classes, students are able to fully analyze the data.
“The project is pretty stats-heavy, so the statistics class we took as a prerequisite is coming into play,” Amanda Stingle, a senior agribusiness major from Black Creek, Wisconsin, said. “We’re also using what we’ve learned in other business courses, whether it’s how to remain professional or how to communicate effectively.”
Once all capstone projects are completed, students will present their findings to their clients and the rest of their class.
Abigail Brown, a Kewanee, Illinois native, and Chandler Crary, a St. Charles, Illinois native, are two senior business administration students currently working with Platteville’s Wisconsin Bank & Trust. For this project, members of the group are compiling data to help Wisconsin Bank & Trust better understand how UW-Platteville students choose a local bank.
“Instead of being hypothetical, we’re actually working with companies in the local area and getting that hands-on, professional experience,” Brown said. “We’re not just making a PowerPoint for a teacher and discussing the ‘what ifs.’”
Since the start of the project, Crary and Brown have both secured jobs in their field before graduation. Although the students were actively involved in class and on campus before Hollingsworth’s Market Research course, this project may have given them an extra push.
“Working with the bank gave us a steppingstone to take on the challenge of working with a professional client,” Crary said.
Looking to improve Platteville’s recreational appeal and offset the winter slowdown at the Platteville Golf and Country Club, a third group of students has partnered with the country club and Platteville Human Powered Trails, to explore interest in winter activities such as groomed trails for fat tire biking, cross-country skiing and sledding. If the general interest is there, these additions may be increase business for both companies.
“It’s nice that we’re able to work with real clients,” Tim Culbertson, a senior business administration major from Cary, Illinois, added. “This is a real business, and this is how they make money. We’re not just playing around with fake money that’s in a book. We’re actually preparing a real service.”
Not only are students in Hollingsworth’s Market Research course improving local businesses, but they’re working to improve the university as well. On campus, a group of students has partnered with the UW-Platteville Textbook Center to evaluate faculty and student interest in e-books as opposed to traditional textbooks. The group has worked with the center, providing surveys, running multiple tests and testing validity to see if there is a general student interest in online textbooks.
“This project sparked my interest because it affects the entire campus, both for our current and future students and faculty,” said Cole Hake, a senior business administration major from Kaukauna, Wisconsin. “I thought it’d be interesting to see how e-books could benefit the university after I graduate and in the future.”
Time will tell if the students’ data-driven recommendations are implemented by the partners but, for Hollingsworth, the experience is a true differentiator for UW-Platteville marketing students. “While students from other institutions could tell future employers how they would conduct market research, UW-Platteville students graduate being able to show exactly what they did.”
View more information about UW-Platteville’s School of Business online. Any businesses interested in partnering with the UW-Platteville Market Research course in the future may contact Hollingsworth at email@example.com.
Written by: Amanda Bertolozzi, Writer/Editor, Communications, 608-342-7121, firstname.lastname@example.org
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