What the Heck Are We Teaching College Kids About Marketing Automation?

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of ~100 college students on a panel about finding your niche in digital marketing.

After the panel members gave quick intros, I asked the room for a show of hands of who had heard of Pardot. Zero hands.

Hubspot? 3 hands.

Marketing automation? 1 hand.

I was floored that in 2017 we can graduate any kind of marketing major without introducing them to these vendors and concepts. Most major marketing automation platforms were founded 10 years ago, so this is no longer bleeding edge stuff — it’s a core pillar of what it means to do digital marketing today.

And even more painful is the fact that students IN ATLANTA wouldn’t know about Pardot, which is one of the city’s greatest startup success stories.  We’ve got to do better.

What I learned in school about marketing

Like many digital marketers I know, I didn’t actually study marketing. I was fortunate, though, to have stumbled upon an elective class on CRM that opened my eyes to the fact that this was even a field (shoutout to Marquette professor Scott Rex for pioneering that course).

Then, at my first job out of college, I worked for a really innovative insurance brokerage (yes, innovation and insurance can co-exist) that was a perpetual early adopter of technology. I went to Dreamforce in 2011, caught the Salesforce bug in a big way, and proposed implementing Pardot — and the rest is history.

This experience and early exposure to the Salesforce platform completely changed the trajectory of my career.

What can we do to expose more people to marketing automation?

Salesforce powers that be, if you’re out there listening — I’d love to see some of that 1-1-1 or #Trailhead4All sugar shared with colleges and universities that are willing to teach about Pardot and marketing automation.

Could we use Trailhead to bridge the gap? How might we adapt this content for use in a traditional higher education setting?

In the meantime, for those of us “boots on the ground” Pardot admins, there are a few things I can think of that might help:

1)  Work on the elevator pitch of what we do

Ever had to field one of those “so what do you do?” questions at a holiday party or event with mixed company?  It’s hard to explain to the general public what goes into marketing automation and CRM — my mom refers to it as “computers and emails and stuff.”

Does anyone have a nice, concise answer to this question?  If so, please share in the comments. I’m still working on mine, clearly.

Simplifying and shaping the narrative could play an important role in raising awareness about our field.

2) Be a guest speaker at colleges and universities

Could you reach out to the marketing department at your alma mater or local schools and offer to speak to their marketing classes about what you do?

Hey, it’s great practice for pitching your ideas and especially for how to break down your efforts for someone who doesn’t know much about your job.  You can probably think of a few people like that in your company that you need to persuade, am I right?

3) Mentor a student

If you can’t find a class to change… how about one person?  Year Up Atlanta, Big Brother Big Sister, and GLOW are a few great organizations if you’re based in Georgia.  If not, a quick Google search will likely reveal several worthy groups in need of your time and experience.

4) Offer internships

Interns definitely take hand holding and an investment of time and energy, but can be a great talent pipeline and a way to introduce others to the Salesforce and marketing automation ecosystem.

(Soapbox sidebar: Interns ARE NOT an acceptable source of free labor. If that’s what you think of them as, just don’t hire them.  I feel really strongly about this, but that’s a subject for another blog post.)

5) Start ‘em young

The wonderful Bryan James from MapAnything recently organized a Salesforce event with his daughter’s Girl Scout troop. To earn their “computer expert” badges, the girls learned about Salesforce and used Trailhead to learn how to build their own lemonade stand app.

How cool is that?  Are there any other groups of “youngins” in your life that you could offer early exposure to the platform?

Let’s help young talent get beyond this “accidental admin” stuff

Many of us fell into marketing automation and CRM by happenstance… but this doesn’t have to be the case for the next generation of digital marketers.  We have an opportunity, even a responsibility, to be purposeful about exposing young people to their career possibilities in this field.

And we still have a long way to go…

2 thoughts on “What the Heck Are We Teaching College Kids About Marketing Automation?”

  1. Now that I think back… I never once heard of marketing automation or even CRM in ANY of my college classes at UAH. Wow – crazy times we live in! That was almost 10 years ago though. I would like to think the professors over there are teaching these things now? I agree with you though, they certainly need to be taught and would help young professionals get going on some great digital marketing careers.

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