New MBA Course Challenges Students to Generate
Maximum Benefit Using Google AdWords on a Tight Budget
A group of four MBA students from the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business has a simple mission: show how much business they can generate with just $200.
The limit was set out in Google’s Online Marketing Challenge. The rules of that global contest define a semester-long class for the four, and offer a sign of the times in marketing.
The new course is taught by Steven Koch, Executive Professor and Director of Business Consulting Lab, who said winning or losing the contest isn’t the point. The challenge – generating the maximum benefit using Google’s AdWords program on a tight budget – is an education in both finding and selling online as well as traditional marketing techniques.
At the center of this experiment is an unnamed Houston business, chosen from volunteers drawn from the network of Bauer alumni in the area. The company agreed to let the four students show if they can boost business using the Google program that generates ads based on user searches.
One of the team’s primary goals has been identifying the keywords used by customers when searching for the business online. Google AdWords sells keywords. When one of those words is used in a search, it can trigger a small ad that pops up on the right side of the screen. Each time someone clicks on the ad, the group will pay from 5 to 25 cents, depending on the keyword, out of its $200 budget. The name of the company remains a secret because the group estimates the budget will only pay for around 1,000 of these clicks, so they don’t want to pay to attract the merely curious.
The team members, all of whom have online marketing experience, have been working two evenings a week getting to know the business’s customers, the searches used to reach its website, and creating ads to bring them in.
Selling online requires understanding of the bricks and mortar business. The group asked so many questions of the company, “we had to sign a N.D.A. (non disclosure agreement),” said Mark Ward, an MBA student.
The goal is bringing in customers who are valuable either because they buy something, or provide a lead for future sales.
“You can target specifically the types of customers you are looking for,” said Kim Schwager, an MBA student who is in charge of e-mail marketing and web publishing at Continental Airlines. “You have to get into the mind of what you want the customer to do.”
This sort of online marketing is growing because it’s possible to track what attracted each customer.
“The most amazing thing about online marketing is, it is measurable,” said Daniel Gavin, an MBA student. “It’s not like putting money in a billboard and wondering, ‘how many customers did we get from that?’ You pay for each click and can see how much it costs to get someone to do what you want them to do.”
Win or lose, the Bauer MBA students involved see the value of this effort in their careers.
This is a needed tool for Ward, who has the most marketing experience, much for high-tech companies. Gavin interned at Blinds.com and is seeking to do this type of work after graduation. Schwager is looking to build on her expertise in online marketing at Continental.
But the most direct connection here is MBA student Victor Cintron, manager of Demand Side Development eCommerce for Academy Sports & Outdoors, who is working on converting the Houston retailer’s website from only displaying products to selling them online.
By Stephen Rassenfoss