Valuable experience, valuable results

A partnership between Fanshawe College and Northern Commerce delivers digital marketing benefits for both students and small business

Photo: Corey Dubeau of Northern Commerce and Liz Gray of Fanshawe College

IN JANUARY OF this year, Northern Commerce and Fanshawe College announced the launch of the Northern Digital Marketing Challenge — a co-funded, experiential learning competition that provided students with hands-on learning experience supporting marketing efforts for local businesses amid the pandemic.

The challenge tasked teams of students to build, execute, and manage live marketing campaigns using Google and Facebook Ads for 15 regional businesses over a two-week period.

Students were given the opportunity to learn directly from digital marketing experts at Northern Commerce. “At Northern, we are committed to helping educate the students in our community. We designed this competition to help students learn, experience and improve their digital marketing skills while preparing them for a career in the marketing industry,” says Lauren Dixon, digital advertising team lead at Northern Commerce and a part-time instructor at Fanshawe College.

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Through Northern’s relationship with Facebook, students were provided with a creative best-practices presentation from Facebook at the beginning of the program to provide them with fundamental tips and information to build successful campaigns. “The Digital Marketing Challenge is a great educational experience for the students,” says Facebook partner manager, Charlie Shin. “It provides them with the right tools and resources to be successful in the program and their future careers.”

“This experience was extremely valuable for both students and our community as many students and small businesses have been impacted by the pandemic” ―Liz Gray

The program, co-funded by Northern Commerce and the Centre for Research and Innovation at Fanshawe College, provided each team with a budget of $400 to spend on Google and Facebook ads to support the selected local businesses. “The program provided me with a deep understanding of pay-per-click advertising and data analytics, as well as an understanding around consumer behavior — all while supporting and impacting the results of local businesses,” says Matt Vickery, a student at Fanshawe College and participant in the Northern Challenge.

Many of the businesses reported that they saw an uptick in results after the launch of the campaigns.

“We feel our student group did a fantastic job,” says Michele Burk, office manager of Mclauchlin Wellness Clinic in Blenheim. “After the ad campaign started, our new patient registrations nearly doubled. Looking at our new patient statistics over the last 12 weeks, we can only assume the large increase was due to the advertising campaign run by our students.”

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The challenge concluded last week and teams presented their campaigns and results to a panel of judges from Northern Commerce who selected and awarded the top three teams based on the criteria of business impact, technology knowledge, presentation skills and campaign performance.

“This experience was extremely valuable for both students and our community as many students and small businesses have been impacted by the pandemic,” notes Liz Gray, professor at Fanshawe’s Lawrence Kinlin School of Business. “Although the program was delivered completely online this year, we were able to provide a hands-on learning experience which was tremendously important for the students.” Valuable experience, valuable results digital marketing Marketing

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