By Christopher Hill
One of the benefits of the UVM Digital Marketing Fundamentals course is that students are exposed to a variety of digital marketing channels. This includes Social Media, Search Engine Optimization, Display, and Paid Advertising, Email Marketing, Mobile Marketing, and Analytics. Over the course of eight weeks, students learn the inner workings of these channels from instructors who actually work in those fields. All of this to prepare their capstone project, a presentation of a marketing plan that serves as the ultimate display of a student’s fundamental knowledge of digital marketing.
However, the question many potential students ask before starting the course is “How can I possibly plan, create, and build a marketing plan in just under eight weeks?”
What is the Capstone Project?
The assignment is simple: consider a problem facing a brand of the student’s choosing and build a multifaceted marketing campaign that they believe can solve it. Students are able to select any brand they desire, even the brand that they currently work for or plan to interview with in the future. They’re also able to choose the specific challenge for that brand that they want their eventual marketing plan to face. And it’s the selection of that challenge that begins to piece the puzzle together for students. Because the challenge chosen could impact the type of digital marketing campaign one would choose.
For example, a student who chooses a challenge of a “new product launch” might feel that the best marketing campaign for them would be a product giveaway. Or a brand that needs to “increase customer loyalty” might be a good candidate to consider a contest or mobile app. These options are provided to students when the class starts so it’s more of a match game than it is pulling something unknown from a hat. There is certainly nuance, but students have a lifeline in the Digital Marketing Fundamentals instructors who are there to help guide them.
The lovely part is, there are typically no wrong answers during the selection part of the process, with the most important thing being that a definitive brand, challenge, and campaign are chosen. However, there is a common trap that can derail the campaign discussion, and that is for a student to consider it good enough to simply say that they’ll use multiple marketing channels to market their brand better. This eliminates the focus for the student and therefore makes their job much harder. Rather than demonstrating the correct and specific use of the included marketing channels that are relevant for a particular campaign, they are instead only capable of showing a general use of the marketing channels, which isn’t what the capstone project is for.
Every capstone should feature more than one digital marketing channel, as a truly good marketing campaign typically does. It’s the goal of the course for students to learn when and how to use these marketing channels, which is why the initial selection process is so crucial.
Which Marketing Channels Should I Choose for my Capstone Project?
This is the biggest question for the students in Digital Marketing Fundamentals Professional Certificate. But it’s also one that students don’t need to have an answer for in the first week. As the course unfolds, there are a number of opportunities for students to learn about the various marketing channels. This includes the weekly live sessions where the instructors, subject matter experts in their field, touch on all the key takeaways and applications for that module’s channel. So students can file away tactics and use cases for their own capstone project.
But aside from this, one of the most basic ways for students to figure out which marketing channels they should use for their capstone is to consider the basics of their challenge and campaign. For example, if the challenge is to increase leads consider these questions: where is the brand currently getting leads? Do they have a submission form on their website? If it is, then that automatically opens the door for marketing channels like Search Engine Optimization and/or Paid Advertising, channels that to varying degrees rely on web pages for lead capturing. Do the brand’s social media pages link back to the website? Well, there is another channel for the student to consider.
Sometimes, it’s that simple to get started and if the student isn’t sure of where to begin, then the instructors are there to provide some firm direction and context.
So even though it seems daunting, the capstone project is actually one of the many elements of the Digital Marketing Fundamentals course that students will find rewarding. It helps them see the marketing landscape through the eyes of a seasoned digital marketer, while also giving them something tangible to include in their portfolios, should they find themselves on the job hunt. Going through this course can be one of the best ways to gain a working knowledge of a number of channels, as well as build a foundation for what could be your future career path.
Christopher Hill is a Senior Account Executive at PureRED and Academic Coach in The University of Vermont’s Digital Marketing Professional Certificate program. In addition to his work as a digital marketer, Hill is a published author, father, husband, and avid sports fan.