Having a sound marketing plan and being good on your feet presenting it are valuable attributes of any successful marketing professional.

Marketing, strategic management, valspar, competition

Marketing students presented strategies to Valspar marketers on a business issue.
Image Credit: College of Business

Those skills were put to the test in a competition among teams of Clemson University senior marketing students for their final project in Marketing 4500.

“The course challenges students to find marketing solutions to real, business-world issues,” said Mary Anne Raymond, the professor who instructs the class. “It’s a hands-on approach to learning that gives students a feel for the problem-solving they’ll be faced with as professionals.”

Twelve teams of students were charged with developing marketing strategies and a communication plan for Greenbar, a Valspar brand which produces coatings for rebar reinforcing rods used in construction. Students presented their recommendations to two of Valspar’s marketing leaders, Ashley Cribb ‘04 and Joe Laehu.

“It was a great exercise in learning every step of solving a real business problem,” said senior Anna Chastain of Pickens, whose team was recognized by the two judges as winner of the competition. “It’s easy to sit in a classroom and think about ideas to solve a problem. But when you look at the questions we had to answer, it turned out to be harder than we anticipated.”

The Greenbar challenge charged students with researching the company and finding solutions to problems identified by Cribb and Laehu. Cribb participated in a similar project when she took the same class as a senior at Clemson.

“The communication plan we presented was the string that tied our marketing plan together,” Anna said. “We focused on an internal and external communication plan that was integrated throughout the company so all affected parties were aware of what the company’s plan entailed.”

A touchpoint in the communication plan involved reaching out to former customers, a strategy that judges complimented, Anna said.

“Our plan included going after former customers and communicating how the company would gain their business. The judges liked that touchpoint and the creative, yet straightforward, approach we took to address some of the issues,” Anna said.

In addition to Anna, other members of the winning team who received $50 gift cards from Greenbar included Haley Carter, Chandler Danielson, James Courie, Levi Orr and Nick Suger.

Grant Kilgore, whose team’s efforts were also cited by judges, agreed that case studies give students situational scenarios that prepare them for future challenges.

“This gives us an opportunity to practice what we’ve learned in the classroom. The experience of developing a plan and presenting it to professionals is great preparation for the next level,” Grant said.

Beyond putting their classroom knowledge of marketing to work, Anna said the competition provided students with residual benefits.

“Our ultimate goal wasn’t to win the competition, but presenting in front of professionals makes you want to put your best foot forward to impress them. Winning was a nice reward for the work we put in, but the competition was also a great exercise in honing your soft skills and building self-confidence,” she added. Students on all the teams noted that the debriefings by Ashley and Joe provided valuable feedback to help them throughout their careers.

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