Students harness Google power for small business marketing

A Unitec class has come to the aid of about 25 small business to give their marketing an AdWords-fuelled boost.

The institute’s digital marketing lecturer Patrick Dodd, who dreamed up the class assignment, says it wasn’t just about pay per click advertising, but had all the challenges that come with online marketing.

“The students worked with the businesses and found out what they were trying to promote. They needed to do quite a bit of keyword research that accurately described the things they were trying to do,” says Dodd.

“That’s not straight forward or easy. Some keywords are more expensive than others, based on popularity. We had a limited budget so they really needed to come up with the best keywords that weren’t necessarily the cheapest or the most expensive. They had to get the most bang for their buck.”

The students had more than their original budget of $25 per business, thanks to Google’s contribution of AdWords promotional codes that amounted to a subsidy of $75 for each company.

Among the businesses were a builder, a gym, a ceramics firm, an interior designer and a restaurant. Most were in west Auckland, where Unitec has one of its Auckland campuses, while the restaurant was in Christchurch.

Unitec’s department of management and marketing is moving towards project-based learning, so this assignment fitted the bill, says Dodd.

“I’ve not managed to find any other examples of students being encouraged to participate in this way, to not only make a real impact to the business in question, but to learn all those soft skills like dealing with people, objections and overcoming challenges.”

One of the businesses students helped was Discount Tractor Parts in West Auckland. Staff member Eileen Lee says the company lacked the confidence to do internet-based advertising.

“We just needed a young person to show us how. Before, we’d done some trials in various papers for big money and gotten maybe one or two extra responses, but with this, the phone started ringing right away.”

Some of the businesses asked the students to keep helping with their marketing, so the initiative will be repeated next semester and continue as part of the institute’s YoungMinds unit, which interacts with businesses to provide online and social media-related services.

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