The Illinois State University chapter of the American Marketing Association joined forces with local businesses slammed by the pandemic economy to provide digital marketing support. Not only did students get experience, but stores got a sales boost from a better online presence.
The pandemic has taken its toll on businesses across the nation. Recognizing this, the Illinois State University chapter of the American Marketing Association teamed up with the city of Normal to help businesses hurt by the pandemic. Through the Small Business Relief Program, the city provided businesses financial support for digital marketing. The AMA chapter then got involved by providing students, who were compensated, to do the digital marketing.
“Through AMA, we went to our members and saw who would be most qualified and who was interested,” said Sebastian Diaz, the chapter’s vice president of operations. “We had some interview processes to see who would fit where and see what skills they could bring to these businesses.”
Students, in three-person teams, were selected to provide businesses expertise in a specific area. Diaz, a marketing major in the 2022 class, and his team worked for the outdoor store Wild Country. One person on the team handled Facebook, the other Instagram, and Diaz worked on the store’s website.
“What I mostly did was help him look at his online sales system and update his website so it would run faster,” Diaz said. “His online presence has been up a lot. I used search engine optimization, so when you’re in the area and you’re looking for cold winter things, it always leads you to his website. The sales on Instagram and Facebook have been very helpful. Local sales have been up.”
Diaz also wrote blog posts for the store’s website, which turned out to be one of the most popular and successful digital marketing tools. “Many of the blog posts have directly affected sales,” Diaz said. “I had a blog post about skiing, and he said that all the skis have been sold out since that.”
AMA faculty adviser, Aaron Charlton, Ph.D., arranged student participation in the program and called it a “win-win.”
The businesses received the help they needed, while students got experience that will help them when they venture out into the job market. “Updating the website definitely made me feel like I was getting real-world experience,” Diaz said. “I was also helping him with the sales side of websites, which also gave me experience, but not in my major. I feel like that expanded my knowledge to sales and how those things work.”
Diaz said the program was one of the most impactful experiences he’s had with AMA. “This is the most knowledgeable thing I’ve done here at AMA,” he said. “Last year, we went to the conference in New Orleans. I gained a lot of knowledge from that, but I think this was just as valuable.”