Dec 17, 2018

When Juli James, assistant professor of Marketing at St. Edward’s University, was pursuing her doctorate, after having spent more than 15 years in the marketing industry, she was surprised by how little focus there was in academia on the tools and software platforms that she used on a daily basis. 

“I knew when I completed my undergraduate degree that everything I was learning, I was probably never going to use,” James said. “When I did my PhD and discovered even more platforms, I said, “Well, if I’m studying this whilst working in the industry and I’m still learning, how can students be expected to graduate and get into a job if they have no idea what’s actually being used in the real world?”

When it was her turn to teach at the university level, James decided to address the gap by providing students with a curriculum revolving around practical, relevant marketing tools and platforms.

Her teaching philosophy is simple. Equip students with skills and experiences using marketing and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms that will give them an edge in a competitive job market. Included in her courses are Salesforce, a CRM technology, and Marketo, an email marketing platform.

James isn’t only talking the talk, she’s walking the walk. She was named a 2019 Marketo Champion — her fifth year to receive the honor — and is considered to be one of the 40 best “power users” across the globe. Power users advocate for the brand by speaking at Marketo conferences, leading training sessions and answering questions from users in an online community. The company also named her a “Fearless 50,” an award bestowed in recognition of her teaching, as well as a notable charitable act in her personal life. She donated a kidney to a stranger, after seeing how a kidney transplant changed the life of her husband.

The accolades and the encouragement she’s received gave her the push she needed to become a part-time marketing consultant. “I had people waiting for me to start consulting, so I’m starting the business with three clients,” James said. “I think I’ll be able to take what I learn and share those best practices in the classroom.”

St. Edward’s caught up with James to learn more about marketing automation, her courses and industry trends.

Q&A

Q: What is marketing automation?

A: In simple terms, marketing automation is a software platform that’s used to send out email marketing, but that’s one small part of it. Alongside that, it can track and record all of the sales-leads behavior of prospective customers as they open emails, click on links or go to websites. What pages are they visiting? Are they interacting with social media or connecting with you on Linkedin? We call it the digital footprint.

The platform lets you track everything that’s happening so that you can send out content based on consumers’ behaviors and actions. That’s where the automation comes in. If you see they’ve registered for an event, such as a webinar, the platform automatically sends a “thank you for registering” email. As soon as they attend, it sends a “thank you for attending” email, and they also get put into what we call a nurture track ― a stream of content that is sent out on a regular cadence, like every two weeks.

It's very much about trying to create more personal content to send to consumers. And hopefully it means they engage more with you. Then you can track them through the sales process as well.  

Q: How long has the marketing automation industry been around?

A:  Automation has been around for 10 years. I’ve been doing automation for five and a bit years now. In terms of marketing, it is still relatively new. There are three or four major players in the automation space. Marketo is a big one, as are Eloqua and Pardot. HubSpot is a smaller one. Then you usually have people who specialize in a specific platform, of which Marketo is mine.

Q: How does knowledge of these platforms help a student land a marketing job or internship?

A: If you have experience in any type of marketing software platform, you can pretty much walk into any marketing job. Because when you look at those job descriptions, you see they require candidates to have experience in HTML and coding, know a CRM platform, and have some email marketing or automation experience. At most universities, you don’t learn those skills, so I try and get that across in various courses.

Q: Which of your courses incorporate these marketing platforms?

A: In Sales and Relationship Management, we cover CRM, so students do SalesForce training, and they earn badges to put on their résumé and their LinkedIn profile. They also learn a little about Marketo. I give them a Marketo demonstration, and I show them the platform when talking about nurturing and lead engagement. In the Interactive Technologies class, they learn coding, basic HTML, Photoshop, Illustrator, audio editing, video editing and animation. And they develop a portfolio. In the master’s courses, like the MBA program, they get more in-depth training in tools and technologies. 

Q: In today’s marketing environment, how difficult is it to stand above the noise?

A: The brain receives something like 10,000 marketing messages a day, so how do we stand out from that? Attention spans are eight seconds right now. So what can we do that makes people say “I need to open this email, I need to click on this link. I need to register for this event. I need to go to this webinar. I need to come to this trade show?” That’s what makes marketing so challenging. But trends are moving full circle now. And the trend is moving away from everything being digital. Offline direct marketing is coming back into the fray.

Direct marketing is bringing tangible communications like direct mail back into the digital world. It can make a massive difference because consumers can touch it, feel it and show it to other people. Digital is great in the right places, but if you want to stand out from the crowd, include something different in the mix. For example, send an empty iPad case and say, “If you come to our meeting, we'll give you the iPad.” The tangible aspect tends to get the bigger engagement because it’s something most people haven’t seen.