Skip to main content

What if you could ask a room full of final year marketing students to take your company as a project to produce a marketing plan? Would it be helpful? Do you think it would add some value and throw some new ideas into the mix?

These were some of the questions I asked myself when Dr. John Fahy, Professor of marketing at the University of Limerick reached out to me in November 2015. John asked if I’d be interested in having Big Red Cloud serve as a possible project for his final year marketing degree students.

The purpose of the project was to give the students an opportunity to apply their acquired knowledge to a real marketing situation. I didn’t need to be asked twice, I jumped at the opportunity.

From my end, my role and responsibility was to deliver a 30 minute presentation to the group and highlight to them the challenge(s) I faced in and around the marketing discipline here at Big Red Cloud. John left it open to me to determine what type of project I wanted the group to focus on- it could be a piece of market research, a marketing communications issue or to produce a marketing plan.

I decided on a marketing plan to address several of the challenges in marketing our online accounting software. One of the interesting aspects of this marketing group is that they had all undergone work placements so they came equipped with real work experience. I figured this work experience would be an ideal complement to their task to produce a detailed marketing plan.

From their end, the students had to go away and decipher my 30 minute presentation and based on that, research and design a detailed marketing plan. I also agreed to field any questions and provide the data required to support their research.

This is where the project really became very interesting. The questions from the students came through thick and fast and gave me an insight into how a group can interpret the same set of figures in a different way. I was also intrigued how, as individuals or groups within groups, we can use the same set of marketing tools in almost unique and different ways.

When the dust had settled and the marketing plans were completed, I returned to the Jim Kemmy building on the University of Limerick campus for the presentations.

It was to prove to be a most rewarding experience. Winners had to be chosen and it was a tight run affair.

Working with your local university to produce a marketing plan

Team no 7 prevailed- Rebecca Holt, Emily Rose Cowap and Karen Fitzgerald. It wasn’t just that they hit the nail on the head with regard to the targeting but their research, assimilation of the various research components were evident in a lucid and clear plan.

UL Marketing Runners Up - produce a markelting plan

Team No 1 – Aoife Kirby, Clare Davern, Freya O’Brien and Megan Murphy deserves to be commended on the strength of their presentation and plan. They missed the targeting which I identified as key and I feel had they recognised that they would have run the winners very, very close. Winning margins are that tight.

One of the traits both teams shared was that they looked and sounded prepared. Last year I sat as a judge in the Startup Awards and there is plenty of truth in the old adage that ‘practice makes perfect’. It’s actually quite an enjoyable experience sitting through presentations that look and sound good. Even better when they are relevant and on point.

I can’t recommend a project of this nature highly enough:

  1. It opens up new possibilities. I don’t claim to be the keeper of all marketing ideas or anywhere close, so having a team of energetic marketing students working with you is a great addition.
  2. It challenges the status quo. Fresh thinking, new approaches and simple reworking of traditional marketing techniques are a must. The project delivered that in spades.
  3. Tangible benefits a prerequisite. The reality is that the large companies have budgets to work with external agencies on a wide range of marketing projects. Us small businesses do not, so this project enabled me take away some great ideas from the students.
  4. Genuine positive energy. I referenced energetic in point 1 above and it’s worth expanding upon. During the presentations there was clearly evident an energy and outward enthusiasm associated with the work they had completed. It may be a moot point to some but for me, I always relish the opportunity to engage where there is positive energy.

There is any number of colleges and universities within striking distance of your business. Think how you can help their students gain more experience by way of completing a project or to produce a marketing plan for your business. It’s a win-win situation. Time to reach out!

Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)