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Business students sharpen skills through real-life research projects

 

Business Professor Lei Huang assists Lisa Muldowney (left) and Shauna McGuay on a classroom exercise that ties in with their class project, a market conversion study for the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, in Dr. Huang’s Marketing Research class.

 

Learning experiences within the School of Business are not confined to classrooms or campus boundaries. This fall, students enrolled in two upper-level classes, Marketing Research and Strategic Management, were engaged in real-life market research designed to benefit tourism and food production — two pillars of Chautauqua County’s economy.

Approximately 45 students in Dr. Lei Huang’s Marketing Research (BUAD 340) course assembled a market conversion study to determine the economic impact and value that promotional materials, marketing initiatives and advertising put out by the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau (CCVB) had on existing and/or potential visitors to the area.

Elsewhere, a smaller team of students in Dr. Susan McNamara’s senior capstone class, Strategic Management (BUAD 499), developed a marketing strategy to increase sales of pierogies, the Polish staple and signature product of Rae Foods, Inc., a family-owned company that began production a year ago in Westfield.

Both professors, along with School of Business Dean Russell Boisjoly, strongly advocate the integration of real-life industry projects with case studies so students can apply their marketing knowledge to solve strategic marketing issues or challenges. And if it involves a local company or organization, as it most often does, that’s all the better.

The CCVB survey project was developed to: determine the percentage of actual visitors to Chautauqua County from the number of potential visitors who requested information from the CCVB; gather details about visitor stays, such as expenditures, sizes of travel parties and length of their stay; and tabulate demographic characteristics of visitors and their interests. Effectiveness of CCVB marketing and visitor services was also to be evaluated.

The best ideas do not directly lead to success. For in between a great idea and the corresponding success, there is a little thing called data. Data is power in business and will help the organizations streamline their market choice, strategy and approach. A marketing research survey is one of the major methods to collect data for various organizations.

As Huang explains, “Survey questionnaire design is a systematic process in which the researcher contemplates various question formats, considers a number of factors characterizing the survey at hand, ultimately words the various questions very carefully and organizes the questionnaire’s layout. A well-researched analysis based on the survey results may show potential obstacles and most organizations use their marketing analysis to predict probable market issues or opportunities and create contingency plans.

“Also, from the experience of this hands-on project, the students can learn and practice the skills of minimizing question bias by the question wording and question flow, as well as maximizing the validity and reliability of the overall survey.”

The marketing conversion study was presented to CCVB Executive Director Andrew Nixon in November. At least 400 completed survey responses were expected to be collected. This survey is designed to provide CCVB with an understanding of both the targeted customers and employable workforce available, and what marketing strategies will help better market Chautauqua County as a tourism area.

Through real-life experiences, such as preparing the CCVB survey, students are able to fully grasp concepts learned in class. Mike McCarthy, a senior Business Administration-Marketing major from Orchard Park, N.Y., said learning the complexities of drafting a survey, such as how questions are worded and arranged, will help him enhance career success and stand out in the job market.

Students in Dr. Susan McNamara’s Strategic Management class — from left, Mike McCarthy, Lorenzo Amato, Jordan Czaplicki,
Emily Bowen and Rick Reinlander — meet in the Williams Center to discuss recommendations for a strategic plan designed to
increase sales of Rae Foods’ pierogies.

 

Students were able to apply what they learned about developing surveys in this project, said Chelsi Mikowski, a senior Business Administration major from Fredonia. “The market researchers’ ability to design a well-worded and organized survey will help them gather the knowledge that they desire from the consumer,” she explained. “These skills that Dr. Huang has taught us will be beneficial and applicable in our marketing careers when we are conducting our own research,” she added.

“Whether these results offer more activities for the community or help the community become more aware of what’s going on around them, everyone can benefit from this,” added Mackenzie Schanzlin, a junior Business Administration major, also from Fredonia.

One of 10 student teams in Dr. McNamara’s class developed a strategic plan to expand sales of Nowinski Pierogies. McNamara learned of Rae Foods and its interest in a new strategic plan through her Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency connections. Fredonia’s Vice President for Engagement and Economic Development Kevin Kearns initially learned of those needs through Empire State Development, New York’s chief economic development agency, and the CCIDA carried the ball from there.

The company was formed by the team of Rachelle McFeely and Beverly Braley, who purchased a small New Castle, Pa., company that made the potato-and-cheese filled dumplings — a Western New York favorite — in 2013. Wanting to take the company to the next level, the pair initiated a $2.5 million plan to open Rae Foods.

Students conducted competitive, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and internal/external analyses as well as performed primary research to develop recommendations and an implementation plan — all with the goal of increasing product sales and company profits, McNamara said. And they didn’t have to travel far — just to Tuscany Fresh Meats & Deli in Fredonia — for taste-testing.

“The students love working with the client, and the client absolutely got great ideas during their first meeting with the students, so they were very excited to be working with them,” McNamara explained. The new marketing strategy was presented to the owners in mid-December.

The pierogi project has given Emily Bowen, Rick Reinlander, Lorenzo Amato, Jordan Czaplicki and McCarthy — who had the good fortune to be enrolled in both business classes — the chance to work together as a team to define and develop tactics that the company can readily implement into its everyday business plan.

“This opportunity gives us the first-hand experience to apply concepts that we have been learning throughout our college careers,” said Bowen, a Buffalo native and senior Business Administration-Marketing major with a Communication minor. “Just as in the real world, we have had to overcome scheduling conflicts and beat deadlines, while developing quality strategy for Nowinski Pierogies, as we [try] to meet and exceed all expectations for this project.”

McNamara said this capstone allows students to integrate what they’ve learned over the last four years into a real-life situation. “They are able to be creative, but they also have to develop recommendations that are feasible in the real world,” she said.

Under her guidance, students learned nearly every skill that will be needed as they enter the workforce after graduation, Bowen added. Lessons from these practices and corresponding interactivity, which could not be achieved solely through classroom lectures, bring true value to everything students have learned.

 

Business Professor Lei Huang assists Lisa Muldowney (left) and Shauna McGuay on a classroom exercise that ties in with their class project, a market conversion study for the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, in Dr. Huang’s Marketing Research class.

Students in Dr. Susan McNamara’s Strategic Management class — from left, Mike McCarthy, Lorenzo Amato, Jordan Czaplicki, Emily Bowen and Rick Reinlander — meet in the Williams Center to discuss recommendations for a strategic plan designed to increase sales of Rae Foods’ pierogies.


 

posted @ Thursday, January 22, 2015 11:56 AM by Pamala Colon

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