Beyond the classroom: The Kelley Evening MBA experience

IU Kelley School of Business Indianapolis Associate Dean Phil Powell recently told students, “IUPUI blends with Indianapolis to form the Kelley School classroom.”

It is with that mindset that Evening MBA students in the marketing, entrepreneurship, finance and supply chain enterprises are able to receive an immersive learning experience by going out to local businesses, talking to professionals and gaining real-world experience.

The latest opportunity for students was at PERQ, which is a marketing technology and promotions company on Indianapolis’ northwest side. Kelley School students and alumni met for a joint meeting of the DIVE (Discovery, Innovation and Ventures Enterprise) and the Marketing Enterprise. There, students and alumni received a tour of the unique work environment and business philosophy. Then, they heard from four panelists, who discussed entrepreneurship in the marketing tech space by sharing their journey to starting their own businesses.

The panelists included Scott Hill, founder and CEO of PERQ; Mike Chaplin, founder and CEO of Balance Marketing; Shawn Herring of Torchlight; and Rick Roetken, former CMO of Delta and former president of a one billion+ division of Masco.

“PERQ was a perfect place to start the conversation with students about what a career in this field looks like, the characteristics of someone who is successful in this field, and what the career pathways are,” said Kim Saxton, Kelley School clinical associate professor of marketing and marketing enterprise director.

With the tremendous growth of marketing technology jobs in Indianapolis, to see what they’re doing here and throughout the city is invaluable for students and alumni.

Kim Saxton, clinical associate professor of marketing

During the panel discussion, panelists discussed how they all started in other jobs, then their careers led them to marketing, as they realized they could see a way to add value through marketing. They discussed feeling a curiosity about how or why something worked or didn’t work when it came to marketing, and discussed how marketers have become specialized: they figure out what they can do better than anyone else and go for that.

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Kelley Evening MBA students and alumni receive a tour of PERQ, a marketing technology and promotions company.

They also discussed how marketing is diverging: brand building vs. demand generation. Finally, they tackled the keys to success for marketing at startups:

“Business is a game, you need to give people a way to win,” explained Hill during their discussion.

“Recognize that what works for big companies and brands won’t work for startups,” said Herring.

“Focus first in order to expand later,” recommended Chaplin.

"Before, marketers had to deal with media disruption. Now, they are having to deal with channel disruption as retailers struggle and close,” explained Roetken.

It's always interesting to learn from practitioners who apply theoretical concepts in real-life settings.

Ashly Myers, MBA'17

Ashly Myers, MBA’17, works as a marketing manager for a local information security firm.

“The most important insight I gained from the panel discussion was to focus marketing efforts on the simple dichotomy between brand (recognition) and demand (generation),” said Myers. “I'd never thought of the scope of marketing in such a succinct way before, and hearing that idea really helped streamline my thoughts about leading my team's marketing strategy going forward.”

Mike Chaplin, a Kelley School Evening MBA alum and the president of Balance Digital Marketing, says he encourages students to look locally when starting their job search.

“There are a lot of great companies in Indianapolis and we are well positioned to continue the momentum, but we have to have good people to fill and create those jobs,” said Chaplin.

“I hope this experience at PERQ with the panelists provided a sense of realism to the students’ pursuit of an MBA: Specifically their thoughts around starting their own company or getting on board with a small startup,” he added. “I tried to be as honest as possible with the group, so they know that people who start their own companies don’t have it all figured out -- Quite the opposite in fact.”

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Kelley Evening MBA students and alumni listen to a panel discussion at PERQ.

Chaplin says it was his Kelley Evening MBA that gave him the confidence to go out on his own in the Indy marketing world.

“Certainly there was still the fear of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know,’ but basic principles of strategy, economics, marketing and accounting, were areas I could look at and know that I had the classroom learning to start a path toward success,” he explained.

“Mike is an outstanding example of what we shoot for in our Evening MBA program – students who take the skills and experiences from their educational training and have the courage to apply them in the uncertain world of venture creation. It’s been my privilege to watch Mike successfully take the next step in his career by founding Balance Marketing,” said Todd Saxton, Kelley associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship and DIVE director.

For more information on the marketing enterprise or the entrepreneurship enterprise DIVE (Discovery, Innovation and Ventures Enterprise) in Indianapolis, click here.