Montana State University

MSU marketing class aids Extension Services marketing efforts

February 19, 2003 -- Carol Schmidt

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When Suzi Taylor, communications leader for the Montana State University Extension Service, looked to enhance the marketing efforts for her organization's programs, she thought of Jennifer Morrical, professor of marketing who teaches a management practicum course at MSU-Bozeman's College of Business.

Taylor, who obtained her master's in education degree in 1999 from the MSU College of Business, had taken the course structured to match senior level business students with businesses or service organizations looking for marketing research. She thought the class would be a good fit, helping to aid her efforts and the students' experience.

The Extension Service reaches out to Montanans through offices around the state and subject-matter specialists based in Bozeman and Missoula.

"It is tough to do marketing for the Extension Service because we cover so many areas - agriculture, 4-H, families and community development," Taylor said.

Four management students -- Chad Becker of Fairfield, Becky Boucher of Livingston, Stacie Golden of Joliet and Jennifer Johnsrud of Bozeman --accepted the task of researching ways that Taylor could better coordinate and market to the communities that it serves. A plus for the students was that each one was involved at one time with 4-H and were familiar with the benefits of the program.

"The students were able to look at our work and give me another perspective," Taylor said.

"I knew before even meeting the students that they would be easy and fun to work with and would submit high-quality material."

Morrical agrees. "This class extends the students' critical thinking processes and the applications they have learned through out their years in the College of Business. It helps them assist small businesses and organizations that need outside objective business strategies and recommendations. It also teaches the students resourcefulness and consulting practices. This class gives the students and the community an opportunity to expand outside the box."

Taylor found the students to be professional yet approachable, hard-working and eager to learn. The group researched Extension's programs, identified the organization's strengths and weaknesses, and explored opportunities and pending threats. In the final market report they recommended that the Extension Service capitalize on Montanans' familiarity with 4-H. They gave recommendations on ways to increase awareness throughout communities including utilizing local newspapers, chambers, libraries and businesses. The report further recommended that the Extension Service continue to build partnerships with other non-profit organizations.

They cited ways that the organization could become more closely involved with campus groups, such as Residence Life and student clubs. Taylor liked the idea of working with the student resources that the campus offers. "We have a lot to offer students, but this is something we may not have thought of without their involvement."

"I really gained a lot of knowledge about the Extension Service through doing this project," Golden said. "I consider Extension to be a useful tool to the public as well as college students. The key is they need to continue to promote and advertise their assets and I think we have given points to do just that."

Taylor said she believes it's important for today's students to experience what the real world of business is like through similar projects.

"I hope I was able to introduce them to some of the challenges and rewards of working in the marketing profession."

Contact: Jackie Sather (406) 994-6766