MZ Goes Back To College: Marketing Insights From Dr. Bob McDonald



In today’s rapidly changing world, continuing education is a necessity. No matter what industry a person or a business is immersed in, new technology and new trends require continuous updates to training. But nowhere is the rapid pace of development more evident than in the world of online marketing.

One important means of keeping abreast of the latest in online marketing is to tap into the wisdom of experts – reading blogs, watching videos, attending webinars. And here at Zen Media, we do all of those things regularly in our effort to be the best. But we’re also taking it a step further. MZ is going back to college – and we’re taking you, our lucky readers, with us!

In our new blog series, we’ll be interviewing some of the most distinguished minds in the country – university professors who have dedicated themselves to the ongoing study of marketing. These thinkers will be able to give us – and you – unique perspective and insight into the world of online marketing. We’re excited to be back in class!

Our first interview features Dr. Bob McDonald, United Supermarkets Professor of Marketing at Texas Tech University. Kaitlin Bain, one of our content marketing interns and a Texas Tech student herself, caught up with Dr. McDonald last week to ask him a few questions.


Bob McDonald joined the Texas Tech University faculty in the fall of 2001. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut, a Master of Business Administration and Master of Civil Engineering from the University of Houston, and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Columbia University.

He has been awarded the Chancellor’s Council Distinguished Teaching Award, the Marketing Management Association’s Teaching Excellence Award and the Texas Tech President’s Excellence in Teaching Award.

Dr. McDonald, what type of marketing do you specialize in?

I teach sales – that’s my primary area. 90 percent of our students are employed and graduate and 60 percent of them work in sales, so it’s an important area. Research-wise I research strategy, nonprofits, and branding.

Why did you pick this as a specialization?

I didn’t have much of a choice. They asked me if I could teach sales and I said, “I’ve done it,” and then they said, “Great, you’re doing it.” With the research, I’ve always been interested in the strategy, big-picture stuff. I’ve also always been fascinated by non-profits – I’ve been on numerous boards and done fundraising for them and this is something I just have a passion for. Then branding is part of the strategy.

How long have you been in marketing?

I’ve been a professor for 13 years. Before that I spent 20 years in the industry, some in construction. My undergraduate is in engineering. When I went back to get my Ph.D. in ’96 I felt like this was one of the most challenging areas of business.

How do you feel the online marketing industry compares with traditional marketing?

Same thing different way, I read an article that was written 100 years ago. In there the guy is talking about sales, intermediaries, supply chains. All the things he talks about then are coming true. The idea of information searches, changing the way we interact with the consumer. Doctors hate it. When we walk into the doctor’s office we’ve already self-diagnosed and just ask for whatever kind of pills we need. It used to be that a salesperson’s job was to educate the consumer. Well now, they already know who they are, have decided they want to talk to you and understand what your advantages are, so the role of the salesperson has changed. The Internet used to be supplemental and now it’s an integral part of the marketing process.

Do you see a trend leaning more towards online marketing or do you anticipate there will always be a little of both?

I don’t see us only going electronic. You can’t get your hair cut over the Internet. There are certain things that people don’t want to buy over the Internet, but those things have changed. At one point I wouldn’t dream of buying a computer over the Internet but now I can’t imagine not doing it.

What are some ways you think small businesses should market online as opposed to the way large companies approach it?

It depends on the business. A small boutique would be setting up Facebook and Pinterest and things like that. It works. Getting that kind of information out there: what do you do, why would it be bad if someone didn’t come to your shop. For services, you have to establish expertise. You write a blog or frequently asked questions. General information and things like that show people how knowledgeable you are about your topic. Provide value to your customers through content.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to get into marketing?

Everything you do should be about the customer, no matter what it is.


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