I wouldn’t be where I am today without competing in the DMAW Educational Foundation’s Fall 2016 Collegiate MAXI Competition. Not only did I learn how to create an integrated marketing campaign with net revenue, I networked with professionals in direct response marketing. I specifically talked to Katy Jordan, the Vice President of Integrated Marketing at CDR Fundraising Group, my current employer. If I had to give attribution to how I got my job, I’d credit meeting Katy Jordan at this competition. If you’re not involved in the DMAW/EF, you need to be.
It was a whirlwind month leading up to the competition. My team had to take everything we learned in our marketing classes and create an integrated campaign from start to finish for our client. We developed our target personas, a marketing plan, and calculated net revenue to ensure we were getting a return on investment. This competition forced us to use the same tools that we need for the “real world.”
Aside from learning the ins and outs of how to create campaigns, this competition also taught me more about working in a team and public speaking. We lost two team members, so we had to figure out how to juggle academics with this competition. We also couldn’t rely on notes during the presentation, so had to memorize and rehearse it multiple times. I would bet, if I saw our slide deck today, I could give the presentation over again.
All of that work sometimes required long nights and a lot of coffee, but if I could do it all over again, I would. I even wished I did the competition earlier so I could have competed again!
Ready, Set, Go!
Because the competition required a thorough understanding of direct response marketing, it helped prepare me for my current role as an Account Coordinator in Digital Media at CDR Fundraising Group. For me, I needed hands-on experience with the principles of direct response marketing—not just textbooks or tests. The MAXI Competition did just that—gave me hands-on experience I was able to discuss with employers.
Having experience from school and this competition, I felt confident that I knew at least the basics. Still, it’s one thing to sit in a classroom or prepare for a competition using theoretical names and money. When you’re actually doing direct response marketing, your decisions have a greater impact.
In school, we learn about the different things to consider before launching a campaign. In the “real world,” we can’t go back once the email sends. Thus, in school, we can’t plan for things not working because we simply don’t know if they will work or not. On the job, we learn from mistakes and try not to repeat them.
Don’t Forget to Meet People
Recently, I returned to my alma mater, Salisbury University, to speak in my Professor Morris’s marketing classes. One thing I told them was to never stop networking. You are surrounded by professionals in your field who have far more experience than you. Students, when you’re at DMAW/EF events, talk to people. Recruiters, come meet people like me — passionate, ambitious and excited marketing students. Seeing people from different companies reaffirms why we are in college, why we work so hard.
Look where I am — working for a great company doing what I love AND I secured this job before I graduated. The MAXI competition and my wonderful professors prepared me for this career, but learning will never stop.
I work among some of the brightest minds in this industry and I aspire to have the same knowledge they have. That’s only possible if I take what they teach me and put it in my own work. I think many graduates come out of college thinking they know everything (I’ll admit, I was kind of that way), but you don’t. You will always learn more.
So Thank You, DMAW/EF
Being involved in the MAXI Competition, meeting successful professionals in this industry, and working with people who are passionate about direct response marketing every day are the keys to a successful career for me. I wish everyone would be just as active in the DMAW/EF as I was. Their lives can change, but only if they take advantage of all the resources.
Jessica Lee is an Account Coordinator for Digital Media at CDR Fundraising Group. She holds a B.S. in Marketing from Salisbury University. She works with a team of people responsible for implementing different digital campaigns utilizing channels like email, web, social media, etc. for nonprofit organizations. Outside of marketing, you can find Jessica practicing watercolor painting, drawing, and just enjoying the sunshine. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.