The Voice: Summer 2001
Marketing class researches alumni product proposal
Cara Miedema DeHaan
How much do you pay for seasonal lighting products? And how much might you pay? These questions received a great deal of attention from Dordt marketing students this semester, thanks to two Dordt alumni. The twenty-five students in Professor Scott Quatro's Marketing Management class were asked by Tim Meyer ('95, engineering) and Rick Elgersma ('98, communication) to research the commercial viability of their new product, a lighting technology meant to help people decorate for special occasions and holidays. After Meyer and Elgersma presented the product to the class early in the semester, teams of students developed and carried out five marketing research strategies, such as direct mail questionnaires, mall intercepts, and focus groups. Their findings, presented at the end of the semester, gave the clients a broader picture of the commercial viability of their product.
Meyer and Elgersma, who developed the product idea with their wives, Amy (Spronk, '95) and Monique, contacted Quatro last semester because they believed that the consulting relationship would be a win-win situation. We would get some real market research at a reduced cost, and the Dordt students would get a real world example, not just a book lesson, said Meyer.
Senior Nick Leep agreed that the research project was mutually beneficial. It was a neat experience, Leep said, both because we were able to help out Meyer and Elgersma and because it was hands-on, not just another paper to hand in. Sophomore Mark Netjes, who hopes to pursue a career in marketing, added that the project will make him more confident in future marketing consultations. Students were not paid but were reimbursed for their research expenses.
Quatro said that the learning value of the project did not rest on whether the product was a good idea. I believed strongly that the learning value would exist regardless of whether the product was the next best thing since sliced bread-or like another 'New Coke,' which failed miserably, he said, adding that the experience will strengthen students' resumes. Both employers and graduate business schools will find this impressive.
Quatro spoke highly of Meyer and Elgersma's interaction with the class. They positioned themselves both as clients and as educational resources, he said. That's great-as a professor, I couldn't ask for more. The more we can foster this kind of thing, the better-both for educational purposes and for networking. He said that because the alumni understand the Reformed perspective, they could help his students discover how that perspective works out in the business world.
Meyer and Elgersma appreciated the students' enthusiasm and were eager to hear their results-both positive and negative. We are excited and feel that our idea has great potential, said Elgersma. We want to make this work. But we won't if we shouldn't. Both alumni stressed that market research is only one of many aspects in developing a new product, but they were glad to work with the Dordt students.
For me this was an opportunity to give back to Dordt, Elgersma said. Dordt has worked very hard through the years to create a close community with present and past students. That part means a lot to me. So this project gave our business an opportunity to save money, gave the students excellent experience and resume material, and allowed our group of ex-'Dordt- Warts' to give back some of what we learned.