Mostly Marketing by Theresa B. Clarke

Sharing my love of marketing. Helping marketing students, marketing practitioners, & marketing professors connect with one another. Passionate about nurturing new marketing talent. Enjoys sharing novel ideas about a wide variety of topics…but mostly marketing.

Prepared to Make the Difference: Three Ideas to Help You Make a Really Big Difference

My faculty commencement address to the JMU College of Business.

Class of 2017, Congratulations!    You did it!

In the College of Business, we have a slogan…Prepared to Make the Difference.

  •    It means you are ready to hit the ground running and have grown closer to becoming a professional.
  •    You learned business fundamentals, collaborated in teams, and participated in our many experiential CoB programs.
  •    You are equipped with resources, knowledge, and connections to help you succeed.

Today, You ARE prepared to Make the Difference —and I want to share three ideas that may help you make a REALLY BIG difference.

  1.      Be courageous.

Think about a moment in your life when there was something you really wanted to do….but didn’t do it because you were afraid to try. My moment was as a child. I wanted to be a cheerleader for my school. But I was apprehensive about trying out, because I doubted my ability to make the squad. I didn’t know how I would face my family, my friends, and the world if I didn’t make it.  So I didn’t try out. It was the cowardly choice, not the courageous one. I. let. myself. down.

But what the experience taught me at a young age, was that NOT trying ALWAYS feels worse than failing.  NOT TRYING was a mistake I didn’t want to repeat again.  So I vowed to never let the fear of failure stand in front of anything I TRULY wanted to accomplish. I stopped caring about failure and I decided to become fearless, ESPECIALLY in my career. I still experience failures today, but I know it really isn’t that bad because I actually learn a lot when I fail and life does go on.  When YOU aren’t afraid to fail, you will wake up every morning willing—and eager—and full of courage.   And the more courageous you can become, the more that big, exciting, and meaningful opportunities will enter your life.  Courage can lead you to do some pretty great things as you try to make a big difference in the world.

  1.      Commit to lifelong learning.

Today, you begin a new frame of learning as a college graduate. There won’t be structured classes or professors guiding you.  We in the College of Business have done our part. Now it’s your turn.  YOU will be in charge of your business education going forth. Let me tell you why this is so important.

When I was a senior looking for my first job, I had good grades, I was an active leader in clubs, and I held an internship where I performed well. Back then if you applied for a job, bad news came through a formal letter in the mail. I knew I could either trash the rejection letter and be angry about it—or make it my friend. I decided to make it my friend, folding it neatly and storing it away in the back of an old filing cabinet. Eventually, that letter had a friend—and then another— and another until I had my-own-little-sorority of rejection-letter-friends.

Over the next few decades, while my rejection letters sat in the filing cabinet…the world of business changed in so many ways…laws, technology, societal trends, the consumer voice, big data, …so many things—but I continued learning — as those changes were taking place. One day I found and re-read all those old rejection letters, I realized something very important.  And here’s what I want you to understand—continuous learning WILL reward you in the long run.

One letter had come from a Fortune 500 Company—my dream job at the time. No job, but…a few years ago that very same company contacted me with a request to do some digital marketing consulting for them. That. Felt. Great!   Another one of my rejection letters was from a graduate school that turned me down.  Six years ago, that university invited me to guest speak in an honors marketing seminar. That felt pretty great too!

I strongly believe that business career success requires you to constantly learn. Class of 2017, I challenge you to continue learning so you don’t miss out.  If you don’t—and you know this—someone else WILL be learning and you’ll eventually turn stale and will be left behind in this highly competitive and dynamic business world.  Don’t let today be the end of your education.  Start by building on experiences you had as a business student—like studying abroad, being a member of a business student organization, service learning, and going on company tours. Find ways to carry those experiences on as a business professional.  Be that person who continues to learn— and you will find NO shortage of ways to make your big difference.

  1.      Cherish the good in every day of your life.

It will be hard to make those big differences if you aren’t feeling good. We all have bad days—but you can always find something to appreciate, even on your darkest of days, if you look.  I have a nightly ritual. I call it my blessing box. It’s a box I found at Michael’s craft store—it’s about the size of a six-pack. Inside I put 365 blank notecards—one card for each day of the year.  Every night, I pull out the card for that day and add the current year—then, I write ONE sentence about something meaningful from that day: an activity, an accomplishment, something funny, something joyful.  Just something good I want to appreciate and remember. Then I move it to the back of my box, and my card for the next day awaits me. In that little box, over the course of many years, I’ve ended up with a personal collection of special moments from every day, of every year. And it is rewarding to look back at the goodness in my life as I write on my card each day.

I have 365 of these.  Each card reminds me to be forever grateful for the people, passions, big experiences, and little moments that are so special. Writing on these cards and reading them each day made me discover that when you are in tune with the good in your life, you can better operate from a position of incredible strength.  And with that strength comes powerful insight that guides you towards where and how to make those really big differences in your life and in the lives of others.

Today might be a great day to start your own blessing box, or a journal, or even just daily moment of silent reflection.  What will you write or think about?   I hope it’s something that captures today as a cherished, positive, festive, and joyful celebration of your entire JMU and CoB experience that you shared with your classmates, friends, and loved ones supporting you today.

Tonight when I write the 2017 entry on MY May 5th card I will probably say: “I never imagined I would give a commencement speech, but I did…and it was a genuine honor that I will always cherish.”

On behalf of the faculty and staff in the JMU College of Business, we wish the Class of 2017 our very best.  We hope that you find courage, that you continue to learn after today, and that you find the good in every day of your life.  And, as you make YOUR difference in the business world, YOU — will – make – us – proud.

Dr. Theresa Clarke's Commencement Speech to the JMU College of Business Class of 2017.

JMU Wins Bronze in 2015-16 Collegiate ECHO

On August 11, 2016, Marketing EDGE announced the winners of the 2015-16 Marketing EDGE Collegiate ECHO Challenge. I am pleased to report that the team of Dorothy Capasso (Team Leader), Allie Hammond, Joseph Scully, Mitchell Meyers, and Mariam Bekele captured the 3rd Place Bronze Award in the undergraduate division.  The team developed an integrated marketing communications plan for Facebook Custom Audiences.  Learn more about this team and their exciting experience in this year’s competition.

Dorothy Capasso (Team Leader), Mitchell Meyers, Allie Hammond, Joseph Scully, and Mariam Bekele - 3rd Place Bronze Winners in the Undergraduate Division of the 2015-16 Marketing EDGE Collegiate ECHO Challenge.

Dorothy Capasso (Team Leader), Mitchell Meyers, Allie Hammond, Joseph Scully, and Mariam Bekele – 3rd Place Bronze Winners in the Undergraduate Division of the 2015-16 Marketing EDGE Collegiate ECHO Challenge.

Two JMU Marketing Students Win Scholarships from Marketing EDGE

Hard work really does pay off.

Alex Adley and Morgan Foran were students in my Integrated Marketing Communications course (MKTG 384) last year.  They each won a scholarship from Marketing EDGE because of their overall performance in the course, which included the creation of an integrated marketing communications plan for DIRECTV.

Marketing EDGE logo Marketing EDGE (Educate-Develop-Grow-Employ) is a nonprofit organization that provides funding to support student scholarships, marketing challenges, internships, and teaching resources.  They are the only national nonprofit solely committed to help college students become engaged in the field of marketing.

Learn more about Alex and Moran by reading JMU’s article Real-World’ Experiences Translate to Scholastic Success.

Finding Customers Through Search Engine Marketing

sv-sbdc-logo Thank you to Joyce Krech for inviting me as a presenter in the  Shenandoah Valley Small Business Development Center (SV SBDC) monthly speaker series.

Listed below are some of the resources included in my December 12, 2014 presentation to the SV SBDC about “Finding Customers Through Search Engine Marketing“.

There are several outstanding agencies located close to the Shenandoah Valley that provide services in SEO, Paid Search, and other digital marketing areas.

If you are looking for something on a smaller scale, I can connect you with some of my JMU students to help you get started in AdWords.

18 JMU Marketing Students Earn Designation as HootSuite Certified Professionals

HootSuite CertificationDuring the fall 2014 semester in my MKTG 384 course, students were offered an opportunity to earn a few extra credit points through a HootSuite Certification Assignment.

One part of this assignment entailed students passing a certification exam to showcase knowledge about social media marketing.  Topics included scheduling social media updates, tracking social media performance, managing team and information flow in social media, and working with social media reports.

I am pleased to report that 18 James Madison University marketing students recently passed the HootSuite Certification exam and are now identified as HootSuite Certified Professionals.  Join me in congratulating the following individuals:

If you are interested in other types of social media certification, check out 8 places to get certified in social media.

How to Excel in the 2014 Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge: Advice from JMU Winners


My spring 2014 students at James Madison University participated in the *Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge as part of the Integrated Marketing Communications (MKTG 384) course.  Each team developed marketing plans, using direct and interactive channels, with a goal of increasing the number of orders driven through a Domino’s Mobile App.  They also created a visual summary presentation and an online video ad.  In the end, five JMU teams made it to the semi-finals and one of those teams emerged as the winner of the 3rd Place Bronze Award.

I asked our winning team to share their thoughts about the experience and provide tips to help future competitors.  Here’s what they had to say…

Haley SvadebaHaley Svadeba – I learned to not be afraid to go with an idea that seems to be random or completely unrelated to the task at hand.  These are the very kinds of ideas that end up being creative breakthroughs.  It is very important in the beginning stages of the creative process to not discourage any idea that your team has because you never know what could catch the target audience’s attention.  Once your team has decided on the “big idea” for the plan, I would recommend sticking with that one idea and building off of it.  Be consistent with your overall theme.  Even after deciding your main idea, your minds will continue to come up with additional ideas as you go through the semester but don’t try to make it more complicated by coming up with too many.  Keep it simple and make sure to use the one big idea very well by expanding upon it and integrating it into the plan.

Shawn MisarShawn Misar Consistency is king!  Also, taking a few minutes of time out of each day, dedicated solely to thinking creatively is well worth it.  I would highly, highly recommend talking about your ideas with your friends, family members, or anyone else who can give you some feedback.  Go to your professor’s office hours. It’s great to be able to bounce ideas off someone who has had a vast amount of experience and who is so committed to helping you do well! Meet regularly with your team, set a schedule, and stick to that schedule.  If all the team members meet every few days with real progress, you will have a lot of extra time near the end of the semester to “polish” the plan and give you the best chance of success.

Lauren CrainLauren Crain – I learned is it is very important to know and understand your target market and your client. Being very familiar with your target market will help in every aspect of the plan. You need to think like your target market, envision how they would interact with the client’s brand, and figure out what is the best way to effectively engage them. It is important to immerse yourself in the brand, know what they stand for, how they currently communicate with their audience, and understand how they interact with their customer. Some advice I can offer to other students is to get started on the project as early as you can because it contains many intricate components.  The Challenge is a large undertaking as you have to learn about an industry, a client, the marketing environment, and the competitive landscape.  With that information, you will be challenged to make recommendations, come up with a very creative big idea, a media plan, a budget, ROI projections, a video, a presentation, etc.  Teams with the highest quality plans were started at the beginning of the semester.  You want to put time and thought put into the process throughout the entire semester…not just pulled together quickly at the end.  You really do get out as much as you put into the project and will learn so many skills that will be applicable in the future.  Don’t waste this opportunity.

Haley Svadeba

Dan FroehlichThrough the Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge, I understood more deeply how motivation directly correlates with success. The first day we were assigned this project, our group had our minds set on winning the competition. We spent more time than we needed to just get a good grade.  We were dedicated to our client’s success and we truly wanted our ideas to make a real difference for the clients.  The extra effort and time we spent on the plan paid off as it positioned us to place #3 overall in the competition out of nearly 200 competitors.   One of the things we did that made the project so successful was our constant effort to improve our plan. We actively sought out our plan’s weaknesses, and built them into strengths. Your plan is only as strong as your weakest link, and this process helped us create a balanced and strong plan.

Thank you to Haley, Lauren, Shawn, and Dan for sharing their insights.  I concur with the advice and will summarize their key points:

  • Be open to all ideas during the creative process.
  • Once you decide on the main creative theme, stay focused on that idea and integrate it consistently into the plan.
  • Obtain feedback from other people outside of your team.
  • Plan a schedule of regular meetings and strictly adhere to it.
  • Learn everything you can about the market and your client.
  • Don’t procrastinate.
  • Set high goals and work hard for your client.


*The Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge is sponsored by Marketing EDGE, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to Educate, Develop, Grow, and Employ college students in the field of marketing.

A Shout Out to My Army of Technological Angels

There are times when I think about how grateful I am for my Army of Technological Angels.  These are the wonderful people who have always been there for me when I needed technological assistance regarding one of my professional endeavors.  Everyone working in marketing should cultivate relationships with others who have lots of technological expertise.  I know that I wouldn’t be able work in such a technological capacity without the help of my army.

I want to publicly thank those individuals who have had the most impact on me.

First, I wish to thank my brother, Dr. James A. Bilitski, Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown for all he has done throughout the years.  My brother has been with me from day one of my technological journey, which started when my mother enrolled her three kids into a Saturday morning computer class to learn how to write code using BASIC.   Although my brother and I have taken separate career paths in our lives, occasionally they merge.  To this day, it is not uncommon for us to have at least one technology-oriented meeting at family gatherings where my brother gives demonstrations, teaches me some new code, showcases a cool tool, or discusses how marketers and computer scientists can effectively work together.   Often we are up into the wee hours of the night talking about technology, our classes, business ideas, and other research questions.   Without my brother, I would not be where I am today as he is my biggest technological angel.  Although he is very busy with his work, music, consulting, and family, he always finds time to answer my questions.  Thank you Jimmy!  And I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my sister, Deborah Bilitski, for her support as well.

My grandfather on my mother’s side taught me how to use Lotus 1-2-3.  Actually, he made me sit down beside him as I watched him create spreadsheet after spreadsheet.   I can’t remember how old I was (young teens I think) when I was forced to learn this software for no apparent reason.  There were about 1,000 other things I rather would have been doing than learning spreadsheets, but it ended up being good for me later down the road.  My grandfather was ahead of his times in terms of technology.  Unfortunately his life ended before he ever had a chance to see what is available today.  If there is such a thing as a computer lab in heaven, I’m sure that is where he spends most of his time.

Next comes Cindy Baumert, a beautiful woman and wonderful mentor who hired me to work at IBM as a sales representative.  I’ve lost touch with Cindy but  hope to cross paths with her again to thank her for giving me a chance at IBM.  I’ll never forget the day when I turned on an IBM PS2 computer for the very first time and saw a gorgeous color screen with “windows” and various Microsoft products.  To me, it truly was beautiful…like looking at a piece of rare art.  Through Cindy and my sales job, I learned so much about sales, sales management, hardware, software, and electronic mail (since this was before the days when it was called email).

Update:  Cindy found this post in December of 2013 and we connected in Facebook!

During my early academic career at Old Dominion University (ODU), Satish Boregowda, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering, is credited for showing me how to use the www.  Had it not been for Satish, I probably would have stayed on the path of becoming a sales educator since my work experience and doctoral coursework/dissertation were in the area of sales. So in looking back, Satish was the one who initially opened my eyes to the amazing potential of world wide web.  It was a career path changer.

John Barker, the Technology King for the ODU College of Business, good friend, and owner of Silver Blue Photography, was instrumental in answering many questions about hardware and software.   During the mid-90s when the www was starting to explode, John helped me navigate my way into the world of internet marketing by assisting with a variety of technological issues.  John was an outstanding trouble-shooter, problem-solver, and supporter of my desire to bring marketing and the internet together at ODU.

Also at ODU was a very special student, and friend, Malcom McCutcheon.  Malcom was enrolled  in the very first internet marketing course that I ever taught.  This was back in the day when just about every student had never even heard of the web.  I was teaching topics such as what a browser is and how to use the “back” button.  We created websites in Geocities!   Malcom was way ahead of his peers and was so nice about sharing information that he was learning on his own.  He also had, and still has, a wonderful eye for great web design.  Check out some of his work at Bossa Nova Interactive.

I also wish thank Terri Buckner for sharing her time and expertise with me regarding online learning while at ODU.  Terri gave me many opportunities to explore how technologies could be incorporated into online teaching settings.  It was because of Terri that I developed a new research interest in the use of technology tools in marketing education.

When I made a career move to James Madison University, David Jones, Administrator for the JMU College of Business IT Computing and Support, was added into my army.  Dave has been extremely helpful with my technological issues in the lab.   Dave has assisted with my lab requests, software needs, hardware needs, server space, and many other random requests to help me do my job.  Mohammad Sumbal, Informaton Technology Specialist for James Madison University’s IT Computing and Support, is not only technologically-savvy, but he has such a wonderful customer-oriented demeanor.   He is so polite, helpful, and patient when working with me.  Unfortunately, when I need Mohammad’s assistance, I’m usually in a technological bind and am not feeling very patient (aka – totally bad mood).  Yet, he has the ability to calm me down, resolve my issue, answer my questions, and go above-and-beyond the call of duty.  Mohammad’s understanding of information security is also top notch!   Sarah Cheverton, Grover Saunders, and many other talented individuals at JMU’s Center for Instructional Technology have been so helpful over the years.  I am fortunate to be working at a university that has such an amazing staff and a center dedicated to helping professors stay abreast of current technologies.

On of the newest members in my army of technological angels is  Chris Wilson, a JMU alum who took my MBA-level Internet Marketing class in the summer of 2008.  I thank Chris for answering my technological questions in a timely manner and helping me enter the world of WordPress as a blogging platform.  Along with Chris, I thank every current and past student for thinking of me and taking the time to share when they encountered something interesting about the intersection of technology and marketing.

Finally I thank my dear husband, Irvine “Bud” Clarke, for his efforts at keeping me current in the mobile arena.  He had the foresight to see what was coming in the world of M-commerce long before I did.  He is so good about showing me cool things to do with my mobile devices.  He’s also great about sending me links to interesting material that he reads online.

To my entire army of technological angels, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Without your time, expertise, and support, I would not be able to impart the level of knowledge that I desire to JMU marketing students.  You not only help me, but you help all of my students as well.  Hats off to you all!

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