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Newly graduated marketing students are likely reflecting upon the quality of the educations that put them in debt. Meanwhile, many are discovering that their degrees and skill sets just aren’t up to snuff for today’s marketing challenges. Unfortunately, marketing degrees from many of the nation’s top business schools are leaving students in the dark on the subject of inbound marketing.

Every semester, students are graduating from premier universities with marketing degrees, but without ever hearing the word “inbound.” As a recent graduate of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, I find myself in the thick of the issue. Indiana University is #7 on the U.S. News and World Report rankings for best undergraduate marketing programs.

Questions left unanswered

How could it be that such a highly-esteemed marketing curriculum is missing such an integral piece of the marketing puzzle? How could inbound be overlooked by administrators, professors and researchers alike? And finally: Is a marketing degree valuable in today’s world with only knowledge and application of traditional marketing practices (i.e. market research, analytics, advertising, brand management, consumer behavior, strategy)?

The only class related to inbound marketing in Kelley’s course offerings is called “Digital Marketing.” However, this class (an elective, not a requirement) does not touch on any topics like calls-to-action, landing pages, lead nurturing, optimization (in any form), earned media or even email marketing. It’s an experiential class focused on the targeted use and business applications of an array of social media platforms, which is merely one branch on the tree of inbound marketing. To clarify, social media networks are not inbound marketing alone—just distribution channels for content.

Ahead of the curve

With more than 110,000 students and nearly 9,000 faculty members across all campuses, is IU lagging worse than others because of its size?

Hardly the case. Kelley is actually ahead of the curve when compared to its well-known competitors. In fact, Kelley is one of only five programs in the top 10 list that offers marketing classes in any form related to digital, Internet, inbound or even social media marketing. Elite business schools like Wharton (Penn, #1), McCombs (Texas, #4), Kenan-Flagler (UNC, #6), McIntire (UVA, #8) and Wisconsin (#9) offer no courses related to such subjects, even as electives. Very old school, very traditional, very outbound…

Very outdated?

Inbound marketing is not so new that it’s excusable to leave out of undergraduate marketing curricula. Characteristics of inbound have been around since the invention of the Internet. Although the term “inbound marketing” and its holistic approach to business are relatively new (about six years old), the practice has proven that it’s not only here to stay, but growing. According to Hubspot’s 2013 State of Inbound Marketing, nearly 60 percent of marketers have adopted inbound strategies, and their budgets for these strategies have grown nearly 50 percent year-over-year for the past three years. These same marketers are now crying out for marketing school graduates who are well-versed in inbound marketing practices.

With outdated and old-fashioned approaches to marketing, America’s elite business schools are failing their students as they turn out class after class of Mad Men. Today’s marketing graduates must have inbound knowledge and application experience in order to be effective and successful in their careers.

Time to shape up

It is time for universities to pull their marketing programs out of last century and into the digital age. Without research, revision and adaptation, universities will not be able to provide value to the marketing students whose futures depend on the degrees they earn. Universities must start by recognizing the prevalence of inbound marketing philosophies across businesses in America today. Misdirected schools focusing on social media need to shift their focus to content marketing, the strategy at the core of inbound.

Are you ready to educate yourself and your marketing team? A great place to start is right here with The Inbound Marketer’s Guide to Earned Media and The Enterprise Blog Post Optimization Guide.

Image credit: Indiana Public Media


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