Story by Eric Lawson
When entrepreneurs Julie Schlageter and Caroline Furman launched their designer handbag brand Piper Buck, they knew a lot about fabric but very little about digital marketing. Working with a group of Lander University management marketing majors, though, has armed them with a blueprint for business success.
Through the Greenwood Area Small Business Development Center’s Business-College Connection Program, the Piper Buck reps were paired with Lander students in a digital marketing course led by Dr. Cherie Rains, assistant professor of marketing.
“When I moved to Greenwood from Portland, Oregon, I realized there were plenty of opportunities for students and businesses to work together,” said Rains. “While there is a lot we can teach in the classroom, working with actual clients in a real world situation is very important.”
Rains’s students certainly delivered the goods.
Working in teams directly with Piper Buck, the Lander students analyzed every aspect of the business’s digital footprint.
- Online data was used to hone in on a targeted audience specific for Piper Buck products.
- Social media services were scrutinized to determine which would be most effective for their products.
- Messaging was reworked for consistency across all online platforms.
- Timelines were put in place for implementation of marketing strategies.
- Google AdWords were implemented into the marketing strategy to target specific audiences.
- An introductory online video was produced to showcase the personal production process of Piper Buck products.
Identifying the target audience for Piper Buck was a vitally important hurdle to clear. Seniors Jessica Johnson, of Spartanburg; Josee Young, of Greenwood; and Madison Copeland, of Bishopville, set about to pinpoint to whom Piper Buck should be marketing.
“Through examining their social media analytics, products and pricing, we were able to determine that the ideal target audience for Piper Buck is professional women between the ages of 28 and 35,” said Johnson.
The Business-College Connector Program is the brainchild of Ben Calhoun, area manager of the Greenwood Small Business Development Center.
“When I moved to Greenwood in 2018, I soon realized that a bridge needed to be built between business owners and new talent,” he said. “Especially among owners of small to medium-sized businesses, there is a huge demand for help with digital marketing.”
The program connects business owners with management and business programs at Lander, Erskine College and the University of South Carolina Upstate.
For business owners, the benefits from the program include access and insight from people who have their pulse on the latest in technology trends; an introduction to a new employee pool; and affordable, yet invaluable, market research.
Participating students are able to strengthen their relationships with local businesses, showcase their abilities to potential employers, learn to compete as a team and enhance their resume portfolio with real-world experience.
“A lot of our business is done through trunk shows, but we wanted to be able to direct people back to our website,” said Furman. “While our strengths and knowhow are in fabric and the making of Piper Buck products, to be able to get insight into digital marketing strategies was very helpful.”