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Spring, 2006 - SMAC in the News

Southwest Marketing Advisory Center Blazing a Trail

SMSU Alumni Office

Mike Rich will be the first to tell you, there's nothing better for a graduate looking for a job than a resume that includes practical experience.

“I just had an email from (an employer) the other day, and she told me one of our marketing students had the best interview she's ever been a part of, and she wants me to point future grads towards (her company),“ he said.

Rich is a marketing professor and director of the Southwest Marketing Advisory Center, an on-campus marketing business. It hires and pays students to conduct marketing projects for clients from southwest Minnesota.

To date, over 180 jobs have been completed, “both big and small,“ he said. The largest? A $32,000 study on renewable fuels for Sen. Norm Coleman, underwritten by the Minnesota corn Growers and Soybean Growers Associations.

Other recent projects have included a survey about the demand for modified housing, and market research about whether a Kentucky Fried Chicken and A&W restaurant would work in Marshall (it opened recently).

Students are paid $10 per hour, and anywhere from 12 to 20 are on the payroll at any given time. “It depends on the size of the jobs we have,“ said Rich. Each student averages 10 hours in the Center per week, said Rich.

The Center has gained attention. Bemidji State University recently sent delegation to SMSU to see how the Center works. “They wanted to model theirs after ours,“ he said.

“The Southwest Marketing Advisory Center is an opportunity for our graduates to differentiate themselves from other marketing grads from other institutions,“ he said. “They graduate with experience in the field, and there are becoming more and more local opportunities for them. Before, you'd have to go to Sioux Falls, the Cities, Omaha, but now, more and more businesses are realizing the importance of having a marketing person on board.“

He defines marketing as “giving the customer what they want, and helping the customer realize what that want is.“ Rich is involved in the community through boards and civic organizations, and those contacts have helped the Center get new jobs. “A lot of it is work of mouth,“ said Rich. “We are in our fourth year now, and people are starting to realize what the Center is, and what it can do.“

Rich also is a member of the national faculty of the American Marketing Association and as a result has the opportunity to make contacts all over the country. “Recently, we were asked to bid on an extensive marketing project for a publisher in St. Louis,“ Rich said. “That lead came from an attendee at one of the national AMA programs I taught.“

The number of marketing majors has increased, as well. “When I got here, we had 28. We have over 75 now,“ he said. “Students today know what they want, they have more street smarts, and the Center helps them get a leg up when it comes time to look for a job.“

For further information, call 507-537-7102 or e-mail:

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