When Gary Taylor, chairman and founder of InfoCision Management, was approached by the University of Akron about contributing money to a new campus building, he said no.
"Building a building wasn't something I wanted to help do," he says.
But the solicitation piqued Taylor's interest. He wanted to contribute to the university but didn't know in what capacity. He proposed a scholarship fund, and the university came back with an even better offer -- a direct marketing institute.
The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing opened in November 2004 to train students in direct marketing, with the goal of becoming an entrepreneurial incubator. Smart Business spoke with Taylor about the institute and its value to students and businesses.
Why do we need a direct marketing institute?
[Direct marketing] encompasses everything that is selling direct to the consumer -- telemarketing, direct mail, infomercials, direct response television and radio spots and that whole genre of communication direct to consumers.
It's interesting because direct marketing is a $2 trillion industry employing 27 million people, and there is not a single accredited, four-year degree program in direct marketing. That's what's really motivated me. And we're going to have the largest dedicated staff, the largest dedicated facility and the largest unique curriculum devoted specifically to direct marketing.
What do you see in the future for Institute graduates?
Direct marketing is actually very entrepreneurial because the barriers to starting your own business are very low. It's not capital-intensive. Students will have a focused skill set when they graduate.
That's how the Institute is modeled -- to help foster students actually doing direct marketing projects ... for clients. ... There's a call center, [so students will] actually implement telemarketing calls. They can implement marketing research studies. They're going to have a television lab where they can produce their own infomercial, so they'll actually be hands-on learning how to deal with it. And we are setting up internships.
Also, we're very excited about the cooperation we've had with the Direct Marketing Association. [It's] been very interested in partnering with the Institute to develop continuing education programs. Also, with those connections, we'll help the students have better insight into the industries and the job market.
-- By Amanda Wurzinger