Instead of learning about marketing from a textbook, 25 Southern Oregon University students are drafting advertising plans for local businesses.

Instead of learning about marketing from a textbook, 25 Southern Oregon University students are drafting advertising plans for local businesses.

Professor Charles Jaeger wanted the juniors and seniors in his Advertising and Promotion class to get hands-on experience running a marketing program for a small business. So this spring he partnered with the Ashland Chamber of Commerce to create the Chamber Synergy Project, which provides free marketing services to local companies that elect to participate and are selected by students.

"The students are studying a real business situation," he said. "I worked in the high-tech industry in the Silicon Valley for 20 years, so I know that what you experience in a real business situation is much richer than what you can read in a textbook."

Jaeger's students have divided into teams of three or four and are creating marketing plans for six local companies: Apple Cellar Bakery, Kelly's Automotive Service, Rogue Klamath River Adventures, Wild River restaurant, Avamere Health & Fitness Club and Rogue Wilderness Adventures.

About 40 businesses signed up to participate in the program, and may be selected in future terms by Jaeger's students. He plans to continue the marketing program each fall and spring, when he teaches Advertising and Promotion.

"Whether my students open their own business or if they end up working for someone else when they graduate, if it has anything to do with marketing then they will have some real hands-on experience," he said.

The program is free for businesses, but owners must agree to meet with the students at least once and are encouraged to attend the final class presentations.

Owners aren't obligated to institute the students' marketing plans, but during a pilot project last fall, many decided to, Jaeger said.

"All of the businesses said they really appreciated it and, in almost every case, were going to implement at least part of it," he said.

During that project, students created plans for Yogurt Hut, Ashland Tanning Salon, Segway of Jacksonville and Southern Oregon Storage.

Students are given a fictitious marketing budget of $10,000 and are required to draft a comprehensive marketing plan that includes a competitive analysis and market analysis for each business.

Students have enjoyed the project so far, judging from evaluations they gave Jaeger at the end of the fall term, he said.

"It was unanimous that they really enjoyed this project," he said. "There were comments like, 'Although this was a lot of work, it was the best project I've ever done because it's a real project.' "

To register a business for the Chamber Synergy Project, call Jaeger at 541-552-6714.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.