Photo of Liz Gray, Mike Sherlock, and Benjamin Cartmell

Fanshawe is one of nine colleges in the province to participate in the Voucher for E- Business (VEB) initiative, an in-kind Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE)-funded program which gives companies $2,500 to work with a college to build or enhance their online presence. Since its introduction in October 2013, Fanshawe has helped 39 SMEs stimulate their business by harnessing the power of digital marketing tactics (e.g., building social media profiles, creating display ads, implementing AdWords campaigns, etc.) to boost website traffic and conversions.

Liz Gray, who oversees Fanshawe's VEB program, explains how her students essentially run their own digital ad agency throughout the fall semester focusing their time on investigating what digital marketing initiatives would generate the highest return on investment for their SME clients. "By using the allotted funds to experiment with a variety of digital marketing approaches, the students essentially create a digital road map for the future, advising their clients where their time and money should be spent in the digital space," she says. "It's as real life as a student learning environment can get."

Mike Sherlock already had a good understanding of digital marketing techniques when he approached Fanshawe to participate in the VEB program during the fall of 2014. The CEO of London-based online human resources provider Knighthunter Inc., Sherlock was blown away by the significant number of unique visitors the students were able to draw to his website. During the VEB program, web traffic hit a record high of over 50,000 per month and revenue spiked by over 20 per cent compared to the same time period in 2013. He eagerly adopted the students' recommendations.

"The campaign really moved the needle in driving qualified traffic to our website and provided a clear roadmap for the improved use of digital marketing techniques moving forward," he says. "The VEB program has helped us optimize our digital marketing efforts, something that has become absolutely critical to the success of a small web- based business like Knighthunter."

Pleased with his experience, Sherlock has continued to work with the lead student consultant assigned to his account. Benjamin Cartmell, a graduate of Fanshawe's Business Administration Marketing program, was one of four students to work on the Knighthunter account. He says the project gave him the experience and confidence to open his own consultancy specializing in digital marketing, while holding down a full-time job managing traditional and social media marketing activities for London-based Grand River Stone. "The VEB program accelerated my digital marketing skills, and jump-started my career," he says.