“The Complete Guide to Marketing a Small Business”: A conversation with OCC’s Dennis Morgan

By Sarah Dahlstrom, Alfred Aung, Ami Suzui, Jayde Charlton

Photo by Coast Report Staff: https://www.coastreportonline.com/

Meet Professor Dennis Morgan

Professor Dennis Morgan, teaches advertising, marketing/ sales, and entrepreneurship at Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa. He is also the head of the Business Department at Orange Coast College. Not only an academic, but he is also a practitioner in the marketing industry and consulting over 500 different industries. Some of his more prominent clients include IBM, Motorola, Bank of America, Subway, and more. However, the majority of his focus leans toward consulting small businesses and start-up companies.
Throughout the interview, Morgan mentions some of the research he conducted throughout his years as a scholar. One of the research topics that stood out for our group was the topic regarding small marketing businesses. Dennis published a book on this topic, “The Complete Guide to Marketing a Small Business Or Product Successfully.” We were able to get some interesting insights and information about his field of study and research methods.

What is the title of your publication and what is it about?

Professor Dennis Morgan talked to us about his publication, “The Complete Guide to Marketing a Small Business Or Product Successfully”, in which he researched entrepreneurship and small business marketing. In graduate school, he studied the relationship between education and entrepreneurial success. He took his research in small business marketing and product innovation even further to formulate his publication,“The Complete Guide to Marketing a Small Business Or Product Successfully.”

What made you interested in conducting a study on this topic?

Professor Dennis Morgan explains that, “If I knew I wanted to be a specialist in teaching small businesses and entrepreneurs how to market themselves, I’d better have the knowledge to do that.” He goes on to say that, although he felt he had a decent amount of knowledge in the subject based on his own experience in the business, he believes it was critical to gain as much information as he could from others who had less or more experience than him. It was important to him to truly get as much research as he could, especially about fields that he wasn’t as familiar with to broaden his scope.

What was the most shocking or interesting thing to come out of your research in your opinion?

Professor Dennis Morgan explains that the most shocking information for him, particularly from an entrepreneurial perspective, was the relationship between a person’s education and the likelihood of becoming successful and running a business. Specifically a small business or a new starting business. Professor Morgan explains that he had reviewed and looked over numerous forms of data including historical, secondary, and his own primary data as well.

The data showed that there is no direct correlation or causation between a person’s education and how successful their small business will be. What surprised the professor more is that throughout his study he found that the longer you stay in college the less successful you will be at running a business. Historical data he previously studied also revealed no evidence of a person having to be formally educated to succeed in running a business. Most entrepreneurs, according to his research and his different studies, showed that most entrepreneurs and small business owners are self-educated but not formally educated. Some of the most successful business and entrepreneurs Professor Morgan has interviewed had no less than a 3rd grade education and had broken sales over 500%.

From your findings, why do you think there was an inverse correlation between education level and entrepreneurial success?

Professor Morgan goes on to explain that, in academia you are immersed into the theoretical foundations of a subject, and the principles related to the field. But, he explains, in the real world you have to be able to apply those theories. He states,

Knowledge is not power, it’s the application of knowledge that is powerful.”

Dennis Morgan

Professor Morgan explains that there is an inverse relationship between education level and entrepreneurial success because most people don’t know how to apply that knowledge.

Within the process of writing your publication, what kind of research methods did you choose to collect data?

Professor Dennis Morgan recalled that most of the data he collected to formulate his publication was secondary data and looking at different historical trends. However, he explained to us that the most instrumental way he collected his data was through primary research in which he conducted different surveys, phone surveys, and even one-on-one interviews. He highlighted that he also conducted longitudinal interviews as well. For example, he would start at one date asking entrepreneurs about their experience in terms of marketing themselves. Then, at a later date, he would interview them again asking the same question to see if anything had changed and if so what was it. He concludes that most of his data is coming from primary sources, since he’s dealing with real business and real data in real time.

What was the most important factor that you considered when contacting the people you were researching?

Professor Dennis Morgan explained that it’s important to extrapolate exactly what you want to know from them. He goes on to say, an interviewee’s time is usually very limited. So, when conducting his interviews he explains that he was very precise in terms of what questions he would ask and the extent of how much he would or would not have the interviewee elaborate on something.

What problems or limitations did you encounter the most while conducting research? What challenges did you face throughout your research?

Professor Dennis Morgan expands on how one of the most difficult parts about starting or conducting his research was getting a hold of small business owners and finding a time where they were free to speak to him. To clarify, Professor Morgan describes how business owners and entrepreneurs can be very busy people and have actual businesses to run so finding a period of time where they can interact and fully answer detailed questions is relatively difficult. He explains how he had to schedule multiple meetings with them for smaller amounts of time ranging from about ten minutes to an hour. Another concern he had with the study was a logistical concern. Professor Morgan did not only want to talk to business owners from a small geographic area and overall did not want his study to be geographically limited. He wanted to get a cross section of people who are local and also people who live across the country. 

What do you think will change in the future in terms of advertising?

Professor Dennis Morgan explains that what he believes we will see is a continued intensity and development of the ability of advertisers to target their consumers. He further explains by giving an example of how they are able to target consumers individually versus before when they had to target potential consumers in clusters. They can now select ads that are specifically curated for that person. Professor Dennis Morgan also explained how technology, specifically behavioral tracking, now allows advertisers and entrepreneurs to know everything you do. This allows the people working with this technology to draw a composite picture of you and understand what you like and dislike solely based on the ads you click on and items you purchase. Professor Morgan went on to say the ability to do this and use behavioral tracking is going to continue to advance and that will help shape the future of entrepreneurship, advertising, and small businesses. 

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