Professor Spotlight: Bill Cron and the “Marketing Management” Course

Professor Bill Cron

In his 17 years at TCU, Professor Bill Cron has become a beloved teacher and major influence on graduate programs at the Neeley School of Business, including serving as the Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Programs for 8 years. In 2016, Prof. Cron was recognized for his innovative teaching with the Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished Achievement as a Creative Teacher and Scholars. His expertise and research interests span several fields, including marketing strategy (planning for growth and profits), channel management and sales management. He was recognized by his professional peers in 2012 with the American Marketing Association (AMA)’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He is currently Chair-Elect of the AMA Board of Directors.

Although he teaches a wide range of marketing courses as well as the very popular “Business in Italy” travel course, we asked Prof. Cron to talk with us about "Marketing Management," one of the core courses required of every first-year Full-time MBA student. The course remains popular because of Prof. Cron's innovative teaching methods and constant striving to improve the classroom experience and keep his subject relevant. Former students frequently stay in touch with Prof. Cron and love to share with him the different ways they still apply his lessons in their professional lives.

Here’s what he had to say:

What is Your Background and How Did You Find Your Way to TCU?

I completed my undergraduate degree in Business Administration at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. After working in marketing for Proctor & Gamble, I went on to earn my MBA and Ph.D. from Indiana University. I taught at Southern Methodist University (SMU) for 22 years before joining the Neeley School of Business.

What is the Purpose of the "Marketing Management" Course?

Since this is a core class, the goal is to have all students – whether or not they will take any additional marketing classes - gain an appreciation for the key questions and issues marketers face. Our MBA students will move on to managerial roles, so they need an integrated perspective of how the parts of business work together in a strategic way.  In some ways, I'm trying to reach someone in supply chain or finance to help them understand why they need to know about marketing. That means I have to understand business from their point-of-view and speak to their perspective. Of course, the class also lays an excellent ground work for those who will pursue additional marketing classes

Possibly most important, "Marketing Management" teaches critical thinking skills. These skills are highly transferable and can be applied to any situation, regardless of which career path students find themselves following. After all, what employers are really seeking are graduates who can grapple with complex situations and solve problems.

What is your teaching philosophy and how do you incorporate this into the class?

As I see it, each course consists of two main components. One is content — the information students get out of textbooks and lectures. The other is critical thinking — referring back to that information when faced with a problem, and applying it or testing it against that problem to create knowledge. Each component by itself is of limited value, but put them together and they become invaluable. 

If the professor is talking more than students in the classroom, this integration isn’t happening. I believe that it should be flipped. My students spend the majority of their class time discussing the issues with their peers and putting the theories into play. Instead of them listening to me, I am listening to their discussions and steering them as they develop an active understanding of the material.

I'm able to do this by not putting any class time towards formal lecture. Instead, recorded lectures are available to students on-demand. They can listen to those lectures, complete the required textbook readings and assess themselves by taking quick quizzes, all on their own time.

How Does This Course Promote Critical Thinking?

In the last four or five years, the entire MBA core curriculum has shifted toward developing critical thinking skills. To accomplish this, we developed a model for critical thinking, aptly named the “FROG” model. FROG lays out a roadmap for how to think critically and creatively about problems and issues in the business world. Early in their experience at TCU Neeley, MBA students learn and practice this model to: Frame the issue, Recognize possible approaches, Optimize the focus, and Grow by reflecting back.

Since the FROG framework is used across the curriculum, students experience and understand that critical thinking is transcendent and cannot be contained in any one box. We also know that  the more we expose our students to best practices and good habits, regardless of the subject, critical thinking will become second-nature to them. Then it becomes something they can use to succeed in school, their internships and their careers. 

How Do You Know It’s Working?

The emphasis on critical thinking is a great tribute to Neeley's vision, and I credit this approach for being one of the reasons I hear from former students so often. When they contact me to let me know they've found something we discussed in "Marketing Management" useful in a real-world situation, it's usually a scenario I could never have anticipated. But, if I implement the FROG model correctly, that’s exactly what should happen.

Learn more about the faculty, staff, alumni and current students working hard to make the MBA experience at TCU different by visiting the Neeley School of Business website.

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