Case Study: Community College Students Solve Digital Marketing Challenges for California Business

The CITC’s Vanbassador Josh Halpern is at Long Beach City College speaking with Associate Professor of Business Nick Cordona.


A group of students from the California International Trade Center at Long Beach City College helped a Southern California business expand its digital marketing efforts. This win-win partnership allowed the students to learn real-world skills while helping the business expand its online footprint and create engaging content to reach a new audience.

The Problem

Like a lot of small business owners, Craig McManis would love to do more with marketing, but rarely has the time to do so. McManis is the founder of MagnetPAL, the world’s most useful magnet. He focuses most of his attention on building and maintaining relationships with stores that sell the product and does not have much experience in digital marketing.

“My efforts at online marketing were ad hoc at best,” McManis said. “Where we focus our attention is with our retail partners and in-store sales. I know I should be doing more online, but like a lot of small and medium-sized businesses, time and money are challenges.”

Brandon Church, a digital marketing consultant for the California International Trade Center, worked with McManis on a previous project and thought MangnetPAL would be a great fit for the center’s new VIP internship program, which pairs students with local businesses to work on digital marketing and e-commerce projects.

“I was looking for a company that would be flexible to work with,” Church said. “Craig has always been very helpful at giving our students what they need to succeed.”

The Process

A team of three LBCC students worked with Church and Nick Cordona, associate professor of business, to analyze MagnetPAL’s social media and digital marketing efforts, then create videos and other content that could be shared online.

Students met with McManis several times throughout the process. He provided high-level guidance on the product’s uses, but allowed them to have the autonomy that’s essential for innovation and creativity to thrive.

“The scope of the project was ‘go create and let me know what you’ve learned’,” McManis said. “I didn’t want to constrain them with our fishbowl thinking or what we’d done before.”

Students created social media content demonstrating how MagnetPAL could be used in dorm rooms, RVs, and other places. They also created a Google ad campaign that McManis can implement to help expand his online sales.

The Results

McManis was pleased with the content the students created and the increased attention MagnetPAL received online thanks to the organic social media content and the Google ad campaign.

“Getting the additional eyeballs on it allowed us to continue to serve our audience with clever and creative things,” McManis said.

This project enhanced MagnetPAL’s overseas presence as well. A new distributor relationship in New Zealand was established based on search engine optimization recommendations made by the interns.

“The students understood that their role in growing domestic sales would also impact global sales,” said McManis.

The campaign the students created for MagnetPAL will continue to bring positive returns as it runs online. Students gained the experience necessary to create similar campaigns for other businesses once they graduate. Those skills are very difficult to replicate in the classroom alone.

“The objective was to help MagnetPAL generate sales through the campaign, but the outcome was that the students were able to create an online campaign that Craig can take and then evolve as his business continues to grow,” Church said.

Moving forward, Church said he plans to provide the students with training in Google ads and other tools up front so they have a better base to work from going into the internship. He would also set up the program to run virtually so that the work can be scaled to assist even more California businesses who are looking to enter or expand their e-commerce and digital marketing operations.

Learn More

For more information on the California International Trade Center, visit For more information on MagnetPAL, visit

This post was originally published on the California International Trade Center’s website here.

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