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How important is marketing in the world of entrepreneurship? Erin Walter is the co-founder and CEO of the Illinois-based marketing agency, nuphoriq, and has a few thoughts on the subject.

She launched her company in 2011 after a six-year stint with Tasty Catering, where she held the position of director of marketing. But it hasn’t all been about marketing for Walter who also spent two seasons playing professional soccer for the St. Louis Athletica in the Women’s Professional Soccer league after leaving Tasty Catering.

During her two seasons, she earned her MBA in Entrepreneurship and Marketing Planning and Strategy from DePaul University. Once finished with school she decided to take the entrepreneurial step of starting her own business. From her experience at the multi-million-dollar company, Tasty Catering, and her time at DePaul earning her bachelor’s and master’s, she answered a few questions about marketing and entrepreneurship.

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Q: How important is it for someone going into marketing to gain some experience in the field before pursuing an MBA in Marketing? And how did it help you?

Walter: “You can still learn quite a bit without having job experience. However, with that being said, I don’t think you will get the most out of your classes and professors. Having experience allows you to relate the concepts and ideas to real situations of which you’ve been a part. Having a context for – and having practiced some of the concepts within – theory makes it easier to understand as well as allows you to question what you’re learning to provide an even deeper level of understanding. That is exactly what I went through when earning my MBA. I was able to challenge my peers and my professors with situations I had gone through which helped me grasp the concepts better in addition to improving my company.”

Q: How big of a role does marketing play for an entrepreneur’s startup business?

Walter: “Sales just don’t happen without good marketing. Perhaps that doesn’t go for marketing in the traditional Mad Men sense that many people think of when hearing the term, but it does for marketing in the 21st century’s emerging definition. Marketing involves developing your brand. Who is your prospect and what do they value? What does your team/company value? How can you make a connection between your values and your prospect’s values and how can you communicate that connection? How can you expect to grow your business long-term if you don’t figure those pieces out? All of those questions and more are part of today’s marketing.”

“Then there is relationship marketing. In this day and age, most everything is centered on relationships, meaning your team (your employees) are your marketers. Do they know your brand and the company’s values? These non-traditional forms of marketing are vital (and not nearly as costly as advertising or promotions). A start-up might make some waves at first based strictly off their product or service, but if you want sustainable growth, marketing, especially in today’s sense of the word, is a must.”

Follow Dustin Bass on Twitter @dustincbass.