Tag Archives: Marketing

What is an MBA? – by EIBF President David Falzani MBE     

Benefits of Studying for an MBA

The MBA has been around since 1908 when the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration was established in the USA. Across the world today, the MBA is the watchword for business career success, and prospective students are spoilt for choice as to where and how they study – from the world-leading schools like Harvard and London Business School (which was the first UK business school) to virtual online schools, from full-time courses to part time study.

MBA programmes prepare professionals for senior management roles in business.  Typically, MBAs are taken by those who have already been working for several years, but that’s not always the case.  Some people go straight from their first university degree to study for an MBA degree and this is the beauty of the business school offering; there are options to suit everyone.  This includes MBAs at premium business schools, like LBS or Harvard, and, for want of a better term, ‘mainstream’ business schools.  Courses are available either full-time (30-60 hours per week) or part-time (one or two days per week) and there are Executive MBA programmes for senior corporate executives and managers who study whilst working, and sometimes their study is partially or fully funded by the employer.

Requirements to Study an MBA
To study for an MBA, you will usually require an undergraduate degree.  Most MBAs require a 2:1 or above, but there are some that will accept 2:2 degrees so long as they are paired with an exceptional application and a set of relevant skills and experiences.  Some work experience is generally required; this being the case most MBA students are between the ages of 27 and 30. One important entry criterion to meet, particularly for top schools, is the GMAT exam score. The Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, is designed to test your abilities across a wide range of areas. A good score will often facilitate entry into leading schools, and each school’s GMAT averages are widely published.

Benefits of an MBA
MBAs expose students to many areas of business including accounting, finance, marketing, people management and leadership skills, and full-time courses do so in an intensive, immersive way that challenges and stretches students’ perspectives and thinking.  The MBA experience often pushes candidates hard – the speed and sheer amount of work faced is sometimes described as a re-wiring of candidates’ brains, such that they can think critically and quickly analyse information, filtering out what is important from the irrelevant. The skills taught in an MBA programme enable you to read, assess, structure and plan rapidly; skills that will enable you to find innovative ways of dealing with big problems.  An MBA graduate also gains an up to date and razor-sharp ‘tool kit’ to apply to any business challenge. These aspects are some of the reasons why the MBA has become so highly regarded by employers.

People from all walks of life want to gain an MBA qualification in order to improve their understanding of business and to accelerate their career.  Developing your business skills is not only good for your personal and career growth, but it is also good for companies and organisations and essential for the economy – enhanced knowledge and skills leads to better solutions to problems which can increase productivity, as well as transform products and services that affect people’s lives.

If you are at that pivotal point in your career where you want to learn more about business and the decision-making processes, it’s important to know that as valuable as the MBA is, the programme is not a final destination, it’s very much the start of a longer journey.  In an MBA you will be introduced to many facets of business and gain a foundation that enables you to confidently delve deeper into areas of interest across a range of subjects as you need to.  Because of this solid framework, when you are back in the world of work, it will be easier to go deeper into subjects that are needed in your job. You will be able to understand business issues and explore them at a level you were unable to do before your MBA.

A Wealth of Choice of Business Schools
Every year thousands of professionals start their search for the right business school for them.  At the top of the MBA tree are the premium schools – these are equivalent to Ivy League ranked universities, which often have long histories, coveted brands, outstanding facilities and attract the best staff and candidates.  The institution’s brand, the quality of faculty and quality of student admissions are all perpetuated by each other, creating an institution designed to offer the very best environment for business education.

Gaining a qualification from a top international business school will open new opportunities.  However, their prestige and resources mean they command high fees – some can be as much as 10 times more expensive than mainstream business schools.  On the upside, their brands add considerable value to the graduates’ own personal brand, giving them an additional asset when they go back into the job market.

There is fierce competition to secure a place at the top business schools – because their brands are so revered.  Unsurprisingly, these schools are often 7 to 10 times over-subscribed for places, so getting-in requires some real work.  Candidates must be very driven and highly organised to maximise their chances. Having access to the necessary funds also helps – some will seek assistance with fees by applying for a scholarship (eg through charities) to supplement their private financing arrangements.  Many candidates have a risk profile that allows them to take on loans, confident that their future income growth will resolve any debt soon afterwards.

There are many fantastic mainstream business schools that do not cost the earth.  More and more, universities are developing high-quality MBA programmes.  Excellent business education is on offer but, being newer into the MBA market, these do not have the same historical pedigree and reputation enjoyed by their premium counterparts.

While those who attend the mainstream business schools may not come away with quite such a prestigious brand to append to their own, they receive a rounded business education (perhaps with less of the heightened level of induced stress that the premium schools engender into their programmes) and can use their new skills to further their career goals.

The Enduring Power of the Alumni
Apart from the new skills propelling your career prospects and salary (it’s not uncommon for business school graduates to double their pre-MBA salary), there is a huge ‘hidden’ benefit.  During the MBA, students develop a network of peers that become long-term associates and lifelong friends.  The business school Alumni is a powerful asset – because of their shared experience, members will reach out to each other when they need help or advice at any stage in their business career, whether that’s as a senior-level employee or as an entrepreneur.

MBA – A Cause for Celebration!
The tremendous success of the MBA is a cause for celebration: the diversity of schools (some offering campuses in several countries as part of the curriculum), programmes and study timetables allow many people to attain business education in a way that suits their ambitions and circumstances.  The timescale over which one can study an MBA has transformed access – there are full-time courses that run from nine to 21 months depending on the school, and part-time learning up to five years. Schools can be physical or virtual.  And, there are prices to fit almost all budgets.

It’s come a long way since its origins in 1908, adapting and evolving to meet the market needs. Accessible, flexible and current – today’s MBA is a truly wonderful platform to boost business education.

If you are an engineer considering an MBA, visit or scholarship page for details on how to apply for a £50,000 award.

 

Do we Love or Loathe Targeted Marketing?

Our latest survey followed up a recent blog entitled, ‘Behavioural Science: Who Decides What We Buy’ which looked at the complex marketing choices facing businesses looking at the best ways to market their products and innovations. The survey continued with the central theme of the blog…is it now completely acceptable for companies to use sophisticated targeted marketing to manipulate consumer behaviour rather than to reflect consumer demand?

As usual, the responses from our panel were insightful and revealing. We asked six questions to discover their attitudes toward targeted advertising and marketing.

Survey respondents were very clear when asked for views on the first statement: New products require significant time and investment, therefore, it is ‘fair game’ for companies to undertake targeted marketing in order to sell to consumers.

Seventy-four per cent agreed with this statement with only 7.4% disagreeing. A result which supports the notion that target marketing, especially in the digital age, is now widely accepted as an important aspect of commerce.  One survey panel member said: “Generating sales and profits is vital for a company to make future investment in product innovations.”

The respondents were asked to answer as consumers for the next question: When products have been targeted at you specifically, for example, through traditional direct mail and/or social media, typically what has been your reaction?

The question split the panel down the middle with 37% feeling happy to have been introduced to a new product/innovation while 33% took a different viewpoint, expressing concern that their preferences have been so closely monitored in order to sell to them. Eleven per cent were baffled as to why they had been selected to receive information about a product; perhaps a reflection that not all targeted marketing is as precise as it could be.  “I’m happy when the product or service is genuinely useful. Grumpy when way off, for example, free eye checks for the over sixty-fives, when I’m in my fifties,” said one respondent.

Customer satisfaction after purchasing through targeted advertising was tackled: How do you feel after you have been persuaded through advertising to buy a product you had not been considering before you saw the ad?

Overwhelming, the panel (59%) said they were happy to have bought something that they really needed.  Seven per cent felt the opposite, a further 7% were regretful for making an impulse purchase while the remaining 7% said they were happy to have been adventurous in making the purchase.  In conclusion, most of the panel (66%) expressed positive feelings about being introduced to products via online marketing.

The panel was also asked about the overall effect of marketing: Is the claim that marketing significantly influences consumer spending habits exaggerated?

Fifty-six per cent think that the claim is not exaggerated and that consumers are easily tempted into buying. Thirty-seven per cent disagreed saying that buying decisions are complex, dependent on many factors, not just clever marketing.

Another respondent commented,  “Marketing has significant influence and it is overly simplistic to cast consumers as dummies but we’re all busy and have limited headspace for decision-making.”

Although targeted marketing is now a key factor in selling products, it can also be considered intrusive. The panel was asked: Can persistent targeted marketing (eg frequent ads being shown on social media) put consumers off brands/products?

Fifty-six per cent of the panel said yes, and that today’s consumers are adept at researching and buying what they want without the need for hard-sell tactics. Only 15% disagreed stating that people ignore what they are not interested in and buy what they really want.

 Finally, the panel was asked: Does sophisticated research and marketing stimulate innovation?

Forty-one per cent agreed that it does with only 7% disagreeing. A large percentage (30%)  did not know. Perhaps an indication that this subject has not been widely researched yet.  Considering this question, a respondent said, “Sophisticated research and marketing can often create products and services that consumers have never dreamed of.”

In conclusion, the consensus from our survey panel was that targeted marketing is here to stay and is a very valuable tool for all types of companies. It’s fair to say that businesses love it as it affords quick and easy access to potential buyers. As consumers, however, our panel was understandably wary about marketing that isn’t targeted well enough and the possibility of being bombarded with repetitive and often irrelevant advertising. This is when consumers begin to loathe the feeling of manipulation through advertising.

However, when marketing departments take the time to hit the right targets our panel agreed that most people would be happy to be introduced to and to buy something that they really need.

 

Behavioural Science: Who Decides What We Buy?

Who decides what we buy?  It’s a chicken and egg debate.

Innovation, improvement and creation of products and services are produced, on the face of it, for the benefit of the consumer. We assume that, in general, these products and services are created to cater to a supply and demand situation, or to solve a problem. However, one of the biggest influences on what is put on the market is based on the findings of various strands of behavioural science. Although this approach was initially designed to find out what demographic groups want, the competitive nature of so many markets has many people wondering if this technique is now commonly being used to manipulate consumer behaviour rather than reflecting consumer demand.

So, you see, chicken and egg; do the products and companies serve the consumer, or do the consumers serve the products and companies? Marketing, business, consumer demand, profit, trend-setting… there are many issues and phrases banded around with this issue. The fact is, within business profit is the main goal. As we have seen, many huge businesses, household names such as Woolworths, HMV and the House of Fraser, have fallen foul to the highly competitive consumer market. It could be argued that sometimes customer manipulation is what is required for a business to stay afloat; sometimes consumer satisfaction is not the top priority. Is this acceptable? Let’s delve into the pros and cons of behavioural science a little to help towards a conclusion.

What is behavioural science?
The term ‘behavioural science’ is very broad. It takes ideas, theories and techniques from several fields including, among others, social neuroscience, cognitive science and psychology. These are combined under the umbrella of behavioural science in order to understand the behavioural patterns, buying habits and social dynamics of individuals and larger groups. The results of these studies help to form an understanding of the needs and wants of consumers, and how best to react and ultimately capitalise on them.

How can data gathering be used?
Gathering behavioural data is easy these days. Back in the fifties and sixties, when companies began to gather consumer data in earnest in order to predict where markets were going, their techniques were far more rudimentary. Sales figures, questionnaires, customer feedback… these were the kind of techniques being used. Back then most companies were doing their best to react to the market requirements, what people really needed. However, through the years, as data collection has become more sophisticated, and more intricate consumer patterns have been uncovered, it is not too much of a stretch to steer the market in a direction that benefits the company.

Now, with AI, Google analytics and such, the detection of buying patterns is extremely sophisticated. The data collected includes everything from what people buy, what they look at, how long they spend looking at it, what colours peak their interests, what words they most commonly search for, what sells the best at what time of year and in what location; there is really no behaviour that cannot be detected and tracked.

So, you see, data gathering can be used however a company sees fit. They can either react to your needs and problems, or they can place whatever they have to sell in exactly the right setting in order to look after themselves first. So, the answer to the question ‘how can data gathering be used?’ is, essentially, however you like. The result is down to the ethos, morality and ethics of the business in question.

Targeted marketing
Targeted marketing; breaking down the market into segments (generally demographically determined) and concentrating marketing at the segments that are most likely to gain the company the best results. That makes sense, right? Companies and influencers go where an easy sell is most likely, of course, they do. If, for example, you sell sportswear, you might want to advertise outside a gym or leisure centre. If you sell kitchen appliances, you might want to buy advertising slots around TV cooking programmes. And now companies are employing highly sophisticated and personalised tracking of consumer likes and buying patterns on social media and online shopping and appealing to them individually.  However, this kind of specifically targeted marketing, although present in virtually every industry, walks a fine line between serving the customer and serving the company. In an ideal world, it should do both. But at what point is a company pushing its product onto a demographic that doesn’t need what they are selling, but is determined that they should get on board with it anyway?

Is it healthy to target specific demographics? Considering that advertising must behave differently for each target market in order to get the results it requires, does this perhaps fuel societal and cultural divides?

Innovation vs manipulation
It is tough to innovate. Innovation requires skill, imagination and experience, on a personal skill level. These are tricky enough to find as it is. However, the biggest challenge is time and money. Most of us would like to think of ourselves as innovative; creating solutions to current and potential problems, pushing boundaries and, in a broad sense, making the world a better place to live. That said, this is a much more expensive and resource heavy endeavour than simply flogging something that you know will work, because of behavioural science and its results, for an easy sale. In many cases, to create the opportunity to innovate, capital must be gained by betting on a safe product or service.  In this case, it could be said that a little consumer manipulation is the price that must be paid for truly innovative developments and discoveries.

In this fast-changing world of information and technology, the grey areas are numerous. Often, we don’t have time to sit and reflect on our ethos or aims, or on how fair we are being to everyone, due to a fear of missing the boat, a customer, a trend, or a technological advance. But take a few minutes now… who decides what you buy? And indeed, if you are the seller in this situation, are you an innovator, a manipulator, or a bit of both?

Marketing an Engineering Business

b9-1106 Bedfordshire Businesswoman awards held at Woburn Sculpture Gallery. Overall winner Andrea Rodney of Hone-All Precision Ltd

Andrea Rodney is a dynamic, self-taught, self-motivated businesswoman who helped Hone-All Precision in Bedfordshire to extraordinary success, part of which can be attributed to the transformation of the company’s marketing strategy. Andrea joined the company at the age of 21 and 18 years later is a director of the company. Here Andrea tells us why manufacturing businesses should not shy away from marketing themselves.

For many years, Engineering and Manufacturing has suffered from a poor image. It seems that the media insist on continuously showing images of the old guy in overalls standing at his bench with a file in his hand whose length of service was judged by the length of the fingers he had left.

But the question is: how do we help ourselves in this?
Few companies within our industry ever covet press coverage or publish press releases or case studies shouting about the technological or process advancements they’ve made, the efficiencies achieved or even something as simple as a new machine being delivered.

Even fewer have a strong corporate image with memorable company logos which create an overall brand resulting in facilities with a themed colour scheme, matching corporate work wear, uniform documentation combined with an effective website to ensure the brand is seen externally by a national or international audience.

Within smaller companies in our industry, many are owner-managed or are run by excellent engineers who have never been involved in sales and marketing activity – they know how to make the parts, but not how to play the game!

As companies, regardless of size or speciality, we need to show just what we do and how well we do it. We need to look as good as we are. And we need to let people know about it. We are always told to focus on the 4 Ps – people, place, process and product – but without the 5th P – profile – it’s irrelevant as nobody knows just how good we are.

And so as an industry, we need to look to the brands we remember and ask ourselves what made them memorable? Then we apply that to our own businesses, however small and with whatever budget we have available to us.

It costs nothing to come up with an eye catching logo, to ensure this brand continues across all levels and throughout all functions of the business; and to ensure that when the telephone is answered, it is always in the same, bright, professional, bubbly and courteous manner. It costs nothing to ensure the facilities are clean, tidy and create a great first impression. And to ask people what they thought during their visit and act upon their feedback.

For those potential customers that cannot come for a visit there may be a small investment required to ensure that you can create a website that follows the same principles as your people, place, product and processes.

Once this is in place, it costs nothing to ensure your website is listed on all the free listings pages available, of which there are hundreds. Each entry moves your site up the rankings of search engines such as Google.

Advertising within trade magazines Services & Capacity listings is usually exceedingly cost-effective – less than a few hundred pounds for the entire year. But having a consistent presence raises awareness of your company and reinforces the brand each time it is seen.

Also, once these entries are placed, the magazines are usually much happier to include press releases and case studies from you which are placed free of charge and yet again tell your story, reinforce your brand and raise confidence in the continuity of your company and the services you provide.

The press releases can then be forwarded to your customers on a regular basis keeping them informed of your successes, investments and developments. Again, this costs nothing but offers a massive boost to reinforcing your image and keeping you at the forefront of your customers’ minds.

The benefits of these simple steps are that your company – which may well be exceptionally professional – is also perceived to be so. Not just by those that know you, but more importantly, by those that don’t.

You can build a brand and a profile for the minimum of investment and simply by playing the game you can tell the world about your fantastic people, about your safe and efficient facility, about the quality of your product and the effectiveness of your processes – all through one simple profile.

The greater hope with this is if more of us get this right, the less companies there will be for the media to use in order to portray manufacturing as an antiquated, outdated industry with little technology or progression for the youth of today. We have more chance of showing CNC machinery, sharing stories of technological advancements, highlighting companies consistently investing in continuous improvement and reinforcing the fact that manufacturing is the best and safest way of balancing our economy and therefore deserves the recognition and support of everyone – the media, the Government, the country and those within it that don’t shout loudly enough about their contribution to the most exciting and innovative industry in the world.