Circular Marketing and Covid-19: from Consultancy to Consultancy through Management Education and Coaching
I’m welcoming this new review (https://www.amazon.com/Marketing-Exchanges-Review-1-ebook/dp/B08QDYRVGD/ all its proceeds go to the International Red Cross) posting here my “introductory” article.
Introduction and objectives
We have been assisting a non-profit organization, leader in its industry in Italy, since 2018. This client counts on public funds for a quarter of its revenues, but needs to further increase its B2B market presence, where it offers a very broad range of technical information products as well as a fair amount of consulting and education services.
Competition in the Italian market is relatively marginal and comes almost exclusively from abroad. The increase in sales can therefore be obtained as a result of market expansion initiatives (this industry is much more important in other advanced countries), rather than from an increase in market share.
This organization, despite a relatively complex matrix-like organizational structure, does not yet have a marketing function.
Our objective, since the beginning of our collaboration, has been to assist top and line management (i.e. processes and production, sales, innovation, education) in developing a marketing and data management culture to support the decision-making processes, in close liaison with the Information Technology and Human Resources divisions, in view of creating an ad-hoc marketing function that could assist top management from within the organization.
Initially, after having gathered some robust insights through interviews with management leading various functions, we focused our attention on the information system: development of a map connecting data with objectives, systematic identification of data describing current and potential clients, integration of information sources and assessment of the information collection and processing system, with particular reference to the external data banks, the reactivation and update of the CRM system adopted in the past, and the choice of a new and more flexible self-service oriented business intelligence system.
Gradually, several other connected projects paralleled this activity, that is still in progress, due to the complexity and diversity of its various components, added and consolidated over the last decades:
- clients’ profiling based on the existing data
- overview and classification of the choice criteria adopted by clients in choosing among alternative suppliers, based on their characteristics
- assessment of market potentials and the related market penetration in the various industry sectors
- assistance in the definition of trainees’ profiles for the marketing area, and in their selection
- preliminary guidelines for the gradual development of a marketing planning system
Considering the above-mentioned objectives, the consulting projects inevitably brought out the usefulness, and even the necessity, of initiatives that could help raise management and staff awareness of the importance of embracing a marketing driven mindset.
At the beginning of 2020 we therefore added some management education initiatives to the consulting activity. These initiatives were designed for 30 line and staff managers and their closest collaborators, after conducting a number of interviews in addition to those earlier completed during the consulting assignments.
It’s interesting to note that, following the insurgence of Covid-19, the management education activity, after having soon migrated online (an initial face-to-face workshop and five interactive remote workshops over a period of four months, interspersed with frequent “homeworks”), gradually took over the consulting activities and, in the process, became propaedeutic to that of coaching individual managers.
Beyond the initial meeting, mainly informational on objectives, contents, and planned teaching methodologies, the first remote workshop provided the major conceptual and methodological tools (basic maths and statistics, business economics) needed to better address the central leitmotif of the entire initiative, mainly based on our proprietary interactive simulation of competitive strategies and marketing organization in B2B contexts, complemented by a case on strategic pricing that recaps the underlying logic of a strong marketing mindset.
The objective of this specific simulation, structured into 4 simulated periods, each one corresponding to a full year of business operations, is focused on developing and reinforcing the participants’ strategic skills in the following areas:
- analysis and interpretation of a virtual market and competitive context
- development of reasonable assumptions and estimates about the future behavior of the relevant players and variables
- planning and both strategic and organizational decisions about the best allocation of the available resources, based on specific objectives and the above assumptions and estimates
- development of projections regarding the likely economic and market results of these decisions
- identification and interpretation of the reasons for possible discrepancies between projections and actual results.
Coherently with this objective, the algorithms of the “engine” of the simulation are conceived to reward the focalization of scarce resources on tools that are presumably more effective for managing the components of value relatively more appreciated by the market, compatibly with the competitors’ behavior and in view of improving market share and/or contribution.
The “homeworks” assigned to the various teams, based on both the simulation and the pricing case, were key triggers in making everybody aware of the usefulness of follow-ups through coaching sessions with individuals or smaller teams.
The aim of the coaching sessions was to provide logical and methodological suggestions that were based on our general feedbacks to the homeworks. Namely, guiding participants on how to:
- interpret the simulation results
- adjust their short strategic plans developed after “years” two and three
- develop coherent pricing strategies.
Since we made ourselves available for personalized and one-to-one exchanges of views, several participants requested individual or smaller group meetings via GoToMeeting or Zoom, in which, from the one side we clarified possible doubts and satisfied curiosities about the feedbacks, while on the other we collaboratively identified potential areas of practical application of the concepts and methods discussed during the workshops to the organization’s market reality.
So far, the outcome following two of these meetings suggested the opportunity to extend to various organizational functions, through consulting assignments, the specific solutions initially identified at the individual levels: for example, one of these ongoing projects has the objective of developing a flexible client classification system based on weighting multiple variables, depending on the different types of offers and the analytical objectives, shared on the same business intelligence platform.
The following figure summarizes the journey that is still in progress with this client, always supported by our interactive simulation-based and data driven decision-making approach. By the way, while we are currently in the new consulting phases, we also foresee, in the very short term, a management education “refresher”.
Undoubtedly, the Covid-19 crisis has somewhat encouraged us, together with the client’s human resources staff, to find creative solutions for assisting its managers and employees in the most impactful and engaging ways.
The takeaway from this experience is that the coherent and synergistic integration of different consulting, management education and coaching methods, thanks also to the adoption of various simulation and decision support models and tools, results in enhanced learning and organizational change, driven by increased participant motivation and engagement, when compared to distinct initiatives conceived according to traditional approaches.