SBE students take learning outside the classroom

At Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE) students are combining practice with theory.  All SBE Masters students in Strategic Marketing and Entrepreneurship are required to test their real-world skills via an innovative course titled Value-Based Marketing. This seven-week applied course challenges students to provide solutions to real problems presented by local Limburg companies.

SBE Associate Professor Dr. Lisa Bruggen is working with support from NV Industriebank LIOF, the Province of Limburg, and Innovation Centre of the Chamber of Commerce (formerly Syntens) via the “Limburg Makers” programme to implement this first year of a three-year initiative.

Real world corporate connections

On 10 February, the companies Alcast, G+S Industries and Greijn had the opportunity to pitch their problems to the students via a presentation and Q&A session.  They provided students with a detailed description of their products, business models, and the challenges they face.

The director of G+S Industries, Michel Goebbels, himself an SBE graduate, was very candid with students during the Q&A period.  He is looking for ways to improve the offer acceptance rate within their specialty machine division and asked students to “Orchestrate a Winning Performance” for his company.

Alcast is trying to differentiate their product, aluminium window frames, in a very competitive market.  The company asked students to help them develop better relationships with customers and provide “complete window solutions.”

Greijn, a specialty plastics manufacturer, hopes to integrate bioplastic into its product offerings and is seeking marketing ideas and customers.  Greijn also wants to increase its offer acceptance rate and gain a better understanding of its customer base and why offers may or may not be accepted.

 

Value Based Marketing 2014

Product

Challenge

Alcast Aluminum window frames - Differentiate product through a better value proposition, including expanding to complete window solutions- Develop and maintain customer relationships with limited resources- Expand to the German market?
G+S Industries Custom machine design - Improve offer acceptance rate- Think strategically about markets
Greijn Specialised plastic products - Introduce bioplastic- Expand to the German market?- Increase offer acceptance rate and customer value- Improve management of customer relationships.

 

Students putting theory into practice

The class has been divided into small teams of four to five students.  Each company will work with several teams on problem solutions. With the information received at the presentation, each team will first develop a “plan of attack:” a description of the problem they want to address and how they plan to organise their time.  Teams will have the opportunity to visit the company and submit additional questions to company management.  The results of their joint analysis and creativity will be written into a Management Report, which will be graded by their tutor.  In addition, they will present their solutions to a jury, consisting of company management and other experts in the field, at an event at SBE on 27 March 2014. Presentations will be judged and awards given for the best solutions.

Dr. Bruggen cites the quote “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” in her description of the course.  She hopes that students will be able to use the theories learned in class to provide real solutions to the problems presented by these local companies.

students-SBE

Boot camp

An additional element of the Limburg Makers programme provides the opportunity for employees of the involved companies to participate in a “Managing Service Innovation Boot Camp”. During five intensive sessions, the participants will be supported in taking the next steps toward a more service-oriented way of doing business.

A team of SBE experts will provide the inspiration and tools to expand the companies’ levels of knowledge and skills in a stimulating learning environment. The interaction among the participants will also surely generate ideas for the practical applications of their new-found insights.

Stay tuned for more

Talkin’Business will closely follow this project during the next six weeks.  Watch this space for interviews with students, the companies involved, and the announcement of the eventual winners of this innovative learning experience.

Dr. Lisa Bruggen is an Associate Professor of Marketing a the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics, Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management.    

 

By Leslie Sherriff

Leslie Sherriff studied international relations and economic development at the University of Southern California and the University of Pittsburgh in the United States.  After 10 years of managing international relief and development projects in the US and the Balkans, she moved to Maastricht with her husband and son.  She currently works as an independent consultant and writer for a variety of institutions. 

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