It could easily be said that the winners of the Value-Based Marketing course were not only the best student presentations, but also the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE), the participating companies and the wider Limburg business community.
For the last seven weeks, Marketing and Entrepreneurship students at SBE have taken part in the first year of a three-year initiative funded by Limburg Investment and Development Company (LIOF), the Province of Limburg, and Innovatiecentrum Syntens via the “LimburgMakers” programme.
Small groups of Marketing and Entrepreneurship students have been visiting Greijn Form Technieks, G+S Industries, and Alcast, speaking with management, consulting best practices and academic literature to develop creative and useful solutions to challenges presented by these local companies.
On 27 March 2104, the students were ready to present their solutions for evaluation at a concluding event. They were asked to give 7-minute “elevator pitches” to promote their ideas to a panel of distinguished judges. The judges then awarded prizes for the best solutions.
In essence, the Value-Based Marketing course is about applying the learning and innovation happening at Maastricht University in the real world. Has it worked? One indicator of success is the enthusiasm with which the overall project has been received by the Limburg business community. This enthusiasm was partly demonstrated by the composition of the jury participating in the event.
Prior to the elevator pitches, the jury attended an opening lunch, in which Dr. Lisa Brüggen, the course coordinator, explained the method by which the pitches should be judged. The lunchroom was packed with experts from the regional business and academic community, including Jan Zuidam, the Chairman of the Limburg Employers Association (LWV) and Brainport 2020 and former Deputy Chairman of the Managing Board of Directors at DSM; Jos Kleiboer, External Director of the Koninklijke Metaal Unie; Servi Verstappen, the Manager of Cluster Economics and Innovation at the Province of Limburg; Bert de Wit, Head of Development & Innovation at LIOF; and academic experts Dr. Gaby Odekerken-Schröder, UM Professor and Academic Director of the Service Science Factory, Prof. Dr. Piet Pauwels, Dean of the Faculty of Business Economics at the University of Hasselt and Prof. Dr. Jos Lemmink, UM Professor of Marketing and former Dean of SBE.
The energy in the presentation room during the elevator pitches was electric. Students used creative visual and audio tools to sell their solutions to the panels of judges.
One group focused on Greijn’s desire to capitalise on its ability to work with bioplastic. The students put together a presentation around the idea that Greijn should market bioplastic to stakeholders in the plastic toy industry, believing that companies and parents appreciate the use of renewable resources. Other students created websites, short movies, customised chocolates, board games, and even Lego models to illustrate their proposed paths to success.
Group solutions were judged on financial and organisational feasibility, creativity, customer centricity, the strength of their arguments, and their presentation. After the two-hour session, the results were tallied and the winners announced:
Greijn Form Technieks: Team 10 consisting of Philipp Garra, Jean Gelissen, Laura Hoogenboom and Melvin Nalbach. This team created an innovative solution for the Greijn bioplastics challenge and even incorporated a new website into their presentation.
G+S Industries: Team 9, consisting of Jantien Eisenhart-Rothe, Kristina Hasse, Sirka Papke and Maria Julia Suarez-Hernandez. This group used in-depth interviews to conduct an especially astute analysis of the problem and created a very good customer scorecard. The group recommended a customer value proposition and an integrated business model, including a new line of business, efforts that may improve profitability.
Alcast: Team 7, consisting of Charlotte Behnke, Milena Koch, Calypso Patron, and Johan Rotomski. This group decided that a more defined value proposition, better relationship management and a communications plan would help Alcast develop a successful Window Solution Network with corporate partners. The group was judged highly on their analysis and holistic approach as well as the overall plan’s feasibility.
From products to service
During the awards ceremony, Jan Zuidam and Jos Kleiboer, two competition jury members and important local business leaders, addressed the students and shared their enthusiasm. They said they were impressed with the quality of the solutions the students had developed in only seven weeks. The participating company directors, Frans Seijsener, Michel Goebbels, and Ger Steeghs noted that the students’ ideas have already led to change within their companies. Frans Seijsener said that he recently hired a part-time marketing employee to help implement some of the ideas presented by the students.
Servi Verstappen, the Manager of Cluster Economics and Innovation at the Limburg of Province, praised the value of the course for the region: “Industry drives the economy of South Limburg. We need this sort of innovation and youth to take us into the future.”
Michel Goebbels, the Director of G+S Industries, stressed the benefits for his company of participating in the course: “There is so much added value to getting outside the walls of our company. We’ve learned a great deal about marketing and how our product can actually become a service. Good marketing is not always represented in small-to-medium-sized companies such as ours.”
Thus, while the students learned by putting theory into practice, the companies also learned from the students… A winning combination for both.
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.