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Educating Graduates for Marketing in Small Businesses

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  1. Educating Graduates for Marketing in Small Businesses Sheilagh Resnick : Nottingham Trent University Ranis Cheng: University of Sheffield Academy of Marketing/BMAF Teaching Research and Development Grant 2010/11search and Development Grant 2010/11

  2. Background • Context of current marketing curriculum in one UK University • Supported by literature • Built upon a prior research study exploring how marketing defined in SMEs • Addresses an employment need for marketing graduates to look to the SME sector

  3. Aims and Objectives • AIM • To enhance the teaching of how marketing is practiced in SMEs to improve graduates’ understanding and employability within the sector • Objectives • To identify how SMEs define marketing • To compare this to how students view marketing within a SME context • To provide appropriate teaching solution that are cognisant of the reality of SMEs and student employment

  4. Context • SMEs can be defined by number of employees (micro 1-10; small, 11-50; medium, 51-250) • SMEs account for 99.9% of all UK private enterprise and 59.4% of private sector employment (BIS, 2010) • Foundations of what we teach students about marketing typically use examples drawn from large organisations • Marketing theories drawn from conventional textbooks focus primarily on activities such as formal marketing planning, strategy, marketing research & marketing mix • Academia may not have fully integrated the SME context into the marketing teaching curriculum (Collinson, 1999)

  5. Challenges • Rising graduate unemployment in the UK yet insufficient numbers of graduates employed in SMEs • Current HE teaching can hinder students’ perceptions of how SMEs understand and practise marketing • Obstructs students’ career aspiration in terms of SMEs (Hart and Barrat, 2009) • Affects the future graduate employment in the SME sector

  6. Research Method • Qualitative exploratory approach (O’Donnell and Cummins, 1999) • In-depth semi-structured interviews • 10 SME owners / managers (purposive sampling) and 20 undergraduate students (convenience sampling) all of whom had work experience in a small business • Data collected February –March 2011

  7. Priori Themes • Literature Gilmore et al., 2001; Morairty et al., 2008; Moy & Lee, 2002; O’Dwyer et al., 2009 and Smart et al., 2000 • -How is marketing defined? • -What marketing activities are undertaken? • -How is marketing planned & organised? • -How can SMEs offer relevant employment to marketing graduates? • -How relevant is the marketing curriculum for SME employment?

  8. Finding 1: Definition of Marketing SMEs • ‘Marketing was finding out what your customer wants and needs are’ (Food manufacturer) • ‘The majority of our business comes from client referral... So word of mouth, which is the best form of marketing’ (Insurance Broker) • ‘Actively engaged in networking and pushing for business that way’ (Glass designer) Students • ‘Basically the 4Ps or the 7Ps’ • ‘It’s to do with customers’ needs through a product or service’ • ‘I see it as a focus on what the customer wants rather than making profit’ • ‘Involves advertising and promotion’

  9. Finding 2: Marketing Activities SMEs • Overall business activity ‘We don’t do any specific marketing’ (Systems SME owner) • Marketing through the websites (8 out of 10) • Exhibitions, trade press ads & direct communications Students • Preconceptions prior to work experience: Planning, market research, advertising, SWOT analysis, marketing models • After work experience: Social media, mail shots, cold calling, database management ‘it all ended up being sort of work of mouth. Nothing like TV or radio or any major sort of advertising like that’

  10. Finding 3: Marketing Planning SMEs • Intuition ‘responding to an opportunity’ • Customer focused • Analysis of marketing activities: ranged from nothing through to a regular & systematic statistical approach • Web site hits Students • NO formal marketing function ‘when I was being taught about marketing planning, I thought everyone applies this but a lot of small businesses don’t use marketing strategies and don’t have a marketing department do they?’

  11. Finding 4: SME Graduate employment SMEs • SMEs did not employ business / marketing graduates • Marketing / sales did not represent a full time job • Employ graduates for IT / technical skills Students • Seen as secondary to large organisations and lack of opportunity to progress - ‘I think you get to a point where you’re sort of stuck’ • Less attractive financial rewards – ‘there’s more sort of benefits maybe within bigger companies’ • But some perceived SMEs had personal feel, smaller work environment, friendly staff, potential for early responsibility

  12. Finding 5: Student Perception of HE Marketing Curriculum • Current HE marketing curriculum focused heavily on traditional marketing theories & practices (4Ps, strategy, market research, branding, large scale advertising) • Fails to focus sufficiently on SME marketing practices (word of mouth communication, RM, internet marketing, social media) ‘I think more real-life examples like that would help understand what’s the difference between applying it to a big organisation than a smaller one’ ‘I definitely think if we’d studied or looked at smaller businesses and agencies, then I would have been more interested in it’ ‘We could probably focus on smaller businesses a bit more and you know, using sort of like real-life examples as well of people going into the businesses’

  13. Summary of Key Findings • SME owners & students define marketing as being customer focused, meeting customer needs & involve some level of advertising • Emergence of websites & viral marketing as a growing & appropriate marketing tool for SMEs • How marketing is practised in SMEs does not correlate to students’ understanding as typically taught in HE and supported in literature • Topics taught in typical marketing curricula are not conductive to SME business practices/marketing reality • SMEs currently perceive little value in employing marketing graduates ;marketing graduates regards SME employment as secondary to large organisation

  14. Solutions • Soft skills such as networking should be taught as a core small business skill • Online marketing and social media should become part of the core marketing teaching programme • Development of closer relations between career advisors & SMEs to provide students placement opportunities • Academic teaching should have more exposure to SME marketing through professional development & training in SME marketing techniques & through regular contacts with local SMEs community • Inclusion of SME case studies • Instigation of student projects based around a SME context

  15. Outcomes : Teaching and Learning • Marketing Curriculum • Lecture to final year undergraduates on the findings of the study • SME Marketing case studies now set as exam question • New BA Marketing degree at NBS will include modules on digital marketing and entrepreneurship • Internal Communication • Initial findings presented to a staff seminar January 2011 • SME/Entrepreneurship research centre now established at NBS

  16. Outcomes: Authors Publications • Journal Publications • Resnick, S., Cheng, R., Brindley, C., Foster, C. (2011) ‘Aligning teaching and practice. A study of SME marketing’, Journal of Research in Marketing and Entrepreneurship, 13, (1), 37-46 • Resnick, S., Cheng, R., Iourenco, F.(2011) Educating Graduates for Marketing in Small Businesses, Journal of Marketing Education, Accepted with amendments. • Book Contribution • Jobber, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F. (2012) Principles and Practice of Marketing. 7th ed. Case Study. (Resnick, S., Cheng, R., Brindley, C., Foster, C.) • Conference Papers • Cheng, R and Resnick, S. ‘Educating Graduates for Marketing in Small Businesses’, Academy of Marketing Conference, Liverpool, July 2011 • Resnick, S and Cheng, R. ‘Small Business marketing: a student perspective’, British Academy of Management Conference, Birmingham, September, 2011

  17. The Future • Development of the work to incorporate a quantitative study across 3 HE Institutions (NBS, University of Sheffield, MMU) Autumn 2013 • Continuation of influencing marketing curriculum to embrace SME characteristics • Raising awareness of employment opportunities in SMEs • Continuing to incorporate SME case studies and practice in teaching and learning • Engagement in KTPs and other activities which align academia and small business practice