Decoding The Case: A B-School Narrative
It was the summer of 2017, when I set on the path of becoming a business leader by getting an admit to SIBM Pune, right after completing my graduation. I was really passionate about curating and writing content, but destiny had other plans in mind. Joining a top tier B-School surfaced plethora of opportunities, and opened new avenues to explore, but time was limited and I wanted to do a lot. I was faced with a big dilemma, or say a business challenge about where to put my means to have the maximum return on investment. Now, talking about the options at hand, my YouTube channel by the name, ‘Bibhav Singh’ had surpassed a thousand subscribers, on the other hand, academic and guest lectures were taking a toll on the diurnal cycle, and lastly, my mailbox was flooded with corporate competitions.
Now, where to allocate my limited resources? As it so happened, this decision-making challenge turned out to be one of the key factors for cracking corporate competitions as well, when, in almost all the competitions, my team was faced by the question, ‘You have so many ideas, but we have limited resources. If you were to select any one marketing activity, where would you put your money?’ As you would have realized by now, I chose to focus on corporate competitions because it seemed to be the most challenging out of the three, also it was a middle ground where market research, marketing concepts, entrepreneurial nature, video making & Photoshop skills coexisted, thus maximizing the learning component.
Over the last one and a half years, I have participated in numerous corporate competitions, qualified for the nationals in a few of them and fostered a lot of meaningful friendships across top B-School campuses (a most underrated fact about corporate competitions), and I have loved and cherished every bit of these experiences. I was asked, ‘What is the right thing to do to win a corporate competition?’, but I feel there isn’t any right or wrong. There are just some ideas which click with the panel and some don’t. In this article, I have tried to pen down my experiences and learnings from this journey of trying to crack the ideas that works for the company, and my modus operandi.
The competitions that I worked on revolved around either new category creation, or go to market strategy for a new product or an entrepreneurial competition, where the participants need to come up with a new product fulfilling the unmet need of customers. Some aspects to solve each of these cases vary, however, the outline remains the same.
Getting the team right
It is the most important element since teamwork makes the dream work. Everyone in the team should be equally motivated to crack a particular business challenge at hand. It may happen sometimes, that you form the team, just to realize later that a certain member has a preference for a sector and he/she is not excited enough for the product in an argument.
Also, I feel, irrespective of the result, we should keep experimenting with teams and work with as many individuals as possible. Everyone has their own style of working, cultural inclinations and industry experiences which can contribute to the team in amazing ways. I suggest, form a team with a diverse background and skill set so that everyone can bring a unique perspective to the table and thus, everyone learns from each other. It also helps in primary in-sighting, as three to four samples from different TGs are readily available for a survey if a team is diverse. Now, primary in-sighting brings us to the case study at hand.
Approaching the Case
Understanding each and every word of the problem statement and questioning and deliberating on every word of it is how a case study usually starts. After going through the case, based on the secondary data available, list down 4Ps in an elaborate fashion, and segment the market based on demography, sociography, geography, psychography etc. depending on your understanding of the product. Once we have the 4Ps, formulate a questionnaire for the customers we have segmented, and hit the market. It is during the primary research, that the magic happens. By this time, we know how the consumer perceives the product, what’s the brand equity and what exact need the product is serving.
Once we have converted the primary research into insights, half the job is done, now it’s all about bridging the gap between the customer expectations and product proposition, that’s where marketing communication, or the big idea comes into the picture. After knowing the real customer need, a few of the segments which are closely related to each other are targeted and a positioning statement is devised, and later a customer persona is made, which makes it easy to come up with the big idea, which is basically pitching the product to customer in a language which resonates with them, where the product is fulfilling the TG’s expectation. Also, if we fall under the TG of the product, the best way to check a strategy is asking yourself, ‘Would this strategy work on me if I were the customer?’
Once we have our ideas in place, it’s time to understand what the competition is doing i.e secondary competition benchmarking, and looking for best practices and ideas and how we are going to create differentiation. At this juncture, we need to ask, ’Is there a better way of doing it?’
The other important thing which makes a connect with CXOs or the panel is our understanding of what the company is doing in that particular field in which the case study was launched, how much the company is investing in which portfolio and with which other players it is developing a partner ecosystem. Leveraging these facts and numbers to back your strategy always helps. These data points are usually readily available in the annual reports of the respective organizations. Also, the biggest ideas come from totally unrelated industries, which may have done something amazing. An idea is nobody’s monopoly, so take inspiration from existing works, and bring it into a totally new and exciting form during the presentation.
The solution which we have prepared for the case study becomes our product, which now needs to be sold to the panelists and the audience. No matter how good our product is, it’s the selling skills which matter, and selling is all about storytelling. Weave a beautiful story about the journey of the team or the product to keep the panel and the audience engaged while you’re pitching your idea.
In order to bring coherence to the ideas, write key takeaways at the bottom of each slide of primary research, and to make the choice of your ideas convincing, back it up with financials, i.e all digital marketing ideas should be budgeted and have their own CTR, CAC and impressions value documented. Also, at last, summary slide with major takeaways, and a special emphasis on the biggest of all the ideas suggested help, as the marketing budget is limited and you can only do a few things.
Lastly, I always say one thing to my team members before we get on stage, ‘It’s not a presentation, it’s a performance’.