From Underground to the Sky: Communicating the Applications of a Technology
Case study and task
From the underworld to the sky
About 3 km beneath the earth´s surface, under great pressure and enormous temperatures, a drill head penetrates a layer of sediment and oil gushes out. Simultaneously, a satellite circles 6000 km above the earth and performs a difficult manoeuvre. In order not to drift out of orbit, on-board jets correct its trajectory.
The drill head and the satellite stabilisation system have one thing in common: if any bonding - between metal and metal or between metal and another material - should come unstuck, the repair cost would be enormous. As a result, the engineers who design the drill bit or the stabilisation system choose only the most reliable service providers for bonding the components. The most important provider for this service is Mr. Leicster’s Quality Tool Systems Ltd. (QTS).
The QTS value chain looks like this:
For example, a QTS customer requests metal and ceramic components to remain bonded even under extremely adverse conditions. QTS then advises the customer how the component should be constructed. It is usually the responsibility of the customer to deliver the components. Acting as an industrial service provider, QTS then bonds the parts adhering to the agreement made in an initial consultation and returns them to the customer. QTS customers are extremely diverse and span a wide range of industries including aerospace, medical technology and machine manufacturing.
You are an expert in marketing, currently in the Sardinian mountains on a motorcycle tour and are enjoying an Italian espresso in a bar. Your Harley is parked outside. Opposite you sits Mr. Leicster, also in motorbike leathers (he rides a different bike, but is warily tolerant of your Harley). He is the CEO of QST.
He explains his enterprise’s major competitive advantage: "You know, our technology really is unique. We have over 20 years of experience in finding the optimal heat and pressure conditions for various materials that ensure the assembled components will hold. In the beginning we went through a lot of trial and error and learned the hard way. A competing operation or a new market entrant would have difficulty meeting these costs in a competitive environment. As a result we have a unique selling point for specific applications with our technology."
You smile and say that he has a good problem to have given that many companies find it difficult to clearly define a unique selling point.
"Yeah, that's probably true," says Mr. Leicster, "it’s just that there are problems with that too." He pauses and orders olives and some ham - probably to buy some time to consider his dilemma: "On the one hand it’s great that only we have mastered the relevant technology and that there are so few engineers who could do the same. After all, the technology is not taught in universities. As I mentioned, this gives us a unique advantage. However, it’s always the same engineers who make initial contact with us. As the saying goes: `what the farmer does not know, he does not eat´; because potential decision-makers don’t really understand the technology or its benefits, they don’t come to us with their problem. Usually, once we have an initial consultation, ordering from us is a virtual certainty, but until we can get this consultation, we struggle. The fact that our customers come from such diverse industries doesn’t make things any easier. For instance, our technology is found in most jet engines in the world, but also in many machines used in injection moulding."
You reply: "This is a typical problem in marketing industrial goods. What industrial goods marketing activities do you have up and running right now?"
He mentions the following:
• Primary contact arising through direct marketing and personal selling (the technology itself is explained at this first contact)
• At trade fairs
• Through technical presentations and product launches
• At customer conferences with key industry figures
• On the internet
"You see," he says, "it’s difficult for us to find and process the right target group. There’s a lot of wasted marketing spend, because there are only a very small number of decision-makers who choose which technologies are to be used by our potential customers."
You reply: "How about if you engage in direct advertising at universities in order to reach the decision-makers of tomorrow today?" He smiles: "Well, that’s a great idea. This is exactly why we’ve had this meeting. Why don’t you prepare me a communication concept for reaching potential customers who aren’t already familiar with our technologies?"
You investigate Mr. Leicster about more details on his current situation, then you say goodbye to him and go back to the hotel.
There you take a sheet of paper and start to structure your thoughts. You start by visualizing the communication problem of QTS.
When a single engineer – for example at Rolls-Royce – makes the decision to involve QTS as an industry provider for to produce parts of airplane engines, then QTS wins millions. If the engineers, on the other hand, do not think in this very crucial moment about QTS, then QTS foregoes millions. Your task is to provide a solution on how to conceptualize a communication channel in order to make an engineer with decision-making powers in an unknown moment and unknown branch to think about QTS and contact them for consultancy.
1. Read the case
2. Formulate more specific questions to the coach and investigate your client
3. Study the background materials
4. Check your knowledge by completing the multiple choice questions
5. Create a team that has the necessary skills to solve the case or join an existing team
6. After you have successfully gathered your team you will be invited to a webinar by your supervisor
7. Solve the case according to the assignment
8. As soon as you have completed the case, your work will be evaluated by instructors, experts, and your team members, and you will receive the certificate and feedback
1. Describe the initial situation in a new document. Explain the company’s business type and how it operates. Also explain which groups of people are typically addressed in the buying organisations.
2. Sketch the marketing mix as it stands in the company’s initial situation. Use the basic structure of the 4 P’s (product, promotion, place, price). Make appropriate assumptions as required.
3. Develop creative ideas for developing the company’s marketing mix. The 4 P’s and the subjects discussed there may be used as starting points. You can use creativity techniques to identify fresh ideas.
4. Evaluate the potential of the solutions that you have suggested. In particular, be sure to include a cost-benefit ratio in your considerations.
5. Present the solutions approaches that you judge to be the best in an overview document.