Undergraduate strategic marketing project
“The construction industry is one of the first to feel the pinch in any recession, but also one of the last to come out of it,″ says Steve Anderson, MD of Pendle Doors.
The Darwen-based manufacturer of bespoke timber doors and windows has weathered several recessions since Steve acquired the company in 1993 and now has a staff of 30. Aware that the latest recession will have changed the shape of their industry, Steve and his wife Sue wanted to ensure that the company was well placed to take advantage of emerging opportunities.
Focus on strategic marketing
In November 2010 they therefore enlisted the help of the Department of Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Innovation at Lancaster University Management School, commissioning a team of undergraduate management students to do a rigorous analysis of the company’s current marketing strategy. The students were briefed to look in depth at industry trends and to advise where the company should focus its future efforts.
“We thought it would be valuable to get a completely fresh eye,″ says Sue Anderson. “Working so closely at the coal-face, you don’t see it the same as someone coming in with completely new ideas, with no preconceptions about what you can do and how you can do it. That’s very refreshing – and it’s been so useful.″
Over a ten-week period the five students researched various areas, undertook customer surveys, analysed traffic to the company website, and investigated the likely impact of impending regulatory changes. This included looking at chain of custody for timber, an increasingly important consideration with more customers demanding evidence that materials are sourced from sustainably managed forests.
“It’s been very valuable, and has highlighted areas we need to target. We’ve taken those on board and are going ahead on a number of things the students identified,″ says Steve. That includes revising the website to improve the company’s capacity to attract new custom, and developing a brochure for distribution to merchants. And convinced by the students’ findings, the company is also pursuing Forest Stewardship Council chain of custody certification.
“The customer surveys also provided brilliant feedback,″ says Sue. “That’s something we’d like to do more of, but don’t necessarily have the resources in-house to do at the moment. We learnt an awful lot about what our customers liked and disliked about us, and what they actually put first – especially how they value the personal service aspects. That’s tremendously useful because we can ensure that our sales people know about that.″
All in all, it’s been a very positive first project, says Sue. “We had a fantastic bunch of students and couldn’t have asked for better. They were friendly, helpful and responsive and kept us informed at all times. I’d do it again without hesitation.″
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