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7 Things I Learned From the Mini MBA by Mark Ritson

7 Things I Learned From the Mini MBA by Mark Ritson

This past week I finally submitted my exam for Mark Ritson's Mini MBA in Marketing. Mark's course covers 10 lessons in marketing, combining the best in theory and practice, to teach his marketing planning methodology.

Overall, it has been the best marketing course I've taken. I was honestly a bit sad for the experience to end as I was keen to drill into more detail and practice each of the concepts over time.

In order to make the most of it while the experience is still fresh, I'm sharing my key takeaways from the course:

1. Get External Data Too

Especially when working in small businesses or technology-focused ones, my natural tendency has been to work out what is currently working and why.

But this distracted me from understanding the market as a whole.

Internal data only tells me what worked for the people who already converted, and who those people are. While the rest of the market may be the same, they may be different.

Getting external data, like from a survey, will help me understand the other opportunities out there in the market.

2. Surveys are Cool

Surveys always seemed to be a deep-dive activity to me, designed for specific circumstances when you wanted to learn more about people's experience with products.

An example survey question that gives an overview of the market's awareness of certain brands. Image Credit: Qualtrics

But here, I learned that surveys can often be the backbone of your marketing plan after having done qualitative research.

A strong survey has questions that collect information on:

  • Demographics
  • Purchase funnel activity
  • Brand perceptions
  • Media habits
  • Pricing tastes
  • etc

Armed with the information above, I will have most of the answers needed to build a strong marketing plan.

3. Segmentation is Key

Market segmentation is something that I had mainly ignored in practice and relegated it to being a concept that I thought was only for big companies.

But not true.

While I've also learned from a podcast interview on segmentation (coming soon), I learned in the course that segmentation is essential to forming a good strategy. It helps me understand who I'm targeting, why them, and what to say exactly.

Often, when working with SMEs and startups, we rush into the marketing with a pre-defined target in mind. At the same time, we don't take the time to learn who else is out there and whether we'd be better off targeting someone else.

Example segmentation which was created using the meaningful and actionable grid technique. Image Credit: Ian Barnard

A key tool in Mark's course was his meaningful and actionable grid. Here are some explanations of it:

4. Marketing Strategies Should Be Simple to Understand, But Not Easy To Create

I've read countless marketing books which have taught multiple views on marketing and business strategy. However, what I've found is that they often avoid spelling it out explicitly.

Mark teaches in the course that strategy, in some sense, is overblown. It's not necessarily the most complicated thing. It's a combination of three things:

  1. Who am I targeting?
  2. What's my positioning?
  3. What's my objective/s?

As you can see, it is a simple framework but Mark warns it's not necessarily easy to get right. There is a lot of marketing research and thought that goes on in the backend to make sure that I've targeted with good judgment, positioned well and have proper SMART objectives.

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Sidenote: Yeah, I cringe a little bit too at hearing SMART objectives. The concept has always seemed a bit rigid to my taste. But in the course, it really does make sense as a strong way to set objectives such that the objectives are instructive and clear.

5. Tackle Both Short and Long Term Prospects

After having been exposed to some of the work by Byron Sharp, using data to prove that you may be better off doing sophisticated mass-marketing rather than targeting, it was great to see Mark's perspective here.

While not his exact words, the understanding I gained was that his answer is to do both. Long-term brand building to the whole of the marketed (sophisticated mass-marketing) and short-term, targeted marketing to key segments. He calls this 'bothism'. I'm sure it will catch on.

In a way, this makes sense given the arguments for and against targeting. Against targeting, suggests that most people aren't in the market for any product or service at any point. The 95% sit here. So why only target the 5%? Instead, build your brand salience and availability.

On the other hand, pro-targeting arguments suggest that you need that 5% because they are responsive and will give you the ROI on your marketing efforts.

Mark provides an interesting metaphor in that you need brand marketing (long-term) to grow the tree, and targeting (short-term) to pick the fruit.

Read more: How Brands Grow [Speed Summary] by Brand Genetics

6. Marketing is Multiplicative

This was a great point raised by Mark, which is that marketing is multiplicative. He explains that there are three stages:

  • Diagnosis
  • Strategy
  • Tactics

His point is that you need to do a proper diagnosis to create a proper strategy. And a proper strategy to choose the right tactics. Screwing up one will screw up the others, sequentially.

This was an interesting point to reflect on as I've seen in practice that sometimes the best execution can only grow the business so much until it hits the limitations of the strategy.

This also came out in the exam, where screwing up one part of the process early could lead you down the garden path for the sections that followed it.

7. A Few Core Concepts

One of the major values I got out of the course was Mark's curation of the marketing models out there.

It was interesting to learn how certain ideas and practices developed over time. It became valuable when you had an experienced, reputable industry practitioner go over them with the understanding to pick out which ones you really needed to listen to and why.

In the end, it was a relief to know that there were truly a handful of basics to get right:

  • Segmentation, Targeting, and Positioning
  • The Purchase Funnel
  • The 4Ps

Better yet, these were the classics.

While I have been over these in both formal learning at the CIM and elsewhere, I feel far more confident and purposeful in my marketing abilities after learning these classics properly and in a way that is practicable.

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Sidenote: One unexpected part of the course was that Mark himself was very approachable. While he may swear a lot in his presentations, he was very gentle and patient in dealing with folks both on the biweekly Q&As and in the LinkedIn community.