Learning by doing
Student-based projects are integrated into modules in the MSc programmes. Programmes include MSc Entrepreneurship & Innovation Management, MSc Digital Marketing & Channel Management, MBA programmes and other MSc programmes.”
The aim is to develop practical experience for PG students while creating value for company partners. Depending on the type of project, we may be looking for company partners throughout the year.
STUDENT-BASED PROJECT SHOWCASE
Michael Dewhirst, a serial entrepreneur and drone enthusiast, set up Evolve Dynamics, because he could not find the right kind of camera for his own drone. In the process, he discovered that other people were experiencing similar problems so he felt that he could tap into this unmet demand by creating a drone-design company.
Focusing initially on software development and technology, Mike was developing a prototype for a drone product with unique capabilities related to the autopilot component. As he was nearing completion, he was unsure about which niche market to target where they could launch a commercially-viable product. There were many potential applications of drone technology but they all had slightly different requirements. In turn, Evolve Dynamics lacked the resources to properly research all of them to find a product-market fit.
Through their relationship with SETSQuared Surrey, Evolve Dynamics approached Surrey Business School in 2017 to participate in an MBA project for product-market research. Here, students start with a founder’s brief based on the founder’s vision for the company and the product.
The students make a series of key assumptions around the business model and then test by talking to potential stakeholders in conjunction with market-industry analysis. Through this disciplined approach, students can validate assumptions or pivot for different parts of the business model including re-segmentation of the target market. This is used to develop proposals for scaling.
Initially, 3 MBA groups were assigned to Evolve Dynamics with different assumptions about the target market- they focused on delivery, energy and emergency services. Among the assumptions they were validating was whether their was a problem worth solving and what were the key product features for the respective niches.
For the group targeting emergency services, they found meaningful feedback which confirmed initial research by Mike that emergency services would be a viable niche market. This validated his initial assumptions. Research by the other groups was useful as well because it highlighted some barriers which meant that Evolve Dynamic did not spend resources developing less attractive market niches.
With the COVID lockdown came the challenge about how to reach their customers especially since most local pubs and bars were closed; Silent Pool responded by targeting increased sales through their own website and social media presence;
In Spring 2021, the company responded to a call for action to participate in a student-based project related to digital marketing; students were trained in different skills related to digital marketing which they then applied in the project on behalf of Silent Pool Distillery;
2 student groups were assigned to each company to evaluate the existing digital marketing strategy; one group then focused on channel management where they audited the YouTube channel to substantially increase user engagement and launched Pinterest channel while the other group researched UI / UX website design and created a website prototype for the company to use to improve existing website;
Cressive DX is a digital agency with specialized expertise in SEO and reporting data analytics. Their customer base is typically large multi-national clients with whom they develop long-term relationships. However, the CEO/founder Richard Game jokes that they are one of the best-kept secrets in the local area.
Richard suggests that it may be because they have focused on building a market-leading software product and relied on a direct B2B marketing approach. To support growth, Richard has decided that they need to develop a more active digital marketing strategy to support their brand and inbound marketing.
Through his relationship with Surrey Business School, he decided to engage an MSc student for a bespoke consultancy project to develop content marketing for their digital marketing strategy. The brief would be to work with a social media marketer to identify key content and content pillars that could be used to support their messaging on Linkedin and then to evaluate engagement from posting activity to see what was effective.
Richard prepared a detailed brief circulated among MSc students with specifications for kpi’s, objectives and time-line . After reviewing candidates, Richard chose Hari who was a student in the MSc Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management programme for the consulting project.
Hari evaluated the current social media activity using Linked analytics and Social Selling Index (SSI) which measures key information around 1) developing a brand, 2) connecting with the right people, 3) engaging with insights, and 4) establishing relationships. He also carried out initial competitor analysis, influencer analysis and reviewed keywords using Google trends to help determine relevant content pillars.
As he continued his research, Cressive DX began to experiment with posting activity and targeted content with local events to see if it could improve engagement as well as other postings related to SEO search. Overall, though, the activity remained low so Hari researched further.
This led to a pivot in the project to include paid advertisement on Linkedin by reposting content under sponsored content. This led to a large uptick in engagement for their posting activity which supports brand awareness.
At the end of the project, Hari provided a detailed report with feedback and recommendations related to channel management for Linkedin. He also transferred resources which he had developed for the content library to the internal social media marketer at Cressive DX.