How to realize double-digit growth in a shrinking market

Stijn Melis

"You get a crystal-clear picture"

Interview with Stijn Melis, Senior Product Manager at Niko, on the Strategic B2B Marketing programme


Why did you take the Strategic B2B programme?

How do you market a product? The approach is becoming increasingly important. I wanted to learn how to do this more efficiently.

Relevant cases

The Strategic B2B programme was just what I was looking for, as the methods and tools can be used across the board. The programme gives you good tools & frameworks for drawing up a marketing plan which can also be used for a product launch. We were always given real-life examples. Normally, these tend to involve big names such as Apple and Google.

However, at Vlerick the cases were extremely relevant: a lift manufacturer, a producer of high-tech B2B solutions, a chemical company and a company that produces communication solutions, for example.

I remember a case that involved the Finnish lift manufacturer Kone, showing how the company launched an innovation in Germany. This often reflects the real-life situation of the people enrolled in this programme: they tend to work for a branch of a global company in Belgium, the Netherlands, the Benelux countries or Western Europe.

Case studies on a smaller and more regional scale are more appealing to the participants than the well-known stories of global successes. You can really identify with the issues that are presented and apply them to your own company’s situation.

Mix of ideas and concepts

The participants included people from a wide variety of sectors. Even the discussions, experiences and anecdotes shared informally were helpful when it came to gaining insights: how do things work in a different sector and what can I learn from this?

We were also given assignments to work on with four or five other people, all from completely different sectors. As a result, we gained an interesting mix of ideas and concepts. This helps you to see things more clearly and weigh up all the options.

Rigorously applying the learnings

At Niko, we had just started a project. I took the learnings from Vlerick and applied them rigorously to this project. At first glance, the content of the programme seems really obvious. However, one of the strong points is that you get a crystal-clear picture showing the possible pitfalls if you fail to actually apply this content.

It really helps to put things into focus. When you are launching a new product or concept, you tend to present a wide range of benefits to far too many target groups at once.

Above all, what sticks in my mind is how you can develop the value proposition into the one thing that is most important for a particular target group. You have to put all your efforts into that, and this is exactly what we did.

The courage to choose

Our project has become a big success. Niko is the market leader in Belgium, while the Dutch construction sector was much more of a niche market for us. We are a challenger in this country and needed razor-sharp differentiation. And that meant offering just one benefit to one target group. By using our products when installing electrical socket outlets and switches, they could achieve time savings of 25%.

In order to achieve this, we had to be more sparing with other benefits. However, the results were great: for three years in a row, we experienced double-digit growth in a shrinking market. And with a barely-there-budget campaign!

Conclusion: have the courage to choose what your target group considers important and make no concessions to that.

Inspiration for colleagues

Efficient, rapid installation was our unquestionable USP in the Dutch construction market. We have also steered all our future developments for the Dutch market in the same direction. This means we will always be one step ahead of the competition.

I designed and developed the project with two colleagues. It received a great deal of visibility as it won the 2013 Dutch Building Knowledge Marketing Award. Being presented with the award and taking it back to your company means you can genuinely inspire your colleagues to tackle things in a similarly focused way.

Learn more about the Strategic Business-to-Business Marketing Programme

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