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Capacity Building in Marketing for

SME business advisors

It almost goes without saying that many small businesses - the so-called SMEs - struggle with applying marketing thinking to their businesses but it is also true that many business advisors have the sam problem especially if their backgrounds are in the 'harder' disciplines of finance or quality. Marketing is not black and white and is not hemmed in by professional regulations or standards. Marketing moves quickly and what is 'right' today may not be 'right' tomorrow and what is 'right' in the UK may not be 'right' in another country.

Osijek in January, minus 24 degrees!

Countries around the world are seeking to encourage their small businesses seeing them as the primae drivers of employment. Typically, 96% of businesses in most countries are classed as SMEs and governments understand that by encouraging them they are more likely to achieve full employment. Marketing Assistance Ltd recently became involved in a program designed to build the capacity of Business Advisors in Croatia. This involved workshop style training with 35 business advisors divided between the capital, Zagreb, and Osijek in the far east near the border with Serbia close to the Danube.

Cold outside but the training was greeted warmly by participants who were bolstered by some 35 business and economics students from the local university

Transferring a marketing course from one country to another is fraught with difficulties as there will be different laws in place, different custom and practice, different channels to market, different media opions, different strategies which will work . . . in fact most is different apart from the fundamental approach. It took a total of nine days to re-formulate our standard flagship marketing program to make it suitable for this audience. Formal lecturing was out, it had to be exercises and case studies to overcome language and cultural difficulties. This is our core methodology anyway and was the main reason we were chosen for this project.

The course covered five main areas - we called them the 5 Steps - as an easy way for Business Advisors to remember the process without resorting to notes:


Step 1 Marketing Audit

Step 2 Marketing Objectives

Step 3 Marketing Strategy

Step 4 Marketing Tactics

Step 5 Marketing Plan

Each Step involved short inputs from the course tutor (in English), group exercises (in Coatian) and presentations (in English, Croatian and other language that everyone could understand). Case studies were used so the learning points could be applied in a real life situation. These were based on Croatian businesses to make them more realistic.

The overall success rate measured after each workshop was over 90% despite working through translators and with some advisors who had difficulty coming to terms with free markets after so many years of communism under Tito. All-in-all, we believe we made a significant contribution to Capacity Building in Croatia as the country becomes a fully fledged member of the EU.






Updated: 06-03-2012
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