Students in Millikin University's International Marketing course were given a rare opportunity during the fall semester, to create a marketing strategy for Volx, a rock climbing equipment company based in Lyon, France. The goal of the project was to offer recommendations regarding entrance into the United States business market. In January, the business undergrads traveled to France to present their recommendations to Volx officials.
As part of the project, the students performed extensive research on the United States rock climbing industry and developed an executive report. The report was divided into five sections: Current Market Situation, Competition, Distribution Analysis, Critical Risk Factors, and Recommendations. Each section led to a conclusion that the students believed would benefit Volx the most.
Dennis Schwieger, Millikin instructor of marketing, who led the course, says, "Normally, people think of export when they think of international business, but this was an import project. The company wants to export from France and import their product into the United States, and they wanted to know how to go about doing it. We researched the industry, analyzed the competitors, and then made a recommendation."
The executive report highlighted key U.S. rock climbing trends in the industry and safety regulations, as well as updates on walls, holds, and types of climbing that are currently popular.
"We were able to tour their facility, meet their CEO and CFO, see the development of their product, and then we made our presentation," said James Vavak, a senior business management major from Fenton, Mo. "The representatives from the company were very engaged throughout our presentation. They asked many questions and they were very intrigued with some of the trends as far as how and where rock climbing facilities are expanding."
The students' executive report recommended that the U.S. market for rock climbing equipment, more specifically rock climbing holds, is at a lucrative juncture. Based on their research, the students determined that the current customer base is expanding and that rock climbing is a safe fitness alternative and recreational activity.
Vavak added, "Having the opportunity to not only present to the company, but to communicate with their CEO and CFO, gave me the confidence to know that I can do this in the professional world. Working with an international company really opened my eyes to the way they do business and helped me understand their priorities."
The students believed that Volx's product would be ideal for consumers aged 25 and under. The students also recommended, when trying to enter the United States market, that the company should go through a distributor that operates on an international level.
"An experience like this changes students' horizons tremendously and changes their perceptions on parts of the world," said Schwieger. "As an instructor, to have such a motivated group of students was great. This type of trip is vital for the students because many companies today deal with global business."
The Volx officials expressed interest in implementing the student's recommendations as well as having Millikin pursue further research on this subject in the future.
When asked about developing the marketing strategy, Jacob Hazelton, a senior marketing major from Wilmington, Ill., said, "It was a living document; the more research we did and the more we learned about the product then the more we could provide in terms of recommendations. Being able to go over to another country, present information, and see how excited and enthusiastic they were was great."
In addition to the presentation, the students visited Paris as well as the Centre d'Études Franco-Américain de Management (CEFAM), an international business school located in Lyon that specializes in marketing, management and finance.
Schwieger added, "I think the company really appreciated their work. The students were outstanding during the presentation and they did a great job with follow-up questions. They were very professional."