Ten questions with Mark Ritson About/After the Mini MBA

Mark Ritson, Professor, Mini MBA Marketing
Not just for those who have completed the Mini MBA, nor just for those considering it: Mark Ritson discusses the Mini MBA in depth.


Key takeaways on the Mini MBA with Mark Ritson

  • Market orientation is crucial for any business because products aren’t created in a vacuum. Always consider your customers’ pain points, needs, and desires.
  • Adopt the mantra of the best in the industry: “As I’m doing marketing, I will learn
  • Marketing isn’t about revenue. Marketing is about margin and profit.
  • 95% of the marketers (~19,000) who finished the Mini MBA have said that the course has made them a much better marketer.
  • For the full and comprehensive review of the Mini MBA, head here.

Q and A on the Mini MBA

[04:26] Q: How was the Mini MBA conceived?

A: It was started almost six years ago to address the fact that most marketers won’t take up an MBA at a top business school, and that most business schools are rapidly going in the wrong direction. The Mini MBA covers everything related to marketing that one learns in the first year of a traditional MBA, without the huge time and financial investment. The course is split into two courses: Marketing and Brand Management.


[17:30] Q: Is there a founder exemption to market orientation?

A: Most products aren’t developed from an unmet need. The trick is to quickly get into the market upon launching it, getting feedback and tweaking as you go. When you aren’t market-oriented, you create a hypothetical one-size-fits-all customer that is too perfect. Once you actually start talking to customers, you realize that many of them are totally different types of people with totally different pain points, needs, and desires. Market orientation is seeing what the customer thinks about me. We don’t make products in a vacuum. It’s all about the experience customers have when consuming them.


[24:01] Q: How can older marketing professionals stay relevant in a significantly more digital industry?

A: It’s more a matter of perception than reality. Only in marketing do we look down upon experience so badly. Most of the talk around digital marketing is and has always been about essentially reinventing the wheel—creating false castles which are no different from the original castles. There are exceptions to that. Remember: diagnosis, strategy, tactical execution. If tactical execution is the only thing you’re involved in by the time you’re in your 40s, you should move upstream into a broader, strategic, managerial role. And that behooves an older mentality. My advice: Stay out of tactics; stay out of the digital ghetto early. You have to have digital sensibilities and practical skills; but, if you stay in the digital world, your salary has incredible limitations and your access to strategy and bigger roles will be limited.


[27:40] Q: Is there such a thing as “overtraining”? I’ve always got these concepts but have no time to implement them all.

A: It is possible. In our industry, it’s rare. 50% of our industry in the UK has no training in marketing. So, my message is: Getting trained in marketing makes you a better marketer. For the other 50%, there is a small proportion to which I would suggest becoming your own professor. For those that finish the Mini MBA, I say: Don’t do anything else now. Go out and become a marketing manager or a senior marketing manager or a brand manager and, every year, test and learn and develop. The top marketing leaders share the attitude that: “As I’m doing marketing, I will learn marketing.”


[36:17] Q: What do you think is the single biggest challenge facing marketers right now?

A: It’s probably either inflation which has a lot of implications down the track for price setting and value, and may be linked to recessionary forces. I think not losing our collective shit over the post-pandemic world is high on the list, too. I lot of marketers may overstate the changes they see taking place and believe will take place.


[38:30] Q: How do we navigate the price rise situation?

A: It’s something we haven’t faced since the 80s. So, most operating marketers today don’t have it in our system to properly navigate that. The trick, with all forms of pricing, is to reformat the territory around it, such as bundling or contextual changes in an attempt to move things in a certain direction. It’s not easy. As we know from past experiences, inflation demands higher prices, which means less profitability as marketers continue to lower prices. The thing which blows most marketers away when they go through the Mini MBA is a) the importance of price and b) the incredible impact of good pricing on overall organizational profitability. Get pricing right from the start, because if you don’t, nothing else comes anywhere near it. Marketers are evolutionarily set up to price things for volume or sales, which is wrong, rather than for profit, which is right. Marketing isn’t about revenue. Marketing is about margin and profit.


[42:37] Q: Market orientation and pricing are the two biggest lessons people take from the Mini MBA. But, what do marketers need to pay more attention to but don’t?

A: Different people take different things out of it. There are two types of students: 1) Someone who just got into a senior marketing manager position with no training and Impostor Syndrome, and 2) Senior guys, some of whom already have an MBA, who tend to say, “I already knew 60%-70% of this, but I’ve forgotten half of it, and the rest of it was new. But, putting it all together into a structure like this was what I came for.”


[47:21] Q: How does the Mini MBA compare to the CIM Level 6? If you’ve already done Level 6, is it still worth doing?

A: The Mini MBAers who have a CIM qualification rate the Mini MBA relatively well.


[49:02] Q: Should we all strive to be “famous” as part of our marketing strategy?

A: We all play different roles in life. As a columnist, your job is to stir things up. You exaggerate it a little bit. Teaching’s a different game because you’re working for your class. The personal brand thing comes down to being noticed and gaining fame and notoriety. If they don’t notice you, you’re invisible. But as your brand grows, performance matters less. The number one driver of how effective you are is how big you are.


[57:29] Q: What is the difference between B2B and B2C marketing?

A: There is very little difference. There are two big differences: 1) The decision-making unit or buying committee, and 2) Tactically, 70% of your marketing, execution-wise, is salesforce. In other words, as a marketer, you don’t have to be that good, but you have to have a good relationship with your sales team. But there’s almost no difference. A B2B marketer can go into B2C with very little impact.


[1:01:14] Q: Any updates on the Mini MBA app?

A: With bated breath, I’ll say we’re set to launch it this year, aimed at the alumni. And as we update the courses and change the syllabus, you’ll still have access to it as an alum.


[1:13:16] Q: How do you feel when people misinterpret the things that you say?

A: If you think I said something and it helps you along your journey, I say, “Go for it, mate.” As a former junior professor, the only thing I ever wanted was for any proper marketer to even know that I exist, never mind quote you. I’m so delighted that everybody knows who I am. The rest of it is gravy.