I didn’t know quite what to expect

When I prepared to go work that very first day of my rotation at our Market Area (MA) office for North America, situated in Washington D.C. I didn’t know quite what to expect. After the graduate year I am to join Gripen Support’s project office as a project manager. But now I’m about to head out the door to go to my first day of my rotation at our marketing office in the United States. An office that has nothing to do with support projects in a country that does not use the (Saab fighter jet) Gripen. But boy was I in for a treat!

For one, Washington D.C. is such a nice city with tons of museums, events and shopping outlets and where you felt at home somehow. The friendly and calm atmosphere of the city made me spontaneously sign up for a few yoga classes on the third floor of some apartment building. I’ve never tried yoga before, but it was a lot of fun and the instructor was very supportive of my attempts at head-stands and what-not.

 

Secondly, the people working at our MA in Washington D.C. are some of the most inclusive and easy-going people I’ve had the pleasure of working with so far. They made me feel like a natural part of their group from day one and I was sad to leave them once my four weeks were up. I was invited to embassy meetings, navy and fighter jet exhibitions, product demonstrations and tons of private sit-downs to learn about each and every person’s role (thank you guys for putting up with all of my questions!).

 

Jessica, my supervisor during the visit, asked me prior to arriving what I wanted to see. I told her that I was excited to learn what a MA office actually does and how we conduct marketing in a country such as the United States. She must have spent hours on putting my schedule together to match these requests because I returned to Sweden an enlightened woman! Let me share some of my reflections:

At university, we were always told how important it is to know your customer and identify customer needs. But I don’t think I properly understood why that would ever NOT be the case before my colleagues at the MA explained to me how complex the market really is. Not only is it complex to start with, but the conditions keeps changing! Presidential elections and inaugurations, political tensions, commitments abroad and acts of terrorism are all examples of what can change customer needs and priorities overnight.

 

In Saab, typically, the different product areas have a Marketing and Sales (M&S) department back in Sweden. But with everything going on, there is no way that each M&S department could stay on top of not just the U.S. customer, but of ALL customers in all 100+ Saab customer countries. So the question then would be: How to distribute responsibilities between the two?

 

Seeing how my colleagues at the MA in Washington D.C. talk to our partners and customers from a very customer-oriented point of view, I understood that one of the great values the MAs bring is being the spokesperson of the customer. And the reason they can do that is because they are in constant contact, often in person, with our customers and partners. I truly believe that the combination of M&S departments - with good customer focus and great product understanding - and MA offices - with good product understanding and great customer focus - create that perfect balance in finding the best solutions and offerings to our customers.

 

Figure 1: Me (Elin Hultin) in front of part of our exhibition during the Surface Navy Association National Symposium.