The Impact of Volunteer Marketers on Product Differentiation and Firm Growth: A Field Experiment with Ugandan Entrepreneurs
Initiative on Global Markets Paper No. 172
74 Pages Posted: 28 May 2020
Date Written: May 28, 2020
This paper examines a business support intervention in which international professionals from different functional backgrounds (e.g., marketing, consulting) volunteered their time to help Ugandan entrepreneurs improve performance. Findings from a multi-year field experiment show that entrepreneurs randomly matched with volunteer marketing coaches significantly increased firm growth. Compared to control firms, the entrepreneurs in the Marketer treatment grew monthly sales by 24.5%, on average, while their monthly profits improved by 35.8%, total assets increased by 21.6%, and paid employees rose by 16.2%. Mechanism analyses indicate that volunteer marketers focused the intervention around helping the entrepreneurs’ businesses become more differentiated, an outcome that appears to be elusive for many emerging market entrepreneurs. As a result, average prices, profits, margins and value-add per unit increased for the products of entrepreneurs who collaborated with a marketer. Moreover, in line with this process evidence, firms with greater market knowledge and go-to-market resources (i.e., differentiation readiness) benefitted significantly more when matched with a volunteer marketer. As small-scale businesses form the commercial backbone in most emerging markets, their performance and resultant development is critically important. Marketers’ positive impact augurs well for the influence they can have in supporting entrepreneurial-led growth in emerging markets.
Keywords: Volunteer marketers, international business professionals, product differentiation, marketing-entrepreneurship interface, firm growth, emerging markets, linguistic analysis, randomized controlled field experiment
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