School of Business publications portal
This portal is no longer updated. Aalto University School of Business Master's Theses are now in the Aaltodoc publication archive (Aalto University institutional repository)
School of Business | Department of Management Studies | Entrepreneurship | 2015
Thesis number: 13943
Managing profitable B2B customer relationships - Lessons from the Hidden Champions
Author: Mäkijärvi, Mea
Title: Managing profitable B2B customer relationships - Lessons from the Hidden Champions
Year: 2015  Language: eng
Department: Department of Management Studies
Academic subject: Entrepreneurship
Index terms: yrittäjyys; entrepreneurship; pk-yritykset; smes; business-to-business; business-to-business; asiakashallinta; customer relationship management
Pages: 84
Key terms: hidden champions; germany; SME; CRM; customer relationships; B2B

Hidden Champions are midsize companies that are active in niche B2B markets and thus largely unknown to the greater public. Their small size or rural location of their headquarters has not stopped them from pursuing their goal of being the global market leader in their chosen industry. They innovate furiously, are close to their customers and most importantly produce quality goods and services. Hermann Simon is the founding father of the concept and Hidden Champions are found especially in the German speaking area and Scandinavian countries.


The fact that Hidden Champions don't consider themselves marketing gurus and still manage highly profitable customer relationships often in very niche industrial markets (Simon 2009, 132) is a comforting thought for many SME's or even bigger businesses. The theoretical part of this study focuses on literature from the fields of Hidden Champions and Customer relationship management to find out the potentially unique aspects of the way how Hidden Champions interact with their customers throughout the customer relationship lifecycle framework of Bruhn (2006, 116-117).


A total of five German case companies were interviewed and studied and altogether 11 interviews were recorded and analyzed to find out about the CRM practices of Hidden Champion companies. Since this is a preliminary study of the topic the approach was qualitative and multiple case study research with semi-structured interviews was used as research methods.

MAIN FINDINGS Key CRM practices found in the chosen case companies were mapped out and allocated to the phases of the customer relationship lifecycle when they were used. Four lessons were given as managerial implications and the topic of Hidden Champions was discussed in the context of Finland and that Hidden Champions could be used as a benchmark for Finnish SME's. Ultimately there are no secret tips or mysterious CRM strategies behind the stable and profitable relationships of Hidden Champions but they focus on the essential things a company should with the limited resources they have. Their aim is to solve customers' problems by offering high quality goods and services and keeping the right customer groups close to them and happy.
Master's theses are stored at Learning Centre in Otaniemi.