Short interview with Marino Firmani

Marino Firmani is an International Marketing manager experienced in particular in the field of Habitat & Design. He helps manage international projects for SMEs. His work involves the coordination of shares, tools, relations and services, strategically addressing market changes for working in a competitive environment. He is assisting the directors of Cianciullo Marmi in an internationalisation project.

We were able to talk with him on this very matter.

What is the current situation of the world of furnishings?

Last year we were able to breathe the air of revival and renewal. The era of minimalist design, which risked a kind of trivialisation of the product, is now over. Materials like wood and stone have regained value, thanks also to advanced technology. The latter is playing a more important role than ever in the production of all things “made in Italy”.

What should an entrepreneur do today to be competitive in the industry of Habitat & Design?

The future of our SMEs lies in the creation of new cycles of commercial development with certain shorter international distribution channels for strengthening relations and ensuring the trust of the end customer at all times. Development and growth are required in a competitive and fragmented scenario such as ours, and players with expertise need to be able to generate value using the resources at their disposal. To identify the skills required to implement a strategy, you need a clear vision of the future that takes into account distinct and recognisable elements of the market.

Is it necessary, therefore, to invest in internationalisation?

Small and medium enterprises are less able to invest in the creation of distribution platforms and in brand promotion, and they have fewer resources for the research and development of products and competitive processes, and less bargaining power with distributors. To strike out alone now is less advantageous than ever. Creating a “System” with complementary and territorial alliances can help to achieve greater economic strength, with adequate human resources and capital for investing in internationalisation and innovation.

The new challenges posed by globalisation and the problems associated with the current economic crisis have brought to the fore the importance of collaborative networks of small and medium-sized enterprises, models of excellence for facing the future. In fact, networks do not present the typical weaknesses of small and medium-sized enterprises as they serve to strengthen knowledge and professional, managerial and organisational skills.

Is the fragmentation of the Habitat & Design industry a drawback or an advantage?

Fragmentation appears to be a drawback for growth and an advantage for breaking onto the market.

The sector of reference is characterised by a great many players, at the level of both production (a divided market, without leadership) and distribution. These players differ in terms of the geographical scope of their businesses (local, regional, national or international), distribution channel (B2B or B2C), and type of material. Entrepreneurs need to stimulate change more in management than in production.

The weaknesses that currently threaten competitiveness of the sector are a scarce business culture, an excessive focus on the product to the detriment of marketing, relatively little investment in technology and machinery, and the size of companies too small to take on the global market.

The factors that determine the success of Italian businesses in the industry are, without doubt, the quality of the product, flexible production and entrepreneurship.

What role does digital communication play in the world of design today?

You have to communicate in the domain of B2B and B2C, but you must also open your eyes more to C2C and C2B. Interaction with the consumer is key. The integration of traditional communication with digital communication that speaks “one to one” and “many to many”: this will be the key. Direct communication with the consumer is possible mainly through the WEB and social networks.

The last question is about the future of young entrepreneurs. What are your thoughts on this?

Young entrepreneurs need to be equipped to get on the right foot with Industry 4.0. The industrial world is evolving as is also the entire global landscape, and new technologies are its protagonists. The main accelerators of the Manufacturing System which we cannot do without are: Automation, Big-data, Connectivity, Green Energy, Digital Commerce and Artificial Intelligence. The future is now, and it is important to realise this.