Some years ago I saved a joiner £10,000. His bank manager was all set to lend him that amount to pay for a whole page ad in one of the Sunday supplements for a chest. That was his strategy: one ad – from an unknown maker, mail order.
I would hope you would agree that a sound marketing strategy is basic to everything you do:
- identify the target audience (segmentation)
- is it local or national?
- identify what they need
- decide how to most profitably reach the audience – selling direct, advertising, PR, wholesale, internet, eBay shop, shows (public or trade) etc
- set budgets, sales and cash-flow forecasts, establish a break-even, business plan
- where to position the product – what's the image and brand?
- the message, the appeal, the benefits
- what else can you sell them?
- the pricing strategy: most important
- where are the Heavy Users?
- where are the gaps, what can you do that's different?
- what's the competition: where and why do they succeed, and what are their weaknesses? (do a SWOT analysis)
- what are the trends? Are you moving into a growth or declining market? What's coming up on the horizon?
- can you enjoy a reasonable margin over costs?
Above all the secret to survival and success for a small firm is to become a truly niche player. Find something you can make, sell or service where the price is not the be-all and end-all of a sale. You will never compete with the supermarkets and other national players.
Find a niche product or service where people's first demand is the skill or expertise that you can offer.
One of my old clients near here are willow basket makers. As well as being one of the world's largest makers of balloon baskets, they also make coffins. (Comedian Dave Allen was a customer). As a niche player marketing is far simpler and cost effective. Publicity and promotion is very straightforward for all the undertakers can be identified and the trade press and associations are few.
One of this county's most heart warming success stories is Cosyfeet, a specialist supplier of footwear. Shoes and slippers that are aimed at the elderly housebound. It is almost entirely mail-order. The current owner took over the business in 1991 with a turnover of around £100,000. Today it is many millions and employs over 100 people. Customer service is paramount. I can remember being in the factory shop in Street one day when an old man came in and complained his slippers had worn through. The proprietor David Price replaced them without question. When he'd gone he asked one of his staff how long he'd had the slippers. "Over two years."
One of the problems is getting the shoes to the customer before they die . . . so continuous advertising is required to replace an aged segment.