GAINING AN OVERVIEW OF COMPETITOR
How do you gather the right kind of data to allow you to make a speedy and seamless switch from one line of marketing to another?
A successful supplier of home products had made the leap from joint ownership in a long‐established company in a similar field to going it alone, and had reached the point where cracks were beginning to develop in the previously sound profit stream. Two years into sole ownership, some of the tried and tested marketing methods seemed to be failing to deliver, and nothing leapt out to suggest what was going wrong. The product was good, possibly the best of its type available, yet the client’s perception was that the competition ran a smarter, more successful operation, and that anything they produced in the area of marketing and promotion should be slavishly copied. This approach was not producing the results the client had anticipated, and sales were steadily declining.
WHAT SPARKED THE REQUEST FOR OUR HELP?
A disagreement with the incumbent agency had resulted in their dismissal, leaving a gap to be filled as a matter of urgency before the next season’s round of marketing activity took off. We were brought in to advise on a replacement that best suited the company’s needs, and within a very short space of time a new agency was in place. A good relationship was quickly established, and all seemed to be going well, but we found that the client was expressing increasing levels of anxiety over the activities of their competitors, insisting that the new agency made every effort to emulate their style and marketing methods. This was obviously leading to a conflict of interests, and we set about resolving the situation.
OUR SUGGESTED PRACTICE AND METHOD
This was a clear case for our ‘Evaluate’ practice. Our client was throwing money at his company’s marketing programme in a desperate attempt to outdo the competition, with very little knowledge of the success this was likely to achieve. We immediately set out to discover just how much our client was spending and on what. We also needed to make an accurate evaluation of the competition, to find out just how successful they were and what market share they controlled. In the longer term, we were keen to provide our client with a structured marketing plan which was based on a proactive, rather than a reactive, programme for the future.
After an initial meeting, we asked to be introduced to the company’s print buyer, as we were concerned at the volume of printed material that was being produced and the associated costs of reproduction, shipping and mailing. We suspected from the outset that the company’s recommended printing house, based in Germany, was unsuited to their needs, as it was set up to produce large print runs for some of the biggest names on the high street. We quickly discovered that our client was expected to order paper well in advance of any print run, commit to large quantities and provide all seasonal variations at the same time, as well as pay part of the costs up front. This was not only financially crippling, but also led to an inflexible marketing programme with no room for experimentation.
We obtained comparable quotes for the print from a number of UK‐based suppliers, and were soon in conversation with a new print buyer. Once on board, they immediately suggested a number of different options for much‐reduced print runs and flexible schedules which would be much better suited to our client’s needs. We organized and attended meetings with several independent marketing professionals who worked in the same product area in order to gather information about the competition. We quickly built up a picture of the latter’s reach, profitability and levels of customer satisfaction. The information was translated into report form and passed to the client with our conclusions and suggested actions.
We provided all findings to our client in regular email updates and via face‐to‐face meetings, and after a few months, we submitted a final report suggesting the way forward.
Armed with the information we provided, our client quickly appointed a new print buyer in the UK, who in turn sourced smaller printers with machines perfectly suited to the short runs that were needed. This not only led to a huge reduction in costs but also allowed for a much more flexible approach to mailing quantities and frequency, shifting the emphasis away from printed material to email marketing linked to the website.
In addition, the data we provided on competitor activity finally convinced our client that quality would always win over quantity, and they were able to concentrate on their core values to put together a realistic marketing budget that would produce a manageable and quantifiable return.