CONSIDERING THE AVAILABLE RESOURCES TO MEET FLUCTUATING DEMAND
How do you encourage a company with a dangerous dependency on one large client to undertake a complete review of their identity and marketing strategy?
This company was well known to us through our work as design consultants long before they approached us in our new problem‐solving role. An extremely successful, long‐established business providing high quality professional services, they were becoming increasingly dependent on one large client, finding themselves forced into a low fee, high service level situation in a niche area which allowed little flexibility for expansion in other areas. Faced with a declining market for their traditional services, the company had chosen to specialize in an area which was particularly susceptible to advances in technology, working for a demanding client who, although operating in the UK, suddenly decided to transfer all their production to their North American parent. It was just a matter of time before they transferred all the associated professional services work to the same location. For our client, the writing was on the wall.
WHAT SPARKED THE REQUEST FOR OUR HELP?
Even during the time that they were able to retain their major client, changes in technology meant that the company’s remaining core business had all but disappeared, and a new customer base was urgently needed. With a reputation built on personal recommendation, there had never been a need for a pro‐active marketing plan, and so no such thing existed. The owners of the company were all ‘hands‐on’, with expertise either in the actual processes or in customer care, and with no experience in the area of marketing and promotion. Fortunately, one of them had the foresight to enlist our help in suggesting a way out of their predicament.
OUR SUGGESTED PRACTICE AND METHOD
This situation presented us with a clear case for our ‘Facilitate’ practice. We soon realized that it was just a matter of time before their big client shifted his operations out of the UK, and desperate measures were required to save the company from complete failure. Our client was in need of a total re‐education programme that would encompass working methods, their service offering, their branding and their marketing effort. With such a radical rethink in mind, we knew how important it would be to communicate the new ideas to all their employees in a language they understood and one which would guarantee their continued support when the going got tough. Our aim was to instruct our client in a new way of working that would serve them well in an uncertain future, allowing them to ‘look and learn’ from us, and then continue the process by themselves.
First off, we looked at the company’s branding and identity. As this was outdated and inappropriate, we recommended an agency who were able to produce an effective, low‐cost solution for all their immediate needs. With the boost provided by a smart new look, our client was encouraged to develop a new website which reinforced the identity and gave both the owners and employees a sense of ownership of their ‘new’ enterprise.
Next, we undertook a review of their staffing levels and billing procedures. We had been told that pressure of work meant that invoicing was delayed, and poor job records and workflows led to missed billing opportunities. They had consistently failed to find suitable admin staff to take the pressure off the directors. We advised them on recruitment, shortlisting potential employees, organizing interviews and helping in the final selection process.
We then moved on to their marketing strategy. With nothing in existence, it was relatively easy to suggest ways of promoting themselves using a combination of direct mail, email and online activity. We drew up a plan showing monthly activity over a year to two‐year period, with corresponding follow‐up. We also introduced the company directors to local business organizations and encouraged them to attend meetings where there were good networking opportunities.
From the outset, we encouraged our client to implement the suggested changes as soon as possible, before their big client finally moved his business elsewhere.
We continued to advise the directors for a period of just over a year, during which time they had made some headway in implementing our proposals.
By creating an awareness of their own vulnerability, we were able to galvanize our client into action before it was too late. As independent outsiders, we were able to provide a completely unbiased assessment of their situation and suggest a simple, step‐by‐step rescue plan for their business.
Through their new identity and branding, they have been able to approach potential new clients with confidence. By attracting new business in previously untried areas, they have been able to build up a modest customer base which goes some way towards compensating them for the loss of their major client (who, as anticipated, finally took all his business out of the UK shortly after we completed our work with the company).
With better working practices and a much improved billing system, there are fewer cash flow issues. And with less turnover and fewer staff, it made sense for the company to make the move to smaller premises, freeing up capital in their old property for investment in the future business. They are now a much tighter, smarter organization, able to adapt to today’s ever‐changing market forces.