If you give a man a fish he can eat for a day, but if he eats the whole fish in the morning, by afternoon he's hungry again, even quicker. The trick with budgeting is knowing when to stop spending. You won't know how to do that if you have not planned. And you must remain flexible during the execution of any plan. If a test market program does not work as desired, don't keep employing it. Change the rules and stop bleeding money.
Ad agencies don't care if you overspend because they get paid more when you buy MORE space. We get no commission so we would rather you put your money into items that return a greater investment to your firm. Then you will be happy with our performance and more importantly, your own.
Sales were slow, actually near an end, when a regionally established company contacted us for input. They have good products. An interesting line with variations on the basic items. Enough to satisfy any taste. And fairly high end too. Nice products. Should have been easy to sell. But the downturn in real estate in the area forced homeowners to rethink the investment. And with it went a substantial part of their sales base.
The company's sales manager saw the need for better market awareness and a clear plan to obtain client inquiries across a diverse spectrum of media, perhaps integrating new technologies, perhaps approaching new types of clientele.
The ownership had another thought in mind. They were fixated on a plan to execute the greatest billboards ever seen - without consulting anyone - except the people selling them the billboard space. A brilliant plan to reach oblivion we thought. We sympathized with the manager when we said that the owner had little chance of succeeding at all. He understood, but also said that the owner had the final say.
Perhaps, but once there is no longer a business what does ownership or the final say matter? What is it about owning a business and experiencing some degree of success that makes the average business owner think they understand marketing? Most we have met are great at developing their product and lines, can address technical needs, and have administration tackled. They know their technical, production and administrative needs and reach those goals. But most also have no idea what to do when it comes to marketing. They force salespersons to make continuous cold calls, chewing up enormous amounts of time and effort for little effect. They spend little or nothing on marketing, or worse they misspend a fortune as our friend here planned to do.
LET THE LUCKY LIVE ON
Anyone introducing a new product, or much improved one at a very competitive price to a market, with some effort, can penetrate and find themselves selling product. The first sales and first years in business can make you giddy that it will always be like that. It could be your market timing was good, or placement, or the people you approached just happened to be your ideal target. Without any initial analysis nobody knows. These companies got lucky.
This period of market penetration can last for years. Then, companies try to reach beyond luck, into the real competitive arena and fail. Look at the dot-com disaster of the late 1990s. The internet was an open Wild West of opportunity. Every idea, good or bad, was obtaining funding and nobody had to justify their product, analyze their market or post results. It was a free-for-all. And a select few companies got very lucky a lived past the initial wave of success. Most companies died on the vine. This is the same truth that pertains to every kind of business from sub shops to small manufacturers. Most are going to fail, even if they achieve limited initial success.
It is sustaining growth past that initial wave of success that is very, very hard to master. Expansion is always a first thought for companies who have established themselves or captured a market share at all, and quick expansion without a plan has disastrous results.
The fact that the ownership has survived for years gives it the confidence it can do no wrong. So when faced with a disappearing sales base, owners do not understand why. Because they never understand why people were buying product in the first place. They spent their time selling and expanding. They never asked why. There was no apparent need. And now that our example is faced with foreclosure or a great reduction in capacity they are asking why, but the answer they have come up with - the need for splashier advertising - is entirely incorrect. According to our analysis, a new sales effort did NOT require much in the way of advertising at all!
ONE SHOT WONDERS
Here is what struck us as problematic with this owner's proposed idea of exclusively using billboards to promote more sales:
1. There was no market research to determine, using the company's own extensive sales base, WHO would be the best target for their product lines.
Every dollar was to be spent without regard to the company's other needs.
This is what we call the "shot in the dark" approach. Maybe even a last ditch effort.
We wrote a nice note asking these very same questions. The owner didn't seem to understand why we were concerned. Our reasoned response was that we find it very dangerous to spend every marketing dollar on a one-shot deal, with the idea that if enough people see something, then your company will make sales.
We even said, if for some reason not enough sales were created then what would happen to the company? Without resources to pursue another course, would the owner be willing to forego any income to sustain a new and different effort? We seemed to be more concerned about the company's survival than the owner. He steadfastly refused to rethink any expenditure.
"Everything would be fine," we were told.
RESULTS NOT IMMINENT
The phone did not ring as desired or expected.
The economy in his region had tightened. More people worried about losing their jobs. So sales plummeted on discretionary high-ticket purchases.
In a tougher housing market, we tried to recommend using the client's product as a home sales tool - an entirely new market to approach. People selling their homes could increase their sales potential in a buyer's market by having this company install their product. It doesn't matter what the product is. If it succeeded in closing real estate deals that would otherwise have languished then it had a desirable effect and created sales for the company.
We saw a definite use beyond the usual market sold. A new market. One that was actually very easily approached through an inexpensive, integrated marketing program.
In fact, for less than twenty percent of the cost of the billboard rental, the ownership could have locked up a new market for the long-term, diversifying the sales base in the process.
The client did not take our advice and lost a lot of time and money. He spent 100% of his available dollars chasing a dream and neglected spending even 20% of those dollars on something measurable and concrete. Even the first 5% of expenses we planned would have told us if the marketing attempt was viable and sustainable.
I don't know about your executives, but I would rather spend $10,000 and fail to live another day and try another route with another $10,000, than go for broke as this owner did and spend $200,000 on the hope that I've made the correct choice, especially without any research at all!
Under RMG's planning, we had a good 20 attempts available to increase sales for the same amount budgeted to this one losing proposition. Easily, a full-year of effort was available to increase income. Even if the company made 19 unlikely wrong choices in a row they would still be in business. Not like this one-time expenditure with people sitting, waiting for the phone to ring. That is scary.
The moral of the story: If you intend to put all your eggs in one basket, make sure it has the ability to save your company. Otherwise, you will no longer be an owner. You will be unemployed.
How can RMG help you plan for a stable future?
Contact us today, before you commit to spending your last dollar.