Redefine your market – Three case-studies

If you've hit a ceiling in terms of your rate of sales and number of customers, it may be time to find pastures new. Three owner-managers explain how it can be done.

The owners of three businesses, one large, one medium-sized and one not so large, explain how they redefined their markets.

Concentrate on your core skills

Name: Richard Haddon
Position: Chief executive
Company: Fountains

Turnover at our company had really reached a plateau at about £35 million and the business was starting to lose money. Originally it was a forestry company that had included landscaping for privately owned land. The problem was that forestry was a mature market and the amount of business available for landscaping was limited by the acreage in the UK.

There was the opportunity to move into quite skilled work, which needed a large investment in training or a lot of money for acquisitions that we didn’t possess. We took at look at the basic, core skills we already had and identified a much larger market, servicing parks and working with local authorities.

This required minimal skills training for jobs like basic maintenance or litter collection, so once we had fulfilled one of these contracts, it meant that we could advertise a much broader skill base. We increased the order book pipeline from £90 million to around £900 million in 18 months.

It’s important to match the skills that you have with the potential markets available to you and make sure you have the capability in the organisation before you make the move to win contracts. Otherwise you end up overstretching yourself, doing a bad job and damaging the brand.

Tailor to your market

Name: Stephen Clarke
Position: Managing director
Company: Truancy Call

In 2000, I came up with the idea for the truancy call service after reading about two missing primary school children. Their parents were outraged that they weren’t contacted when their children weren’t there for registration in the morning. We developed a system that automatically sends a text message or generates a phone call to parents of children who are absent without reason, to cut down on the tremendous administrative burden and stress for parents.

We then realised the other potential applications for the service, such as the health sector, as each year 20 million NHS appointments are missed and this costs a huge amount of money and time. We approached NHS trusts and developed an automated notification system to confirm, change or cancel appointments.

Dealing with NHS trusts is very different to dealing with schools as the process is slower. It takes a lot longer for people to make decisions and obviously the way that the product was marketed had to be adjusted.

Rather than focusing on the peace of mind of parents of absent children, we changed the branding to highlight the money-saving aspects of the system and emphasised the potential for NHS trusts to reach targets for attendees. It’s about tailoring your approach to suit the market that you are trying to break into, rather than re-inventing yourself.

Redesign and rebrand

Name: Helen Rush and Jackie Wigley
Position: Co-founders

We are a fine china and tableware matching and replacement service, so a lot of our customers are a bit older, but we realised it was important for us to attract a younger audience as well if we wanted to grow. To do that you have to really know the market and be aware of what it is they want.

There is a fashion for nostalgia at the moment, and a growing hire market for fine china at events and weddings. It’s quite trendy to have vintage china from between the 1930s to the 1950s, but to tap into the trend we had to repackage what we already had and make it appeal to people in their 30s. That meant emphasising things like the fact that we use recycled packing materials and the fact that our products range from the 1890s right up to 2007.

Availability online was an essential part of the move and branding was very important, so we started a redesign of the website to appeal to a younger audience. The difficulty though was not to alienate the customer base that we had already built up over the years, so we maintained our original marketing strategy, advertising in magazines that would appeal to an older generation.

See also: The importance of defining your unique selling point

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