A client recently came to us for advice about how to grow his business. Tim makes designer furniture that sells to high end restaurants, hotels and many of the rich and famous (who cannot be named, but think reality TV show types). He’s been doing this for 20 years very successfully, being featured by GQ, Playboy, Architectural Digest and the New York Times. Clearly he knows his stuff – and in a narrow circle his furniture is adored. But the circle is too narrow.
To make more money, Tim needs to increase the audience that knows his stuff. He gets his share of referrals from buyers, because they love his furniture. Still sales have been stuck at around $1M per year. What can he do?
In his awesome book, The 1-Page Marketing Plan, Allan Dib gives away the over arching idea that will solve Tim’s problem. He writes, “By far the biggest leverage point in any business is marketing. If you get 10% better at marketing, this can have an exponential or multiplying effect on your bottom line.” In Tim’s case, increasing sales with marketing is not very hard, because to date he has done NO MARKETING! Really. We told him that with modest marketing he should be selling at least $2M in furniture. And in fact, the true target is $5M. In 5 years or less. Really. When saying this, we felt that we had to clarify a lot, because it sounds too good to be true. Good thing our agency offers a money back guarantee. If we don’t enable our clients to hit targets that we set together, we refund our consulting fees in full. Really. We put our skin in the game to be part of the team with the client. Now it was time to set up the game plan for Tim.
The FIRST STEP was understanding the ideal target customer. Within his portfolio he has a premium table that sells at a hefty price tag. Not appropriate for IKEA shoppers, but perfect for discriminating customers who want a cutting edge design. Tim currently sells around 6 of these per month and it is a good money maker. However, with quantitative research we were able to identify a MUCH larger audience who could buy the table. In fact, they were eager to buy the table and wanted to learn how they could do that. Why weren’t they already buying the table? Because they didn’t even know about it. Classic problem. Our research showed Tim where he could highlight the table, online web sites where nearly a third of the customers/designers went to get ideas about furniture. A good starting point. Now what?
STEP 2 in the magic formula developed by Allan Dib is Marketing. This is where things seem to get complicated. Now that Tim knows his customer and knows how to find them, he needs to develop a message to talk with these customers.
We were also able to help Tim here, by developing the customer Persona: The way that person thinks, the ideas they like, the messages that work best with them and most importantly, the emotional triggers to their purchasing. As the old saying goes, “People buy based on emotions and rationalize the decision later.” A customer who is buying this table definitely is falling in love with it.
STEP 3: Tim’s natural next step is to approach an advertising agency to executed this step. We agree. But right away we offer a warning. Tim, beware! There are zillions of agencies out there hungry for clients. The big ones are looking for clients who can spend over $1M on marketing. The smaller agencies would like clients who will spend over $100K on marketing. And the desperate agencies might take you for $10K, literally. In his great book, Ogilvy on Advertising, the master writes: “I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it creative. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.” Well said David!
Our agency does not create ads, but we know good agencies that do… and we know how to keep the fox out of the hen house. A good agency knows that it must hustle to sell for Tim. Not create confusing, esoteric or even worse, dull ads that won’t sell anything (and just earn them a fee).
There is a lot more to say from here. Tim knows the customer, he knows how to reach them, he works with a good agency to create advertising that is carried efficiently through smart marketing channels. And instead of selling 6 of these tables per month, this year he expects to sell at least 20 of them per month (a more than 3X increase in sales). And that is just one product. His sales will sky rocket.
Needless to say, Tim is happy. He continues to make great products and is able to share them with more customers. And as a consequence, he is making more money. I once heard that Great Marketing kills bad products faster than anything else. In his case, Great Marketing is making his company a huge success!