by Dr Greg Chapman
Is there an elephant in your industry? There is usually at least one. They spend $100,000’s on branding, customer surveys, demographic analysis and focus groups. They spend even more on campaign analysis, testing and measuring to work out what works and what doesn’t. If you are a small guy, how can you compete with that?
Well you can. Just become a flea on the elephants back. That is what “Crazy John” Ilhan did. In retail, probably the most costly decision is your location. Go for a low cost location, and you get no traffic. If you go for a high cost location, and it is the wrong sort of traffic, you go out of business. Rather than spending a lot of money on geo-demographic surveys to identify customer shifts, he waited for Telstra or Optus to open a store in a new expanding area, and then open a store opposite and offered every passer-by lower prices.
By being a flea on the elephant’s back, he let the elephant take him to the fertile feeding locations they had spent large sums identifying.
So how might this work for your business? Perhaps you have a motor mechanics business with half a dozen staff. You don't see yourself in competition with BMW, and BMW certainly doesn’t see you as a competitor. You worry about the guy who is about the same size half a kilometre away. So you spend your time checking out what he is doing. This will probably result in a me too strategy, and ultimately the death spiral of a price war.
Alternatively, you could look in another direct. You could pay the same high price marketing company that BMW uses for advice, or you could get that advice for nothing. Drop in to the local BMW service centre and look around. See how clean their service area is. Check out their comfortable waiting rooms. Look at how their staff is presented. BMW spends millions on developing their image.
Now how difficult would it be to give your garage a lick of paint. Supply clean uniforms for your staff. Clean up your waiting room and put in today's paper and a coffee machine? How much do you think that would cost you? Probably $1-2000.
You are still not trying to compete with BMW, just to learn from them. When you start to apply these ideas to your business, the guy down the road won't even be in the game. You will probably even be able to lift your prices! Savvy marketing does not mean high cost marketing. It is always the little things that make a difference, and you can get all this high price marketing advice for nothing by just opening your eyes and turning your head in the right direction.
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Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and is Australia's Lea ding Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success and Price: How You Can Charge More Without Losing Sales.
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