Marketing and promotion: small foundry essentials.
Good products will sell if they are promoted skillfully. If they aren't, they probably won't sell. Good promotion separates the prosperous businesses from those that are just hanging on from quarter to quarter.
A small foundry is much like any other small business. If it has the ability and capacity to produce a quality product, it needs to attract customers. If it attracts customers, it can meet the payroll and grow. It's that simple. Good promotion can build a good customer base for a good foundry.
A good foundry has a reputation for good work, on-time delivery and competitive pricing. These are "givens" for an operating foundry. the successful good foundry puts these "givens" into a marketing perspective.
Marketing combines everything the foundry does to keep its present customers and attract new ones. It is an important part of the effort that converts the first-time buyer into a "regular." Marketing is an often overlooked element necessary for foundry growth.
Our company is an art foundry and it started like most foundries--three people working in a garage and relying on word-of-mouth advertising to bring in business. Business came in slowly, and, realizing we couldn't stand still, we expanded to meet our new customers' needs. We knew the foundry side of the equation, but recognized we needed help to promote our capabilities and add to our customer list.
An Ad Agency?
We joined the local Chamber of Commerce to learn what other people were doing to stimulate their businesses. Through them, we recognized that there are four consulting professionals all companies,--particularly new ones,--need as they expand: a banker, an accountant, an attorney and an ad agency. We had the first three, but an ad agency? At our modest size? Madison Avenue and huge expense accounts immediately came to mind.
Like most foundries, we were somewhat used to outside experts, but we completely overlooked the important advertising professional. We soon learned that there are hundreds of small, inexpensive, creative agencies throughout the U.S. that do first-class work, much of it technical promotion. We found that the right one can work wonders in preparing and making a market for foundry products, whether garden variety gray iron castings or, in our case, art castings.
We made the decision early to advertiese our foundry--to let the local art community know how good we are. We interviewed several local agencies and selected one that seemed best aware of what we wanted to do with our limited promotional budget. It introduced us to "guerrilla marketing" techniques and gave us a campaign designed to attract new business, strengthen customer relationships, sell existing services and introduce new ones.
For the small foundry operator, a good ad agency can save time, bring consistency to promotional activities and take advantage of "targets of opportunity," those impromptu promotion spots often lost to the press of time.
Guerrilla marketing means using the best mix of a whole range of available promotional tools to get your message out and gain a competitive merchandising edge. It combines advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and sales incentives and premiums in creatively effective ways.
The small foundry can use guerrilla marketing to its fullest because it can make decisions quickly without long, involved committee meetings, and it can assess results of specific promotions more easily than a larger foundry. An ad agency brings a marvelous array of marketing tools. The foundry may use only a few of them, but a good agency knows what is available and economically effective.
One may hope that word-of-mouth promotion will be so favorable that there will be no need for an advertising/promotion program. But "core" customers may keep your foundry a secret for fear that growth will limit their special attention or your customer base is too small to be effective.
Encouraging name recognition through stationery, business cards, brochures, the yellow pages and specialty items like pens, pencils, matchbooks, lighters and coffee mugs is effective.
Specialty items are like billboards. They keep company and product name before prospective customers. Every promotional component that helps sell a foundry's skills is part of the guerrilla marketing process. The better the marketing program, the more customers a foundry will attract and keep.
Given consistent technical performance between competing foundries, the one that uses the most persuasive mix of creative advertising and sales promotion is the one that will grow.
We found that we needed to budget enough money to promote our business aggressively for at least two years. That was the minimum in our judgment to do the promotion we needed in our prime market area. That was 10 years ago. Then there were only three art foundries advertising consistently. Today, sculpture publications carry pages of art foundry ads.
There are three important steps to developing a strong marketing program. One is commitment. You must evolve a marketing plan that sets marketing performance goals and stick with your program. A change of ad agencies may be required to get the right one, but merchandising consistency is important. Piece-meal advertising probably won't work. Onetime or sometime advertising and promotion waste time, effort and money.
Patience is the key to commitment. It is common in the face of stumbling sales to retrench. Advertising is usually the first to feel a budget crunch. But, if a promotion plan is strong, it should remain in force to strengthen and not abandon sales efforts in a down market.
"Out of sight, out of mind" could apply when a foundry stops advertising. Once committed to a marketing plan, stay with it. Ultimately, it will do what it was designed to do--make you a winner]
The second step is investment. Good promotion can increase sales, but it takes time and confidence in the foundry's marketing strategy for it to pay off. although promoting a business does take money, it can be as critical to success as any other operating item in the accounting ledger.
The third leg of a successful marketing plan is consistency, and that equates with customer familiarity. Familiarity turns into trade confidence, and confidence into sales and profits. Maintain your advertising messages. Avoid media shopping, but add media as your message effectiveness allows. Avoid long dropout periods lest your advertising theme be diluted and your market position lost.
A business doesn't grow by accident. There is always a conscious decision by its owners that makes success happen. Growth alone, however, is not the essence of promotion goals. Sustaining what you have should be paramount; growth should be secondary.
Do It Yourself?
There always is the impulse to "do it yourself." When the time comes to decide whether to hire outside assistance, how many times does the small foundry operator elect to keep it in-house? How many hats does he or she wear already? Can management afford to take time away from running the foundry to devote it to developing and managing a marketing campaign? What about your skills in this area and confidence in your ability to do what needs to be done?
No matter how capable you may feel, performing the advertising/promotion function takes time and energy that may be better applied to operations management.
The Ad Agency
Selecting an agency is easy. You can get a list of accredited agencies from regional and national advertising associations, the yellow pages or by querying your colleagues. There are no rules that says the agency has to be located in your community, but you pay for travel time.
Generally, small agency service charges are based on a fee schedule or project basis. The client (you) pays for production costs and space charges, premium charges, printing costs and other expenses.
Before asking agencies to make presentations, they should visit your foundry and know your marketing objectives.
Using an agency wisely can be more difficult than hiring one. The temptation to second-guess program directions and make suggestions perpetuates the myth that no one can know the foundry business like the foundry-man.
Remember that you make your agency selection based on how well the agency perceives your goals. The agency makes a presentation that you accept; you check references, work standards and approve the person handling your account. then let go. Let the creative process work to your advantage.
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|Title Annotation:||Small Foundry Directions|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1991|
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