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Think like a general in marketing warfare.

Think Like a General in Marketing Warfare

Now that business has tightened up considerably and the recession bells are ringing loudly, you can expect to see more of marketing warfare. It will pay to at least recognize some of the tactics.

You may be well advised to think in terms of military terminology and concepts to describe and illustrate how your marketing efforts should be managed in the increasingly competitive casting marketplace. One school of thought concludes that metalcasters would do well to concentrate their energies and resources on the conflict between them and their major competitors and let the satisfying of buyer needs take a back seat.

This approach departs dramatically from the "marketing concept," a customer-oriented philosophy that is pretty much the basis for contemporary education and represents normal marketing practice in our industry.

One reason for a more competitive focus has been the dramatic increase in casting quality standards that has evolved over the past decade, resulting in the emergence of a great many more capable foundries. Another is the narrowing of casting price ranges as foundries generally develop more sophisticated and more accurate systems.

A third factor is the substantial investment in more efficient production technology that has occurred in the industry during the 1980s. Finally, foundries have become more specialized, concentrating individually on the work they do best and that which generates the highest levels of profitability.

The survivors in our industry have now reached unimagined levels of efficiency and cost-consciousness. Against this framework, perhaps the most successful managers will be those who think and act like marketing generals.

Whether your foundry is large or small, as long as you are specialized you will have to adopt a defensive or offensive strategy--or both, depending on the competitive situation.

Assume that a defensive strategy attempts to block strong moves from competitors, such as lower prices, improved quality, better delivery or tie-in services like machining. By blocking new threats, you force your competitor to use up his valuable resources. Usually, a defensive position requires less energy and resources to maintain compared to the challenger's offensive moves to capture your business.

Offensive warfare is most appropriate for the number two or three supplier or when trying to take away a customer. Here, you must find your competitor's weakest point and concentrate your efforts there. An offensive strategy is most successful when it does not attack the competitor head-on but searches for the area where he has not been maintaining his strong position. Again, we are looking at price, quality, service and delivery.

Another common strategy is "flanking warfare," which is used when it is next to impossible to gain superiority over a competitor. The best strategy for most foundries, flanking is movement into an uncontested area with speed and forcefulness.

A few good examples of flanking maneuvers are adopting newer processes such as foam pattern casting, newer materials such as austenitic ductile iron, machining services and just-in-time (JIT) programs.

A fourth strategy, and the most prevalent tactic in our industry, is guerilla warfare. This one is particularly appropriate for smaller foundries because they usually lack the resources to go head to head with larger producers.

Using this strategy, the smaller foundry seeks out a small segment of the market to capture and defend. The key to this strategy is that the larger foundry will not seek the small market segment because it might not be profitable enough to justify mounting an attack.

To be successful at guerrilla marketing, you must never act like the large foundry and you must be prepared to bug out quickly if the competition from a larger foundry gets too tough or too expensive.

Although it may seem that the main focus of marketing warfare is against your competitors, this is not necessarily so. The traditional concepts of customer orientation, positioning and strategic market planning are still vital requisites. Without these elements, your warfare efforts are doomed.

Also be wary of overemphasizing the competitive factor. After all, the customer, not the competitor, pays the bills.

Good employees with strong marketing orientation are still an essential requisite to winning. Any successful foundry manager realizes that committed employees provide a distinct marketing advantage and give him a real competitive edge.

No marketing warfare strategy will succeed if the troops see their work as nothing more than just a job. Most U.S. military strategists agree that we lost in Vietnam, despite our overwhelming military superiority, because our enemies were more committed to their goals and ideals.

To succeed in our business requires marketing savvy. And, it doesn't hurt a bit if foundry managers also are marketing generals. As such, they should have flexibility, courage, boldness, knowledge of facts and rules of the game, and luck.

Come to think of it, the attributes for success in warfare or the foundry business are quite similar. In either one, you have to think like a general.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Foundry Society, Inc.
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Author:Warden, T. Jerry
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Jan 1, 1990
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