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What is 'niche marketing?' (part 2)

While last month's column detailed the important differences between sales and marketing, this article explains the basics of niche marketing and how to become niche-focused.

There is nothing new about niche marketing; many foundries have been doing it for years. But every now and then we need to repackage it, dust it off, and give it a new name so that we can remember how to use what is a most effective marketing concept. Years ago, it was referred to as "selective selling." Most recently, it has been called "niche marketing." Today, with new packaging, some are calling it "focus marketing."

With such names, it's clear that, as a foundry, you're no longer looking at the whole casting market - you are now targeting something specific within the casting market. It's like going on a hunting trip you've long prepared for. You know exactly what you want, you know where to get it, and you keep your sights on it until you win it. It represents the difference between hunting with a shotgun (which yields a broad pattern) and hunting with a rifle (which is pinpoint).

Niche marketing is a specific plan with precise functions all geared toward a particular goal. We've all heard the saying, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." Niche marketing is your road map.

We all want to produce the 25-lb, no-core part that runs 500,000 pieces a year and sells for $1.50/lb. But is that what the customer needs? Is that what the customer is willing to buy?

Niche Marketing Profile

I met one of the most successful niche marketers I can recall as a 10-year-old visiting my grandfather in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. His name was Brud Pierce, and he had a booming hot dog and soft drink business from the back of his three-wheeled Cushman motor scooter. You could buy a soda and a hot dog with any kind of topping imaginable, but that was it. There was no candy, Twinkies or crackers.

Here was a man who knew what he could do best. He knew his market (tourists walking the streets on warm summer days), he knew his customers' needs (something light to eat and cold to drink). He knew every busy street corner in town (where his customers were), had a plan on how to serve the market and implemented it (purchased the scooter).

Last summer, my wife and I visited the Boothbay Harbor, and there at the busiest intersection in town, we saw Pierce standing next to his orange, three wheeled Cushman with an affixed sign that read: "Brud's Hot Dogs - 51 years of selling hot dogs." Over the years, he had a lot of competition and has run many street vendors out of business. Why? Because he understood and practiced niche marketing.

For success, niche marketing relies and depends on identifying strengths, identifying opportunities, creating a road map and implementing the plan. A successful niche marketing plan can contain several important elements, but the figure below lists six that should be considered basic to any plan.

Become a Growth Company

All foundries can take a lesson from Brud's Hot Dogs in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. He knew what he did best, what the customer wanted, where the customer was; and he implemented the plan. Don't we all wish we could hang a banner on our business that reads: "51 years of successfully satisfying our customers' needs."

We've heard many times that there is no such thing as a growth industry, only growth companies organized to create and capitalize on growth opportunities. How true it is.

There's a saying around Grede: "Nothing happens until somebody sells something." It's a correct statement, but it tells only half the story. The other half now says the same, without the luxury of a little luck and a blowing wind.

It says: "Without a focused marketing plan, no one sells the right things."

RELATED ARTICLE: Basic Elements of a Niche Marketing Plan

1. Define your foundry. What is it that you do best? What fits your plant and equipment well? It is heavy core, light core, no core? What are the appropriate weight ranges, materials and volumes? What shapes and configurations are best suited to your operation?

2. Define your marketplace. Know what casting markets are out there. How much of each market is out there? Which ones fit your operation? How much can you expect to get, and when can you get it? Select the ones that fit you.

3. Define your customers. Who are they, what are they buying, and what are their needs? A customer's location is no longer a consideration, as we are now dealing with targeted opportunities, domestic and global. Select the ones that fit you.

4. Define your parts. What parts do you produce well? What parts do your customers want to buy? Select the ones that fit you.

5. Organize your plan. Create and select the activities required to meet the plan.

6. Implement.
COPYRIGHT 1996 American Foundry Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:York, C. Merrill
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Jun 1, 1996
Previous Article:Is your foundry prepared for the worst?
Next Article:The Internet - tool or toy?

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