Marketing case studies

Micro UK fashion manufacturer

A niche business that had established good relationships with a number of fashion designers and produced high quality garments for them that sold at the mid to upper end of the market (known as CMT or cut, make and trim). However their existing customers started sourcing all their garments abroad and new designers were no longer working for themselves but joining large fashion houses. The few new enquiries they had received offered a very low margin. One solution was to design and sell to the consumers direct via the web but they had limited resources. Another option was to sell direct to retailers that would have a lower profit margin but would have the advantage of more reliable sales.

In the short term, they needed to find some more customers from their traditional CMT base to keep the business afloat. They felt that their long experience in clothes production would work well with new fashion designers who are very creative but perhaps short on practical experience!

I helped them build a marketing plan that included:

  • Understanding the current market for CMT and high quality (bespoke) ladies fashion in the UK by reviewing market reports and other published literature and conducting interviews with former customers and other contacts in the garments industry
  • Identifying sources for new CMT customers
  • Understanding their competitive advantage in relation to these new customers
  • Building a business proposition to take to the new customers and identify the correct approach
  • Outline financials to ensure the survival of the business

The client now has rebuilt its CMT customer base and has a viable on-going business, targeting designers who sell clothes at the high end of the market. Their key selling points are their quality, flexibility and speed for UK based businesses versus their overseas competitors.

Small UK ice cream manufacturer

This ice-cream manufacturing and retailing operation started in the 1920s. Over the years the range had increased with 90 different flavours and diabetic, low-fat and low-carb versions. Due to the flexible manufacturing process, the range could be limitless. All have a long shelf life (12 –14 months) while still retaining the core quality values of 'handmade' ice-cream. They were keen to expand the business initially nationally and then internationally. They sold 2/3 of their business to ‘wholesale’ accounts such as pubs, restaurants and small retailers in their local area. However they want to move to selling individual consumer units that could be sold in a variety of outlets including health stores and coffee houses.

There were two obstacles stopping this expansion: one was distribution and the other was the correct marketing approach. They needed to find a suitable partner who could distribute the products, as there are few specialists in the frozen area. The company distributed the products themselves but as they expanded, this would not sustainable. They also recognised that approaching larger retailers and sales outlets that had not heard of their brand required a careful approach, which could only be done once.

They had already developed a range for that summer that needed to be targeted and thus sold in the most effective way. Looking forward, they wanted a plan that would realise their wish to take the business national and international.

A short-term marketing plan was put together to:

  1. Determine current market trends in the UK by reviewing consumer market reports, looking at industry trends (from trade association) and conducting low level market research with current customers
  2. Review range and prioritise in terms of past & likely performance
  3. Decide on the other elements of the marketing mix – price, promotion & distribution
  4. Basic financial plan – P&L and cashflow

The longer term marketing plan for the next 2 years looked at:

  1. Understanding the future market trends both in the UK & worldwide
    • What are the likely consumer behaviour trends with regard to ice cream and similar products?
    • Which will be the growth markets?
    • Who will be the main competitors?
    • What are the key success factors?
  2. Identifying the key consumer segments for targeting
  3. Determining the marketing strategy – who to target, with what, when and how
  4. Developing product portfolio and position to reflect the segments including market testing
  5. Deciding on the other elements of the marketing mix – price, promotion & distribution
  6. Detailed financial plan including sources of finance if required

In the short term with the additional marketing help, the client became more focussed on getting the business and is pleased with the response from new customers. In the longer term, the company understood what they needed to do in terms of marketing in order to significantly grow their business in the next few years.

Large consumer electrical company

A large multinational corporation whose main business is in electronic components (business to business), had one division that sold final products direct to consumer. It was largely independent of the rest of the corporation in terms of the processes they needed to be successful but given their background, this division was very technologically driven, rather than consumer led. This was a major issue as their main competitors were some of the leading consumer goods companies, who were acknowledged as the best in terms of marketing to consumers. From a large strategic review of the its overall business, it was recognised that this weakness in marketing expertise had to change if they are to improve sales and profits. A long term project was therefore initiated called ‘Creating Marketing Excellence’. One of the six key tasks was to 'Improve the Marketing processes'. The senior management wanted a process imposed that mirrored ‘best practice’ from the competitors.

I provided experience from my work with their main competitors on the latter’s marketing processes. I then mapped what they did now, both from the ‘official’ process handbook and also by interviewing key players to learn how the marketing function ran in reality. I then identified the key areas of weakness that needed to be addressed:

  • No clear marketing objectives, only sales targets and market share (no idea on profitability by sector/product area)
  • Marketing communications not quantified (no idea if they are working!)
  • Product portfolio objectives not defined (impossible then to brief R&D)
  • R&D decide on which new products to launch (The tail is wagging the dog!)
  • Distribution strategy non-existent (just try and maximise shelf space, no idea on what that costs)
  • No Key Account Management with the leading retailers (the sales department are often last in the queue to see the buyers…)
  • Pricing strategy is based on cost of components, not what the market will pay
  • Most of the marketing department have only worked for this company

The company had a clear view what needed to be done to change the marketing process and was able to prioritise the issues it faced. It also recognised that an imposed solution based on best practice would be hard to achieve without a radical shift in their way of working throughout the organisation.