Strategic Planning: One Size Does Not Fit All

POSTED: May 18, 2009 BY: CATEGORY:

One of the great things about travelling overseas is that it makes you look at things from a new perspective.  I have just returned from a trip to Japan and was fascinated by the number of international brands operating there and how they prosper in what are very different trading conditions from their home countries and Australia.

In Australia, we recently saw the withdrawal of the global Starbucks brand with the closure of most of their retail stores.  In Japan, however, the opposite appears to be true and the Starbucks model and stores are a huge hit.  The stores trade well, are open at all hours of the day and in some areas are located on nearly every street corner.  So this got me thinking, why can a business work so well in one market and yet be so unsuccessful in another?

The answer, of course, is that each market is unique, with different customs, competitive pressures and customer expectations.  This is true not only for large international brands, but for small businesses as well, where the needs and expectations of its various target markets can vary substantially.

As a small business owner, I know how important it is to have a good understanding of each target market and adapt my product/marketing offering accordingly.  As we saw with Starbucks, a one-size-fits-all approach to business does not always work.  So how does a small business owner really get to know this with little or no budget?  In this article, I will run you through a practical case study of how a small business can conduct some market research at little or no cost.  Keep reading…

Case Study: Photographer

Let’s look at a common photography business.  Most photographers I know run businesses where they are the main owner operator/boss.  They may subcontract out work if they are busy or have an assistant to help out when needed, but they are usually the main person driving the business.  So let’s see how a ‘one person’ type busyness can use market research and tailored marketing tools to help sell a product offering.  In this case, let’s examine the product offer ‘People Portraits’.

Possible target audience groups for ‘People Portraits’ include:

  • Executive level corporate positions
  • Professional speakers
  • Small business owners
  • Young families, and
  • High school children.

For this case study, the photographer has decided to concentrate on groups one and two.  As a small business owner, it is important that for the purposes of marketing, you select the target audience groups that are most profitable and easiest to reach.  This prioritisation is necessary when there are limited budgets and for any money that we do spend, we want to get a noticeable return on our investment… or ‘bang for our buck’ as I say!

The first step though, before spending any money on marketing or advertising, is to conduct some market research.  Here are some ideas on how to conduct cheap and quick market research for the selected target audience groups.

Photography Business Market Research: Executive Level Corporate Positions

Ring the CEO’s personal assistant (PA).  It would be quite rare to ever be able to call and speak to a senior executive without having known or met them prior, it would, however, be more likely to be able to speak to any CEO’s PA.

In order to be able to know the name of the CEO before you call, check out the company’s website and call the general office number asking to speak to the CEO’s PA.  When making the calls, be prepared for people to be too busy or just unwilling to talk to you.  Stay focused.  You may only need to speak to a handful of people to get some good insights.

Once you have the PA on the phone, introduce yourself and ask if they have a few moments to answer a couple of questions about a new product idea you have for your business.  Be nice, let them talk about themselves and their business issues and ask them questions such as:

  • How often have they had professional photos taken?
  • Have they had any problems in the past?
  • Who organises the pictures to be taken?

After each call, make as many notes as you can, as they will provide tips for your brochures and any other marketing tools.  For example, if you notice that all the PAs say that being on time is one of the most important aspects of this work, make note in your brochure about you reliability and perhaps a guarantee that you will be on time and ready at the nominated time slot.

Photography Business Market Research: Professional Speakers

Google and ring a professional association.  You may be able to find a number of professional speakers that way.  Use the search results as a calling list.  As an alternative, there is also an active professional association for speakers.  Call the association to see if you can post a message in a monthly email newsletter or blog site for members, asking for speakers to participate in a short market research survey.  Offer a Myer voucher for the first 10 people who call you.  Be prepared with questions again and you never know – they may end up being your clients!

Having made several calls and spoken to a few people in each group, you will be full of new ideas and able to focus your marketing materials much more closely to the needs of each group.  Here’s what to do next…

Can You Afford Only One Brochure?

I miss the days when I had a budget as a corporate marketing manager to produce several different types of brochures for various product offerings.  Now that I have my own small business and a much different, ‘smaller’ budget, I have had to become more creative in ways to create multiple documents with little or no budget.

Tip: create one brochure with different text.  If you can only afford one brochure, brief your graphic designer to create a template style brochure where different text can be inserted for the ‘executive’ and ‘professional speakers’ editions.  In essence, you will have two brochures that look the same, but read quite differently.

Use your market research notes to write the text.  Make sure you include all the things that you have now considered to be ‘hot buttons’ for those looking to purchase your product/service.  If you write your own text, at the very least have it checked by a copywriter for spelling and grammar.  Also, do this step before you send the text to your graphic designer, this will save you some graphic design time and month.

If your budget doesn’t stretch to printing or you do most of your selling via email for example, have your graphic designers create a ‘screen friendly’ pdf version of your new brochures that can be uploaded to your website or attached to emails.

As the Starbucks case suggests, a one-size-fits-all approach to business does not always work.  It is important that all businesses, including small business, conduct some market research to better understand their target market and, if necessary, adapt their business and marketing model.  As shown above, it does not have to be time consuming or expensive and it should help ensure that you are getting full value from your marketing spend.

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Publication: Marketing Magazine

Issue: 77

Month: May 2009

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There are some obvious mistakes that businesses make which results in marketing being much harder than it needs to be. Tips and suggestions in this guide to help you avoid some common marketing mistakes.



#Jo Macdermott - turning good businesses into great businesses is all in a day’s work for marketing consultant, Jo Macdermott. Jo leads Next Marketing, a multiple award winning business, which she has grown from scratch. Jo is commercial, empathetic and always has her eye on the end game.