My father was a life-long employee of the Pabst Brewing Company. He was also a bit of a dumpster diver and he frequently retrieved “collectable” decorations for his buddies. At the time of his death in 1978, Pabst was either the second- or third-largest beer company in the United States. Within a few years though, a misguided attempt to “save money” by cutting advertising expenditures led to the closure of their Milwaukee brewery and a long slide into niche status as a low-cost “hipster” favorite.
I got to see this effect first-hand around that time when my new employer, fresh from closing their flagship Chicago factory, struggled to retain longtime customers. The new management team saw no value in advertising in trade publications or participating in trade shows or distributor events; competitors did not have to even suggest to our customers that we were “out of business” because we made it tough for them to contact us.
Remember the “smoke break” employee in my last blog? Our receptionists were her predecessors. If a potential customer called in they did not “recognize” the additional “brand names” and did not want to “bother” anyone in inside sales to find out.
It is no surprise then that sales plummeted. No amount of advertising can revive a brand once the loyal customers believe you no longer want their business. Unfortunately, our mistake did not become an object lesson for others in the gear trade; many other once-proud firms followed us into niche status. There are not enough “hipster” gear enthusiasts to keep of the old nameplates going.
My consulting firm has been advertising in Gear Technology for many years and new clients frequently mention it in the initial call. My daughter, perhaps fearful of her old man needing financial support in his golden years, insisted upon it. Are you doing enough to reach out to existing customers and to find new ones? Have you “gatekeepers” been properly briefed? How easy is it to reach your salespeople?