PAUL AND SARAH EDWARDS: LIFESTYLES FOR THE MILLENNIUM
Paul & Sarah
boat.com) are the
authors of Middle
and 16 other
ness in the next 20 years, but they propose
nine strategies small and midsize businesses
can use to survive by winning in niches.
Here are several suggestions for pursuing the 30 percent of the market that hasn’t
been gobbled up by major corporations.
Don’t get lost in
Narrow in on particular customers.
EVERYONE KNOWS the frustration of
calling a large company and getting stuck
in phone-tree limbo, listening to the
choices and trying to find the right
department. Fonolo.com “automatically
maps out these menus and keeps them
current,” according to CEO Shai Berger, a
Costco member in Toronto.
Even in today’s economy, some occupations
are expected to do well—e.g., registered
nurses, dental hygienists, computer
software engineers, computer application
engineers, veterinarians, medical assistants,
network and system administrators, and
others in health and technical fields. Targeting your services or products to their needs
can be a path to a steady customer base.
“We like to consider ourselves the
Google of phone space,” claims Berger.
WITH THE ECONOMY sliding, should you try
to be a jack-of-all-trades serving any kind of
customer you can get, or should you find a
special niche? Is a phrase we coined, “Find
your niche and scratch it,” still relevant?
Focus on local markets. These
markets offer customers whose tastes and
preferences vary from the standardized offerings of franchises and national chains. By
customizing what you do, and when you do
it, you can reach those with special needs
Users register all their phone numbers
on the Fonolo site and go to the site for a
fully laid out menu when they need to
make a call. Once a user makes a selection
by clicking a button for a particular department, Fonolo calls the phone number, then
calls the consumer’s phone and bridges
the calls, saving time and effort.
A recent book, Beating the Global
Consolidation Endgame: Nine Strategies for
Winning in Niches (McGraw Hill, 2008), by
consultants Fritz Kroeger, Andrej Vizjak and
Mike Moriarty, all with the global management consulting company A. T. Kearney,
provides a clear answer. Analyzing more
than 600,000 companies—nine out of 10 of
today’s businesses from 3,000 recognized
industry sectors—they found that only three
or four companies in each industry are
cornering the markets, capturing as much
as 70 percent of market share.
Cooperate with other businesses.
The free service also allows users to
log notes about the interaction and even
offers the option of recording calls, which
comes in handy in case of a dispute.
Consider a “business consortium”—a group
of companies or independent individuals
who join together to collectively do such
things as marketing and purchasing. Such
consortiums can be small or even international, such as Ace Hardware, where small
hardware stores pool their purchasing
power. This model can work for the creative
and technical fields as well as for those
producing products and services.
Fonolo currently lists more than 300
companies in its index and is developing
an iPhone application.
Berger says, “We’re a consumer service aimed at evening the balance of power
between consumers and business.” C
They predict as many as 90 percent of
today’s companies will be forced out of busi-
So, yes, it seems it’s still possible to find
your niche and scratch it. C
More in archives
On Costco.com, enter “connection.”
At Online Edition, search
“Paul & Sarah Edwards.”
To market or not to market
I NADISTRESSEDeconomy, economy, businessown-e rs wisely search for ways to cut expenses. But
according to Boca Raton, Florida, Costco
member MaryEllen Tribby, publisher and
chief executive officer of the online newsletter
Early to Rise (www.earlytorise.com), “Many
business owners have a knee jerk reaction to
cut marketing budgets without evaluating the
harm that will cause their business.”
Tribby advises, “You should be marketing
more, but finding lower-cost and more effective ways.” She offers these suggestions.
• E-mail marketing. Direct e-mail is
cheaper than direct mail.
• Pay-per-click (PPC). PPC is an online
advertising payment model in which the advertiser pays a predetermined price every time an
ad is clicked. Accounts can be set up in five
minutes, with immediate results. If the ad fails,
it can be replaced just as quickly. Start with the
minimum amount and see how the search
engine performs in terms of the traffic it delivers and how well the traffic converts into paying
customers. PPC advertising is entirely trackable,
so you can see your return on investment.
• Remnant space. Try to purchase remnant
space—space in a magazine or newspaper (as
well as time slots on radio and TV) that has not
been sold in time and is left over. If space is
available and time is tight, the publication will
most likely negotiate.
• Social media. Social media take many
forms: online forums; message boards; blogs;
video-, photo- and music-sharing sites; social
networks and comment sections on Web sites.
• Teleseminars. Teleseminars are inexpensive to produce, and a teleconferencing channel for your business can be established in a
matter of weeks.
• Public relations. Of the many channels
of marketing, public relations is one no business should ignore. It’s nearly free, and it can
go from local to regional to national—and
even international—audiences faster than it
takes to write up a marketing plan for a conventional advertising campaign.
Tribby cautions, “Regardless of which
you use, you should always strive to create
strong customer relationships. Never promise
anything you aren’t going to be able to deliver,
and deliver more than you promise. Integrity
is the key.” C
3/30/09 8:40:16 AM