I don’t think I’ll ever forget my grandfather watching TV, like any other retired grandfather with the fruits of the garden already gathered, getting annoyed every time his favorite snooze show was interrupted by a commercial:
“What’s with all the commercials? They only advertise products that don’t sell.”
Little did Grandpa know back then that I was going to get my degree in, guess what, advertising.
Marketing for Grandparents – explained
In the old man’s words, I was headed for a career where I would have to advertise products that don’t sell. I was doomed. How could I make sure that my clients, who put all their trust in me not to go broke (according to Grandpa), would come out on top in this crazy race to glory?
My great surprise was when, in our first college class, our professor asked us without any evasion, “Isn’t it true that before you came to college you thought advertising was only about products that didn’t sell?” We all agreed. But what did we, the first generation of advertisers, know with Facebook just emerging? I was shocked. My grandfather knew more about the industry than I did? Should he have been me in college? Should I have found another career?
Fast-forward a few years, and my grandparents were standing stubbornly next to me to take pictures with their beloved granddaughter fresh out of advertising school. And from that moment on, the long string of questions about my profession began. What do you do for a living? … (pause) … Uh, advertising. Luckily for me, they weren’t the only ones who got me into this difficulty. Parents, relatives, friends, pretty much everyone who had nothing to do with the industry followed. And it’s not over yet.
Recently, we introduced a new marketing term.
So, grandpa, this article is for you, although probably with your non-existent internet access you won’t read it, but at least next time you ask me, again, what I do for a living, I’ll be able to explain it more understandably.
Think of it this way: all your life you’ve worked at the furniture factory in Cluj-Napoca. In your spare time, when you didn’t have any work in the garden or didn’t need to go shopping for the ingredients that my grandmother used to make the famous “tree trunk” cake, you used to work at home, in your own workshop. You started small, making a bed, a wardrobe or some chairs for your own home.
Basically, you were saving some money and working what you liked, theoretically you could bring extra income to the family. Which you did and, unconsciously, you were marketing yourself. But you didn’t know what they called it or what the principles were.
Perhaps, visiting your neighbours, you noticed that one had an even 3-legged table and one was shorter or that the other needed a more comfortable bed. And you took notice, because you were a specialist, and started suggesting to them to fix their furniture or, why not, to make something from scratch. That’s how you discovered a potential market in your village and started working. At first it was just a chicken or a duck, but it didn’t take long before you got some money. Now, if we’d known each other back then, you would have come to me and told me:
“I discovered that there is a shortage of carpenters in my village and I want to start a business. There are few furniture shops in the area and people need repairs and new furniture.”
With my knowledge of marketing, I would have asked you some questions based on which I would have made a marketing strategy that would include several aspects, for example: how to attract new customers, how to make sure that the neighbours keep coming back to you for new products, how to promote your two discovered niches (repair and production), and if I had Valentin on my team, together we would have also made a business strategy to optimize costs, production, etc.
Most likely we would have put a sign on the gate saying what services you offer, we would have printed some sheets with more details and put them in the mailboxes of people in the village and, because you had little money, we would have put an ad in the Sunday newspaper.
Here you were in the launching phase of your product, not many people knew about you, you had no sales, you didn’t know what price to ask for the services you offered and you did everything: you sourced raw materials, you worked alone and managed your resources as best you could.
Once you started getting more orders and your neighbours started recommending you more and more to their neighbours, you moved into the growth phase. You co-opted your grandmother into the business, and she helped you sew all the materials for the furniture, and so you reduced the cost of the textiles you had to buy ready-made. But, you were also able to offer a better product because then you could make more custom-made furniture, in short you perfected the original product.
You started to invest in the workshop, to think about how to grow and how to optimise your work processes. But you also noticed that your colleague at the factory in Cluj-Napoca, the man you commuted with every day, started to tinker around in his workshop and tell his neighbours that he was making custom-made furniture. There was nothing you could do, having already made a small name for yourself in the village, it was only natural that the competition would come.
And I would have been happy to help you think up a strategy to retain existing customers, improve the services you offer, do a little research on your competitors and see what your strengths are and how we can use them.
In today’s marketing tactics, I’d put a little bench you made in a crowded train station to try your product, send flyers to the next village and write a nice article about you in the Sunday paper.
By doing all of the above, you’ve come of age. You already had a customer base and people knew you as the guy who made quality furniture. The “mouth of the world” helped you grow and you already had a bigger workshop and enough orders so that you could afford to give your family a better living.
You got to a point where you were happy with what you were doing, with how people saw you in the village, but also in neighbouring villages. The competition got a bit fierce, another of your fellow commuters opened a new workshop and he had the advantage of having a car with which he could transport furniture. But you managed to keep your customers because you always invested in quality and long-term relationships and tried to keep your customers happy.
I would also have gladly helped you at this stage and suggested that you open another workshop a few villages away where you could employ people, make new furniture for the children in the orphanage and open a small showroom with furniture in series.
And after many years of being an exceptional carpenter, you went into business decline for several reasons: you couldn’t work alone anymore and people in the village started buying poorer quality but lower priced products from furniture stores in town. Grandfather, you should have adapted at this stage and opened your own furniture shop, or you should have joined the business and opened a learning centre where you could pass on what you were good at.
Even if you didn’t do that, you taught me and helped me understand how to fix my own little problems around the house. And now you’re back to the stage where at 70+ years old you have a hobby that keeps you fit and young. And on top of that, you made a very happy little girl who got a wooden swivel chair when she was little, a desk just like she wanted, and a bed with a built-in dresser like you couldn’t find at any store. And that’s exactly what your customers have received over the years, a pleasant experience, which is why you’ve lasted so long in the business.
You see, Grandpa, all those years you’ve been marketing: you identified a need, you developed a product, you offered extra and adjacent services, you up-sold and cross-sold (you sold them 6 chairs instead of 4 or a table to go with the chairs), you talked to your customers and asked them for feedback (if they liked the product or if they would change anything about it, if they were happy with the time, etc), you developed the shop, you brought extra people into the team, you learned what the competition was, and you promoted yourself through different channels (tailored for those times and your location). You’ve even gone through the whole lifecycle of a product. And you’ve understood, more unconsciously, that in marketing it’s important to have a direction from the start and that you have to adapt it according to how demand goes. After all, you couldn’t carry furniture around the village forever on a bicycle.