Making Changes in Tough Times: Are You REALLY Ready to Take a Chance?
Alan Axler, Vice President of Springfield Smoked Fish, had a problem. His Springfield, Mass company had been providing New Englanders lox, gefilte fish and other traditional kosher fish products since 1934. But in recent years, the company has barely been staying afloat. Axler attempted to boost sales in 2007 by investing thousands of dollars into his new product: Brekfish, a smoked salmon – healthier — substitute for bacon. It was well-received by samplers, but to Axler’s discouragement, supermarkets didn’t put it on their shelves. In 2008, sales were a full 20% down from where they’d been in 2000.
Axler’s traditional market, traditional Kosher Jewish consumers, was shrinking, and in spite of the trend toward more healthful living, no one was rushing in to fill the gap in sales.
So would you like to hear the bad news first, or the good?
I’ll start with the bad: When he decided to develop Brekfish, Axler didn’t give his research due diligence. Due diligence can be loosely defined as “giving a task the amount of work and attention that it deserves.” When it comes to researching major decisions that could make or break your small business, that task deserves quite a bit of work and attention indeed.
Is Brekfish as bad product? Quite the contrary: All reports are that it’s delicious – crisp and flavorful. It could very well become the healthy choice for bacon lovers. The mistake Axler made was that, before making changes, failing to find out whether his hopes of getting Brekfish on the supermarket shelves were realistic. Retailers were unwilling to put the product on the shelves until Axler created consumer interested with a big-budget campaign. He simply didn’t have the resources.
Now for the good news: While Axler failed to forage for the best information, the best information was thrust upon him. Fortune Small Business sent three experts to offer him the best advice. What gems of wisdom did they have to offer?
- Rather than targeting national-chain supermarkets, focus on his best local markets, like delis and specialty supermarkets.
- Narrow his brand. Because the company had been in business for so long, the various products had packaging that reflected the time of their development, and even different brand names. Business consultant Victoria Nessen Kohlasch, chief executive of Nessen Kohlasch & Associates, insisted that he had to select develop unified packaging to develop brand recognition.
- Update his website to give it more value (recipes) and make it easier to buy.
- Focus on the health benefits of his products in both advertising and packaging.
If you are currently the vice president of a small fish business, you will find these specific tips helpful. If you aren’t (and I’m guessing you aren’t), you still have a great deal to learn from Alan Axler. Chances are, a panel of experts won’t show up at your door to hand you the information you need. You have to go get it!
Go to the library, take classes, find mentors, talk to people, search the internet – do whatever you have to so you can start making changes toward your brighter, happier, more successful future. This is your future! Give it all the due diligence it deserves.
Are you ready to invest in your future? Check out my Making Money is Fun video series. Learn all about the different types of investments that are out there (and find out my favorite choices) so you can begin now making changes that will lead you to major success!