More Apprentice Inspired Tips for Small Businesses
Week 3 in the Apprentice saw the now familiar buying task. Their job was to buy a specific list of items, negotiating the best price possible. As the tasks have all been designed to challenge the candidates within a genuine business environment and assess their skills in the gritty realism of the corporate world they had access to nothing but a stack of big yellow books (whatever they were), had one day to find all the items, had to deal with high street retailers (as opposed to B2B trade suppliers) and had no prospect of future business to use as a negotiating tool, hmmm no wonder they were excited to get a penny off! This is something I have to contend with on a regular basis: when buying Polo’s (after sourcing my supplier through an ad in the Post Office window) I always tell them in no uncertain terms they are to freshen my breath in advance of a meeting with a very important client and they soon crumble under my Jedi-like negotiation skills.
Those Who Fail to Plan…
In all seriousness though, both teams were a shambles, failing to understand the kind of price they should be expecting to pay, where best to source the products and, in some cases, even what the items were (a ‘closhay’?). I do realise here that I am teaching grandmothers to suck eggs by saying that the most important lesson we can learn, as small businesses, is that you cannot underestimate the importance of planning: find out the list price, research suppliers, make contact to ascertain availability and negotiate on price and THEN go and procure the product – and don’t send your team to the 4 corners of the largest city in the UK and expect them all to split themselves, Harry Potter style, into several pieces in order to get the products and return on time!
Effective Use of Resources
Of course we have the advantage of the single source of all knowledge (aka Google), trade status, continuing relationships and not being dimwits, sorry I meant an understanding of the products we are sourcing (and if we don’t we can always pump our Twitter network for info!). It also shows us the importance, as suppliers of products or services, of being able to be found by those with a requirement for them but I’m not going to get side-tracked into search marketing (see my previous blog post on that subject!).
Mind Your P-P-P-Ps
Week 4 (as you’ve gathered I’m playing catch up due to having been away) was to select and sell beauty treatments and products. This task was intended to test their ability to recognise an attractive proposition, their delivery of it and their salesmanship. Both teams failed to capitalise on the significantly higher profit margin of conducting treatments as opposed to selling products and the criteria necessary for their location (footfall, proximity to delivery area and the fact that few people would be happy to be half naked having a massage while someone else is getting some Heidi style plaits sewn into their hair in the corner!). If you look at the age old marketing principle of the 4Ps (price, product, place, promotion) that’s at least 2 Ps (arguably 3) they’ve failed to consider (and price was pre-determined!).
Mix it Up
As small businesses we can make sure we consider all elements of the marketing mix – not only the standard 4 Ps but the wider reaching 7 Ps which includes people, processes and physical evidence. Consideration of all of these essential pieces of the jigsaw will not only help you to make sure you cover all bases but can help you define your competitive advantage.
Favourite quote of the week: Susan to Leon (spray tanning a buff young semi naked man) “It doesn’t make you gay you know”!