A Time to Change, a Time to Stand Fast

There’s times when innovation is right and there’s times that the right thing to do is to continue what’s working. A famous story about William Wrigley, Jr. (of chewing gum fame) is often used to illustrate the second half of this statement. The man was reportedly riding on a train at the height of his success, when a woman asked him why he continued to advertise when he was already hugely successful and his gum was so widely popular. The story proceeds like this:

Wrigley: How fast is this train going?

Woman: Probably seventy miles an hour.

Wrigley: Well, that’s fast enough. Why don’t they unhook the engine?

The point was that he needed to continue the formula that made him successful. If advertising got him there, then he needed to continue to run the ads. It pays to take notice of the pattern of advertising, promotion or even service that are in effect when income and delivery roar along at a good clip.

But there is another factor that needs to be taken into account. Times change. If a company or owner gets too confident in his current strategy, that might just be the time that change pulls the rug out from underneath him.

Like in this example. A small auto repair owner was very successful for a couple of decades. Then, two of the three office buildings across from him lost some of their major tenants. The third and largest building was emptied out completely as it began to be converted from offices to condominiums.

Then the real estate market tanked and the large office building sat empty. The construction company even declared bankruptcy and took away their trailers and equipment. This was terrible news for the owner who had drawn most of his business from these three buildings.

It wasn’t even possible to continue the successful formula that had kept him successful. A couple of years later, he was worried about even being able to stay in business after so many years of coasting on a healthy, predictable income.

A business owner with marketing savvy knows that a market can change at any time. It is vitally important to keep an eye on the environment one’s products are delivered into and foresee changes before they affect profits. If this business owner had at least made some changes as soon as the buildings across the street started losing tenants, he would have been in better shape.

In this case, the owner’s strength was the quality of his service. He should have solicited testimonials from his most faithful clients and broadcast these far and wide to the residents in his zip code. Possibly just a postcard with the testimonial and a headline like “Can You Say This about Your Mechanic? See us for a $20 oil change so we can get to know each other,” could have done the trick. The influx of new blood would have helped him ride through all the changes in his marketplace.

It might be a lot to ask – to keep one eye on the future while you’re dealing with the present. It is a necessity from a marketing viewpoint. If things are going well, it might help you find opportunities for expansion and should the marketplace start going through drastic changes, it could be the only thing that enables you to survive.