Post by Echo Garrett, contributing Women On Business writer
I was taken in this week by an interview with Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s high energy CEO. He outlined Microsoft’s ambitions to expand their presence in online search, smartphones, servers, netbooks and even Microsoft retail stores. While critics hid no reservations or criticism of the plan that seemed to stretch thin, I wondered: At what point does widening our target market eliminate “the bull”?
As small business owners, we are constantly seeking new opportunities for our business. A wholesale distributor that I work with is continuing to expand the customer base, industry focus and product offerings, claiming it is diversity in this market that has kept them going when competitors are falling off the map. Textbook marketing tells us to know what we do, for whom we do it and focus on doing it well. There is no reference to doing it and that and this. So where is the line of balance between what keeps us focused and what keeps us successful? How do we avoid expansion via desperation?
Companies like Restoration Hardware, began as the hardware resource for restorative projects. Gradually, they took on more and more with an aim at the mass market. Today, they are much more like a Pottery Barn than the original hardware supplier. Financial negotiations have been at work for the past two years. Half of critics look at their financial struggle over the past few years and judge harshly; claiming they have truly tipped the balance of management sense by adding too much to the mix and not controlling their overhead. The other half seems to be simply lamenting the lost days of old. My husband just yearns for an old fashioned hardware store of time honored traditions. He commiserates with the upset folks of Eureka, California where the very first Restoration Hardware store is closing. It was once revered as a local icon in its community.
Perhaps our criticism of expansion is simply a “who moved my cheese” reaction to change. Change could be responsible for the strained balance sheet. It would have been nearly impossible to have predicted an economic plummet of this proportion. So maybe desperation was a reflex to the compounding problems. When we find ourselves forced into change: At what point are we inevitably going to lose our focus?
These economic times find many folks taking on the roles of Hem, Haw, Sniff and Scurry- either wallowing in our missing cheese or proactively changing the way we do business…or somewhere in between. How has the current business climate placed you in a position to change your marketing strategy?