The Atkins & Pearce Manufacturing Company is an industrial braider in Cincinnati, producing braided sleeving for electrical cords, braided candle wicking, stator lacing cord for electrical motors, decorative trim for caskets and bowling bags and metallic braid for decorative packaging. They also package glass yarn for other braiders.
The Problem
At the time they approached us about energizing their marketing program in 1985, annual sales had been flat for a decade, at about $10 million. The company was 200 years old, located in old factory buildings in downtown Cincinnati. Since there had been no essential change in braiding technology during that time, the company operated with thousands of braiding machines more than 100 years old. There were many positives about the company, however. Management was lean and efficient and production was mostly automated, allowing them to be the low cost producer in each of their markets. Their quality was superior, and they were well regarded where they were known. They were also cash-rich.
The Solution
During our first meeting in their offices, we made several suggestions for improving sales techniques. The next month, even before we returned with a marketing plan, sales increased by more than 10%.
      We soon discovered that virtually all their existing markets were classically mature, with one in immediate danger of collapsing due to new technology and one unprofitable due to intense competition and low margins. We identified threats and opportunities in each market segment and for the corporation and made several specific recommendations:

1) In the packaged glass yarn segment, we determined that their opportunities lay in developing white yarn accounts (as opposed to the primarily colored yarns which they sold at that point).
2) In the candle wicking segment, threatened by inexpensive Chinese imports, we recommended they focus on capturing projected growth among current customers in the domestic market.
3) In their largest segment, sleeving, we recommended they try to achieve strong market dominance by encouraging potential customers to eliminate their in-house capacity. This was done by buying that capacity or producing sleeving at a lower cost. 4) In the extremely mature stator lacing cord segment, which was threatened by new technology, we suggested identifying export opportunities and protecting their domestic position by acquiring capacity in the new technology.
5) In the high-profit decorative trim segments, the company lacked market information on opportunities. We recommended additional research before deciding on a marketing direction.

In addition, we concurred with the company's desire to enter the advanced composites market, where their low-cost production techniques could bring economy to high-tech processes, and much of our effort over the next five years was directed toward this end.
      Other issues we presented were the need for competitive market data and knowledge of customers' markets and technologies; the need for a more aggressive selling posture, including a systematic sales call program; and the need to become involved in industry supplier networks.
      In all segments, awareness of the company was surprisingly low, and we recommended increasing promotion. In fact, the company had produced only one item, a sample card of metallic braid, in its entire 200 year history. The subsequent success of the increased promotion was fueled to a great extent by superior product quality and the company's low cost of production. A comprehensive marketing plan was prepared, and, to the credit of the company, implemented. The plan included specific promotional tools and activities and a line item budget. Among the promotional items produced:

New corporate identity
Corporate capability brochure
Trade media advertising in selected segments
Trade show booths
Product literature

The Result
After the first year of increased marketing activity, sales had doubled. Sales doubled again by the fourth year. By the fifth year, Atkins & Pearce had built and moved into their own industrial park, a much larger facility in Covington, Kentucky. The company also successfully penetrated the advanced composites market, where margins were significantly higher than their traditional mature markets. Their new end products included braided light poles and braided parts for the automotive and aerospace industries, and they were working with engineers at Drexel University to braid an entire car body.