I run a small food manufacturing business producing a wide range of products. The business has grown steadily but sales have plateaued over the past 18 months. While I am already undertaking a review of pricing, marketing and distribution, should I be looking at other factors to give sales a boost?
A fast-growing product line is often a primary growth driver in small companies, but businesses that offer several product lines often fall into the trap of favouring the development of new products over creating a coherent portfolio. While new products may fuel growth in the first stage of a firm’s development, there needs to be a point of consolidation, which it seems is where you are now.
You should consider one vital area: brand identity.
First, reassess your portfolio to understand which products are most profitable, and have achieved the greatest brand recognition/positive sentiment. Next, consider a cohesive design structure. A Design Council survey found that for every £100 spent on design, companies realised an increase in turnover of £225. Exploring the design of your product can protect your business from competing purely on costs.
If the lower end of the market is saturated and your company’s products are perceived well, you could tackle the higher end which would allow you to compete on brand name and perceived quality rather than price alone.
The design of the product must be in line with your market. Remember, new design doesn’t mean products must become unrecognisable – and reviewing design in your business applies to your processes as well as brand. Well thought-out tweaks every two or three years will offer your brand and business coherence and freshness.
Finally, programmes such as regional development agency-supported “Designing Demand” offer practical workshops to develop the skills needed to utilise design as a growth driver, which is an increasing valuable skill-set to have.
Simon Littlewood, Associate Director, Grant Thornton