EDITOR’S NOTE: This project comes from associate partner Marc Grandmaison, a marketing and advertising strategist who helps companies create value and attain their goals.

Companies are not in business just to hold their own in the marketplace. To succeed, they need to be constantly growing all components of their company, and the steady upward curve of their sales is most essential.

There are many reasons why sales can suddenly plateau or fall. New competitors can enter the market, production may be unable to complete orders in a timely manner, or there may be more effective sales approaches.

The real source of the problem and how to fix it is not always obvious.
Consultants with backgrounds in marketing and sales are often brought in to cast fresh eyes on such a situation.

Such was the situation at Terrains de jeux Kangaroo Playgrounds a couple of years ago.

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Founded in 1993, Kan-G0-Roo Playgrounds Ltd. as it is officially called, is the largest commercial playground equipment manufacturer in Atlantic Canada. Headquartered in Atholville, New Brunswick it is a world class creator of playground, recreational and sports equipment. Its products are certified by the International Play Equipment Manufacturers’ Association, and it is a member of that group.

The challenge

Even though the firm had achieved amazing success since its establishment, growth had stalled.

Manager Sylvain Lebel wondered if he might be missing some underlying factors that were inhibiting their growth.

In the summer of 2012 Marc Grandmaison, a NuFocus Strategic Group consultant with expertise in marketing, was brought in to develop a strategic plan for corporate growth.

The process

To do that, he had to spend time looking over the company’s strength and weaknesses.

“It became obvious to me that while so many components of this company were working really well, when it came to a growth strategy they were kind of all over the place,” Marc explained.He said one of the key jobs of a consultant in such an instance is to help the company find its focus. In that process, they discover key areas that need to be strengthened so they can move forward.

The Solution

At Kan-Go-Roo Playgrounds Ltd., one of these areas that needed focus was to pay more attention to creating a proper network of installers.

“After all, once the sale is made and the product is delivered, the face of the installer is your face in that region where you are working. It cannot be a new face each time.”

A second issue was determine the source of market growth. In this case, it was identified as the Aboriginal community, so the company refocused its strategy to build stronger relationships there.

In other markets, they realized the competition was so tough they might be wasting some of their efforts to secure a larger slice of it. Their best strategy was actually to seek new markets in those instances.

Practicalities had to be faced as well. Like many manufacturers, the firm was excellent at keeping up its production processes, but they had neglected their marketing tasks.

Their website was cleaned up. New marketing materials were created.

Even in the presence of a growth strategy, the firm understood that they had to focus more on stability so they could be strong in their marketplace which stretched all the way from the Maritime Provinces to western Canada.

Results

The playground equipment market is a tough one, Marc says, and the company has now re-focused itself and is doing well in facing its challenges. They identified their weaknesses, fixed them, and refocused on their strengths.

“A big issue was that they weren’t separating themselves from their competition,” says Marc.

This is where the company learned that the values they had actually distinguished themselves from others in their market just as much as their product quality.

The company was able to position itself as an expert in outdoor leisure activities. They focused on their quality, their reliability, their personal and professional service, and their flexibility of design.

They realized the markets where their growth was most likely to occur (municipalities, school districts and First Nations communities) and focused their marketing areas in those directions.

They also realized there was growth potential in the development of new products. For example, they added hockey rink boards for outdoor rinks, a Canadian recreation staple. They devised a complete marketing plan to launch the new product and increased their marketing staff.

Marc credits company owner Sylvain Lebel’s strength as a leader as a major factor in the firm’s growth and innovation.

“He is very energetic. When he discovers what needs to be done, he gets it done”.

Sylvain is equally appreciative of Marc’s personality.

“I like to work with Marc,” he says. “He really knows what he’s doing. He makes good suggestions.”

As a result of the consultation, Sylvain said his company was much more focused.

“Our approach now is more organized. For example, if we are going to bring out a new product, we know what we want to say on the pamphlet and where to send it.”

This is a huge advantage in a competitive market like his, he says.

He says his company looks more professional and he continues to call in Marc when he needs to create new programs.

“Business is going well,” he said.

Sylvain said it makes good business sense to hire consultants when you reach a crossroads. They offer an independent set of skills to help you analyze your situation and figure out solutions.

Lessons to be learned and applied from this case

  • The challenges of growing your market share in a competitive market are huge. There must be clearness of goals and focus for success to occur. It is important for companies to determine what distinguishes them from their competitors and to play on that in the marketplace.
  • Even in competitive markets, your company may be better suited to grow some niches as opposed to others. You can’t spread yourself too thin. Identify key growth opportunities and focus all your efforts in that area.