Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Focus on the core

I went to another BCAMA event today (BC Marketing Association). Topic was marketing in the fashion industry. It was a panel presentation with three very diverse fashion retailers - Bootlegger, Westcomb and Aritzia. My light bulb moment: I'll never be an Aritziacustomer and they don't care - nor should they.

Why are these 3 retailers successful? Because they know and focus on their core customer. They know who they are and don't try to be anything else.

My favourite line from Sally Parrott (Aritzia) is that they really don't care about the 'non' Aritzia customer and don't spend any money trying to attract them. They focus on their brand demographic and getting them into their stores to experience the Aritzia brand. And I have to begrudgingly agree with their strategy of staying focused on that 15-35 year old. If they grew their product offering to older or younger women they would likely lose their core.

Bootlegger tells a similar story. They had to take a hard look at their business in the 90s and cut their kids line to focus on men and women only. By editing they were able to better focus on their brand. Dustin May, from Bootlegger, has a favourite quote from Tom Ford about editing and seems to live by it. They have edited a lot of their pull marketing programs as they didn't return the same ROI as their CRM program. Again, they focus on their core business and it works for them. I wish them luck in their new e-comm business launching in April.

Westcomb had the best presentation. No slides. Just Gabriel Cote - a passionate outdoor enthusiast who started a company to find the gap between technical apparel and style. He was an authentic approachable guy - just like his brand. Their point of differentiation is they are 100% Canadian made and their focus is global. This is a very specialized industry and they have focused on fostering individual relationships with their dealers to get feedback and build a better product (when asked how he follows trends he talked about taking floor staff out to the pub to get their thoughts and ideas). His best quote was during the Q&A when answering a question about handling the economic downturn. His American dealers are cutting their budgets and his response to them was "you need a Porsche in your showroom if you want to sell a Ford." He knows his product is top of the line and will sell and will also help his dealers sell other products too.

So while I am still rather annoyed that I'm too old and rather too average in size to shop at Aritzia... I realize that I'll just have to find another aspirational lifestyle retailer that fits my current age and lifestyle.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Networking or the Dentist

Which do you dread more? The dentist or heading out to a networking event?

Let me say right off that my dentist is the nicest lady ever. But I still hate going to see her. It may be the 3 years with teen age braces, my mouth full of fillings or just that darn drill sound. And it may be surprising to those who know me, and my very 'social' personality, that I would likely chose the dentist over networking. I really hate going to events on my own. It means you have to start cold conversations with people. And if you go with friends it is too easy to hang out with each other and meet nobody. And networking has always reminded me of some of the hard selling networkers I met at the Toronto Board of Trade back in the day. Not my style. And I've realized it doesn't have to be my style.

From my experience most people leave networking until absolutely necessary. When you have a job you think you are too busy and "why network if I have a job" OR "I'm using social media so I don't have to actually network". We leave in-person networking to entrepreneurs, small business owners, job hunters and smart people who understand its importance. With my recent lay off I spent some time working with a career consultant. I had a lightbulb moment and realized that by focusing on my job and not networking outside my work place I was limiting both my short and long term career options (I had in essence taken myself out of the drivers seat of my career). It takes time but keeping up with your industry and making new contacts is always important. It is like exercising. When you do it regularly it is easy. When you stop it takes a while to get yourself back up-to-speed and into prime shape.

It has taken me about 6 months to get myself back into networking shape. Because those big events intimidate me I opted to do a lot of my networking through volunteer work. Several of the events were fun but didn't lead to anything (answering the phones at the Variety Telethon was certainly a fun experience that I'll likely do again next year), but one event led me to join the Women In Leadership Foundation Advisory Board. This is something I'm passionate about and will help keep me networking even after I'm working again.

The trick I found for me is to just enjoy myself and try to connect with people I like. People want to be helpful and if you aren't in hard sell mode/try to impress people mode they really seem to be open to getting to know you. I recently attended a BCAMA networking event where I thought "oh crap who am I going to talk to" as I walked into the full bar. But I met a couple of great people (hanging out near the bar helped). In particular Sharon McInnis the Proofing Queen. She and I hit it off and were surprised we had so many people in common, yet we had never met. She mentioned a BCAIM event that was topical for a current job search. I went. She was there and made me feel right at home by introducing me to others (including summarizing some of my past work) and saving me a seat with her and her friend. She is a fun lady who I look forward to seeing at other events in the future. And perhaps we might even get the chance to work together on a project someday.

Also met Trevor Roald at the BCAMA event. He is also 'between opportunities'. We had a great chat about twitter and how to maximize that medium - mostly him giving me and Sharon some tips. He is obviously very smart in his area (marketing 2.0 specialist) and I'm sure he'll be working again soon.

So I'm looking at networking in a different way. So while my short term goal is clearly to find a job. I'm really networking to:

(1) meet/reconnect with interesting people
(2) learn more about my field
(3) have fun

The last being the most important. I'm also now really convinced that this is something I need to do ongoing -for the long term health of my career. Of course I continue to use social media. But I'm no longer hiding behind my computer. And I'm having a lot more fun too!!!

Now if I could just make the dentist more fun. But I should call and make an appointment because you never know who she might know... she might be the link to my next job.