We’ve helped hundreds of clients build their businesses. Here are just a few case studies that illustrate our results.
Manufacturing Company: Rethinking Costs And Improving Sales
A manufacturer identified a way to expand its business by offering a new service. The marketplace need was real, and customers were buying the would-be high-margin service. Why, then, wasn’t the company making any money off the deals?
The manufacturer turned to Hickman Consulting Partners to find the answers. We started with a quick analysis of their financials and immediately pinpointed the problem: the previous consultant had not accurately assessed the costs of the new service, and capturing only 15 percent of total costs. Hickman Consulting Partners recommended several solutions to improve profitability, including a new costing model and pricing structure, built on realistic numbers. We also identified the best target customers for the new service and set minimum-order requirements.
Also contributing to lower profitability was a lack of repeat business for the service and the resulting high cost of generating new sales. We set up a simple but effective process for securing the next sale at the end of each job. The sales team identified another concern: face time with customers. Hickman Consulting Partners recommended that the company send out a sales rep to each job site, where a decisionmaker was always on hand. Meeting face-to-face with the customer while a job was in process – and service delivery top of mind – was the perfect opportunity to build the relationship, book a repeat sale and generate recurring revenue.
Hickman Consulting Partners also brainstormed with the company’s team to develop the best ideas for communicating with and marketing to their target audience. Some of their existing approaches, such as buying online ads, had not produced results. As always, we started with the objectives first and then created customized tactics (a highly visible demonstration of the service at an industry conference, for example) to connect with potential customers and secure the greatest return on their marketing investment. The result: dramatically increased profitability, increased sales, and a larger, more viable business.
Accounting Firm: Redefining Business Strategy
A CPA with his own practice had a five-year business plan, but the problem was the plan didn’t get him where he ultimately wanted to be. So Hickman Consulting Partners devised a streamlined, targeted approach to reach – and exceed – his goals in less time.
The accountant originally planned to focus on two very different business sectors to grow the business. Unfortunately, neither of these development strategies addressed the accountant’s desire to move into a different tax specialty and relocate to another state. Hickman Consulting Partners conducted a strategy session and created a marketing plan, starting with that end goal in mind and cutting out the middle steps.
Our assessment took a critical look at the CPA’s capabilities and skill set. Hickman Consulting Partners’ recommendations zeroed in on his ideal target for referrals, a narrowly defined group with which the accountant would be most comfortable working. We also recommended the professional development he needed on tax code in her new specialty area.
With Hickman Consulting Partners’ highly targeted plan and only 12 hours of our consulting time, the CPA has doubled his firm’s profitability every year for the last four years; raised his rates several times; cut four years off the firm’s development cycle; and established himself as an expert in his field. And, he is now well positioned to move the business and continue to expand his referral network and profitability in a new state.
Membership Association: Branching Out
A testing laboratory is now a more robust revenue-generator for an industry trade association, with Hickman Consulting Partners’ help.
The association provides third-party quality certification for products submitted by manufacturers. In the past, the accredited laboratory primarily served the association’s member companies only. The group approached Hickman Consulting Partners, requesting a marketing plan for the laboratory’s line of services. Our practical, easy-to-execute plan, however, performs a hat trick: more aggressively marketing the lab services to members, but also marketing both association membership and lab services to non-member companies.
Hickman Consulting Partners recommended that, to strengthen its position within the broader industry, the laboratory function as a separate entity, with its own brand identity. We created marketing materials – including a logo, collateral pieces and a presentation – to support the new image and communication objectives. The outcome of the strategic re-branding and marketing initiative is that the laboratory now meets its yearly revenue goals.
In a separate campaign, Hickman Consulting Partners helped the association expand a narrow segment of its membership base: distributors. Our first step was market research to identify membership benefits for this segment. Initially the association asked for an online survey, but we determined that a telephone survey would yield better results with this target group. We used the calls not only to compile the benefits list, but also to gently promote association memberships. Two distributors joined on the phone, covering the research cost and generating new revenue. We also learned that one sub-section of distributors wasn’t interested in membership, but would purchase services, a la carte, so we recommended tapping into their industry association to market our client’s services.
Building on our successes, Hickman Consulting Partners is now running a third campaign for the association, to advocate for an industry-wide, voluntary quality certification program that moves ahead of government requirements. By leading this charge, the association is strengthening its positioning as a forward-thinking advocate for both its members’ and consumers’ interests.
CPA: Making Partner
An experienced CPA had one goal in mind when she approached Hickman Consulting Partners: to make partner in her new accounting firm. And she had given herself one year to do it.
Initially Hickman Consulting Partners’ role was to develop a marketing plan to increase her revenue by 20 percent over what she brought in at her previous firm. We went beyond and set up a business development plan to hit a target closer to 30 percent, to cover normal attrition and customer churn as she moved from one firm to another.
Hickman Consulting Partners also helped the accountant see the big picture — what would it take to be successful at her new firm in the long term? The firm had a marketing structure and branding strategy in place, so it was crucial that her business development plan fit into this existing program. The firm’s cumbersome and confusing proposal template, however, was a roadblock to closing new deals. We drew up a persuasive, easy-to-customize proposal, but the challenge was selling this friendlier version to the firm’s management team.
Hickman Consulting Partners conducted a focus group with eleven decision-makers representing prospective clients of the accounting firm. Our market research was conclusive. All eleven participants said, if they were buying accounting services, they would choose the streamlined proposal over the older format. Our client shared the findings with her colleagues and they agreed to adopt the new proposal firm-wide.
Not only did the CPA become a partner within her one-year deadline, but, with the help of our market research and business-generating proposal, she is also perceived in her firm as an agent for positive change.
New Business and Product Launch Strategy, Planning and Execution
New Business Launch – Regional
The firm’s assistance was sought by a startup organizational development consultancy to help the consultancy refine its strategic objectives, mission, brand definition and marketing strategies, as well as develop a marketing plan and all branding and marketing materials. The firm’s consultant developed not only a clear plan for the organization’s growth but also well-designed, consistent marketing materials and communications. The firm’s owner lavished praise on Hickman Consulting Partners, and is excited to be launching with its full slate of services – something the owner said would never have been possible without the firm’s assistance.
New Product Launch – National
Faced with a growing new segment that threatened its core brand, a major brewing company recognized the need to prepare and launch a competitive entrant. As part of two-person team, the firm’s consultant was tasked with developing brand strategy and a marketing plan and launching the new product in less than twelve weeks. The consultant worked hand-in-hand with advertising, packaging and consumer promotions agencies as well as sales, operations, R&D and legal to successfully launch the brand. She led the development of outdoor, print and radio advertising, point-of-sale materials, sales strategy and product refinements. Her teams achieved the twelve week launch requirement, cutting the typical new product launch time by nine months. Strong consumer trial resulted in market share far above management’s expectations.
New Product Launch – Regional
Seeking to compete in a growing import market segment, a large company had been stalled in the development stages of a new product for more than a year. The firm’s consultant was tasked with getting the product launched in multiple test markets. The consultant developed and codified a successful launch process, including a launch budget of $4MM that she created, helped sell to senior management, and then managed. She participated in the development of brand essence, strategy, advertising and media plans. She negotiated distributor investment and sales goals, and led the development and execution of consumer promotions and point-of-purchase materials. As traditional data providers did not adequately cover the test markets, she developed an easy-to-use tracking tool to measure key indicators of brand health. As a result, the brand was launched successfully on time and within budget in eight test markets. The use of her tracking tools resulted in improved analysis and reporting of brand performance, which was instrumental in developing subsequent marketing plans and programs.
Marketing Plans and Programs
Strategic Realignment, Brand Definition, Marketing Strategy and Marketing Plan
After assisting with a strategic realignment of an area nonprofit, the firm’s assistance was sought in developing brand definition, marketing strategies, marketing plan, and recommendations for materials, systems and staff needed. Our consultant worked with the management and staff to assess the nonprofit’s marketing strategies; recommend systems, infrastructure and staff necessary; and even conduct activity-based costing on core service lines as the organization did not have accurate estimates of its cost to deliver a unit of service. Just one immediate result of the project was that the organization quickly implemented a change in its pricing strategy and renegotiated current contracts. In addition, on a very limited budget, the consultant developed simple but effective marketing materials to replace outdated, lengthy brochures and provided assistance and guidance in the organization’s first fundraising efforts, which were praised as highly successful.
Brand Definition, Marketing Strategy and Elevator Pitch
A nonprofit providing mental health care for immigrants and refugees sought our help developing a simple, clear message and a compelling elevator pitch. Our consultant worked with the management team to assemble a motivated team of management, board members and front-line staff and facilitated a short series of sessions to clarify and prioritize target audiences, relevant and unique benefits, and reasons to believe, including compelling quantitative data and anecdotes. As a result, the team that began the project unable to clearly express the services they offered left with a short, compelling elevator pitch tailored to top priority target audiences.
Brand Definition, Marketing Strategy, Elevator Pitch and Marketing Materials
A nonprofit provider of affordable housing struggling to communicate effectively sought our assistance in defining the brand and developing a core communication. Our consultant developed an approach to seek input from the entire board, staff, and management, and led a team of management, board members and key staff in the assessment of current branding and activities; development of a clear brand definition and unique, relevant positioning; identification of target audiences; and a compelling customized elevator pitch including relevant quantitative and qualitative reasons to believe. Messages developed by the team were quickly incorporated into the organization’s proposals, board and management speeches, and other core communication vehicles.
The consultant also trained staff on how to write creative briefs, how to better evaluate creative and marketing materials, and provided guidance on writing more effective copy and communications. In addition, she conducted an assessment of current marketing and communications materials. Within a very limited budget, she led the evolution of the nonprofit’s logo and recommended simple but impactful changes to the website.
Assessment, Brand Definition, Marketing Strategy and Marketing Plans
The firm was approached by a branding and design agency to provide pro bono marketing strategy and communications consulting to participants in the area’s annual CreateAThon event (an event where nonprofits with limited budgets receive pro bono design and consulting services). In the space of two hours each, the firm’s consultant took several nonprofits through an initial assessment, discussion and recommendations for brand definition and marketing strategies, and recommended low-cost communications and a set of prioritized marketing activities and tactics. Participants raved about the practical advice and solutions provided. The firm’s consultants will provide advice and recommendations to five area nonprofits in this year’s event.
Marketing and Retail Merchandising
A women’s clothing retailer, interested in expanding market share and opening additional retail outlets, requested assistance with branding and marketing. The firm’s consultant provided guidance to client on developing a marketing plan, clearly establishing company strategy, focusing on the target market, and on the best use of advertising, consumer promotion and grassroots marketing tactics. When the consultant’s initial analysis identified the need to improve merchandising in current stores, the consultant was able to add a merchandising expert to the team without increasing the client’s budget. The consultants were instrumental in helping the client successfully double her number of retail outlets.
A large consumer products company suspected that the decline in sales of one of its major brands might be due to product taste. The firm’s consultant was asked to increase the appeal of the product while keeping a similar flavor profile. The consultant led a complex cross-functional team composed of brand, operations, R&D, flavor experts and an outside market research firm to optimize the product taste. Changes made greatly enhanced consumer appeal.
A manager in a non-profit organization sought the firm’s expertise in developing a marketing plan when she was tasked with performing marketing and public relations for the organization. The consultant adapted a marketing plan template to better suit the non-profit and coached the manager on the planning process, including identifying strengths the organization could leverage, how to manage around the organization’s weaknesses, and identifying additional resources the organization could tap. As a result, the manager developed a clear, actionable marketing plan that supported the organization’s long-term goals.
The firm was approached for assistance in conducting market research by a tourism company seeking to improve its products and customer service. The firm’s consultant worked with the company to clearly define its objectives and create a concise, actionable consumer questionnaire. The consultant provided input and helped refine the company’s plan for executing the research, including recommending consumer incentives for completing the survey that reinforced the company’s brand and image.
Business, Data and Cost Analyses
Product Line/SKU Analysis
Seeking to increase sales of a mature brand, a major manufacturer of consumer packaged goods tasked the firm’s consultant with analysis of current SKUs. The consultant performed a comprehensive analysis of the product line, from distribution and velocity to cost of goods to data on consumer preferences. The consultant identified unexpectedly weak velocity in an SKU launched only two years prior and recommended replacement, resulting in an expected increase in sales of $2MM.
Seeking to identify high-potential clothing manufacturers for a short-term export promotion program, a Ukrainian market development expert requested an assessment of two short-listed manufacturers in Ukraine. The expert was not able to provide any sales or consumer data, and the manufacturers were not willing to have any outside party review their books. Despite the lack of data, the consultant was able to accurately assess both businesses based on introductory meetings with management and tours of the facilities. The consultant quickly identified significant problems at both sites, including outdated equipment, significant underutilized factory space, onerous overhead, inadequate margins, and management’s unwillingness to invest in necessary sales and marketing activities.
The consultant conducted initial assessments for both sites and provided recommendations immediately afterward, including the recommendation that no further resources be expended to analyze either business. The expert adopted the consultant’s recommendations. Neither manufacturer was included in the project, freeing up resources to invest in higher-potential firms that did produce the needed short-term results.
International Marketing and Sourcing
A US-based buyer seeking to work with a Ukrainian furniture supplier was unable to get the specifications, pricing and terms he had requested four months earlier. It was stated that the manufacturer had not sent any of the information promised and would no longer return phone calls. The firm’s consultant was tasked with getting the potential deal back on track. The consultant gathered as much information as possible from the client and then arranged a face-to-face meeting with the manufacturer. On listening to the manufacturer’s summary of the previous meeting, the consultant concluded that not only had there been miscommunication through the interpreter, but also that next steps had not been clearly defined. The consultant worked with the manufacturer to clearly set next steps, outline responsibilities, and set timing, and provided an example of a desired price quote/product specification and sell sheet. As a result, the required information was delivered in the format needed in less than two weeks, keeping the deal alive.
Marketing, Sales Strategy and Materials
A Ukrainian manufacturer was seeking to increase revenue by exporting home furnishings to the US. The company had not been successful in appealing to US buyers in the past. The consultant was tasked with improving the company’s marketing and sales materials. The consultant worked with the manufacturer to determine its core competencies, understand its weaknesses, and refine its brand image and positioning. The team then worked together to clearly identify the manufacturer’s full product line and prioritize products for export. The consultant and manufacturer worked hand-in-hand to create and produce brochures and a presentation for potential buyers. Beyond the initial scope of the project, the consultant used personal contacts to find a potential buyer and worked with the company to create a sell-in kit that showcased the manufacturer’s high-quality workmanship. As a result, the buyer agreed to travel to the manufacturer’s site for a meeting and ordered product samples.