My Mother, Grand Mother and umteen aunts were all knitters. What confused me wasn’t the great speed with which their nimble fingers worked but what they did with all the pieces when they finally were finished. Bits shaped like a baby seal. Long skinny pieces that always seemed to be longer than anyone’s arms. Scarf like slices which could wrap up a refrigerator, all turned into a warm sweater with those grotesque patterns that brought great amusement to the local lads. Yep! Thems was the days my friend.

How they created these misshapen shards into a pullover was a complete mystery to me and to most of my mates whose testosterone levels had sadly deprived us of an enquiring mind. I think about those times when I gather research, because the easy part of research, as I stated in part 2 of this series, is gathering it. The hard part is knowing what to do with the pieces.

Let’s assume you’ve followed the recipe thus far and you’ve looked at your internal product needs; you know your consumer target and the market; you understand what the product does by way of a solution and you’ve measured its value to the consumer. Now it’s time to take all you’ve learned and develop a positioning strategy. Positioning is not what you do with the product or the image or your company’s benefits, it’s about what you do to the consumer’s mind. Let’s play a little game.

You make shoes, good shoes; shoes that last. You know your customers are in the mid socio income stream and you understand that the melt down will likely have a real impact on them. Your research has made you aware that your manufacturing volume is vulnerable to a downturn. What happens from here on is the key.

Our shoe man has a number of options: Let’s put off staff and reduce our manufacturing to meet the supposed lower demand – not a good idea for the loyal staff – but an option. So why not reduce the cost of the shoes? Most would jump at that idea because it maintains volume, keeps employees and… sustains turnover? Well maybe, but what about profit? Right here the ‘knit one, pearl one ladies’ come into their own.

Let’s take the obscure and ambiguous. Let’s look at the ‘positioning’ How does the shoe fit? [Pardon the pun] How would the consumer react to a long established good value company discounting its quality shoes? Do they perceive less value and a poorer quality product? Does that create long term damage and does it make them buy. Possibly not. Yet the answer to this dilemma and many others is to do what is absolutely illogical!

Push the product up the positioning ladder.

Before you desert this idea and head for the shredding machine, hear me out! In a melt down, which socio group must maintain its status, which socio group still needs to look good, even when things are not good. Which consumer requires that they maintain prestige and impress. Which socio group doesn’t want to demonstrate failure. Of course our good old ‘high end’. The place where purchases are made because of quality, value and prestige. If Mr. & Mrs. Highend have to sacrifice anything it won’t be attire, it’ll be somewhere else. And there is a collateral effect because the top end of the middle has to ensure it does that too, making absolutely certain it doesn’t tumble down the ladder to the basement.

That I’ve lasted this long with you is amazing, so now I might as well go for the jugular. I’d go further I’d increase my prices and my margins and while I’m making more with less volume I’d do some further research on evaluating where I could reduce my overheads. I wouldn’t consider cutting quality or service but there is always a benefit in reduced volume – material; energy; maintenance etc.

Now here you go again! You’ll be saying, “but I don’t sell shoes”. Sure you don’t and that’s the art of business and marketing. Getting the knitting done is the easy part… the skill? Well, it lies in practising the art of lateral thinking and acquiring all the facts, especially understanding your target market.

I can’t actually make you feel better either, because each product, service, market, socio economic etc. will have a different pattern and each one requires the services of a pattern maker. You can become one yourself in time, or you can ask people like us with years of experience to make the pattern – whatever, the answer lies in the knowing; the thinking and the execution. We’ll execute next week, meanwhile I have a scarf to knit!