How far would you go to get clients?
A lesson learned from Fisherman’s Friends
It’s amazing what catches your attention whilst flicking TV channels. Debs’ interest was grabbed by an inspiring tale on Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys.
He was visiting Fleetwood in Lancashire, the home of the Fisherman’s Friend throat lozenge. Michael recounted a fab story of James Lofthouse, a Victorian pharmacist, who:
· met a need within his sea-faring community by developing a product to help the fishermen with a remedy against coughs and colds, and general chest problems
· adapted his product for the convenience of his customers, by producing easy to use lozenges rather than a liquid remedy, which was difficult to administer whilst fishing in the North Sea
· expanded his market organically by producing a top quality product that sold itself through word of mouth
It seems that the families of the fishermen began to use the lozenges when they had respiratory problems, word spread and so demand grew within the community.
When holiday makers visited the area, they too found the remedy highly effective. Things ticked along nicely and business was steady.
The part of the tale that most impressed our Debs was how, in the 1960s, Doreen Lofthouse (the wife of the company owner) was instrumental in sending the manufacturer’s fortunes sky-rocketing.
Many of the holiday makers who enjoyed Fishermen’s Friends whilst in Lancashire were disappointed that they could not get the lozenges once they returned home. They wrote to the company and Doreen collated their letters into geographic areas.
Then, in a truly inspired move, probably involving Yellow Pages and several maps rather than Google and a SatNav, she visited the holiday makers’ home towns and approached shops and chemists in the area. She asked them if they would stock their product and in return she would write to all of the holiday makers that had enquired to tell them where they could purchase Fishermen’s Friends locally.
As a direct result of Doreen’s entrepreneurial spirit, the company expanded rapidly and is now an award-winning global brand.
So, what can we learn from this inspiring success story?
· Well, first you need a great product that meets a need within your client base. The therapy you provide to your clients no doubt fulfils this basic criterion.
· Secondly you need to adapt your product to the needs of your local community. That might mean providing evening and weekend appointments, or a mobile service, or something as simple as finding a therapy room on the ground floor for infirm clients.
· Thirdly you need to build word of mouth referrals by doing a great job – not just when you are providing the therapy, but from taking the first enquiry, through to booking appointments, to providing a friendly, welcoming environment.
But most of all, you need to think laterally. How can you reach a wider market? What sectors of your local community would benefit from your therapy? Where do most of your former and current clients live? What steps can you take to make yourself better known in those areas?
Take action to emulate the innovative Doreen Lofthouse. Sometimes we need to do something a bit differently to everyone else, that is indeed what she did. Over to you then!
Nic and Debs