Case Study - Marsh Models

Marsh Models is run by John Simons and his wife Pam.  Within the world of model car making, especially in one/forty-third scale, John is well known and enjoys an excellent reputation for high quality models, sold either in kit form or as hand built complete cars. 

Unfortunately, in recent years, sales have declined, both overall and in numbers sold of each model created.  Whilst some of this can be attributed to the influx of low cost but relatively well detailed models from the Far East, it would also seem that there has been a reduction in the number of collectors, although this has been somewhat difficult to identify because Marsh Models principally trades via dealers.

The company has recently diversified into a new market, that of model aeroplanes.  These are principally sold in kit form, because of the problems with transporting finished models.  Although this has taken Marsh Models into a new market sector, their reputation and awareness for the range will need to be established.

Key Issues

As mentioned above, the main issue is the decline in sales, particularly the quantity sold of each model that is designed and developed.  This is leading to higher investment in time and cost, versus the return and hence profit made. 

Because Marsh Models trades through dealers and distributors, both in the UK and around the world, John is somewhat distant from the end customer.  As a result, market feedback and information could be much improved by a better dialogue with the ultimate purchaser.

Because of the lower cost, yet relatively well detailed, models made in the Far East, it is thought that the number of collectors of higher-priced cars is declining.  Therefore, this makes it more important to be able to identify and directly target this smaller customer base and also understand their requirements that much better.

Solutions and Actions

The main thrust of the action plan suggested was to move Marsh Models closer to its customer base.  John is very well respected within the market and it was felt that end customers in particular would be pleased to have closer and more regular contact.

Thanks to the use of electronic marketing, via a website and regular email newsletter, the expansion of these activities will allow John to build a better dialogue with clients.  The intention is that this can be used to research the market for new models and hence introduce designs that are more likely to sell in better numbers.

At the same time, a broader based approach to market via magazines and internet sites was suggested.  A more detailed media list, embracing not only model magazines but also other publications read by motoring and aircraft enthusiasts were assembled into a much more comprehensive contact list.  These can then be targeted with information about new models, either to feature individually or in specific articles that are appropriate.

Taking the model cars, a number of new ways to market these were considered.  These include producing miniature scenes in which to set model cars, to sell either separately or with a specific design.  Indeed, the first of these has been produced featuring two models from a particular sports car race.

A number of other activities were suggested to broaden the market reach, by recruiting dealers in other countries, where Marsh Models is not currently represented.  Also, to reach the end user via other activities such as specialist websites, high-end classic and sports car events etc.  Ongoing meetings with John and Pam developed these ideas further throughout the course of the project.

Outcomes

To help satisfy a number of the issues highlighted, a new website has been developed that incorporates many additional facilities and is optimised for improved rankings on the search engines.  In particular, a forum has been instigated, whereby end customers can open a dialogue directly with John, and this has already been utilised to research the potential for forthcoming new models. 

Taking the concept one stage further, in latter meetings, the idea of a Marsh Models members club has been developed.  It is planned to offer a package of benefits to those joining, with either a free or paid for subscription.  Again, this will have the effect of making Marsh Models, and John in particular, more accessible to his end clients.  It should also provide valuable market research and feedback.

A database of end customers is also to be established for regular direct contact.  A questionnaire is being developed to further research the profile of each model collector and their preferences.  Again this will be very useful information for analysis and to determine future activity.

The model aircraft business has been expanded and again, feedback on potential new models encouraged.  This has led to the utilisation of a larger scale for the latest design, a particular advantage being the opportunity to sell the model for a higher price, despite only a small increase in the production cost.

To further check demand for new models prior to launch, the membership of car clubs and readership of appropriate, associated magazines is being considered.  This works on the principal of the larger available market, the better potential for models of a particular type or make.  Specific commissions for promotional models or particular designs are being encouraged.

The hope is that all of the above activities, and much more that has also been instigated as part of the programme, will increase not only overall sales but particularly the number sold of each model.  The latter in particular will lead to much improved profitability.

Martyn Billing - June 2006