Marketing 911

By Hannah Wallace May 31, 2008

The economy is tight, high season is over and marketing your business has never been more critical. But how do you stretch your dollars while expanding your customer base? Biz941 paired three of Sarasota-Manatee’s top marketing firms with business owners—a newcomer, a franchisee and a longtime local with big-chain competition—who are facing universal marketing challenges. Their sound advice reflecting today’s marketing principles and Sarasota-Manatee’s unique consumer climate just may help you hit upon some marketing medicine—or magic—of your own.

The Newcomer

Florida Underwater Sports

Scuba divers with a passion take the entrepreneurial plunge.

Greg Galford began scuba diving 30 years ago, during an era when most enthusiasts quit the sport by their 40s. The training, originally designed by former Navy divers, was rigorous and geared to 18- to 21-year-old males. That changed over the past two decades, and now, Galford and his partner, Carl Badgley, both 42, offer scuba lessons, equipment and excursions to professionals as well as seniors, children and even disabled divers.

The pair started Florida Underwater Sports in Sarasota in 2007 to accommodate both tourist and year-round residents, especially the growing baby boomer population. “We opened the store based on the demographics of the area. Baby boomers are looking for adventure sports and they expect a high level of customer service,” says Galford.

“We’ve been successful in reaching out through the Internet, but we’re not sure what return we’re getting on investment in the Convention and Visitors Bureau and print materials we’ve done,” he says. “We’re working on brochures and a marketing package for concierges and trying to stand out from the crowd.”

Galford would like to generate more media interest and articles, especially for the mid-October through March tourist season. His local business drops off in January, when most year-round residents think it’s too cold for diving. During the local season, which picks up in March, his challenge is “getting the word out to residents so they know about the store and the great customer service.”

His excursions to dive among shipwrecks on the east coast and coral reefs in the Florida Keys are not booking at the rate he would like. “We’re trying to figure out what local divers want in terms of a travel mix,” he says. “Are we hitting what people really want?”

Florida Underwater Sports, 7670 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 870-4461.

Marketing 911 challenge: How can Florida Underwater Sports convey its message and build customer loyalty?

Roxanne Joffe, president of CAP Creative, responds:

Allocate a marketing budget, even during your first year in business. “They’re a startup company and they don’t have a set marketing budget, so we recommend they allocate a percentage of projected revenue even if they don’t use it,” she says. “It should be at least five percent for the first year. After they’ve established themselves and their brand, it goes down depending on the industry.”

Develop a consistent marketing plan. “They’re very smart. They’re setting themselves apart with customer service and brand alignment. They’re doing marketing events and they have community outreach, but they’re shooting from the hip,” says Joffe. She recommends they create a consistent strategic plan, making sure the direct mail matches the Web site and the ad campaign.

Refine your message to create an emotional connection. Their print materials are loaded with information but don’t create an emotional connection, says Joffe. She advises them to add photography that depicts the experience of diving, or perhaps a family diving together.

Employ experiential marketing. Galford and Badgley are often approached on the beach while diving. “Have people walk along the beach in scuba equipment and talk to people,” says Joffe. Experiential marketing, creating an experience with the consumer, is very effective.”

Cultivate existing enthusiasts. Florida Underwater Sports’ research data showed 3,200 divers reside in the area, but they also want to cultivate families seeking adventure. Rather than develop new enthusiasts, “I would put all the money now into getting the scuba divers in the area into their store and converting their loyalty,” says Joffe. “They don’t have enough dollars to penetrate a new market.”

Joffe’s prognosis: “They are white-collar guys who gave it up to follow their passion,” she says. “They understand business and marketing because of their backgrounds, and they’re very smart. I think they’ll do well.”

The Franchisee


Driving customers to high-tech golf instruction.

Mark Nixon is a former telecom executive, college professor and golf aficionado who discovered a convergence of his interests when he visited a GolfTEC center to learn how to improve his game. GolfTEC employs software and motion sensors to evaluate clients’ swings in comparison to the swing ranges of 150 of the best pros today. Red, yellow and green flashing lights register instant feedback at 24 different points.

“The golf swing happens at 90 miles an hour in just over a second,” explains Nixon. “For the human eye to break that down is nearly impossible.”

The tech- and data-driven approach to improving golf performance appealed to Nixon, as did its marketability to baby boomers, whose spending on golf, he says, doubles when the last child in the family leaves home. It doubles again upon retirement.

GolfTEC was founded in 1996 and has grown to 120 centers nationwide. Nixon opened his first franchise in Tampa for $35,000 in 2006.

He is now president and franchisee for four centers in Tampa’s Westshore and Carrollwood and in Clearwater and Sarasota. He is also his own marketing director.

“Our target market is the avid golfer, people who play two or more times per month,” Nixon says. “The challenge is that it’s a complex story to tell. Most know what a traditional golf lesson is, but to explain the how the reinforcement and body movement drills are effective is difficult in a direct mailer or an ad.” He advertises mostly through radio and the Internet.

For an initial evaluation fee of $95, GolfTEC’s pros on staff take measurements and listen to the client’s goals. Lessons cost $50 to $70 per half hour. “We teach full swing, pitching, clipping, putting, mental toughness and physical conditioning and can fit custom clubs,” Nixon say.

Since opening his fourth store in Sarasota on March 15, Nixon has also booked the GolfTEC mobile unit for tournaments and charity events.

GolfTEC, 6249 Lake Osprey Drive, Sarasota (941) 926-6027.

Marketing 911 challenge: How can Nixon draw people into GolfTEC to take a swing at his high-tech golf instruction?

Angela Massaro-Fain, president of Grapevine Communications, responds:

Be a booster. “Especially as a new person in town, it’s so important for him to get out and network,” says Massaro-Fain. Nixon should participate in golf tournaments as a player, corporate sponsor and prize donor. “Negotiate with the charity you’re helping to get additional exposures in ads, brochures and invitations,” she says.

Maximize franchise resources. In meeting with Nixon, Massaro-Fain learned that GolfTEC franchisees have access to pre-produced television spots, and encouraged him to use them. “Buying broadcast media here, especially cable, is very inexpensive and most of the dollar is in production,” she says..

Diversify your advertising dollar. Nixon realized the most return on his advertising dollars through The Sports Animal AM radio program. But the daily newspaper ads he placed to coincide with PGA tournaments produced less-than-spectacular results. In a daily, “frequency is important, placement is important, and six ads a year is not sufficient,” says Massaro-Fain. “I think he’s throwing away his money.” She recommended advertising in local magazines and trade publications geared to industries, such as finance and medicine, with a high proportion of golfers.

Propose an event. Nixon has a mobile unit and access to GolfTEC’s established corporate and special event formats. “You could get into a little cross-platform marketing,” says Massaro-Fain. “If you want to target financial planners, go to a charity they would support.”

Transmit targeted direct mail. Select households based on zip code and income in a three-dimensional package with a gift inside, she says. Direct mail is expensive, so it needs to be zoned, targeted and novel enough to pique interest.

Massaro-Fain’s prognosis: “Mark is very educated and extremely marketing savvy. He has a very unique product, and if you get the people there to see it, I believe it will sell itself.”

The longtime local

Family Pharmacy

Up against the national chains.

Neighborhood pharmacist Mike Pass is part therapist, part scientist and part historian—with an off-the-wall sense of humor to boot. Pass and his wife, Sandy, founded Family Pharmacy in 1973. In 1986 he doubled his space to add healthcare supplies, and in 1991, he began compounding “out of desperation,” he says, when he lost a nonprofit client that had provided 25 percent of his business.

The business-saving move became a passion. Today, Pass and three staff pharmacists can deliver prescription medication in the form of transdermal creams, nasal sprays, eye drops, lollipops, injections and more. The pharmacy has its own sterile lab on site.

Compounding is a creative, problem-solving approach to delivering medicines to people who have allergies, swallowing problems or any other intolerance of traditional prescriptions. Pass belongs to a national network of several thousand compounding pharmacists and has created hundreds of specialized formulas.

However, the lab does not accept insurance other than Medicaid and Medicare Part D. Creating medicines is labor-intensive, requiring multiple steps over hours or days, says Pass, and insurance companies don’t come close to reimbursing his labor costs. Most will pay the cost of his materials plus $2 or $3 per prescription, he says. (In fact, he continues, Medicare Part D and many insurance companies are dropping coverage for some compounded prescriptions altogether.)

This year, a national drugstore chain in town that accepts insurance payments began selling compounded prescriptions. Within months, the move had significantly cut into Family Pharmacy’s business.

The drugstore might offer some of the same medicines, says Pass, but Family Pharmacy’s level of service and expertise is anything but cookie-cutter.

About half of the business is hormone therapy. Pharmacist Nadia Amruso takes time to counsel customers who suspect hormonal imbalances and suggests hormone tests which can be forwarded to a physician.

Each patient receives individual attention. “With a compounding pharmacy, because you get dosage instructions that are off the wall, we provide customer service and education,” says Pass. “Every person is counseled whether they want to be or not, because compliance will ensure successful therapy.”

Family Pharmacy markets primarily through television and Internet advertising on ABC-7 and medical seminars.

Family Pharmacy, 3644 Webber St., Sarasota (941) 921-6645.

Marketing 911 challenge: How can Family Pharmacy compete most effectively against a national chain?

Bill Pierson, managing director, and Stephanie Kempton, director of research and planning, Clarke/Eric Mower and Associates, respond:

Update the brand. While upon first impression, the pharmacy has the appearance of an old-fashioned drug store, “it’s truly a dynamic, state-of-the-art compounding laboratory,” says Bill Pierson. “Since they serve such a special niche, Family Pharmacy should be the only choice for compounding in Sarasota” as well as a resource for doctors and patients around the world. Pierson suggests renaming the facility to better represent its expert, specialized service and streamlining the store by relocating other medical products to the medical supply store.

Create a more dynamic Web site. “He didn’t seem to be using the power of the Web,” says Kempton. Pass could harness the Web to reflect the true brand personality of the compounding specialists, educate consumers about compounding and also highlight his state-of-the-art lab facilities on virtual Web tours.

Initiate physician and patient outreach: Physicians, dentists and even vets in town already know of Pass, so it’s a matter of reminding them about his services, says Kempton. “He could create a physician-specific area on his Web site and send e-mail blasts to them. They’re very tech-savvy and it’s not at all that costly.”

Develop a customer relationship management program. Word-of-mouth referrals are one of Family Pharmacy’s best marketing tools. Pierson suggests offering a membership card with member pricing to mitigate the insurance issue, and to include custom services such as home delivery.

Invest in qualitative research: “Often our clients don’t know a lot about their best key prospects,” says Kempton. Pass knows his core customers tend to be smart and assertive about managing their health, but “by understanding who they are on a psychographic basis, he can leverage his existing customer base,” she says.

Consider private labeling for other pharmacies instead of competing with new compounding practices. “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” says Pierson.

Pierson and Kempton’s prognosis: “What he’s doing well stems from his passion and his quality products. Sarasota has a disproportionate group of affluent baby boomers. These people can afford to pay what it takes for the health they want,” says Kempton. “That fits very well with who he is.”

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