SESSION: Fundamentals of Business Strategy
Jim Slate, the President of Slate Bros., a supplier of monuments and tombstones, was attending a reception at the Annual Meeting of the Ontario Monument Builders Association. Slate Bros. sold tombstones and monuments through selling arrangements with funeral parlors.
In conversation with another monument supplier, Slate commented that “It’s tough selling premium priced products like ours these days. It’s not like the old days. Back then, each parlor carried only one brand of monument. The people buying monuments from the parlors were not price-sensitive: rather, they equated the price they’d be willing to pay for a monument with their emotional attachment to, and respect for, the deceased. Buyers believed that quality and price went hand-in-hand. The only question was how much they could afford.
Nowadays, it’s different. People are planning their own funerals and, possibly out of modesty, they are instructing their estates to conserve resources. Thus they are doing their own shopping and expect the funeral parlors to carry monuments from more than one supplier. Worse yet, whether the purchase is for themselves or others, the majority of buyers seem to feel that all they need is an ‘average sized tombstone’ at the lowest price.”
a. Assuming that people today are no less attached to their loved ones than they were in earlier times, what does the consumers’ new-found focus on lower prices imply about how suppliers have marketed their product (i.e. what sorts of things haven’t suppliers been doing)? (15 marks – 50 words or less)
b. What sorts of things could Slate do if he wishes to successfully offer a premium priced product? Be certain to comment both on the nature of the product offering and the supporting infrastructure. (35 marks – one page typed, double-spaced not including exhibits)
c. What sorts of things might Slate consider doing if he discovers that he cannot do the things required to support a premium price? Be certain to comment both on the nature of the product offering and the supporting infrastructure. (35 marks – one page typed, double-spaced not including exhibits)
d. What should Slate do? NOTE: If your answer is “it depends…”, tell me the five MAJOR things on which the answer hinges (and thus represent targets of further research if this were done in the workplace). You should provide a one sentence defense for the selection of each factor. (15 marks)
P.S. The question is sourced in a series of interviews with the Ontario Monuments Builders Association regarding marketing problems in that industry. However, the genesis of the case situation was the experience of a Canadian computer retailer.