Finding Room in a Crowded Market

Do It Locally

Here's another tip for breaking into a saturated market: Never underestimate the power of a good hometown advantage. Boston dwellers Chris Lohring and Alex Reveliotty founded their specialty beer company, Tremont Ale, knowing that to build a true customer base, they had to get out into their local community and get people to taste their brew. "We had no idea [what a tough market we were in]," says Lohring. "If we'd known that in advance, I don't think we ever would've distributed the beer ourselves. But if we hadn't, I don't think we would've been successful." Being their own distributors helped the partners build relationships-first with vendors and then with customers. Getting people to sample the beer was first on the agenda, with brand recognition as the next priority. The approach, Lohring laughs, was "very guerrilla in nature."

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The pair started by meeting with local vendors and selling with the kind of passion only company founders can muster (they had no sales reps in the beginning). Playing up the local angle worked, and so did sponsoring local charity events, such as the American Cancer Society Corporate Regatta, which they've sponsored for eight years.

Aware that craft beers were plentiful in the Boston area when they founded their company in 1994, and also knowing that they had domestics and imports to compete with, Lohring, 36, and Reveliotty, 34, did the unthinkable: They actually charged about $2 more per six-pack than their competitors were charging for their beer. "That's how we branded our beer," says Lohring. "We made a more import-like, upscale, urban-type brand, and we wanted the price point to match that." The strategy worked: Tremont Ale produces about 10,000 barrels per year and has exceeded $2 million in sales in their region alone.

Making your mark, playing with the big boys, being the little fish in a big pond...call it what you will, just don't listen to the naysayers. With a little creativity, a lot of planning and a big heap o' moxie, you'll be the one saturating the market.

OFF THE SHELF
It doesn't hurt to do some research before jumping into a saturated market. To bone up on your knowledge, check out these books, which offer advice on surviving and thriving among big-name competitors:
  • Competitive Branding: Winning in the Market Place With Value-Added Brands (John Wiley & Sons) by Torsten H. Nilson
  • Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors (Free Press) by Michael E. Porter
  • Get Better or Get Beaten!23 Leadership Secrets From GE's Jack Welch (McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing) by Robert Slater and Jeffrey A. Krames
  • Knock-Out Marketing: Powerful Strategies to Punch Up Your Sales (Entrepreneur Press) by Jack Ferreri
  • Outsmarting Goliath: How to Achieve Equal Footing With Companies That Are Bigger, Richer, Older and Better Known (Bloomberg Press) by Debra Koontz Traverso

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This article was originally published in the October 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Push and Shove.

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