When you're at the top, there's nowhere to go but down. Although this was the predicament wind-chime maker Island Winds reached at the end of its decade-long monopoly, never underestimate the power of perception.
As competitors' lighter, polished wind chimes began to dominate the market, Island Winds owners Peter Baker and wife Melissa Brownlow were about to abandon Peter's brother's original heavy stainless steel design. But then vacationer Doug Hall stopped by the Prince Edward Island storefront. Founder and CEO of Eureka! Ranch, a Cincinnati think tank that teaches corporations creativity, Hall proposed touting the unique differences of Island Winds' durable chimes--including their lifetime guarantee. Baker, 49, felt a renewed vigor and set out to do just that.
Baker gave his wind chime lines new names, and increased advertising with mailings, phone calls and Internet banner ads. And when a small-business TV show featured Baker, his booth at a gardening show the next day sold out of stock.
With summer sales increasing 50 percent in 2001 and 2002 sales estimated at more than $200,000, Baker has learned a thing or two. Says Baker, "We can't afford to pay an advertising agency hundreds of thousands, but it's been driven home that we have to put investments into marketing."