“The Survivor” – ToyMart.com and Founder Alan Latham
Alan Latham Founded Toymart some 15 years ago and has been on a journey similar to many entrepreneurs; a rocky road to success. Although Alan fell into this business all those years ago he now has the worlds leading reference resource for collectable toys and has built trust with the clients he serves.
Alan started out by serving customers who like to collect antique toys. He would buy them and sell them and hopefully turn a profit. He had a strong gut feeling early on that he should take advantage of the internet in its early days and that he should develop a trusted resource as it wasn’t easy for anyone in the market to assess fair market value in real time. He was right but it has taken quite some time to arrive back at this very point. Not many business leaders can claim they were being paid by eBay in the early days as it entered the UK.
Alan got distracted from this focus and tried various other methods to make this business successful. With the benefit of hindsight he could have stuck to his beliefs from the beginning and accepted that things just take time.
Here are 5 marketing lessons from Alan’s journey to success:
- Follow your instincts – Alan started out believing that customers needed to be able to reference the appropriate price to pay for a collectable in real time. He was right. In this particular market the need is clearly there and is further exacerbated by other less trusted players operating in this arena
- Be tenacious – being an entrepreneur is not a walk in the park. Things go right and things go wrong. But following your dreams and vision with passion can ultimately get you there despite all the set backs. There is plenty to learn along the way
- Identify customers unmet needs, what they want, what they are trying to get done functionally and emotionally and seek to serve them better than competitors at the right price
- Understand the future environment such as political, economic, social and technological (PEST) changes and how they will affect your business. Are they opportunities as in the case for ToyMart with the evolution of the internet or threats in the case of the Dot com bubble bursting. These big picture issues are not always predictable but sometimes they are and perhaps you can do something about it ahead of time.
- Be Focussed – start ups and SMEs have very limited resources. This makes strategic prioritisation even more important to ensure you focus your efforts on a winning strategy. Not being focussed or by changing direction too quickly like a “kid in a candy store”, can leave you spread too thin or leave too little time to make an impact….That doesn’t mean you should flog a dead horse though! Regardless of the size of any business – a clear strategic marketing focus is a must.
I am sure there are other lessons in Alan’s story. ToyMart is in a great place now, with great potential for the future and Alan has learned a great deal from his journey.
We hope you enjoy it
Co Founder Peppered Moth Marketing