by: Geoff Ficke

What Lesson Can Entrepreneurs Learn from a Bespoke Suit Maker and M&M’s Candy?

Recently I read a profile of a relatively new business, Astor & Black that makes bespoke tailored gentlemen’s suits. The Company sends salesmen direct to their clients home or office and custom fits garments. There are thousands of fabrics to choose from, each suit is cut by hand to specific measurements and delivered in four to six weeks. The cost for an Astor & Black suit is about one-fourth the price of a Saville Row crafted suit.

Occasionally I see a television spot for M&M candy. This particular advertisement does not dwell on how M&M’s “melts in your mouth, not in your hands”, the brands famous branding statement. The commercial advises that you can have M&M’s customized for parties or promotions with your custom design, name or logo added to the hard outer-surface of each M&M piece.

What lesson can entrepreneurs learn from products as disparate as men’s suits and mass market candy? They can discover the added power that customizing products can supply to executing marketing strategies. Astor & Black is a new, growing business. Mars Candy, the makers of M&M’s is one of the world’s best known, most successful brands. Both of these very different entities have seized upon product customization as a way to differentiate their products from competitors.

Many entrepreneurs and small businesses seeking to compete with large, more established brands should consider the value of adding a product personalization or customization element to their offerings. Besides making the product more enticing, there can be larger profits gleaned from utilizing this approach. Clients and customers will pay more for a personalized, custom service or consumer product.

There are many ways to customize products. A mass or semi-massed produced product can be embellished with an engraved or stamped name plate. A baby item could be personalized with the baby’s date of birth, weight and name visible. Favorite colors or pet phrases or sayings can be employed in or on the body of a product. If the product on offer is a consumable type of item (gourmet food and drinks, cosmetic, wellness, etc.), a personalized flavor or blend could be made available. A fabric-based item can be embroidered with any name, team name or image.

This is a simple strategy to utilize when faced with stiff competition in a given space. We often hear about all of the small businesses that a new Wal-Mart displaces when entering a new market. That is often true. However, in every town where there are big-box stores, there are small, nimble competitors that compete successfully and even thrive. They do not even try to compete on price.

Does Wall-Mart deliver prescriptions? Local, independent pharmacies invariably do. Your local butcher or fish monger will stock and trim your purchases as you desire. Chain stores often buy product pre-cut and packaged from trimming houses. Wal-Mart sells hunting and fishing products. Your local sporting goods shop will detail and train customers on how to use a new lure, bait or blind. These are basic ways to further personalize a service in a mass-production, indifferent commercial world.

We encourage, whenever it is possible, clients to offer some form of customization to their line. Personalized products create the strongest word of mouth. This is the single best form of sales promotion. An endorsement of a good or service from a satisfied customer to another person is much more powerful than any form of advertising. And, it is 100% less expensive.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.