1997 Marketing Masters Awards

Inc. Magazine — Sunday, 1 December 1996

Small business is contributing more and more to the American economy. The more than 800,00 new businesses formed in 1996 generated wealth, created jobs and brought new value-added products and services to customers. One of the unique features of today's small businesses is that they are increasingly succeeding and staying competitive. To understand some of the reasons for this sustained success, look at the genius and imagination represented by the 1997 marketing Masters Awards.

In the 1990s successful companies are becoming market-driven, shaping their styles of doing business to fit their customer's needs, wants and buying and shopping patterns. For our winners, marketing encompasses the product, service, distribution, location, style of doing business, reputation for quality and customer interaction in all of this.

These companies practice a method of marketing that is oriented toward creating, rather than controlling a market. This is based on the unique personality of their business, developmental education.

Incremental improvement and ongoing process, rather than on simple market-share tactics, raw sales and one-time events. Marketing pervades everything they do. They also recognize that they have limited resources and make the most of what they have - that is, innovative ideas and a driving energy.

Entrepreneurs, by definition, break the rules and define their businesses and marketing based on their own experiences and situations. To our winners, a unique marketing proposition may be “location” “humor” or “Collaboration.” They believe enthusiastically in what they do, and everyone from the telephone operator to the chairman of the board is involved in the marketing process. They leverage their knowledge and experience to define way of marketing that works for them. This is why they are unique and why they were selected as the 1997 Marketing Masters.

In recent years, hospitals have been consolidating and downsizing. To cut costs, they've eliminated services, that, although valuable, are marginal. When a deceased person's family members want to find out the actual cause and manner of death, they are faced with reluctant hospital administrators and, later, a big bill, Vidal Herrera recognized this trend and decided to “go where the competition wasn't” by offering an alternative out source. He acquired the number 1-800-AUTOPSY, purchased a used car in a yard sale for $100, got a pager and voice mail service then built a business.

To cut costs, Herrera employs part-time pathologists. His services are offered at rates substantially lower than those of hospitals. His marketing strategy is to offer high quality, caring service and to get high visibility for his toll-free 1-800-AUTOPSY number. The choice of this number was preemptive and brilliant. The business has grown by leaps and bounds, largely by word-of-mouth, and Herrera is now planing to become the McDonald's of autopsy services by franchising throughout the U.S. and a few foreign countries.