LET'S GET PHYSICAL

Ah, the ebbs and flow of commerce. In recent times there has been a noticeable migration from dedicated on-line business channels to the acquisition, commencement and implementation of traditional bricks and mortar premises.

At the forefront is Amazon, with its acquisition of the retail network Whole Foods, and its 450 + outlets in some 43 states of the United States of America. It is also studying the possible takeover of the Toys R Us retail network in the USA.

The physical presence complements the global, easy and immediate on-line access to over 500,000 differing products, services, applications, brands and models. Each outlet provides convenience for customers to collect, review and select desired and intended purchase items. It is an extension of the increasingly popular, click and collect service.

Moreover, the physical ambience is conducive to optimising the potential for impulse and spontaneous primary and complementary purchases, which are typically not capitalised in on-line transactions. Virtual reality does have its limitations.

Omni-channels, when functioning as horizontal cross-over opportunities and not as vertical silos, facilitate the capacity to increase up-sell and cross-sell revenue to the satisfaction of customers.

SELECT ROLES

It is increasingly evident that an effective, efficient on-line presence is an imperative to open the door. Bricks and mortar stores enable prompt sales closures. Moreover, personal interactions, relationships and loyalty are natural extensions.

Individually and collectively, they simplify, expedite and encourage subsequent repeat sales and return visits. Search routines are typically narrowed, brand name recognition and preferences are heightened, and competitive advantage established, sustained and developed.

 B2B

The complementary nature and benefits of on-line and bricks ‘n’ mortar presence is most pronounced in business-to-business dealings.

Time-poor, and often under-resourced executives value simplified and enhanced access to on-line information, when it is enriched and supported by personalised one-on-one interactions.

The latter context enables recognition and appreciation of the nuances which are innate to verbal communication. That promotes a sense of understanding and care – which differentiates companies, products, services, applications and individuals from the commoditisation that typifies contemporary on-line and digital commerce.

Increasingly, senior corporate executives and marketers are accepting, and utilising on-line channels as a tool to reach out, connect and engage with existing, prospective and past clients and customers.

For an overwhelming majority of the 2.4 million trading entities in Australia, it is not a stand-alone, viable business model.

Considerable time, money and resources have been dedicated to its development, introduction and implementation.

Often, that capacity is not matched with the capabilities (necessary skills) that are necessary to optimise performance. Sub-standard and variable performance levels typically result in the dissatisfaction of clients and customers, and to the financial pain of business owners, managers and shareholders.

SECOND-BOARD LESSONS

The many lessons from the ill-fated Second Board of the Australian Stock Exchange from the 1980s seem to have been forgotten. In that instance, a key learning was that a single product does not a company make.

Newly listed public entities rapidly closed. So too did the Second Board. Likewise, a dedicated solus on-line presence can be, and often is, an expensive non-competitive business model. Old habits persist, and die hard. Put simply, many people simply like doing business with other people, in preference to algorithms, artificial intelligence and technology.

Customer service does cost. Labour costs in Australia can be high. However, a lack of customer service costs more. Business failure is one key measure.

EFFICIENCY, EFFECTIVENESS

And so it is, that a growing ground-swell of opinion is evolving in which on-line channels are recognised as being imperative initiatives to optimise efficiency, open-up communication, and to provide access to information.

Effectiveness is most readily attained, sustained and valued by consumers with investments in physical presences, people in particular.

TOO EXPENSIVE

Decisions to discontinue the operation of dual on-line and physical channels as “too expensive” may well prove to be a false economy.

A focus on one to the exclusion of the other will, in all probability, preclude a business from countless opportunities. Thus, sales, reviews and profits will be constrained.

Difficult and different times demand a fresh, if not a refreshed model … in the virtual and in the reality.

Barry Urquhart

Marketing Strategist

Marketing Focus

M:        041 983 5555

T:         9257 1777

E:        Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:       www.marketingfocus.net.au

ENHANCE THE VALUE OF BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS AND RELATIONSHIPS

Stop.

It’s time to recalibrate the purpose, nature and measure of worth for business relationships and strategic alliance partnerships.

Indeed, the review must extend to supply contracts, collaborative marketing initiatives and networking activities.

There is increasing awareness that such connections are effecting little, no or declining mutually beneficial outcomes. The direct and indirect costs are formidable.  

Individual self-interest and territorialism are significant common barriers, impediments and filters to the original idealistic objectives of team and joint endeavours.

The subsequent and recurring investments of time, money, people and resources are recording little tangible, quantifiable and monitorable benefits.

PROFITS ARE NOT THE PURPOSE

Pursuit of immediate, now profits misses a key strategic outcome.  

Profit is not the purpose of business. It is a consequence.

Fundamentally, all activities in commerce should, or must be to the benefit, advantage and reward of existing, prospective and, yes, to past customers and clients.

Value is the countervailing force to cost. When value exceeds cost satisfaction, repeat and referral business, loyalty and sustainable competitive advantage are natural outflows and consequences.

Subsequent increased incomes are often recorded, received and, for some, banked.

Therefore, deliberating, determining, defining, articulating and sharing the value that one intends to bring into a relationship, no matter its scale, nature or complexity, are imperative, and are effective and key accelerating elements.

That’s right, a focus on the input, not the take-out of an existing or intended connection. It’s refreshingly different … and of interest to others.

ACCOUNT FOR EVERYTHING

Accountants are an interesting breed. They enjoy a privileged position in commerce. The power, authority and influence they exercise, particularly with many owners of small to medium sized enterprises are daunting, if not alarming.

They are, in many instances, the first and the last point of reference for important, significant and substantial decisions.

In recent times, with an economy that is challenged, confronted by headwinds and typified by rampant, widespread discounting, squeezed margins, contracting discretionary expenditure, accounting practices are themselves being subjected to review - and accountability.

Increasingly, the discipline and its practitioners are being identified as a cost, rather than a revenue-generating factor.

Perhaps expectedly, the first agenda item for many accountant-client meetings is their fee total, and how best to lower such.

Introduction of lower-standard bookkeeping services is well intentioned, but misguided. The real issue is value. References to cost are symptomatic of the underlying concern.

Complementary services, including financial planning, insurance consultancy, estate planning and legal services, are typically recognised by clients to be primarily for the advantage of the accountant rather than themselves.

Likewise, the conduct of client events addressed by providers of accountancy software packages, at the conclusion of which attendees are invited and encouraged to contemplate the outlay, and investment in expensive packages are widely identified to be offensive and inappropriate. Discount offers do not temper the negative resultant emotions.

I have been retained by a number of astute accountancy practices to address existing and prospective clients on how they can best increase their revenues, enhance and sustain their competitiveness.

Strict parameters ensure no so sales squeeze to buy professional services at the conclusion.

Value is derived from investment in the relationship, to the advantage of the client. It works … - for both parties - in the immediate, intermediate and longer term.

SUPPLIER INPUTS

Requests and demands for suppliers to contribute to, or pay for cooperative advertising, featured point-of-purchase displays, product sampling exhibitions and the like, are often repetitive, costly and ineffective.

There is a better way. The challenge is, to find it.

We have enjoyed the experience of providing insights on consumer and client perceptions, preferences, purchasing criteria and buying patterns which enable, and empower, the participating partnering entities to capitalise on their own creativity, innovativeness and entrepreneurship.

I think it’s called, win-win.

WHY BOTHER?

The inordinate number of hours which are committed, and usually wasted, in attending business networking events is breathtaking.

It is difficult to justify spending time with 100 other business people, each of whom is seeking to increase their revenue sources.

Few, if any, ever register and attend such gatherings with the intention of investing or effecting expenditure.

It is important to evaluate the worth of such activities. They need not necessarily be summarily dismissed. However, they are an opportunity – cost. Alternative pursuits exist.

There is value in consistently identifying, respecting and quantifying the opportunities that are forsaken by attending such networking events.

Convenors, coordinators and facilitators are usually ranked highly among those who profit most.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

In communication, I learn most, and benefit best when I listen … - to the other people.

In research, I ask concise, targeted questions and gain invaluable insights … - from other people.

At conferences, I’m inspired most by the interactive workshops I facilitate following a keynote address, - by the participants.

There is a lot to learn, earn and spurn from the benefits, advantages and rewards, which are directed to, and enjoyed by others in relationships, alliances and partnerships.

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker 

Marketing Focus

M:        041 983 5555

T:         9257 1777

E:        Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:       www.marketingfocus.net.au

THE DEATH OF SHOPPING CENTRES

Shades of Mark Twain. The reported death of shopping centres is, somewhat, premature.

It’s a catch-all, generalised statement that is selectively true in small parts. Perhaps the premise (orientation?) of the statement is questionable.

Rather, we have entered an era in which the rebirth of shopping centres is self-evident, and growing.

Allocated capital expenditure totals are impressive. External upgrades and remodelling of tenancy mixes are only parts of the total story.

MIXED-USE PROFILES

It is inevitable that the sprawling metropolitan areas of Australian cities will be subjected to redevelopment, centred on increased density. Infrastructure, mass public transport in particular, will be a pillar of the new concepts and planning visions.

Therefore, one can confidently project the construction of multi-storey, integrated complexes with the lower floors being occupied by retail outlets complemented by commercial tenancies on the first or second floors, and the higher premises being residential.

That’s right, primary, target audiences will be living and working on-site. Retail tenancy mixes will be refined to include alfresco dining, complementing existing fast service food halls.

Service precincts, featuring health, insurance and business support facilities will become commonplace.

Our mobile society will be acknowledged, with the introduction of new motor vehicle dealerships, finance agencies and yes, collection points for goods, services and applications which have been purchased on-line. Click and collect, together with multi-channel marketing will be alive, well and operating in a shopping centre near you.

Indeed, many of the transactions undertaken in bricks and mortar premises will be concluded, and paid for, on-line. Alas, the buying, delivery, possession and utilisation phases of the purchase process will be delineated, differentiated and integrated.

Progression from convenience to access will be part of the transformation.

THE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE

Many public statements about the shopping experience are, in reality, shallow references about enhanced ambiences. Few detail, or give extended consideration to engagement with and by the customers.

Most important will be the need for, a character of a seamless experience. In short, there should be no boundaries.

Integration will be fundamental. Shopping centre lessors and managing agents will need to be true collaborators (read: strategic alliance partners) with retailers. That will include a remodelling of tenancy, and rental agreements. Mutual respect, benefits and rewards will be the essence of sustainable relationships.

Doubtless, some agreements will founder.

DIFFERENTIATION

Personalisation and differentiation will, in the near, intermediate and longer terms become virtues.

Commoditisation, evident in almost identical tenancy mixes between larger shopping centres, will impinge on development and consumer loyalty, ultimately leading to the demise of an increasing number of tier 2-sized complexes.

Rebirthing is an exciting prospect – for shopping centre owners, managing agents, retailers and consumers.

Barry Urquhart

Facilitator – Strategic Planning Workshops

Marketing Focus

M:        041 983 5555

T:         9257 1777

E:        Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:       www.marketingfocus.net.au

BUSINESS LIFE CONTINUES, PROSPERS AFTER AMAZON

Amazon is not infallible, it is not invincible and is not necessarily the cheapest.

The Tuesday, 5 December 2017: the launch in Australia of Amazon marketplace highlighted several deficiencies, inadequacies and vulnerabilities.

Access to the site was not readily achievable, comparison-pricing underscored, so that, in some instances, entities that were utilising the Amazon marketplace channel were more expensive than local bricks and mortar retail outlets.

Delivery standards were not nationally or universally consistent.

Doubtless, many first-time prospective customers left the site disappointed, disillusioned and still in need of products, services and applications.

 RATIONALISED REALISM

The Amazon marketplace launch in Australia was a limited opening. Amazon Prime and Fulfilment by Amazon (BBA) were not operating, while access was denied to Amazon.com, which operates from the United States of America.

Partial “soft” and rolling launches are fraught with danger. It’s true, you only ever get one opportunity to create the first impression.

Losses of image, reputation, expectations, sales, referrals and recommendations would have been immediate, and considerable.

Winning back the disenchanted will be less rapid.

 AN AWAKENING REALITY

For many despairing retailers and prophets of doom it was sobering to realise that, notwithstanding the commencement of Amazon operations in Australia, the earth still turned on its axis and the sun rose in the east.

Hope springs eternal. Competitive edge is still possible for big and small businesses which are committed to lifting their standards, updating their business models, reviewing their pricing policies and establishing, and sustaining the enhanced relationships with existing, prospective and past customers – founded on consistent, high-standard personal customer service.

 PLUG THE LEAKING

The prospects for, and subsequent reality of losses to new interlopers like Aldi, Costco, numerous fast fashion outlets and Amazon were, and are the consequences of the poor, inconsistent and impersonal service of existing bricks and mortar and on-line businesses.

In each case the decline in sales, failures and appointments of administrators was simply a matter of time.

Consumer annoyance, frustration and intolerance have increased substantially during the past decade. Local and localised Australian entities were insulated, if not protected, by geographic isolation.

That changed significantly with the advent of on-line channels and digital marketing. Convenience was usurped by access.

Range, choice, power extended beyond physical premises, warehouses and inventories.

A slow, under-resourced and inadequately capitalised uptake of an on-line business model, by long-established and recognised traders, simply lowered the barriers, accelerated the entry of global interlopers and disruptors.

Correspondingly, and in part as a consequence of management inaction, for the first time in over 20 years, price eclipsed branding as the third most important criterion in purchase decision making.

Everything, it seems, has changed, necessitating a total audit of marketing, advertising, merchandising, promotions, selling, service, operating, stocking, pricing and staffing.  

FIRST THINGS FIRST

Without question, a primary cause of revenue and patronage leakage to new, often global, entrants is the disturbingly regular instances of negative shopping experiences. Allow me to reiterate a quote from the high-impact, dynamic Business Warfare interactive business development workshop:

            We have met the enemy,

            and they is us.

 Attacking, competing with, and beating Amazon will not, and cannot be achieved by focusing on where Amazon is strongest. That is - low prices, a huge range, house- branded products and services, prompt responses and access.

The best, most immediate and scalable opportunity is personal customer service.

On-line interactions lack the emotional experiences that flow from personalised encounters. They tend to be transactional in nature, with relationships being compromised, loyalty and repeat business a forlorn hope, and everything focused on NOW.

 A PROPER FOCUS

Sadly, opportunities are lost because of service myopia. A narrow orientation on direct, immediate transactional interchanges precludes recognition of, and exploitation of seven key elements of service excellence.

Managing expectations is a fundamental pillar of attracting attention, interest, visitations, sales, revenue and repeat business.

Stimulating intrigue is fulfilling to prospective customers and satisfying for businesses.

Communications, punctuality, consistency and continuity are compelling foundations on which to position brand names, products, services and applications. To do so effectively and efficiently, then formulating, documenting, implementing, monitoring, enhancing and maintaining a genuine service culture is imperative.

Service is integral to the DNA of a business. It is not an add-on. Consistent with the culture itself, service is, could be and should be the force that binds individuals, groups and total entities to the ideals, beliefs and values of customer focus.

A key feature of an integrated and cohesive service culture ensures that two biggest deficiencies of many operations do not evolve. It is these that make companies most vulnerable, and typically, un-performing.

FINAL THOUGHT

So, businesses survive and thrive in the presence of Amazon. Those that do best, lift their sights, standards and disciplines – to the benefit of all.

Services them right!

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Service Excellence Facilitation

Customer Service Author

Marketing Focus

M:        041 983 5555

T:         9257 1777

E:        Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:       www.marketingfocus.net.au

The Great Divide - The United States of America

THE GREAT DIVIDE - THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Market big, sell small. Or is that, macro-marketing and micro-selling?

Globalism and digital marketing have dictated the need, and the advisability, to consider, if not pursue, broad-horizon opportunities.

Physical constraints and focus now limit thinking more than they impinge on operations, marketing and distributions.

Many small and medium sized entities now have the capacity to service interstate, inter-regional and international marketplaces. Capabilities and desires are quite distinct factors, for some.

A recent fleeting, but in-depth study of six city-based marketplaces in North America provided invaluable learning and understanding of the complexity of the contemporary, often contiguous economies. It also enables one to understand why the nation is titled the United States and not, the United Markets of America.

San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, New York, Memphis and New Orleans are geographically dispersed. The nature, composition, character and status of the respective localised marketplaces are equally different and individualistic. 

That explains in part the market variability in the performance of national and global marketing campaigns between a spectrum of marketplaces.

Today, target audiences are today complex and challenging. Reliance on established, recognised and trusted brands, complemented with substantial multi-channel marketing budgets are inadequate to achieve optimal impact, penetration, sales and profits.

A local, active and interactive presence is imperative. Passive, stand-off philosophies do not resonate with specific consumers.

Hence, the increasing profiling of local flagship outlets for brands like Nespresso, Rolex, Apple and Ralph Lauren.

It is recognition that effective marketing creates latent potential that can be best and most proficiently converted into revenue by the presence of sales by enthusiastic, proud, committed and product-knowledge – savvy sales and service people.

WAGES STAGNATION

It is often stated that the business of America, is business. Today, it needs to be stimulated, promoted and for deals to be closed.

Marketing, advertising, promotions and merchandising simply open the doors. Throughout the USA there is at present an all-pervasive reluctance to spend. Understandable when one realises that the average income of an American (not the minimum wage), when inflation and consumer price index increments are neutralised, have over the past 40 years increased by a miserable .2%. That is .2% over 40 years, not .2% per annum over a period of 40 years.

Thus, wages-induced wealth creation for the nation has stagnated.

Little wonder the electorate is disenchanted with politicians, political leaders and the public service. Unintended consequences, including the election of Donald Trump as President, are conspicuous.

Those in the evolving economically important millenniums generation will experience living standards marginally below those of the preceding generation. Greatest concern is held for the economic well-being of children who will enter the jobs market and economy in 10 to 20 years’ time.

The rate of economic decline will accelerate.

CAPITAL INVESTMENT

Infrastructure in the long-established cities, like San Francisco and New York, is aged, and in urgent need of repair, upgrading, renewal and replacement.

Sadly, the state and capital cities of those localities are deep in debt, burdened by the need to repay loans and lacking the prospect for increased revenue, generated by growing incomes.

Growth in local manufacturing is being achieved without the need to invest in new plants and capacity. Recent contractions in output and workforces are being reversed. However, capacity has not been increased and concrete plans for capital investments are scant.

Making America Great Again is a relative, not an absolute statement or goal.

HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL

Notwithstanding the barriers, filters and impediments, the USA will continue to produce entrepreneurs, digitally-disruptive entities and rapidly accumulated wealth … - for some. There will be those whose focus will be on thinking big and complementing it with an integrated and committed supply-chain populated with those who act small, and locally.

Opportunities were readily identified in retail, pharmacy, construction, finance, wholesale and accounting services. In addressing and facilitating business development workshops for those in respective disciplines, it was apparent many enthusiastically comprehended and embraced available philosophies, strategies and tactics.

Opportunities seem to be global. Fulfilment is typically local.

Amazon in Australia is a case-in-point.

 BEYOND PHYSICAL PRESENCE

Seattle, on the West Coast of the USA, in the state of Washington, is the home city for the head-offices of Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Nordstrom, Boeing and Starbucks, among others.

It has a population of some 3 million in the greater metropolitan area.

The presence of Amazon is ubitiquous, but not conspicuous. Its workforce in the city is reported to be 55,000.

An entire city block is occupied by the Amazon campus for training, development and further education. Adjacent are three high-rise buildings which accommodate most of the local Amazon team members.

Noticeably, there are no Amazon signs, logos or uniformed employees.

Macys, the largest department store chain in the world, has occupied an eight-storey building for over 108 years. It has been hit by the marketplace presence of Amazon. In recent times it has sold the top four floors for a total $110 million (US). The purchaser – Amazon. Alas, the perpetrator has become the saviour.

Commercial and residential rents, along with house prices, have spiralled in recent years, to the extent that many aspirant Amazon employees can’t afford to live in the area.

Amazon is currently searching world-wide for an affordable co-head office location. It has received a reported 238 submissions.

The company has traded in, but not from Australia, for more than a decade. Opening its first Fulfilment Centre in Victoria on Thursday, 22 November (Thanksgiving Day in the USA) heralded a new era for consumers and businesses.

A local physical presence will accelerate conversion of the potential, which has been created by its global marketing.

Point made. Lesson learnt.

Barry Urquhart

Business Strategist

Marketing Focus

M:        041 983 5555

T:         9257 1777

E:        Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:       www.marketingfocus.net.au

ATTENTION-GRABBING COMMUNICATION

Your attention, please.

 Why is it that I can’t get my message through?

Nobody, it seems, is listening, reading, recognising brands, valuing relationships, exhibiting loyalty, referring services or responding.

Consumers and clients seem distracted, uncommitted, inclined to impulsively press the delete button and declare that the communication has never been received.

The ubiquity of social and digital media, catalogues – in print and on-line – doesn’t seem to be registering and resonating with people.

A universal lowering of costs on social, digital and on-line communications has been instrumental in increasing the affordability and volume of mass communications, but to little or no avail. Personal salutations seem marginally effective, at best.

Doing so much, so often to many is a common practice … - and contributing materially to the issue.

Attention has become a goal, commonly out of reach to many. Content is a tactic, and in many instances poorly structured and delivered.

Many marketing practitioners are recalibrating the long-held and shared maxim that, 50% of my advertising works and 50% of it doesn’t. I just don’t know which 50% is which.

An evolving truism centres on an 85-90% rate of ineffective, non-responsive advertising, marketing and promotions. It is – a daunting set of statistics and implications.

DELIVER THE PROMISE

Audiences and targeted consumers and clients are increasingly informed, discerning, price-sensitive and highly expectant of both great quality and value.

They seek out, utilise and regularly return to sources which they find credible, verifiable, transparent and, above all, authentic!

To many entities, these expectations cause considerable harm, particularly with the promotion and conduct of webinars. Sadly, the delivery skills of an overwhelming majority of speakers are poor, if not appalling, reflecting badly on companies, products, services and applications.

Enhancing one’s personal presentation skills is only a partial measure to increased relevance and impact.

Sadly, seeming reincarnations of the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, abound. Conference, seminar and exhibition stages are regularly inhabited with storytellers dressed in black roll-neck skivvies and black trousers. Talk … about commoditisation! Moreover, that mode of dress does little to attract attention.

STEP UP, STAND UP

Critical self-analysis of content, context and style is always justified, commended and should be complimented.

The filtering, blocking and rejection of much communication is a consequence of stereotypical perceptions, and resultant generalised actions.

Don’t take it personally. In many instances intended recipients don’t filter, block or reject individual communications. Rather, a blanket cover is applied to “another email”, “another blog” and “another text”. Little discrimination is applied in an over-communicated world, or on an over-exploited smartphone, tablet or computer.

To achieve human connection and elicit positive engagement, more focus and effort are needed on attracting attention.

Short attention spans dictate the need to think, formulate and implement headlines. That is, - a concise, enticing and compelling 3 to 5-word statement, challenge, question or proposition.

OVERCOMING FILTERS

Consumer and client apathy and indifference pervade.

Enthusing and motivating demotivated and unconnected minds is a difficult, daunting challenge.

Endeavouring to change people may be, and often is, futile. Perhaps one should reflect on the words of Leo Tolstoy:  

            Everyone thinks of changing the world,

but no one thinks of changing himself.

An interesting and significant allure is to encourage and offer real-time personal responses. It is something that around 80% of business clients and 64% of consumers welcome and value.

Increasingly, recipients to countless communications recognise, reject and are offended by impersonal, mass-distributed missives. Personal salutations are conspicuous, transparent, and often, deemed to be offensively-insincere. Accordingly, they do not counter widely-held negative sentiments to- “another email”, “another blog” and “another text”.

In all of this it is well to remember that customer churn is only one bad experience away. Many potential relationships are never established because of communications that lack the vital ingredients which attract attention, resonate and are recognised as being relevant.

IT’S AN ARTFORM

Don’t give up. Step up. Sharpen up and gear up.

Disturbingly, many supposed digital and on-line marketing experts are deficient in their ability to attract attention for clients.

They are good at registering with algorithms, which lack dimensions of emotion.

Self-discipline in refining concise headlines, respecting the power of brevity and providing credible, verifiable and authentic personal advantages, benefits and advantages to targeted audiences will progressively be a competitive and rewarding experience.

Having attracted your attention, you can now relax.

Barry Urquhart

Marketing Strategist

Marketing Focus

M:        041 983 5555

T:         9257 1777

E:        Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:       www.marketingfocus.net.au

GET ON WITH IT

You’re on your own.

Well, for business leaders, that’s close to reality. We can’t, and shouldn’t, rely on government, regulators and many commerce associations.

Politicians seeking, then winning, office often do not honour their electoral promises. It is understandable and reasonable for many in business to question whether Prime Ministers, Premiers, Treasurers and Ministers have any honour.

The recent Western Australia state election was a timely and, potentially for large numbers of entities, a costly case study.

Promises of no increases in taxes were broken at the first budget. Increased imposts in payroll and gold taxes/levies were referred by the Premier and Treasurer as being temporary and short term. Interestingly, their time span is longer than the four-year term of an elected government. Can one reasonably conclude that the incumbent state government is temporary and short-term.

Few governments create jobs or wealth. At best, they can facilitate both, primarily by standing back and allowing individual business leaders, entities and networks to get on with the job.

The history of those in business, waiting for elected members to take the lead is littered with broken promises, shattered dreams and unfulfilled expectations.

“Attribution Theory” is alive and well in the political spheres. Politicians are quick to claim to be parents of business success. Failure is an orphan.

Between election campaigns business leaders and owners need to recognise the prevailing, often government-applied, parameters and optimise their productivity and competitive advantages.

CONFORMITY – OR BUST

On balance, the charter for most regulators is to monitor, administer and enforce compliance and conformity. In short, to maintain and sustain the status quo.

In the prevailing economy that offers little hope or scope for individual growth – unless one is prepared to ‘push the envelope’, to be innovative, creative and disruptive.

Staying tight, ‘holding the line’ and conforming with the prevailing status quo will inevitably lead to ‘going down with the ship’.

Many sectors are drowning in regulations, which contribute little to striving for and enhancing increased productivity, velocity and volume.

The exceptions, those who are thriving – not surviving - are those who dare to be different. They are typically recognisable because they are pilloried for operating outside the norm, the established practices.

Wearing the disdain of established competitors comes with the territory. It is a cost to be borne, one that does not impinge on profits, market acceptance or relevance.

Globally, their identities are established, recognised and supported. The include UBER, Amazon and Facebook. Within Australia they are equally successful, profiled and are strikingly non-competitive (that is, they dominate their sector and targeted audiences).

In each instance, discounting, sales and bargains are not the norm. Lower prices, consistently applied, are. A different, unique, and, often, exclusive business model has been developed and is employed. Look no further than the relative performances of traditional fashion retailers and those who have embraced the ideals, principles and advantages of “fast fashion”: reported profit, success and failure rates are striking. Fast fashion is rewriting business models. It is not a case of making a fast buck. Sustainability will evolve.

The late Sir James McCusker, founder of Town & Country Building Society, now part of ANZ Bank, was quoted in the book “The Jindalee Factor – Insights on Australian Entrepreneurs”:

Rules are for guidance, not obedience.

Sage advice. Rule setting should be assigned equal importance to goal setting. On reflection, winners usually write the rules …- and history.

The alternative is ill-defined, and certainly not self-determined, as: one complies and conforms.

ASSOCIATED SUCCESS

Professional trade and industry associations are under pressure.

Membership losses are common. Value is often difficult to articulate and to quantify.

Astute advocacy by association executives and office-bearers in the political corridors of power can be difficult to relate, or identify as a causal factor, towards increases in revenue, profits and market share.

The profiles of associations’ elected leaders, and the individual entities they represent can be insightful.

Leading, large and established businesses often find advantage and benefit in maintaining the status quo, rationalising such with the term in the common good.

Start-ups, interlopers and disruptors find the implicit glass ceilings unappealing and inappropriate.

Little wonder some choose to go it alone, retain their independence, seek (and often secure) a seat at the table with the political power elite and enjoy media acceptance and visibility, much to the annoyance of peers.

Association executives walk a narrow plank. Satisfying everyone is beyond the capacity of mortals. However, they need to make a statement – clear, concise, telling, and refreshingly honest.

Changes in personnel and culture, rather than by-laws, provide a window of opportunity. Being prepared to confront, challenge and, yes, offend, can be laudable. That approach is most likely to impact positively on the cash-flows and profitability of existing and prospective members – immediately and continuously. They are the key performance indicators (KPI) being implicitly applied by association members.

In a marketplace and economy constrained by the intrusion of politicians with questionable measures of honour, regulators who revel in efficiency, profit-sapping procedures and some association executives who see their primary role to be advocacy, with little regard for improving the lot of individual, or group members, now is the time for business leaders, owners and managers to get on with it and go it alone.

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:        041 983 5555

T:         9257 1777

E:        Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:       www.marketingfocus.net.au

The Hidden Costs of Discounting

Everything costs, including discounts. Price cutting is currently rampant …possibly endemic. The practice seems infectious, if not too rash.

Short-term sales events, bargains and promotional offers have immediate, widespread and lasting impacts on the integrity of brands, and the trust placed in the related value-packaging. As a consequence, full, standard and recommended retail prices are typically forever beyond reach and retrieval.

Customer relationships and loyalty are often casualties of consistent, tactical price discounting.

THE NEW ORDER

The intrusion of global fast-fashion outlets like Zara, H&M, UNIQLO and Forever 21, has dictated the need for all in the fashion retailing supply chains to invoke discipline, to strive for greater productivity, velocity and volume, and to trim margins to remain competitive, relevant and compellingly attractive.

Individually and collectively, those initiatives are not discounting prices. Rather, they are the aspects of a new dynamic, customer-focused business model that constitutes a new order.

It is exciting for some, particularly consumers, and burdensome for others.

COST/BENEFIT EQUATION

The underlying premise of discounting is that lower prices will stimulate sufficient interest and increased sales, to more than compensate for the loss of profit that is integral in lowering prices.

It is well to remember that 100% of the discount is taken from the profit margin. Fixed and variable costs remain essentially constant in the short-term.

Disturbingly, few “discounters” undertake forensic analysis of just how much increased turnover is required to compensate for, and to neutralise, the impact on profits of lower prices.

Attendant costs and operational considerations are incurred, including increases in inventory, warehousing and retail space, staff numbers, electricity costs, rentals, insurance premiums, advertising and shrinkage. Understandably, most are bracketed in the variable-cost structure.

As a sweeping generality applied to retailing per se, (with a 30% profit margin) a 10% across-the-board discount will require an increase in turnover of around 296%. That’s right, a near three-fold increase in turnover.

For those who market, seek and retail services, (such as travel agents,) physical inventories are not a key factor in the equations. They require a “modest” 180% average increment in turnover to counter a 10% company-wide discount.

I readily accept and, indeed, can endorse discount propositions …. - once that I’m assured of a 1.8 to 3 times resultant acceleration in turnover. On-going variability in prices result in further costs. That is - the impact on the integrity and trust attributed to the brand. Arguably that can be, and often is, dismissed (or discounted!) as an opportunity cost.

Its presence is not apparent on spreadsheets. However, its manifestations are quantifiable.

START AT THE BEGINNING

Too often, the introduction of a discounting philosophy or policy is the unintended beginning of the end.

A rush to, and a rush of “corrective” contingency plans are the usual consequences.

An appropriate alternative is to recognise, respect and respond to a new prevailing structural order of the industry, sector or category.

Formulating, documenting, implementing, operating and developing a fresh business model are laudable.

Avoiding comparative analyses and lamenting past “buoyant times” is essential.

A clean slate, a zero-datum point, a focus on customers and clients, and an orientation to the future must come first.

It is, arguably, too late to expose the virtues of self-induced obsolescence, given that that mantle has been assumed by economic, competitive and innovative “disruptions”.

Fortunately, in the new order there are no traditions, norms or established rules.

One is left to dictate their one’s own standards, projections and values.

Productivity, velocity and volumes will be the foundation touch-points, the measures of which will be self-determined.

SO, WHAT’S NEW?

Some fundamentals in commerce are constants. Ignoring them has consequences.

History is littered with case studies of failure which resulted from unabashed, typically aggressively advertised discounting campaigns.

Offering consumers attractive “savings” can mean that little prospect exists to save the company.

Barry Urquhart

Marketing Strategist

Marketing Focus

M:        041 983 5555

T:         9257 1777

E:        Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:       www.marketingfocus.net.au

Sensory Suggestion - Power Selling

What a wonderful web we (consumers) weave.

 An insightful statement, a challenge for all those who seek to service consumers, and a task to ensure that motivations, needs, wants, perceptions and buying habits are recognised and understood.

Within context, sticking to the knitting is pertinent, albeit with a somewhat refined and refocused application. Widespread current under-performance is and materially influencing reviews of operations, the recalibration of marketing strategies and evaluations of just how little is known and understood of primary, secondary and tertiary targeted consumers and clients.

SENSORY SUGGESTIONS

The importance of emotions and subjective expectations has been long-recognised by marketers.

Price alone is neither a virtue, nor an effective or sustaining magnet for consumer and client visits or, sales, revenues and profits. For example, some 42% of consumers purchasing wine, when hosting guests, have their selection influenced, if not primarily determined by the price range.

A self-declared lack of product knowledge and inability to assess value are instrumental in such people narrowing their choices to an acceptable price range, so that they avoid the embarrassment of offering inappropriate and inadequate wine.

Thus, it is not about price, bargains or discounting, but rather, a perceptive sense or measure of value.

Many Australian wine brands suffer from an absence of or deficiency in the brand marketing of locations such as Champagne, Burgundy and Arras in France.

The wine bottle label text description of the content is important and influential. Imbibers of wine like to talk about the wine, its attributes and qualities. Therefore, references to the taste, smell and the presence of vanilla, orange and leather are catalysts for extended conversations, and reflect positively on the knowledge of the host. Sensory suggestions indeed.

However, the overriding challenge for vignerons, distributors and resellers is to have specific wine brands, categories and bottles put figuratively and literally into the hands of consumers.

It is estimated that more than 85% of the thousands of vineyards scattered throughout Australia do not trade profitably, and are economically unviable.

Making great wines, even good tasting ones, is secondary to stimulating the senses of consumers.

HOW SWEET IT IS

 Marketing honey highlights the importance of sensory suggestions and consumer perceptions.

“Manuka” honey has several laudable aspects, including medicinal benefits, great taste and unique, eucalypt aroma.

New Zealanders are claiming territorial, intellectual property and botanical rights to the product. Shades of the lost opportunities with Kiwi fruit!

Seemingly, little respect has been assigned to the historical probability that the seed pods of the Manuka trees were carried across the Tasman Sea by the prevailing trade-winds.

The sensory suggestions being promoted by Australian honey producers and retailers for Manuka honey are being challenged by New Zealanders.

The basic product, and its composition, have been lost in an emotional, assertive argument which is largely determined, and influenced by sensory and suggestive properties.

It will doubtless be difficult for consumers to discern, sense or distinguish differences in the taste, texture and colour of New Zealand Manuka honey, that emanate from New Zealand, compared to those which are from the eastern states of Australia.

Sensory suggestions will have a key role in the marketing, rather than the legal success related to this product.

 HOW CRAFTY

Global sales and consumption of beer have been consistently and progressively declining. Craft beers have been the exception. It seems that consumers, Australians and New Zealanders in particular, have developed a taste and appetite for smaller volume craft beers.

National brands including Victoria Bitter, Fosters, XXXX and Swan have suffered waning interest and demand.

Until the 1990s beer tastes in Australia were predominantly regional in nature. The top-selling brands in Queensland were related to Castlemaine, for New South Wales it was Tooheys, South Australians supported West End and Western Australians favoured, among others, Emu.

In more recent times the craft nature of imported Corona, with its conspicuous lemon slice adornment, has enjoyed strong sales and sustained growth.

Similar to coffee and the marketability of individual baristas, craft beers promote, and are accepted as offering unique tasting – sensory appealing – brewer-customised products. Those are the facts...... - - or the prevailing perceptions and sensory suggestions.

BITE ON THIS

The marketing of gluten-free food is another matter entirely. Few senses are stimulated because of the absence of gluten in food, beer and whisky.

Interestingly, sales growth for this sub-category is consistently strong. It seems fashionable, with certain supposed health benefits. The latter point has recently been challenged.

The biggest challenge for coeliacs, who are gluten-intolerant, is to ensure food providers, restaurants in particular, comprehend the nature of the condition and the dramatic consequences when the need for exclusion of any trace of gluten is not adhered to.

Cross-national and cross-cultural interactions have been shown to have unfortunate outcomes.

Enquiries about, and demands for food to not contain flour can be, and have been, misinterpreted to relate to the absence of flower/s.

Removal of floral adornments does not equate the need for an absence of flour in the ingredients.

Phonics can be so deficient, and it is hard to swallow heart-felt apologies because of unintentional misunderstandings.

IN CONCLUSION

 Consumer demand, preference, satisfaction and loyalty are products of adroitly applied and reinforced sensory suggestions.

Recipes, ingredients or physical characteristics (beyond labelling and gluten-free offerings) have important, but secondary roles.

The composition and packaging of value, quality and relevance is a complex art-form. It can be founded on, or enhanced by sensory suggestions. 

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:        041 983 5555

T:         9257 1777

E:        Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:       www.marketingfocus.net.au

Cut That Out - Beware Invisibility and Commoditisation

Loud. Consistent. Differentiating. Focused.

 

Each attribute is an essential element of marketing, to establish and maintain a presence in the prevailing, challenging and somewhat suppressed marketplace. Sadly, constrained and reducing budgets are contributing to a loss of visibility for an increasing number of companies, brand names, products and services.

 

Being removed from figurative and literal shopping lists pre-emptively lessens the effectiveness, creativity and originality in advertising, marketing, promotions, selling and packaging content.

 

Ironically, some senior executives do not recognise the fact that when existing, prospective and past clients do not recognise or recall the brand name or its value- proposition, sales and transactions are improbable

 

Invisibility is not a virtue.

 

Decisions to cut staff numbers, overheads and advertising can be decisive, and if taken promptly. Often, little consideration and time are given to the consequences, which can be, and typically are, immediate, deep, widespread and lasting.

 

This scenario is compounded by the presence of multiple like-products, services and applications, each claiming similar features, benefits and advantages – with comparable limited budgets: a boring landscape of sameness.

 

Making, achieving and projecting a difference, is difficult, if not impossible, with limited resources.

 

Commoditisation, in which each or all offerings are perceived to be part of a non-differentiated amorphous block, simply exacerbates invisibility (read: non-conspicuous presence) in the marketplace.

 

Accordingly, the goals set for, and expected of effective marketing sometime become unattainable.

 

Over-reliance on, and emphasis on single communication channels can multiply the consequences of reductions in advertising expenditure. Social media and on-line advertising present timely case studies. Both are effective among consumers and corporation team members who have entered, or are advanced in the purchase routine, and are seeking specific or targeted information.

 

For the uncommitted and ill-informed, cuts in newspaper, radio, television and outdoor advertising can, and often do, eliminate or preclude brand names, products and services from any degree of recognition, recall, preference or advocacy (read: invisibility).

 

In the absence of consistent, regular or periodic exposure to advertising and communications, top-of-mind recall rates can be negligible, – if any – within a 6-week span.

 

Stop-start advertising effects similar patterns in recall, awareness, preference, and above all, cash-flow! Ouch!

 

BUDGET CONSEQUENCES

 

Achieving impact on a limited budget is difficult – not impossible.

 

A laser-tight focus on activities can effect relative, as against absolute, visibility, impact and differentiation.

 

Discrete target audiences can be, and at all times should be, identified, analysed and communicated to.

 

Understanding the media habits and information sources of primary, secondary and tertiary customer groups enables priorities to be assigned, budgets set and allocated, and optimal marketing channels to be utilised.

 

Thus, with a constrained or limited budget, impact can be achieved and sustained to high-prospect entities, individuals and groups. Leakage and losses among those in the broader marketplace are therefore minimised, and the cost-effectiveness of marketing, advertising, promotion and selling campaigns is enhanced.

 

Broadening audiences and target markets can be, and ideally should at all times be, achieved by personalised on-sell propositions to customers who have responded positively to the targeted communications. On-selling, recommending and referring are different and later phases of the purchase process than advertising, promotions and merchandising.

 

Converting satisfied customers to referees, advocates and ambassadors is an art form, utilised by outstanding, high-achieving marketers. It simply takes a disciplined, structured approach, within the construct of relationship marketing.

 

SPHERES-OF-INFLUENCE

 

Secondary and cascading sales are not restricted to, or solely dependent upon the recommendations and introductions effected by purchasers.

 

Well connected and profiled spheres-of-influence are a diverse collective. Their access to, and influence on differing demographics, psychographics, localities and consumers can, and should, be utilised.

 

In some instances, that may require conclusion of commercial agreements, with financial considerations, use or access to products, services and applications or recognition in company-based initiated literature. Moreover, dedicated advertising budgets and messages are required.

 

Marketing mavens are typically few in number, but influential in many purchase decisions. Their seeming insatiable desire to be at the forefront of product knowledge and product-use can be sufficient currency to satisfy the needs of those individuals.

 

The marketing and communications initiatives of mavens make selling easier.

 

AN EXTERNAL FOCUS

 

Thus, once the internal orientation of optimal efficiency and cost-cutting has been achieved, rewards and competitive advantage await those who strive for external effectiveness.

 

The adroit use and deployment of external resources can and will leverage sales, revenue, productivity and profitability.

 

Moreover, mentions, references and reflections by spheres-of-influence counter any drift towards invisibility and commoditisation.

 

In short, a key objective is to become and remain the topic of conversation. Share of mind, does inevitably become share of market. That typically requires a relatively stable schedule of marketing, advertising, public relations, promotions and merchandising. Individually, and collectively, budgets and resources are essential. Retention of them is expensive. But cutting budgets and resources can be more expensive, when measured in terms of losses in marketplace visibility, differentiated market positioning, sales, revenues and profits.

 

So, think, cut it out, and then think again – in this order.

 

 

THE AUTHOR

Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.

 

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555

E:       Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:      www.marketingfocus.net.au

Amzaon - River Of Change

Be aware. Be prepared, but not alarmed.

 

The impact and consequences of the pending arrival in Australia of Amazon will extend well beyond the expectations of many local business leaders.

 

A disturbing 72% of owners and managers who participated in a 700 person February, 2017 survey stated they were not concerned about the introduction of Amazon in Australia, and would not be affected by such.

 

Implicit in such responses were the belief and perception that the product/service range of Amazon has primarily focused on books, compact discs and, more recently, fruit and vegetables.

 

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

 

There are few businesses in Australia that will not be subjected to changing forces, and thus, demand.

 

Retail pharmacies, tyre outlets, travel agencies and even Australia Post will need reflect on, and plan for, their “altered future”.

 

Consumers, including Australians, are already purchasing on Amazon platforms household items, electrical goods, furniture and a host of other merchandise and services.

 

Indeed, hundreds of Australian businesses, families, couples and individuals have use and will continue to use the Amazon channels to conclude sales, both locally and globally.

 

BUYERS’ EXPECTATIONS

 

The primary target audience for the Amazon Australian initiative will be consumers.

 

Their positive experiences will change forever expectations, buying routines, brand preferences, pricing structures and delivery demands.

 

Thus, the competition will be direct and consequential; those business entities that do not meet, and exceed, standards will experience considerable and ongoing sales and revenue leakage.

 

In short, the prevailing and pervading business models throughout the commerce sector – many of which have their genesis in the 1950s and ‘60s – will quickly become obsolete and redundant.

 

The fallout from resistance to change will become conspicuous, and costly.

 

THE NEW NORM

 

Multi-channel and omni-channel supply lines and communications will be imperative.  High-impact, laser focus, personalised and consistent stories will be key and compelling characteristics.

 

Around-the-clock access to information, purchases, payment systems and delivery offers will be pre-requisites for sustainable competitiveness, preferences and success.

 

Enhanced productivity, sales velocity and time-measured responses will rapidly become essential KPIs (key performance indicators). One-touch management practices will extend beyond logistic operations and warehouses. Inventory monitoring and minimisation will enable retention of optimised profit margins.

 

And prices? They will inevitably fall, to the benefit and delight of consumers. In the United States of America, the evolving presence of Amazon has reportedly been instrumental in Walmart, the largest trading group in the world, lowering retail prices by 9% during the past year.  It is the latter entity’s ambition to be at 15% cheaper than competitors. That is now a “stretch” goal.

 

Activity is apparent in cost-cutting, renegotiations of supply contracts and heightened accountability of team members for sales performances. The challenge exists, has been accepted, and continues. There will be an awakening of such in Australia among the survivors and thrivers.

 

NO-ONE IS IMMUNE

 

Bunnings is, justifiably, a much lauded Australian business. It too will not be quarantined from the force and presence of Amazon.

 

For example, the Bunning website is largely inert. Consumers can not transact sales, make payments or elicit immediate, direct and personal responses.

 

Richard Goyder, outgoing Chief Executive of Wesfarmers, owners of Bunnings, recently made a telling statement. He effectively said that Amazon will eat us for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That is a sobering declaration.

 

It is conceivable and probable that Amazon will identify this as a marketing opportunity. After all, on-line business is its forte.

 

Supply agreements will be sought, be received and will evolve possibly from hardware buying groups, marketing networks, manufacturers, distributors (many of which will have been denied access to the existing bricks and mortar stores) and, yes, from individual independent hardware operators.

 

Amazon, like UBER, is a channel, an application and an alluring retail supplier, which has an unbroken 10-year record of increasing sales and share price increments, a market value which exceeds $US400 billion – and has never recorded a profit. All surpluses are reinvested into the business, and its pursuit of continuing growth.

 

Australian electrical appliance retailers are particularly exposed. In 2017, some 18% of sector sales are on-line. That is the highest of any category in the nation. Consumers are clearly accepting the offers, the brands and the delivery details. The commodisation of many products, models and services has accentuated the importance and appeal of lower prices. Store loyalty becomes a fading memory.

 

GEOGRAPHIC ISOLATION IS NO PROTECTION

 

The nature of Amazon and on-line retailing is such that they are accessible to all, at all times.

 

Businesses operating in regional and rural localities are not protected from intrusion.

 

Indeed, restricted trading hours in specific areas can be, and have been, the catalyst for local consumers to seek out alternative, available, accessible and responsive supply sources.

 

Self-interest and the wish for instant gratification generally override considerations for, and the influence of loyalty, relationships and the co-operative spirit.

 

Business needs to be fought for, and won, consistently and persistently. The key components of value have changed, and are changing. Mobility, accessibility and responsiveness are foremost factors.

 

Overt personal expressions of gratitude for the businesses remain important, and reinforce the “correctness” of purchase decisions among some people. However, in the contemporary marketplace recall fades rapidly. Even-playing fields abound. Relationships can and do marginally tilt the ground in the favour of some. However, that “tilt” is less pronounced than in the past.

 

Pragmatism, complemented with a philosophical touch is needed for the new, and prevailing reality.

 

TIME TO RECALIBRATE

 

All is not lost.

 

Those who rise to the challenge, will re-engage with existing, prospective and past customers and clients, study and analyse the current buying criteria, negotiate new supply agreements with manufacturers, distributors and suppliers, seek out mutually rewarding collaborative initiatives, enhance supply chains, improve distribution services, upgrade premises and invest in the training of team members to elevate customer service standards will present an attractive and compelling value- proposition.

 

The good times are over. There is no place for complacency, naivety and indifference.

 

Better times are ahead. With the pending arrival of Amazon ... just go with the flow.

 

 

THE AUTHOR

Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.

 

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555

E:       Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:      www.marketingfocus.net.au

Cut Through - Red Tape and Bureaucracy

Take heed.

 

Cut it out!

 

Figuratively and literally, we are being drowned in, and burdened by red tape. It’s a drag, in more ways than one.

 

Sadly, it is often tolerated, indeed, expected and planned for.

 

Throughout Australia, the more readily identifiable and quantifiable red tape and bureaucracy are estimated to cost $65 billion per annum.

 

Put into context, that represents about $7,300 per household– four times the annual Medicare levy.

 

LOOK BEYOND

 

When addressing the disturbing and growing Federal and State governments debts and deficits, politicians, economists, bankers and academics tend to focus on the alternatives of increasing taxes, cutting expenditures and implementing retrenchments.

 

Little or no consideration is given to eliminating, or substantially eliminating red tape.

 

Similar circumstances arise in reviews and audits of business activities, with a focus on development, growth and profit enhancement.

 

An annual total of $65 billion would pay for the expensive NBN (National Broadband Network), which is projected at $49 billion, or offset more than the cost of $43 billion for the proposed second major Sydney Airport at Badgerys Creek.

 

The recently deposed Colin Barnett –led Liberal Party – National alliance Western Australian state government’s total deficit of $33 billion could have been settled twice within a year, with no need to increase contributions from the GST (Goods and Services Tax) receipts. Now that would have been a winner and vote catcher.

 

The removal of the burdens of red tape and bureaucracy is good for lifestyles and social aspirations.

 

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

 

In many capital cities and localities, aspiring first home buyers have been, or are being, priced out of the market.

 

Market values continue to spiral and deposit gaps widen, while dreams crumble.

 

It is estimated that multiple layers of red tape and bureaucracy extend approval and construction times to such an extent that new residence cost increases range from $20,000, to as much as $150,000. Ouch!

 

Local governments and regulatory authorities have key roles to play, for the benefit of many, in eliminating red tape and bureaucracy.

 

Compliance and conformity, a shift in corporate culture should be, if not must be, complemented with an emphasis on expediency and acceleration.

 

ROAD- BLOCKS

 

A fixation on direct and immediate costs often doesn’t consider the consequential cost burden.

 

Constructing, extending and widening motorways with one-shift-a-day schedules avoid overtime and penalty rates .... - at a considerable cost.

 

The productivity, earnings and lifestyles of countless commuters are adversely affected, often because of unnecessary extended construction schedules.

 

These additional and contingent costs are difficult, if not impossible, to identify and quantify. So, they are often ignored

 

Threats of slow-downs and work-to-rules suggest that rules are inefficient, inappropriate and in need of replacement.

 

Creative applications by highly qualified engineers, designers, accountants and project managers, could surely address and redress the impediments and costs of redundant red tape and bureaucracy.

 

ORDER, PLEASE!

 

The practice of writing order forms, submitting such for approval, distributing the same to suppliers and then verifying receipt of stock is slow, antiquated and inordinately costly.

 

On-time, real-time interface between purchase processes, suppliers, and logistic operations is long-established, but not extensively applied.

 

An increasing number of businesses are getting cut-through (red tape) and enjoying improved margins, greater productivity and bigger profit margins.

 

Cultural change is necessary, including the removal of requests to “put it in writing”. Why? Those requests create work, feed bureaucracy and contribute little positive output.

 

A DIFFERENT ORIENTATION

 

There is much to gain in productivity, profits, staff morale and overall lifestyles by reorientating the focus from the economic “headwinds” to the drag of red tape and bureaucracy. The latter’s presence extends well beyond the three tiers of government in Australia. Look no further than the tax laws, and the attendant compliance costs and fees paid to accountants.

 

In short, look within.

 

THE AUTHOR

Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.

 

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555

E:       Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:      www.marketingfocus.net.au

An Alternative To Selling Professional Services

A professional dilemma.

 

The professional services sector is confronting a difficulty. Among the consequences of the mining industry downturn are declines in the need for legal, accounting, engineering, design and a host of other services. It is an issue they share with many other groupings and entities.

 

Mergers, acquisitions, project starts and growth initiatives are limited, spasmodic – if not rare.

 

For those existing clients who persist, a common, early and forthright agenda item in meetings is: how can professional fees be reduced.

 

Identifying prospective new clients is difficult. They are few in number, conservative, defensive and are currently being generously serviced by existing service providers.

 

Attendance at networking events is, in general terms, fruitless. Rooms are full of like-minded under-utilised professionals who are seeking the ear and attention of the few prospective clients. Feast and famine: so many skills, experts and qualified professionals, with contrasting isolated clients in need of such expertise.

 

THE CHALLENGE

 

How do you sell professional services? The best possible answer is don’t try. After all, the objective of marketing is to make selling superfluous.

 

Digital marketers contend the answers lie in the digital spectrum. That’s true in part. But it is only a partial response. A full suite of media channels needs to deployed, integrated and maintained.

 

Therefore, advertisements and blogs on Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and other options will achieve little, particularly increases in revenue, unless they are part of a integrated, disciplined marketing strategy.

 

TOO EASY

 

The recent extended 12-year economic boom enjoyed by Australian businesses inevitably led to a widespread sense of complacency.

 

It was simply too easy to win business, bank the profits and enjoy the consequences.

 

Over the period, the low barriers of entry to many professions and sectors facilitated and accelerated an ongoing, increasing number of competitors and substitutes. The general attitude was no worries. There was plenty for everyone.

 

Low barriers of exit were seldom, if ever, considerations. No-one was leaving ... until the on-set of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008, and more recently with the mining industry downturn.

 

Reality has struck, very hard for many. No one thing, sector or region seems to be immune to the cascading fallout of the retrenchments, profit squeeze, dividend reductions and tightening financial provisions.

 

Some leading players, consultants and analysts simply did not identify or anticipate the evolving waves of changed market conditions ... builders in particular. Many rejected the evidence which was apparent since February, 2015.

 

Forward planning was not a priority for NOW marketers seeking revenue from NOW consumers. Instant gratification prevailed.

 

BRANDED FOR SUCCESS

 

Significantly, the most resilient entities in a broad cross-section of sectors have been those which had developed, integrated, respected and maintained a recognisable brand name presence.

 

That alone has contributed appreciably to advertising effectiveness, specifically in the on-line, digital and social media spheres.

 

The deficiencies in the branding of many entities have become increasingly apparent. Over-reliance on those channels to create, establish and sustain a brand was ambitious, if not naive and hopeful.

 

DEVELOP EXISTING RELATIONSHIPS

 

Many professional firms, practices and companies maintain client lists which exceed 500, 750 and, sometime, 1000 entities.

 

A significant majority of those would not know the full extent of the services, skills, expertise and experience possessed by external professional service providers. Accordingly, contracts, revenues and profits are unnecessarily shared and, indeed, compromised.

 

Anecdotal evidence suggests little use is made, or sought to be made of, the potential which exists within the networks of existing clients.

 

Seeking recommendations is seldom successful. Asking for, following up and complementing personal introductions are quite different propositions.

 

Alas, further proof-positive of the need, and scope for marketing, rather than selling of professional services.

 

BEYOND CAPABILITY STATEMENTS

 

Distribution of attractive, glossy and photograph-heavy brochures is seldom successful in generating new clients, revenue and profits.

 

Readership is sparse. Put simply, at least 98% of the respondents of unsolicited promotional literature are not contemplating such a service, or a change in service providers – at that time.

 

Sadly, a close analysis and review of many such literature pieces conclude that an overwhelming majority are, in essence, capability statements.

 

Promotion of qualifications, experience and professional association memberships are not key or compelling messages or temptations. Indeed, most such features are minimal standards that are expected or demanded before being considered. Photographs of senior people and partners do little to enhance the appeal.

 

Some non-marketing professionals don’t comprehend that in marketing and selling it is not about you. The prism through which most prospective clients view and comprehend is:

 

What’s in it for me?

 

Moreover, a significant percentage believe that their circumstances and needs are unique and different. They need to be assured that external professional service providers (1) understand and (2) care.

 

In short, put the client in the picture, preferably by name, and on the front page.

 

SELLING – ON THE CARDS

 

The art of handing out business cards has been refined.

 

If only the skills had been developed and extended to having the prospective clients retain and subsequently refer to them.

 

Many cards lie inert among countless files, which are only occasionally reviewed, then reduced in size and numbers.

 

Business cards need to project and articulate what the featured person does, rather than the position which is retained.

 

Full use should be made of both sides of a business card. It may just increase readership.

 

THE LADDER TO SUCCESS

 

Detailed below are the progressive steps which are essential to formulating, documenting and implementing and integrated action plan.

  • Determine, and concisely articulate the values, beliefs and drives of the professional firm.
  • Detail and document the innate advantages, benefits and reward typically enjoyed by clients.
  • Discern, and where appropriate specify a market positioning, and image of the firm and its team members, which differentiates and distinguishes it and them from stereotypical perceptions of professionals and peer professionals.
  • Establish, schedule and maintain periodic visits and communications to existing, prospective and past clients – with a strong focus on favourable outcomes for them.
  • Ensure multiple points of contacts are retained to optimise and expedite service quality and responsiveness for clients.
  • Regularly and consistently conduct education sessions, to ensure that all external spheres-of-influence are aware of, comprehend and value the full suite of available services.
  • Identify, and persistently leverage the pool of information, intelligence, expertise and experience that can be deployed to the advantage of clients.
  • Offer, and profile complementary infrastructural and professional support that enhance the presence and productivity of targeted clients.
  • At all times value one’s skills, expertise and training and unapologetically charge for such.
  • Periodically review the basis of applying professional fees, ensuring they are perceived to be fair, equitable and of value to clients.
  • Be positive, enthusiastic and focused. The sentiments are infectious, and beneficial to all.

 

 

THE AUTHOR

Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.

 

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555

E:       Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:      www.marketingfocus.net.au

 

Strong On Capacity - Short On Capability

It’s capability not capacity that matters most. That particularly applies to the digital world. The capacity of its many elements, if and when applied astutely, can be so predictive, targeted, accurate and ....... boring.

 

Seemingly boundless amounts of information can be collated, analysed, converted into intelligence and deployed to the advantage and benefit of both suppliers and consumers.

 

However, lateral, non-linear thought seems to be inconsistent with the concept. This raises questions about the degree of recognition of its value, its scope and complementary nature to digital channels.

 

Commerce will not thrive on algorithms alone. They provide frameworks, identify trends and profile WHAT is contained in the data-base. The essential ingredients of intuitive and analytical thoughts are invaluable in concluding WHY and HOW the raw, clustered information can, and should be applied.

 

EFFICIENCY

 

The controlling, monitoring, management and administration of information that is retrieved from digital products, services and applications enable the attainment and maintenance of efficiencies. Such are the nature of the “known knowns”.

 

However, Big Data, algorithms and the cloud do not have all the answers, nor indeed do they pose all the questions. Much is left unasked and unanswered.

 

Unfulfilled potential and widespread underperformance are two common consequences. Contributing to such in all things digital are two key factors, being:

 

SKILL SETS

 

The capability statement of many entities which have entered, or are about to enter the digital world reveals a spread of deficiencies. Many skill-sets are inappropriate and/or inadequate.

 

Put simply, many people – external consultants included – do not have the skills, experience, qualifications, creativity or analytical expertise that are necessary to realise the latent potential.

 

Familiarisations with processes do not necessarily produce the required insights and outputs.

 

Likewise, the collection and collation of information are laudable (and should continue), but are in reality, the initial steps in a longer, integrated business journey.

 

The capacity, expertise and experience to analyse, effectively interpret and to convert the base information into intelligence are rare and greatly valued.

 

Providing an early-teenage cricketer with a Dave Warner-inspired “super bat” will not guarantee the arrival of a run-making, next-generation Test cricketer. Capacity (the super bat) needs to be complemented with, and utilised by capability.

 

Regrettably, the immense sums of capital which have been invested by companies, trading entities and associations in retrieving, filing and collating information merely produce a latent power-house capacity, awaiting supporting infra-structure, including human skills.

 

APPLIED RESOURCES

 

Sadly, a significant percentage of entities do not have, or have not applied, sufficient resources to effectively utilise and deploy the opportunities and they will therefore never enjoy the consequential advantages, benefits and sustainable competitive advantages.

 

Evidence of this abounds. Generalised non-specific communication and marketing offers (most of which are irrelevant to individual recipients) are regularly transmitted, distributed and presented. Annoyance among existing and potential customers and clients increases as a result. Therefore, sales conversion ratios remain disturbingly - and expensively – low.

 

The costs borne extend beyond financial. Reputational and relationship costs can be, and often are, appreciable.

 

In essence, consumers and clients tend to know (or believe that they know) what they want and need. With digital marketing, so too should service providers. Indeed, arguably, they should know the customers’ needs, drives and aspirations better than the customers know themselves.

 

Such potential. But alas, forsaken opportunities due to a lack of resources. Many cost-saving operational and Board decisions are false economies. All entities need to invest wisely and generously in capacity and capability.

 

Barry Urquhart

Business Analyst

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555

E:       Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:      www.marketingfocus.net.au

 

 

 

The Customers' Journeys

An evolving and new awakening.

 

The consumer journey to purchasing, utilising, enjoying and benefiting from a product, service, application or experience typically involves up to six phases before direct interaction occurs between individuals in the company and the customers.

 

Many images, perceptions, expectations and preferences are determined and influenced in this period.

 

Disturbingly, recognition, respect for, and awareness of the importance of the initial steps to a successful transaction and establishment of a sustaining relationship are spasmodic among many management ranks.

 

JUMPING AHEAD

 

Attention to, and enhancements in the prompt responses to telephone calls (within 3 rings – 9 seconds), recognition of customers entering premises within 5 seconds, the asking of not less than six questions to establish the specifics of need, exhibiting pride in and enthusiasm for the company, its products, services and people, and the methodical and caring manner in which the deal’s value is presented and endorsed - are laudable.

 

Indeed, the phrase little things mean a lot, is founded on a universal and consistent adherence to these principles. Setting an enjoyable ambience is conducive to ensuring a great, positive customer experience.

 

However, they will account for little if, from the outset of their purchase journey, a prospective and, - alas, a returning customer - is required to negotiate a series of annoying, frustrating and unnecessary barriers, filters and impediments from the outset of their purchase journey.

 

The pathway to a sale should never be an obstacle course.

 

THE HURDLES

 

All too often the impediments to an expedient closing of the sale are readily recognisable. Typically, they include:

 

AN INERT WEBSITE

 

Window shopping, or browsing, is now usually done on-line. Across a broad spectrum of sectors, products, services and applications, up to 72% of intending buyers seek out and visit websites to collate, retrieve, and then analyse available information to enable the conclusion of informed decisions.

 

Websites that are not interactive reflect poorly on the business and its offerings. Those which are incompatible to mobile devices are deemed antiquated and indicative of the probable service and experiences that await those who persist with the contact. Smartphones currently total around 61% of operational mobiles, they are utilised in 41% of initial contacts and in 37% of sales and payment processes.

 

Individually and collectively, these statistics represent an immense leaking of forsaken sales opportunities.

 

LIMITED CONTACT OPPORTUNITIES

 

Websites and links which limit contact to electronic interactions imply that the tech-savvy external design consultants do not comprehend and have not responded to the fact that 43% of people seeking to buy or to have access to service use “on-line” chat on their mobile as the preferred communication channel.

 

A suite of, say seven contact options, without immediate access to a local human may improve internal efficiency. However, effectiveness in the interactions with the external marketplace will be trashed.

 

An absence of complaints – lodged on-line – is not indicative of service excellence. It may well be that the customers have been lost, without registering their dismay, displeasure and disappointment.

 

AUTOMATED TELEPHONE SYSTEMS

 

Commerce, marketing, sales and service are founded on opportunism and communication. Denying existing and prospective customers the opportunity to readily and personally communicate with individual service providers is insane.

 

The business treadmill is getting faster. Customer and client expectations are greater.

 

A recent national Australian study found that 54% of consumers expected to make six attempts for contact before satisfactorily resolving an issue. In stark contrast, a parallel study among contact centre managers revealed that a majority contended that customers need only make 1 or 2 contacts to have their needs fulfilled.

 

Just how well do company team members know their customers, and are aware of their recent experiences?

 

The three greatest and most recurring annoyances nominated by customers and clients in their dealing with supply companies are enlightening:

 

          ANNOYANCE ISSUES

·       Automated Telephony Systems – 51%

·       Restricted Access to Human Representatives – 37%

·       Wait Times to connect with people – 34%

 

Ouch! Those facts hurt ..... - particularly on the bottom line.

 

INFORMATION AVAILABILITY

 

In the present NOW marketplace, in which value and premiums are placed on timely, full, open and immediate disclosure of key information and intelligence access is imperative.

 

In the recent past, information was power. Today it is a commodity and retrievable from multiple sources. Inventory levels, supply lead-times, warranty details and performance standards are factors that expedite the sales process.

 

Indeed, the promotion of such can be, and often is, a distinct competitive advantage.

 

Sharing such freely is a virtue, because it facilitates the making of informed decisions.

 

CORPORATE SILOS

 

Multi-channel and omni-channel philosophies are not and should not be vertical silos by nature.

 

Cross- referencing is both supportive and highly productive.

 

Customers and clients value having the capacity to exercise their personal choice of the means with which means they prefer to conclude a purchase. Over the course of time it is probable that many of those channels will be utilised by the individual customer.

 

DATA OVERLOAD

 

A significant percentage of customers have sacrificed their privacy, through membership of loyalty and relevant programs in the hope for more measured, targeted and customised interactions.

 

The immense promise of Big Data, with its capacity to collect, retrieve, analyse and selectively convert huge banks of general information into discrete intelligence has seldom been realised.

 

A lack of resources being allocated to capitalise on this invaluable storehouse is a major contributing factor for the continued distribution of generalised, irrelevant and annoying communications and offers, many of which are meaningless and valueless to recipients.

 

This distracts from the journey being undertaken, and from the optimally compelling image of the company, its products, services, and people.

 

It is these hurdles and others that mitigate against subsequent positive interactions which have the capacity to satisfy customer needs, to offer value and to sustain mutually rewarding relationships.

 

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

 

Correcting and remediating the nature, context and content of earlier phases of the consumer’s journey does not discount the importance of effectively installing the product, service or application; initiating and maintaining a regular schedule for communications; ensuring service standards that are at all times optimal; and of making readily available updated information on all developments, innovations and enhancements.

 

In commerce, as in many aspects of life, the journey is not lineal. It is circular. What comes around goes around ...... - only faster, for those who are astute enough to recognise, understand, monitor, respect and enhance all phases of the customers’ purchase journeys.

 

THE AUTHOR

Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.

 

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555

E:       Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:      www.marketingfocus.net.au

 

Don't Promise, - Deliver

Delivering the promise is no longer good enough.

 

Promises are fulfilled after the purchase transaction has been concluded and the product, service or application is in the possession of the customer, satisfying their needs and providing the advantages, benefits and rewards.

 

Widespread cynicism in the marketplace devalues or dismisses the expectations that are founded on promises. Delivery is like service excellence. It is not possible to “sell” service. Service is experienced. Only then is it valued. The concept of “delivery” has the same characteristics.

 

Securing orders, sustaining competitive advantage and effectively positioning the offers in the minds of existing, prospective and past clients require the delivery process to be NOW, in -home or at the required and nominated site.

 

A dramatic emphasis is being (assigned - correctly) to the specifics of delivery.

 

Since the genesis of the marketing era in the early 1960s, the virtues of an efficient, effective and respected supply chain have been recognised, deployed and promoted. Transition is now underway from the broader macro perspective of the supply chain to more discrete, measurable, monitorable and manageable delivery systems – that is, at the point-of-service procedures – customer interaction.

 

PIZZA CRUNCH

 

Domino’s continues to lead the way, with the introduction of a series of mobile apps, which enable customers to place orders, monitor delivery times and schedule ever -decreasing delivery lead times.

 

Growth in sales and outlets has been impressive, with the latter being primarily delivery hubs. Consumer store visits are declining in absolute and retail terms.

 

Imagine the demand potential if greater and complementary efforts were given to the enhancing the products.

 

TAKEAWAY VALUE

 

For restaurants, cafés or coffee lounges in Australia, it is probable that home deliveries will exceed (in order numbers and value) take-away orders (where customers collect the order and consume the food at home, in the office or preferred site) within two years.

 

By the year 2021, it is likely that for a significant number of restaurants, cafés and coffee lounges, home deliveries will be the largest component of the business, generating between 35 and 45% of total revenue.

 

The trend is already evolving and evident in London, New York and an increasing number of contemporary, Western-orientated cities.

 

Disturbingly, many Australian business owners and managers in the “sector” are not preparing for transition – or revolution. Some will simply be overtaken in the rush.

 

Interestingly, UBER and numerous logistic companies are introducing home delivery services to their suite of offerings.

 

UNIVERSAL DELIVERY

 

The trend to the repackaging, promotion and offering of home-site deliveries will not be limited to food and beverage sectors.

 

Professional services will be, and can be, at the forefront of the transition. This includes pharmacies, legal practices, accountancy firms and real estate practices.

 

Customers and clients will genuinely be at the central focus. The concepts of convenience, access and proximity will, necessarily, be recalibrated.

 

Many existing business models will be made redundant, innovations will be formulated, documented and implemented, requiring new skill- sets and resources.

 

DIGITAL REALITY

 

The transition to, and heightened emphasis on delivery is part of a broader digital marketplace

 

Convenience and access are no longer limited to geographic factors. Immediacy and “now” centre on the individual consumer, customer or client. Delivering “mass individualisation” is the new business model and challenge. In commerce the centre-of-gravity has shifted.

 

Capabilities and capacities will remain imperative, but fundamentally they will be the building blocks on which style will differentiate the business, product, service and application; and it will be the style that will determine value.

 

Consultants will be driven to change the essential question, from:

 

What business are you in?

 

TO

 

How do you deliver?

 

For those with the right answer, success awaits.

 

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555

E:       Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:      www.marketingfocus.net.au

Recognised, But Unfulfilled - The Digital Marketplace

What is happening .... - and why does it continue?

 

Digital, digital marketing in particular, offered so much. To date, the record suggests the delivery has been isolated, inconsistent and to a considerable extent, disappointing. Digital is transformational. Its potential is immense. Sadly, that potential remains unfulfilled, primarily because of a lack of understanding, the allocation of insufficient resources and sub-optimal application.

 

NON-NEGOTIABLE REALITY

 

Digital products, services and the concept itself are like the internet and social media. They represent, and are an inherent part of the future. When understood, supported astutely, applied and complemented with existing networks, capabilities and skills, digital is an enabler, and expeditor, which has the capacity to save time, enhance productivity, effectively target communication and optimise strategies, tactics and interactions.

 

The concept cannot be deployed in isolation. Companies and entities need to invest capital, infrastructure, people, training, support and integration to achieve and sustain the true potential.

 

To date the global transition has been slow. Old practices persist and financial and human resources are limited.

 

Broadcast radio is a contemporary case study. Analogue stations, with an emphasis on talk-back and news, persist, - profitably.

 

FM broadcasting has enhanced the quality of sound of the music played, but has limitations in transmission areas. The immense choice available on digital transmission is widely-known but largely unused because of the need to purchase new receivers.

 

Television represents a similar scenario with consistently like-trends.

 

AT WHAT COST?

 

Significant numbers of consumers recognise the potential, choice, benefits and advantages and rewards which are inherent in digital broadcasting and transmission.

 

They are happy to have it available. However, in recent times free service has become the norm and the expectation.

 

The “innovator” and “early adopter” market segments have been quick to respond positively. Sadly, those market mavens typically represent only around 10% of the marketplace.

 

The larger, and potentially very profitable sub-grouping, “Early Majority”, exhibit a measure of indifference, rather than resistance. For a marketplace which is driven by NOW consumers, who seek instant gratification, an attitude of “all in good time” seems to pervade.

 

A LITTLE HISTORY

 

My, how things have changed.

 

In 1947 the first School of Marketing was established at Harvard University, in the United States of America.

 

Its genesis was timely and appropriate. After the ravages of six years of World War II, human fertilisation rates peaked around the world. The then prevailing sales era persisted until 1963, when the first of the post-war boomers entered the workforce, secured an income and triggered consumerism.

 

Until that time the mantra for business centred on the 4 P’s being:

 

Product. Price. Place. Promotion.

 

A strong focus was on the products, their features and general physical presence.

 

A carry-over of huge national, family and personal debts impeded product development. Mass production was a virtue. However, unit costs of production were the pre-eminent corporate goals, and measures of success

 

Quality was a difficult concept to visualise, articulate and sell. Obsolescence was, in general terms, deemed to be a future consideration

 

THE BIRTH OF CONSUMERISM

 

1963 was a benchmark year.

 

Carnaby Street, mini-skirts, the birth-control pill and the Beatles evolved and had immediate, widespread impacts.

 

Fashion, transition, range and choices created interest, stimulated demand and generated sales, wealth and opportunities.

 

Part of the transition was the emergence of the 4 P’s of marketing, by:

 

Perceptions, Perspectives, Paradigms and Positioning.

 

DIGITAL DISRUPTION

 

The impact of the year 2000 extended well beyond the fears of the Y2K computer threat, and the birth of the millennium.

 

All things analogue were under threat. The digital world was not binary in nature or outlook. Choice and range were omnipotent.

 

Conglomerates were being dismantled. Miniaturisation was gathering pace. Nano-science and nano-medical procedures were at the cutting edge of human endeavour and experience. A new template was in place and in force.

 

The 4 D’s had arrived:

 

Daring. Different. Digital, Disruptive.

 

Individually and collectively, these concepts are essential foundations for reaching out, connecting and engaging with the current marketplace.

 

Their essential values are:

 

Daring – Tolerates and embraces risk, dispels fear

Different – Is lateral, not literal

Digital – A channel, not a product

Disruptive – Typically enhances, seldom replaces

 

They are widely discussed, marginally understood and sparsely applied with acumen.

 

Most of the marketplace potential remains latent, unfulfilled and awaiting the deft hand of an astute marketer..... - a leader.

 

WE NEED HELP

 

Interestingly, digital marketing consultants, with their abundance of product knowledge, are experiencing difficulty in monetarising the concepts’ appeal among clients and the public at large.

 

Substantiating and quantifying the financially tangible benefits are difficult. Their own earnings have plateaued.

 

This has been compounded by the evolving knowledge- bank which is revealing poor effective widespread exposure, and by the responses to social media advertising. Advertising, marketing and communication budgets, which had seen mass migration from traditional and established mass media, are being reset and redirected.

 

Too much of “one thing”, it seems, is simply indigestible and can leave a nasty taste, particularly among those who fed the market with such high expectations.

 

TAKING COUNT

 

Delegated authority parameters change when companies are being recalibrated. Long-standing executives and business owners are assuming greater responsibility and applying more detailed key performance indicators and monitoring measures with respect to their own digital transformation processes. Rightly so.

 

Realising the innate potential of digital will require discipline, integration, infrastructure, support and resources.

 

THE INITIAL STEPS

 

In isolation, the introduction of digital will generally not be overly successful. The concept performs best when it is an integral component of a structured, integrated and well-resourced strategy.

 

The following progressive elements are fundamental:

 

·       Identify, isolate, analyse and determine the optimal application of the chosen aspects of the digital spectrum.

·       Study the needs, wants, circumstances and criteria applied by those in the primary, secondary, tertiary target audiences.

·       Establish the preferred transition period and which existing products, services and applications will be retained and deployed to support and complement the digital innovations.

·       Seek out and conclude strategic alliances with key internal and external spheres- of- influence.

·       Formulate, document and implement well-resourced budgets for the immediate, intermediate and longer terms.

·       Ensure the introduction and conduct of on-going training for all relevant people in the supply chains.

·       Maintain a conspicuous marketplace presence of people, products, services and applications. Even with digital, share-of-mind often equates to share of market.

 

THE AUTHOR

 

Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.

 

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555

E:       Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:      www.marketingfocus.net.au

 

Take Nothing For Granted

Urquhart Castle, on the western banks of Loch Ness, is a strategically located and important asset.

 

Historically, those who controlled the castle and the promontory of which it was erected, dominated the commercial flow of Scotland.

 

It was a primary target for invading English armies, was staunchly defended by the Scots, and was a desirable target asset for the acquisitive McDonald clan – notwithstanding the buildings featured no golden arches, only stone.

 

Sadly, the Grant clan was assigned the rights to Urquhart Castle, and centuries ago, when they lost power and were about to lose possession, they razed the complex.

 

The remnants remain a top feature tourist destination, still strategically important for the Scottish economy.

 

The first of the following photographs features Jill Urquhart, with Urquhart Bay in the background.  This was the location of the two alleged sightings of the infamous Loch Ness monster.

 

The inherent messages in the text and photographs are that no empire lasts forever, and one should not take things for granted – particularly when involving the Grant clan.

 

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555

E:       Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:      www.marketingfocus.net.au

 

Branded - For Success

Brands, products, services, applications and choice abound, many with little distinction.

 

Non-differentiated commoditisation reigns supreme. As a consequence, for many consumers and clients, pricing is the dominant selection criterion, overwhelming the innate and natural value and virtues of a good brand.

 

Value is difficult to identify, quantify and, well –value.

 

Search and purchase routines are typically extended, and often inconclusive when recognised and preferred brand names are not conspicuous and readily available.

 

Consumers do look for the reassurance and confirmation in brands that are recognised, respected and, above all, TRUSTED.

 

Sadly, in the current commoditised and over-communicated marketplace many people are confused, uninformed and their needs are unfulfilled.

 

MAKE A STATEMENT

 

Effective brand management projects the values, beliefs and virtues integral to the brand, the products, the services and applications which equate to advantages, benefits and rewards for existing and prospective customers and consumers.

 

Brand: Word associations are telling and definitive, when the brand name makes a statement.

 

For example,

 

Volvo: Safety

BMW: Engineering Excellence

Apple: Simplicity in design and application

 

A cursory overview of the branding landscape suggests that there is much to learn.

 

CULTURE-BASED

 

A recent national Australian survey identified and ranked brands in 65 categories. Perhaps expectedly, some of the tables revealed surprises and a series of, seemingly, stark contradictions.

 

For example, Dettol was ranked number 1 in both “First Aid” and “Household Cleaning”.

 

The charity sector was interesting.

 

Noticeably, church-based not-for-profit brands were conspicuously absent, doubtless a consequence of the fallout from the investigations in, and Royal Commissions on alleged paedophilia by those in the various networks.

 

Apparently, similar to the political arena, if one is seeking a friend, or unconditional love and trust with charities, they should look no further than man’s best friend - a dog.

 

The Guide Dogs brand ranked number 1, followed by the RSPCA.

 

The brand name and graphics are definitive – centred on reliability, value, consistency and trust. The graphics are instantly recognisable (in less than 2 seconds – on social media) and they resonate with a broad spectrum of people.

 

HAVE A CUPPA

 

Interestingly, in the coffee-culture of modern society two brands of tea – Lipton and Twinings – were ranked in the top seven of the most-trusted brands, regardless of category.

 

The manufacturers, distributors and marketers of the battery brands Energiser and Duracell doubtless got a charge out of being ranked 1 in the top 2 most-trusted brands in Australia.

 

LESSONS LEARNT

 

In many instances and respects the monetary value of brands is determined by the beliefs, philosophies and promises behind the products, services and applications.

 

For example, the unimpeachable and non-negotiable commitment to service excellence and responsiveness (the 24-hour promise of minimal equipment down-time) of the Caterpillar brand provides the sustainable competitive advantage in a crowded marketplace of high-tech, high quality capital equipment.

 

NO GUARANTEES

 

One cannot live by brand along.

 

In the category “Australian Iconic” Hills Hoist was “King of the Castle”.

 

Qantas was ranked second. This is an interesting case study, because during the course of the past two decades, the market share enjoyed by Qantas of in-bound and out-bound international air travel (centred on Australia) has fallen from 42% to around 14% (and declining).

 

Clearly, being recognised as an Australian icon and trusted is not sufficient to win and retain business.

 

When better value is readily found with brand names like Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines, prospective passengers fly “the coop” – and with the competitors.

 

Creative, emotive advertising and sponsoring of the Australian Olympic team count for little in the race for consumer patronage and loyalty. Top-of-mind awareness can do little for the top-line and bottom-line if the brand does not deliver the promise.

 

COMPROMISING BRANDS

 

Bewildering to experienced and discerning brand managers is the practice of individuals and outlets in franchise, marketing, buying and cooperative networks that insist on featuring and profiling their own sub-brand name in literature, advertising, premises and signage.

 

The overriding group brand name is compromised for little purpose and gain. Egos can be distracting, toxic forces.

 

There is no evidence of such happenings with profiled and yes, trusted, brands like McDonald’s and Domino’s.

 

It seems illogical that an individual or independent operation would join a network, pay annual fees, seek to capitalise on the values and virtues of a recognised brand, then seemingly debase its value.

 

DOCTRINE OF NO-SURPRISES

 

Harold Geneen, the former President of ITT (International Telephone and Telecommunications) was a strong advocate of:

 

The Doctrine of No Surprises

 

Consistency, continuity and commitment were virtues throughout and beyond the corporation.

 

They were the stepping stones to building trust and brand supremacy. No surprises there.

It made ITT, and its suite of operating brands, including Sheraton Hotels and Avis, sought-after, leading and profitable.

 

I’LL DRINK TO THAT

 

It must be hard for some Australian brewers to swallow that the two most-trusted beer brands throughout Australia in 2016 were:

 

·       Corona

·       Heineken

 

To be wedged by the bitter taste of ascendancy (and lemon) with a Mexico-based brand (Corona) underscores the global nature of modern commerce and consumerism. No brand, product, service or application is immune to the power and relevance of good brands.

 

There is a lot that should be written, said and heard about astute brand management

 

THE AUTHOR

 

Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.

 

Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555

E:       Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:      www.marketingfocus.net.au

 

 

The Power To Say 'Yes'

Contraction.

 

That is: the dominant characteristic of decision making in, and among a broad spectrum of businesses, that deal with other businesses. The B2B sector has been subjected to profound structural changes during the past two years.

 

Retrenchments have thinned ranks. Delegated authorities have been withdrawn and concentrated to those in higher ranks. Budgets on discretionary purchase items have been slashed. As a consequence many relationships have been noticeably fractured, and in some instances, terminated. Those who once had the authority and power to say “yes” have been reduced to the options of only saying “no ... unless referring” – or having to refer it to others.

 

Income- streams have rapidly dried up. Remedial actions by service and product providers who have lost income streams can readily encounter “locked doors” or advice that new supplier arrangements have been implemented which do not include them.

 

MULTI-CHANNEL RELATIONSHIPS

 

One-on-one relationships in business are characteristically fraught with danger.

 

Changes in personnel, regimes and policies expose often long-established suppliers to the reality of cash-flow evaporation. It’s not so much that the “dam has run dry”, it could be that it is being rechannelled or water being dammed upstream.

 

It is a two-sided coin. As staff members of supply companies “walk-out the door” so too do a number of clients. Loyalty can be, and often is, personal.

 

Therefore, the lessons which are being strikingly and tellingly learned in the contemporary marketplace underscore the imperative discipline of ensuring that B2B relationships are established, sustained and enhanced amongst at least two, and preferably more, people in each entity.

 

Disruption is not a concept which is limited to technology. Disrupted relationships and supply agreements can be, and often are destructive.

 

The conduct of regular audits of B2B relationships, communication channels and logistic infrastructure is prudent, if not essential. It contributes to the attainment of optimal productivity, consistency and continuity. Moreover, contingencies can be formulated, documented and implemented to avoid or redress disruptions and contractions.

 

Barry Urquhart

Facilitator – Business Development Workshops

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555

E:       Urquhart@marketingfocus.net.au

W:      www.marketingfocus.net.au