Save Face

There is increasing use of brand, product and company ambassadors by companies, governments, professional organisations and not-for-profit entities.

 

It can be an effective means to enhance profiles, elicit responses, increase uses and generate financial contributions, as well as communicate with select target audiences, at discrete times.

 

The options available to choose and use a “face for the purpose” seem boundless. Such is the nature of the celebrity era in which we live and operate.

 

However, the practice is fraught with dangers. Inappropriate behaviour, conflicting values and variable presentation standards on the part of individual and group ambassadors can, and do, have immediate and lasting consequences for the sponsoring entity, product, service or sector.

 

Look no further than the Australian National Rugby League (NRL) which has been a serial offender or victim, dependent upon your point of view.

 

Multimillion dollar advertising, marketing and promotion campaigns have been significantly compromised by the behaviour of and the circumstances surrounding chosen high profile players. Read: brand-damage.

 

International gold-medal swimmer, Stephanie Rice experienced the immediacy of public and sponsor responses to what many considered where inappropriate tweets about her then beau, Rugby Union Wallaby player Quade Cooper.

 

Her use of a three-star luxury imported German motor vehicle was withdrawn. Hurt was inflicted on a lot more than emotions by the instance.

 

More recently, the Australian Federal government, through the bureaucracy and its external advertising agency, appointed media identity, scientist and academic, Professor Karl Kruszelnicki to be the face, voice and presence of an expensive, extensive and intensive multi-media campaign, “The Challenge of Change”, to promote the virtues of the the 400 plus pages Intergenerational Report .

 

Karl's satirical statement was louder than his voice. It did grab attention, if not induce the masses to seek out, read, comprehend, embrace and support of the projective text.

 

It then emerged that after accepting the brief, the commission and the very substantial fee, Karl had not read the full report. Hardly a positive reflection on an established scientist.

 

Dr Kruszelnicki then publicly distanced himself from the report because, in his assessment, there was insufficient emphasis given to climate change.

 

Brand-damage has been inflicted on the Australian Federal government, the bureaucracy, a specific adverting agency, the report itself and on Dr Karl.

 

The resultant publicity generated in this case study was substantial, immediate and lasting. Sadly, much of it was unfortunate, negative and compromising.

 

It should be a lesson well learnt. The criteria applied in the selection of ambassadors must necessarily extend well beyond past and present achievements, profile and the capacity to be an effective mass – and multimedia communicator.

 

Consistent, compatible and integrated values, beliefs and philosophies are fundamental. There should be no gaps between those of the sponsor and the ambassador.

 

A further consideration on this topic is the use and profiling of business owners and managers.

 

In the former case, the issue of succession planning is very pertinent. Retention of an individual's name in the corporate identification package, whilst using next-generation family members in mass media advertising considerably lessens the impact and relevance of the communication.

 

That is self-evident with a national tyre retail group and several motor vehicle dealerships. There is confusion about who is the image-maker, the ambassador or the advocate.

 

The typically short tenure of senior office-bearers in corporations raises questions about the advisability of utilising such individuals as the public face of an entity, a product, a service or an application.

 

Mortality is a reality, particularly in marketing life cycles.

 

Ambassadors are usually best employed for time-specific tactical initiatives and campaigns. That is, for intra-generational campaigns rather than for the promotion of inter-generation projections.

 

Their selection warrants the investment of considerable time and contemplation.

 

 

 

 

THE AUTHOR

 

Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is a consumer behaviour analyst, business strategist and former university lecturer and organisational behaviourist.

 

He is an internationally recognised and respected conference keynote speaker and business development workshop facilitator.

What Industry Are You In?

It is a great question. It is challenging, confronting and often affronting. Contemplation on that fundamental point often leads to reviews, reflections and determinations on the current business model.

 

Corporate history is littered with examples of economy-leading and dominant sectors and entities rapidly becoming redundant and irrelevant.

 

In the early 1900s railways confronted a significant change in the competitive landscape. Motor vehicles and societal mobility necessitated a change of track, so to speak.

 

More recently, the appeal and presence of 6-and 8-cylinder “gas guzzling” family motor vehicles have been impacted by the sophisticated innovations of high-powered 4-cylinder vehicles and the ubiquitous SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles).

 

Light bulb manufacturers have had to gear up and retool to embrace technological change. And what of the humble printing machine. 3-D has been a revolutionary addition to printers, manufacturing and medical implants.

 

Bicycle-powered couriers, who were once conspicuous in most cities are, today, a mere fond memory.

 

Charge-card services like American Express are exposed, threatened and losing appeal. At least five significant mobile payment systems, including those being promoted by Apple, Google and Facebook are in advanced stages of development. Many people and business will reasonably ask why they should retain and accept charge-cards, like American Express.

 

How ironic! Kodak, the very essence of traditional photography, developed digital photography. The company did not readily and quickly embrace the concept. That was left to competitors and, more significantly, substitute entities, including electronic and mobile phone manufacturers. Modern photography is not reliant on silver and paper-based reproductions. It is a whole new industry.

 

Protecting long-established products, practices and applications can be laudable. It can also be ill-advised. Recently, Kodak had to seek and to secure Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection in the United States of America, to enable it to continue to trade. There is a long return journey to be negotiated.

 

And now, the august institution, Australia Post, has heralded a pending 43% increase in postage costs for letters from 70 cent to $1:00, with a lengthening in delivery times from “next day” to 3 days.

 

Can and will post ever effectively compete with - and, possibly beat - emails, texts and the spoken word? Efficiency, effectiveness and cost comparisons imply it is a formidable challenge.

 

In recent times Australia Post has been progressively refining its business model. This is evidenced by the introduction of digital post office boxes, and the broadening of the product/service mix available from Post Shops. The typical range totals some 1300 SKU's (Stock Keeping Units), of which fewer than 60 relate to postal and philatelic merchandise. That is around the same product range as an Aldi discount supermarket.

 

A significant growth in the home deliveries of products purchased on-line reflects the dynamics of the prevailing market forces. And yet, on-line sales still only represent 6.3% of total resale sales.

 

The cascading effect on the supply chain highlights the importance of logistics and distribution.

 

Little wonder that Japan Post has recently lodged a reported $6 billion takeover for Toll Holdings, Australia's largest logistics company, with operations that extend throughout Asia. That is a pending threat to the presence and dominance of Australia Post within Australia.

 

Future enhancements in nano-technology will inevitably result in smaller products' services, applications and, yes, businesses. Prices too, will become smaller. Increased productivity will result in more free-time and better timing. Skill-sets will vary.

 

CONTEXT OR CONTENT

 

The true measure of relevance of a company, product, service and application is often determined by its “fit” to the marketplace.

 

That is, the context, which can be, and often is, more important and influential than the content.

 

Indeed, the former can and does impact directly on the latter.

 

For instance, are postal services redundant to most? Some 98% of mail-usage is generated by business and public sector entities complying with regulatory obligations and practices. To many the service offering that is not pertinent, nor applied by individual consumers.

 

Therefore, why persist with the trading name:

Australia Post

 

It is as relevant as Post and Rail Fencing is to urban residents. What does it all mean?

 

STRUCTURAL CHANGE

 

These case studies are further evidence that the changes being experienced at present are not seasonal or cyclical. They are indeed structural.

 

It behoves all business owners and leaders to reassess and redefine:

 

What industry are we in?

 

The answer will inevitably evoke a lot of questions ... and changes.

So You Want To Be An Entrepreneur

“Windfall” wealth and profits do not an entrepreneur make.

 

Windfall events are welcomed and rewarding for those who are blessed with them. The nature, emotions - and probabilities of such windfalls are similar to winning lotteries, tote and lotto.

 

Entrepreneurism is an entirely different scenario. It is not a product of accidental or fortuitous good fortune – if you will pardon the unintended pun.

 

At this time Australia, New Zealand, Britain, North America – indeed, the world – needs more entrepreneurs.

 

Fostering, supporting and endorsing the endeavours of genuine entrepreneurs rewards many. Why? The very essence of an entrepreneur can best be expressed as:

 

With vision and commitment, to create wealth and generate employment, for the betterment of all.

 

GO FORTH, BOLDLY

 

Many business leaders and Boards of Directors are understandably timid, sensitive to and exhibiting a low tolerance for risk.

 

This pervading attitude is having widespread impact on new product development (and investment), growth, improvement and productivity enhancement.

 

Debt levels are being lowered, and reliance on bank funding is conspicuous.

 

The current state of the marketplace can be best and most accurately described as:

 

DEPENDENT

 

Decisions are being made and policies are being implemented, dependent upon positive cashflows, guaranteed pre-orders and approvals from lending sources.

 

True entrepreneurs, those who have established positive track records of success, exhibit a strikingly common characteristic, being:

 

UNCONDITIONAL BOLDNESS

 

They typically do not seek or are reliant upon the permission of those who are external to their entities.

 

Looking over one's shoulder for permission, approval or endorsement takes the eyes and the focus off the customers, clients and opportunities.

 

ENTREPRENEURISM CLUSTERING

 

Extensive and intensive study and analysis of the umbrella term, “entrepreneur”, has led one to conclude there are four strata, categories if you will, of these people. One sweeping general conclusion is that most individuals who describe themselves as entrepreneurs are, in reality, not.

 

ENTHUSIASTS

 

The entry-level strata is numerically the largest, possibly around 70%.

 

These individuals are the Enthusiasts , who posses abundance of energy, exuberance and expectations.

 

They are excited about the term entrepreneur, the concept and the perceived benefits, advantages and rewards.

 

Like comets that enter the Earth's atmosphere, they generate a lot of heat and light, before quietly burning out.

 

They typically leave little trace or legacy.

 

CREATIVES

 

Creatives represent around 15% of the targeted population. They have a creative idea, but no actual product, service, application or entity.

 

Creatives are deficient in their capacity to transform ideas to an income-generating, needs-fulfilling reality.

 

The essentials of capital, operating capacity, logistics network and infrastructure are mere entries on rudimentary business plans and spreadsheets.

 

Above all, these individuals typically need input from experienced, qualified, caring, supportive and understanding professionals who have the capacity to provide a master-plan of sequential steps to the market.

 

Many creative ideas, probably more than half, do not develop beyond the cerebral energy of the creative visualisation.

 

INNOVATORS

 

Innovators are the survivors from the attrition process of many enthusiasts and creatives .

 

They have usually invested considerable time and available (but often limited) funds into the production of a model, system or application.

 

The world awaits, together with the potential for profits, wealth, success and development.

 

However, there are barriers, filters and impediments to be negotiated, addressed and redressed. Not the least of which are adequate capital, operating capacity, integrated infrastructure, extensive logistical network, a retail presence and, most important, a marketplace which is willing to pay.

 

It is at this time that many innovative entrepreneurs are distracted, overwhelmed and relieved of considerable funds by patent professionals, lawyers, funding intermediaries and quaintly titled “Angel Investors”

 

Few of these spheres-of-influence have the skills or make promises to progress or to expedite the development of the product, service, application or entities. The ideas are often overwhelmed by the process.

 

Innovators soon learn to recognise that many from whom permission, approval and tolerance are sought are necessary, but not essential to success. The future is not determined by the ability to comply and conform.

 

Little wonder that so few innovators and creative ideas reach the marketplace in the first instance.

 

ENTREPRENEURS

 

Genuine entrepreneurs total no more than 5% of those who claim, or strive for the title.

 

With “unconditional boldness” and driven by self-belief in their vision, complemented by an uncompromising commitment, entrepreneurs do create wealth and generate employment, for the betterment of all.

 

There is little or no socialistic idealism in that statement. At best, they are first among equals; they revel in power, authority and the exercising of personal choices.

 

Evolving philosophies and models, centred on emotional intelligence, social responsibility and even philanthropic corporate behaviour can be embraced - but only as addendums.

 

The six fundamentals of sustainably successful entrepreneurs detailed in the book The Jindalee Factor retain their relevance.

 

Being “non-competitive” is an imperative, whether it is by a negotiated exclusivity clause, like that of the 20 years for the Perth's Crown Casino, or by overwhelming market dominance.

 

“Planning long, managing short” reflects the importance of strategic malleability and tactical financial prudence. Cashflow is second to none. Too many past, fallen entrepreneurs did not recognise or respect the fact that when they run out of cash, they run out of time and usually run out of business.

 

CONCLUDING COMMENTS

 

So you think you are, or intend to become an entrepreneur. Undertaking a scenario planning exercise is an appropriate first step.

 

Knowing the destination – entrepreneurism - is one thing. Establishing the starting-point and determining the pathway to success are essential prerequisites.

Be Careful, And Sensitive....

BE CAREFUL, AND SENSITIVE...

•  SEGMENTING

•  CATEGORISING

•  STEREOTYPING

 

Differentiation is an important concept in marketing.

 

So too are segmentation and categorisation. However, each can have a limited, and in some instances, a limiting role to play.

 

Like most things, the initial principles and applications are being progressively superseded and rendered obsolete. It is a common phenomenon in the current dynamic, digital marketplace.

 

Intimate knowledge of one's customers and clients is a marketing imperative.

 

Evolution, sophistication and information (data) explosion have been instrumental in the eclipsing of many previously sound management, marketing, selling, service and interpersonal relationship practices, including market segmentation.

 

The study of demographics is a case in point. Today, access to information on the age, sex, occupation, education standards and residence of existing, prospective and past clients and customers is, today, inadequate.

 

A more comprehensive, multi-dimensional profile improves the capacity for effective target marketing. It in turns enables, and influences, the determination, nature and content of communication. However, care and sensitivity is needed to avoid inadvertently precluding potential prime customers and clients.

 

It is prudent to be aware that many chronologically older individuals pursue and enjoy young lifestyles. The use of social media and e-commerce channels among consumers aged 50 years and older is more pronounced than thought by many. Similarly, an increasing number of younger consumers are discovering, exploring and enjoying music and fashion from the 60's, 70's and 80's decades. Look no further than the surging sales of vinyl records and vintage style stereograms. Old is new!

 

To ensure effectiveness in all marketing endeavours it is now important to avoid overly simplistic market segmentation, categorisation and stereotyping. Each can, and does, impact on sales generation, revenue stimulation, as well as the establishment and maintenance of sustainable, profitable relationships.

 

Overt and often unintended nuances in written, spoken and visual communication alienate potentially prime and profitable target audiences. Existing and prospective relationships are fractured because of what are received and perceived to be, slightss, offensive statements and inappropriate premises inherent in key messages. It is indeed a complex world in which we operate. Financial planners may well ponder what the label ”High-Net Worth” individuals really means. Does it mean the same to prospective clients who have funds to invest, but don't feel they qualify to be included in the category “High-Net Worth”? Many messages will be needlessly lost.

 

Marketing campaigns and strategic plans can readily miss out on customers based on shallow, often historic and traditional images, profiles and stereotypes.

 

Talk-back radio is a fine example. The typical audience demographic centres on the age distribution of 55 years- plus. However, the often unrecognised potential which exists with the 30-year-old and younger consumer group, represent immense, untapped potential.

 

A similar case is the emphasis by advertisers who are keen to connect with the “high-spending” 25 to 54-year-old age groupings on free-to-air television channels. The innate contentions are simply too black-and-white for communities that live, operate and buy in differing shades of grey.

 

Technology, innovation, digital enhancements, social media and the internet have individually and collectively, fragmented communication channels and consumer groupings. Micro-focusing on market segments can inadvertently fail to recognise value and miss out on a host of prospective new customers, clients and spheres of influence.

 

The value of all business philosophies and practices is largely determined and influenced by measures of relevance in marketing. It is as important to broaden the relevance of the messages and promises of benefits and advantages of products, services, entities and people as it is to be precise and to focus on the narrower target-marketing of all endeavours.

 

Therefore, when undertaking market segmentation, categorisation and stereotyping do so with care and sensitivity.

Extreme? Not Necessarily

First, think of the consequences.

 

“Extreme discounts” do attract widespread attention, can generate increased sales and revenue in the short-term and therefore, for specific time-periods, have the capacity to redirect traffic flows.

 

But the tactic is fraught with potential intermediate-to-long-term brand damage consequences. Questions about profit margins and value are understandably raised in the minds of many existing, prospective and past customers, along with those in the media and other spheres-of-influence.

 

This is particularly so for commodities like retail petrol, which too many is a non-emotional grudge purchase. Responding customers will take advantage of $1.00 a litre petrol prices, as recently offered in metropolitan Adelaide (in contrast to the prevailing $1.51 per litre standard retail price), but the prospect for repeat business and loyalty is scant.

 

For the right reasons, and for appropriate events, “extreme discounts” are effective in exposing companies, premises, products, services, periods, brands and models to a broad cross-section of new prospective clients and customers. They can be pertinent for the introduction - or for the deletion - of brands, models, colours and the like.

 

Compensating full profit-margin offers and transactions are, or should be, integral aspects of the total strategy and value package. Remember, someone must pay the piper.

 

BRAND POSITIONING

 

‘Extreme Discounts” can promote and establish high profiles for business, product and service names.

 

However, when poorly executed and too-frequently conducted, the brand can be, and often will be, inextricably associated with and be positioned by reference to the offer of extreme discounts.

 

Cash-flows will rapidly recede and dry up between “extreme” events.

 

The parallels with an over-reliance on the conduct of “sale” events are ominous.

 

 

 

IT DIDN'T HELP

 

Among the first advocates and adherents of “extreme discounting” were the department stores.

 

Featured among the post-Christmas sales offerings were a limited number of $50.00 television sets, refrigerators, lounge settings and dining room suites.

 

Only a very few of the teeming thousands of consumers awaiting opening hours for those ”door-buster” bargains went home happy and fulfilled. For most it was an unrewarding experience, with long-term adverse relationship and reputation consequences.

 

Moreover, for the department stores, it did little to enhance their images, appeal and economic viability.

 

Electronic appliance retailers learnt similar lessons, - to their own detriment.

 

POSITIONING BASE

 

It is important that the integrity of the brand name, be it company, product, service or premises, be respected and protected. Therefore, it is best that extreme discounts be associated with the positioned against special and date-specific events. When seasons are too long the possible flow-on consequences are too great.

 

These events can include generic occasions like “Cyber Monday” (late November) or Halloween. This tactic will ensure that there is minimal or no carry-over from the expectations and images of huge price reductions.

 

BE PRUDENT

 

“Dare to be different” is a challenge accepted by many. “Pushing the envelope” is another philosophical stance which can and often does lead to innovation, creativity and change. Both are relevant to the concept of extreme discounting, but do need to be applied with some degree of reserve.

 

EXTREME IS RELATIVE

 

A key lesson often learnt and widely forgotten during the past decade is that the measure of “extreme” is relative rather than absolute.

 

Prior to the turn of the century discounts of 15% and 20% were considered substantial and attractive. New, disruptive policies that were introduced changed the focus from post-Christmas sales, to pre-Christmas savings of up to 50%.

 

It did have an impact among consumers, not the least of which was educating consumers to expect, and then to demand 40%, 50% or 60% incentives. Once such inducements would have once been considered extreme. Not anymore. “Extreme” means 70% or more. Where does it end?

 

Being extreme can, and does have, extreme outcomes ... often not all are positive.

 

 

 

Execute - Or Be Executed

A strategy is only as good as its execution.

 

Indeed, in war - and in the boxing ring - the best of strategies can be, and often are, forgotten once the first shot is fired or the first punch is landed.

 

Strategies must be formulated, documented and implemented within the framework of philosophies and detailed mission statements. They should be structured, and based on the best available intelligence.

 

Realistically, much of the intelligence is only unsubstantiated, and often fractured, incomplete information.

 

Therefore, many strategies are flawed, - often fatally.

 

Moreover, they need to be malleable.

 

A common deficiency is the lack of detailed scenario planning. Perhaps, that should be refined to read:

SCENARIOS PLANNING

 

The process of identifying, isolating and analysing a range of probable, possible and unlikely scenarios enables the development of contingency plans.

 

FORESIGHT

 

Some people wish to see into the future. Others desire to live there.

 

The sobering reality is that we live, operate, plan and visualise in the here and now.

 

At best, we can anticipate, plan and prepare for the future, and ensure we have sufficient and appropriate resources available for deployment to enable us to fulfil our vision, strive towards our goals and to sustain our achievements and standards.

 

EXECUTE - OR BE EXECUTED

 

Proficient execution of strategies increases the prospect and scope for success. It does not, however, guarantee favoured outcomes. There are simply too many variables, some unforeseen.

 

Moreover, in the contemporary marketplace, circumstances and forces are in a constant state of flux. The very premises on which strategies are formulated, documented and implemented need to be progressively monitored, and most probably refined.

 

Variations in one strata of strategic plans necessitate change in others. Thus, the intent is to maintain consistency and compatibility between goals, objectives and targets.

 

However, care must be taken to avoid “paralysis by analysis”. Wars are only ever won when there are troops on the ground to claim and protect territory. Business is much the same. Presence is a fundamental influence in determining sales, profits, margins, market share, image and loyalty.

 

Many strategies fail because the orientation is attainment of specific goals. Astute strategies detail actions, risks and consequence beyond goals – because time is a key element in planning, marketing and business.

 

US. General George S Patton was a brilliant strategist in World War II. In 1944, his army was the first to reach the German homeland. His dictate to officers in the field was that he did not want to receive advice that they holding territory. The strategy was centred on the need to, and imperative of, advancing.

 

Authority and responsibility were readily delegated. Officers responded accordingly in their execution of the directive.

 

It was a good strategy, well executed.

 

KEY POINTS

 

•  Review, refine and recommit to the overriding philosophy.
 
•  Determine, formulate and document a specific targeted and time-specific mission.
 
•  Ensure scenario planning has been undertaken to identify, isolate and analyse probable, possible and unforeseen circumstances, forces and necessities.
 
•  Script and structure an integrated strategic plan, detailing goals, objectives and targets.

 

•  Ensure the strategy is understood and endorsed by all contributors.
 
•  Execute the strategy in a timely fashion.
 
•  Monitor progress; where necessary, refine and up-date the strategy, and above all, maintain momentum.

 

 

Socail Media and Digital Stifling Creativity and Originality

To be ranked in the top echelon of social media and among SEOs (Search Engine Optimisers) companies, brands, products and services need to comply and to conform.

 

Being part of the norm is the one way that algorithms, which recognise nominated key words and therefore determine the ranking on the internet, conclude overall absolute and comparative rankings.

 

Originality, creativity and “daring to be different” are the losers.

 

So too are consumers and clients: There is increasing recognition that marketing, selling, promotion and broader communications are being commoditised, for the sake, and in pursuit of high rankings in the social media and digital worlds. Boring.

 

Another conspicuous consequence is the inappropriate and incomprehensible use of certain key words. Algorithms recognise words, they cannot and do not comprehend meanings and respect contexts, nuances and reference points.

 

OPENING THE DOOR

 

A key and fundamental role for social media and online presence is to “drive” prospective customers to websites, premises or doorways. This reflects a very fundamental shift in the nature of “window shopping”. A majority of people now do it on-line.

 

However, it is important to note two pertinent features of the current marketplace:

 

•  Many “on-line visitors” are not qualified prospects. They represent the trend to mass non-discriminatory volume.

 

•  Some 65% of purchase processes which are commenced on-line are abandoned on-line. “Abandoned shopping trolleys” proliferate cyberspace. Where are those trolley-boys when you need them?

 

DEVELOPING THE SALE

 

Transition from an unqualified, but connected suspect who has entered your digital realm to a better qualified prospect can be, and often is expedited by creative, original and different graphics, merchandising, packaging and word usage.

 

What is lacking in many instances is a lack of integration between the key words and graphics.

 

CLOSING THE SALE

 

Nothing original here. Someone or something needs to effect closure of the sale.

 

The human quotient remains the most effective, efficient, perceptive and flexible means to recognise opportunities to increase the scope of the transaction, and the optimal time of when to conclude the deal.

 

By necessity and nature social media and digital marketing processes are pre-structured. That presupposes the designer is aware of all contributing factors – that is an unreasonable stretch.

 

COMPLEMENTARY CONSIDERATIONS

 

Once again, the principle that technology and social media should complement, not replace human beings is highlighted and reinforced.

 

There are few, if any things that are more creative, original and different then people. Moreover, it is they, not algorithms that recognise, respond to and enjoy that which is creative, original and different.

 

 

 

 

 

Liked, But Not Bought (Hit, and Miss)

So you're “liked”. So what?

Many people are just not buying it.

 

The perennial pursuit in social media of getting maximum numbers of hits and likes seems meaningless in business ....-unless and until such time as they are converted into sales, revenues, profits and dividends.

 

Getting people to register a “Like” on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin is difficult. Even harder, and less frequently achieved, is to conclude a transaction as a consequence of a “like” being entered.

 

Raw numbers often cloud the underlying reality. The art of target marketing is often overlooked in social media. Volume too often overrides quality.

 

A “like” may progress a person from being “unaware” to a state of “awareness”. They may even develop to a sense of “recognition”. Some of those who “hit” could even elevate their “interest” to that of “seeking out” a name, a brand, product, service, company or individual.

 

However, before them lie the progressive stages of “trial”, “purchase”, “preference”, “re-purchase”, “refer”, “recommend” and “advocate”. Ah yes! The exultant state of being a committed, loyal, expressive and assertive “brand/product service ambassador”. However, that is some distance from a casual, easy-to-apply register of a hit or “like”.

 

JUST REWARDS

 

Increasingly, digital and on-line marketing agencies are negotiating or are being made to negotiate remuneration packages based on performance.

 

The most appropriate and meaningful key performance indicator is established on conversions to sales, to profit margins, gross or net profits and, in rare instances, to dividend payments.

 

LESS IS MORE

 

Many astute business leaders and marketers are happy to accept fewer hits and likes, in favour of higher relative and absolute conversions. You can bank on that!

 

ATTENTION GRABBING

 

Against the tide of calls for more and more hits and “Likes” some discerning business leaders are happy to attract less attention in favour of more profits.

 

In the contemporary marketplace visibility and high rankings on Google, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn do not depend on Search Engine Optimisers (SEOs).

 

Repeated and conspicuous use of the following marketing words will attract the attention of algorithms embedded in computers, technology software and search engines:

 

Innovative   Easy
Exciting   New
Cheap   Substantial
Quiet   Yes
  Now

 

Attracting the attention of customers, clients and consumers is quite different to generating patronage and payments.

 

But the words listed above have become passé. They have been commoditised by over-use and are considered bland, ineffective and in some instances, insulting by many of the consuming public.

 

So much for the mantra:

 

Big, Bigger, Biggest

Good, Better, Best

Cheap, Cheaper, Cheapest

Fast, Faster, Fastest

 

In the recent past it was a hit. Today, it is a miss.

 

TARGET THE RIGHT MARKETS

 

Put simply, marketers are reverting to the principle of “Ready, Aim, Fire”. The intent is to limit hits to the ....

BULLSEYE

 

In doing so, they are being diligent in avoiding:

BULLS HIT

Hype and High Water

Market bubbles, busts and waves have a common element – hype.

 

When emotions, rather than fundamentals are driving the marketplace it is time to take pause, and stock.

 

Now is that time. Clearing the inventory of current marketing, price, merchandise and promotional strategies is sage advice.

 

Reassurances that high prices are founded on solid foundations, all too often are devalued when those pillars turn to quicksand.

 

It is reassuring to some when commentators and analysts have “skin in the game”. However, when rewards and revenues are determined by transactions, counter-balancing information and intelligence sources should be used.

 

The current sets of global, national, regional and sectional markets are, to varying degrees, being artificially stimulated. Record low interest rates have primed stock markets around the world, residential property prices and new motor vehicle sales. They have equally influenced the movement away from liquid funds (cash) and investments in government bonds.

 

Quantitative Easing in the United States of America (best termed as “printing dollar bills”) has contributed to a lowering of the value of that currency and to “hyping” of others, including the Australian dollar.

 

Each of these factors and influences is contributing to the environment in which individual entities operate. Little or no control can be applied by business owners Boards of Directors and management teams.

 

Little wonder that many feel as though they are like a cork bobbing around in a volatile ocean of competing forces.

 

Therefore, most benefits will be derived from focusing on those aspects over which control and influence can be exerted, and exploited.

 

TAKE CONTROL

 

In the contemporary global digital, on-line and connected world “hype” is transparent. It is readily and promptly identified and dismissed, along with associated products, services, brands, companies and individuals.

 

ESTABLISH VALUE

 

Establishing value in the minds of existing, prospective and, yes, past clients is quite another thing, and in relative terms, can be achieved promptly, effectively and inexpensively. No hype is required.

 

Determining, and applying relevant buying criteria can and does effectively reposition the product, service, company or brand into a favoured competitive presence. Competitors are simultaneously repositioned to less-favoured profiles.

 

Take for instance Volvo motor vehicles. For a long time they enjoyed a “premium” standing on the issue of safety. However, one consequence was a market skewing of customers to older, conservative age groupings.

 

In recent times Volvo, now under Chinese corporate ownership, has entered and won V8 motor racing events in Australia. That has caused great anguish among the ailing Holden and Ford brand names.

 

It is fair to say that Volvo has added more “grunt” to its marketing, advertising and product range. The impact and consequences are self evident. Sales have increased.

 

A similar set of lessons are being learnt, albeit slowly, within the taxi industry. The global introduction of the UBER mobile booking application is revolutionising hire transportation, including taxis, limousines, and public transport, ferries and buses. Look out for the pending arrival of driver-less autonomous vehicles!

 

The internet, social media and digital technology have democratised the market place. Centralised government control, policing and protection are simply not possible, and for many, not desired.

 

Taxi networks, and individual drivers, will need to hone, and in some instances, introduce, set-price policies and personal “safety” measures to satisfy the expectations of customers.

 

Long-established practices and rules are today redundant. Consumers are applying new criteria in their purchase decisions. Moreover, they now have at their disposal a comprehensive network of information and intelligence on which to make informed decisions and value judgements.

 

 

 

DISCOUNT DISCOUNTING

 

The recent “reporting season” of Australian public listed companies projected one clarion-clear message from the airlines.

 

Qantas reported a loss of close to $3 billion for the past trading year. Virgin Australia, a much smaller entity, recorded an annual trading loss numbered in the hundreds of millions.

 

Both airlines have increased their passenger-carrying capacities and have undertaken deep price- discounting.

 

Qantas may well have retained its 65% market share of domestic Australian travel; at what cost? The hype of enjoying such a dominant market share cannot be banked. That is just one of the dividends that the airline must address.

 

The advertising theme and promise of “We can't be beaten on price” has become one-dimensional. Other criteria are needed to attract attention, patronage, loyalty and an appreciation of value.

 

SCOPE EXISTS

 

Accountancy practices, legal firms, plumbers, home builders, real estate agents, financial planners and engineering companies are fast learning the need for, and the benefits of developing, promoting and applying new selection criteria which are devoid of the unnecessary and ineffective hype.

 

It is often difficult to fulfil the promises of “Bigger, Better, Faster and Cheaper”. Besides- who cares?

 

Educating prospective and existing clients and customers on what bases value judgments and purchase decisions should be made is relevant, rewarding and appropriate.

 

The time to act has arrived.

 

THE FIRST STEPS

 

Introducing multimedia, omni-channels, digital marketing and social media to communication strategies is no longer an option. It is imperative.

 

However, to achieve optimal impact and to achieve increased revenue generation, it is essential that the messages have no (or minimal) hype, and a relevant, compelling set of purchase criteria.

 

In this instance, it is the content, not the channel that needs refinement.

Building A Better Business Model - Not Mouse Trap

Oh my, how things have changed, and continue to change!

 

Since August 1962, when J.C.R. Licklider of MIT, (the Massachustus Institute of Technology) first wrote a series of memos about his “Galactic Network” (which would evolve in the internet), the rate of change in technology, communications and business has accelerated.

 

The correspondence and date-line have proven to be significant benchmarks. Changes have been effected in all manner of ways in which we live, interact and do business.

 

OUT-DATED BUSINESS MODELS

 

Sadly, many business leaders have not updated and made relevant the business models of their operations. The consequences are palpable.

 

Bankruptcies and failures are increasing in volume and value across a broad cross–section of sectors, professions and regions. Look no further than retail pharmacies, newsagencies, fashion wholesalers and outlets, mining industry contractors, business consultancies and coaches and the taxi industry. Mining companies have not been immune to the trend.

 

Being out-of-step and out-of-date are the initial steps of being out-of-business.

 

THE EVOLUTION OF RECENT CHANGE

 

The August, 2008 onset of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) heralded the start of an intriguing 3-phase global change-process for commerce and government.

 

Embarrassingly, the then Australian Labor Federal Government, and its arguably first-ever financially illiterate Federal Treasurer, declared that the nation had avoided the fallout of the crisis.

 

They were clearly wrong. The “cash-splash” handouts from the Treasury simply delayed the inevitable.

 

The journey has been interesting. The lessons learnt invaluable. The steps have been progressive ... as detailed below:

 

 

PHASE 1 – EFFICIENCY

 

Cash-flows and confidence throughout the world were quickly impacted upon with the collapse of Lehmann Brothers, in the United States of America.

 

Profit margins were soon under pressure. Cost ratios increased as a percentage of turnover.

 

Focus was promptly given to the call for “cost cutting”. Staff numbers were reduced. So too were inventories.

 

The consequences quickly registered along the extended supply- chains.

 

Within entities the ranks and tiers of management were aggressively thinned.

 

“Lean and mean” became another common catch-call and in some instances a badge of honour.

 

The measures of appropriate cost-containment were subjective, and often difficult to quantify. In many instances the “knives and axes” were applied too “liberally”. Cases of corporate- anorexia became conspicuous. In essence, the corporate body was feeding on itself and was deteriorating, often with terminal consequences.

 

An example: Only now are some business owners and managers negotiating new and lower rental structures for retail, wholesale and manufacturing premises.

 

KEY LESSON:

 

One should be in business to make money, not to save money! Stay focused on the appropriate, positive and longer-term outcomes.

 

PHASE 2 – EFFECTIVENESS

 

Following countless rounds of cost-cutting and crisis meetings for team members, emphasis was then given to improving effectiveness.

 

Many business leaders were sufficiently discerning to identify that their businesses had aged, become calcified and were inflexible.

 

Restructuring was suddenly in vogue. Silos were dismantled. Organisation charts redesigned, made flatter and more malleable. Departments were relabelled to be “tribes”, “camps” and “clusters”.

 

Any unsettling of internal confidence and stability was countered with positive feedback of the new approach from external suppliers, associates, customers, clients and channels.

 

Previous hierarchical rigidity was broken down. Authority and responsibility were delegated and warmly embraced by team members who had long desired the capacity to exercise control, power and choice in how they did business.

 

In short, business was better for many, and not solely measured by financial returns.

 

However, competitiveness, particularly on a global measure, was still found wanting in a high percentage of circumstances.

 

KEY LESSON:

 

There is always a better way. Find it.

 

PHASE 3 – PRODUCTIVITY

 

Once costs and structures had been reviewed, refined and developed attention needed to be redirected to productivity

 

Volume and velocity can be, and are, both a cause and a consequence of competitive advantage. Moreover, they are rewards that can contribute to sustainable leadership, progress and development.

 

Fixed costs (of doing business) are rapidly reduced in relative (to turnover) terms. Variable costs do truly evolve into being marginal costs.

 

Profit, margins and dividends escalate into being attractive and rewarding.

 

Businesses that have progressed to this phase are few. For some it seems to be a step-too-far. The prospects and outcomes of increased volumes and velocity are confronting, possibility challenging.

 

Now is a good time to commence the journey.

 

KEY LESSON:

 

Individually and collectively, simplifying processes, structures, policies, attitudes and work habits has a huge impact on personal, group and entity productivity.

 

Attracting and Retaining Great People

Great people.

 

They are attractive, appealing and valuable assets to any business. They are like magnets, attracting great fellow workers and truly great customers. However, they are often hard to find, identify, recruit - and to retain.

 

The adjective “great” is emotional-based, difficult to quantify and almost impossible to blanket-apply to a team of people. When recruiting, it can only be properly understood and applied in a context that reveals the culture of the enterprise.

 

Consequently, the search routine for “great” people is typically random, inefficient and generally well short of being disciplined. Identification through networks is compromised by mateship and questionable values applied by mutual associates. There are only occasional instances of the “meeting of the minds”. Questions arise as to a true and accurate measure of “great”. Questions remain as to how accurate was the title “Alexander the Great” (and whether he was Greek, Macedonian or a Serb!!).

 

LOOK NO FURTHER

 

The time, money and resources allocated to sifting through job applications and prospective recruits are usually considerable, often do not represent value and may not prove to be rewarding or, indeed, successful.

 

No-one knows better the presence and quality of “greatness” than the individual. Self-image is a key and fundamental component of self-determination.

 

In employment advertisements and placements a refocus from the position to the person is a scenario that parallels the substantial and significant progression from the sales to the marketing philosophies and disciplines.

 

The bold and challenging statement and declaration that an entity is seeking a “special” or “great” person – in advertising and conversations – triggers an intriguing process.

 

In the first instance the number of applications received falls appreciably; the overall quality of those applicants who do apply is high.

 

Typically, the interviews and interactions are interesting and challenging. After all, “great people” want to work for, and with great businesses, bosses and peers.

 

Individually and collectively “great” people have a presence. They generate a sense of energy and urgency.

 

The resultant culture and ambience are, well ... great.

 

A DESERVING LABEL

 

Expectations of and by “great” people are high, generally dynamic, and very personal.

 

Recognition of, and respect for the individual are imperative.

 

Elitism is not desirable nor typically functional. Therefore, great should be the norm, not the exceptional.

 

Moreover, “great” people are inclined to attract other great people. High-achievement becomes a base-benchmark.

 

KEY ATTRIBUTE

 

The specifics and presence of greatness are not conspicuously evident in curricula vitae. Who would be so bold!

 

There is no university subject or course on greatness that we can study and graduate in ... although experience suggests that there are differing grades of greatness.

 

Far too often, those identified as possessing the potential for greatness, regardless of the endeavour or pursuit, falter and fail to make the subjective grade. It is not an aptitude, with pre-determined dimensions.

 

Rather, greatness is an attitude, a self-belief which is articulated in so many ways, often non-verbal and subtle.

 

Others sense when they have been or are in the presence of “greatness”. It is a good feeling and promotes a want to belong and to remain.

 

NO RULES

 

Most, not all, “great” people don't need rules and policing to ensure compliance and conformity. Those simply limit the potential for, and fulfilment of greatness.

 

The positive alternative is to provide parameters within which people strive for and achieve their consistent optimal performance. Explanations of “why we do the things we do” promote and facilitate understanding and commitment.

 

Ongoing, prompt and genuine recognition and reinforcement are valued by all and contributes to cohesion, malleability and ensures dynamism, growth, and development.

 

Like many things in life, the essential component is the context rather than the content.

 

Managers seek to control processes and related inputs and costs. They find it difficult to exercise control over “great people”.

 

Leaders focus more on influencing and enhancing values. They facilitate individual and collective growth. Each is an integral component of the art of retaining the right and “great people”.

 

Above all, high achievers – whether they accept or embrace the tag “great” – set reasonable goals and contend that have much to contribute.

 

Their involvement is fundamental to retaining a culture of greatness and “great people”.

 

 

 

Customer Experience

Experience is, and should be, valued. Particularly when customers' and clients' experiences are positive.

 

There is increasing recognition that customer experience is not limited to local and physical considerations. It commences from the very first phase of the buying cycle and extends beyond the purchase process, installation and post-sale service delivery.

 

Indeed, the term “customer experience” has made obsolete the label “customer service”, and now embraces the concept, principles and applications of “ambience”.

 

Accordingly, operational silos, in which authorities and responsibilities are focused and constricted to specific actions have been dismantled. Internal business territorialism has been supplanted.

 

The allocation of resources, including capital, marketing, merchandising, sales, advertising, inventory and people is now determined in part by the desire for, and standards which are applied, to the customer experience.

 

Therefore, positional titles of “manager”, when they are related to the individual disciplines detailed above, seem inappropriate.

 

New measures of success are being implemented, in which the optimal outcomes are related to enhanced and positive customer experiences.

 

Hope springs eternal! Perhaps, the balanced, boring catalogue-type mass media advertising will be replaced by placements that abound with emotions, fun, advantages and benefits. Now that would be an experience!

 

Indeed, a single resolute focus on positive customer experiences for the progressive and complementary disciplines of public relations, communications, promotions, merchandising, sales and service will ensure a cumulative, reinforcing and positive delight for the intending customer.

 

STEP ONE

 

Astute business leaders who are keen to address and redress the most recurring negative experience of customers will give priority to refining the telephone interaction system and processes.

 

Automated telephone answering processes which, however much they improve internal efficiency and productivity, often incur delays, frustrations, annoyances and additional phases for the customers. Typically, satisfaction levels plummet, along with the image of the business and preferences for its products, services and people.

 

Furthermore, inefficient, cumbersome online networks are a close second-rated source of annoyance. Whatever happened to recognition of the need for “seamless organisations” and seamless experiences…...

 

PRIVATELY PERSONAL

 

The current digital era has witnessed, indeed has facilitated, increased efficiency and speed of transactions. It has also been instrumental in a loss of privacy and personalisation.

 

“Mass-customerisation” is a cute phrase. It is also an oxymoron – a contradiction in terms. Transparently computer-generated communications can be, and are perceived by many to be intrusive and, sometimes, offensive.

 

There is an understandable reluctance by a significant percentage of consumers, individuals and corporations to declare and share private, confidential information - including banking and credit details.

 

Some things are considered best kept private.

 

CONSISTENTLY INCONSISTENT

 

Customer experience surveys often do not address or measure all phases of the experiences to which the customer is exposed.

 

Most noticeable are the inconsistent levels of service and positive sentiments expressed about the eleven phases which typically characterise the total experience.

 

Two aspects in particular are consistently deficient in rating, and contaminate the expectations and the ratings of individual customers and clients.

 

Well-targeted communications, which feature the names of recipients in the salutations can be impressive. But, the positive experience is negated when consumers are encouraged or directed to initiate contact with a website or call-centre.

 

Smooth processes never counter the impact of disappointed, impersonal outcomes.

 

“Personal” is an attribute, feature or adjective that is never fashionable, cyclical, or seasonal. It is an eternal, compelling basis on which to establish and sustain relationships. Furthermore, the allure of “personal” is an equally compelling reason to make contact and to develop great “customer experience” expectations and for businesses to enjoy competitive advantages, benefits and above all, customer loyalty.

 

MATCHING AUTHORITIES

 

To be effective, Customer Experience Managers need to be responsible for each and all eleven phases of the customer experience, and to have the authority to effect and refine initiatives and interactions, including public relations, advertising, promotions, merchandising, selling and service. One suspects that for many entities, those that have simply introduced a fashionable new label in their organisation charts, this will be a step too far.

 

Shades of “Customer Service Manager”, when everyone in a business is and should be responsible for managing service.

 

 

 

Get Connected

COMMUNICATION DISCONNECT

 

It is both a symptom, and a cause for concern for many in business. Moreover, it is both a verb and a pro-noun, that can be applied to many businesses.

 

In short, customers, clients, suppliers, associates - and yes, even staff, - are becoming increasingly disconnected and detached, physically and mentally, as a consequence of over-communication, which is a characteristic of on-line transmissions.

 

For many, the “hot button” has been replaced …. with the “Delete” button. Emails, blogs, text messages and messages are eliciting responses. Typically, and disturbingly, they are not those intended by the communicator.

 

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

 

Most people in commerce, the public sector and not-for-profit entities despair at the plethora of emails which await them each morning. The mobility of iPads and Smartphones has simply compounded the issue.

 

Those appealing aspects of accessibility, immediacy, transparency and accountability are countered by stress, a sense of intrusiveness and the widespread evidence of lethargy, disinterest and clinical depression.

 

The effectiveness of advertising, public relations, promotion and merchandising is being compromised. So too are initiatives intended to enhance branding of companies, products, services, communities and precincts.

 

All of these arise and confront business owners, leaders and networks at a time of increased and rapidly increasing sophistication.

 

TURNED OFF

 

In general terms, people across a broad spectrum of demographic and psychographic profiles have, or are, turning off.

 

Look no further than Twitter, the company, the channel and application. Its share price is experiencing a downward spiral as former younger disciples (or users) are cancelling their connection. They are responding to an awakening realisation of just how intrusive on-line and digital communication has become.

 

Some analysts and commentators question the future viability of Twitter and similar entities.

 

The challenge is to turn people on by having them reach out, connect and become engaged with a company, product, service or team member of interesting and interested people.

 

Brevity and space will become greater virtues than they currently are. People are, and will increasingly be, attracted to embracing experiences which promote offers, and respect an environment, in which individualism and individual presence are valued.

 

In similar vein to property, many people are seeking a “sea-change” or a “tree-change”. They are not choosing to opt out, but rather, to reconnect – on their own terms. They remain alive, alert, active and technologically wired.

 

PASSIVE AND SELECTIVE

 

The significant evolving structural changes in commerce and consumerism are often misunderstood.

 

Overt and active loyalty and advocacy are waning.

 

The passive phases of the buying cycle are being extended and are now more pronounced.

 

Physical “window shopping” has largely been replaced by on-line visits. Consumer traffic counts at shopping centres, in retail precincts and premises, at motor vehicle dealerships and swimming pool display centres are down, and those visits that do occur are a lot briefer than before.

 

No amount of intrusive, supposedly personalised, mass-customised communication will redress that established trend-line.

 

The promise and actions of “understatement” have widespread appeal and attraction. Evoking greater measures of emotion will result in enhanced images, sales and satisfaction.

 

High-pressure is best left to Emergency Services water hoses, in their role and endeavours to put out bush-fires.

 

A low-pressure presence will stoke the embers of interest and patronage.

 

 

THE FOCUS

 

The race to remain competitive and to secure advantage by embracing digital, on-line and social media can readily overlook the importance of the content and the context.

 

During the 1960s IBM conducted a marketing campaign with the theme:

 

“Yes, you can”

 

Today the rider is:

“Now, choose the best way to reconnect”

Make A Statement

A capability statement is, too many people in business, an important, if not an essential document.

 

Some existing and prospective clients demand submission of such literature. However, securing contracts and benefits as a consequence is not guaranteed.

 

Indeed, on balance, in many instances a capability statement is a disqualifying rather than a qualifying element in the selection process. Assessments are made on the capacity of those making such submissions to fulfil the basic requirements and expectations. Thus, the texts often simply determine whether a company or a professional is eliminated from the shortlist of potential suppliers of products, services and input.

 

In a disturbingly large percentage of instances it is a just reward. Put simply, many capability statements are crushingly boring.

 

SELF-CENTRED

 

Too often the focus is self-centred. Little or no reference is made to the unique circumstances, nature, demands and needs of specific prospective clients, projects or applications.

 

It is difficult to imagine any self-respecting prospective client contemplating the appointment or use of unqualified, or under-resourced, poorly capitalised individuals, teams or entities. In reality, such written overviews contribute to the commodisation in the profiling of the applicants. Shades of grey, beige and a conga-line of sameness!!

 

Fun can be enjoyed, excitement created, pride injected and business won from a total review of the content, context and focus of capability statements and corporate literature.

 

CUSTOMER-FOCUS

 

References about being customer-focused and client-centred assume new perspectives when literature is refined. The rewording of texts can and does articulate invaluable insights, provides peace-of-mind, differentiates products, services, people and entities and, above all, provides scope for the establishment of comprehensive advantage and value.

 

In competitive circumstances it is important to recognise that business and marketing are not about “me”. Customisation is the currency of the prevailing market place.

 

MASS CUSTOMISATION

 

The on-going, rapid and accelerating advancements in technology and digital applications are making profound impacts on business and communications.

 

Concepts like “now” and “local” have been remoulded. In the latter instance, it is no longer a geographic measure. We are all (and at all times) just a click away.

 

Likewise, standardised capability statements have been superseded by customised versions of capabilities statements. Corporate brochures and products/services catalogues have been similarly redefined. Reality now extends beyond long print-runs of corporate literature. Image. Short-run productions now in the marketplace are having high impact among recipients.

 

Book publishers and authors are still coming to grips with the capacity, the need for and the advantages of mass customisation. As a consequence, sales are suffering.

 

Magazine subscribers regularly receive issues with their names printed on the front cover. Impressive and effective.

 

Moreover, customised literature addresses the commonly held belief of existing and prospective clients that their needs, wants and circumstances are different and unique. Such real and perceived issues can be, and should be, addressed in customised literature.

 

Featuring the corporate identification of a prospective client on the front page of a written submission, regardless of format, is not subtle. However, it is effective, in many ways because it is unexpected.

 

In the words of US retail expert, Peter Glen, “Dare To Be Different”.

 

In similar vein, non-complying tender documents provide the potential to stand apart from the crowd. Traditional capability statements, when they are oriented and scripted to promote, profile and detail a capacity to establish, sustain, develop and enhance mutually rewarding strategic alliance relationships are valuable. Those attributes are to be lauded.

 

For those who find comfort in compliance and conformity, the proposition will be difficult to comprehend, accept and implement. To them making “the short-list” is important.

 

No it is not. The objective is to win the business and to enjoy a long-term effective partnership.

 

Those who seek success do need to make a statement - not about capabilities but rather about client-relevant outcomes, advantages and of benefits.

 

THINK DIFFERENTLY

 

The increasing use of electronic transmissions is an enabling, differentiating and marketing phenomenon. Executed astutely, the results can be phenomenal.

 

A marginal increase in the allocation of time and resources can, and often does, result in significant rewards, including increased revenue.

 

Perhaps the first step in the progression to market-leadership, comprehensive advantages and differentiation is a change in thoughts and perspective: the scope of communication needs to be reoriented from broadcasting to narrow-casting. Targeted audience sizes should be reduced from multiplies to singular.

 

NARROW-FOCUS

 

Nano- technology has minimised electronics, medical equipment, many aspects of commerce. The advances, consequences and advantages have been quantum in nature, primarily because of such a micro- perspective.

 

The message is clear and concise; to develop, advance and to grow big, think small and personal.

Towards High Performance

High performance is not a natural state. It is an aspiration, a stretch goal that is difficult to sustain.

 

Pursuit of that status has no finish line, the objective at all times, for those driven to that ideal, is to plan beyond the benchmark.

 

The measure of high performance as a concept is relative rather than absolute. Personal and competitive forces are at play, at all times. It is - an evolving set of dynamics.

 

Skills, knowledge, training, mental and physical fitness each play a role. However, there is one driving force which is first among equals, and it is PRIDE.

 

A positive sense of pride elevates self-belief, ideals and standards. It lifts performance to notable heights.

 

Pride is an intangible. Its presence is conspicuous. The consequences are palpable.

 

In business and commerce, pride has a number of key and strategic dimensions, such as:

 

LEADERS

 

Employees and team members who feel a sense of pride in working for and with a manager, team leader and supervisor typically exhibit the characteristics of someone who is empowered. They are inclined to be innovative, creative and responsive. Accountability for high performance is readily accepted.

 

Compromise and indifference are foreign to their frames- of- reference, as they know who they are and what they stand for within their employment setting.

 

COMPANY

 

Pride in being associated with a company and its brand is self-motivating. It inspires one in the morning and there is a wish to get to work. Indeed, there is no drive to contemplate or wish to working for any alternative employer.

 

Reliability and engagement are qualities appreciated by employers and customers alike.

 

PRODUCTS

 

A measure of pride in promoting, selling and servicing a product or products and to service these is usually reflected in enthusiasm for the marketing and recommendations of those units.

 

High performance measures are evidenced in sales volume, profit margins and customer satisfaction. It quantifies the advantages and benefits for all stakeholders and participants in the relationships. Those interactions also tend to persist and are both reinforced and complemented by personal recommendations and endorsements.

 

 

SERVICE

 

Commitment to a quality brand is a cornerstone of consistent and persistent service excellence. Non-varying service standards ensure consumers appreciate the innate value of high performance standards before, at the time of and after the purchase decision.

 

It's enough to make buyers proud of the decision they have made.

 

SELECTIVE RECRUITMENT

 

Cohesive integrated teams, whose members pursue, achieve and sustain high performance levels invariably reflect discerning and demanding recruitment and induction philosophies and practices.

 

Leaders who look for high performers are sensitive to the needs for and benefits of documenting detailed job descriptions, complemented by specific job specifications.

 

The former outline the range of duties and skill-sets involved in and required for the position. In the latter statement insights are provided on the human qualities that are essential to maintain the standards sought, if not demanded.

 

Recent examples abound with national cricket teams in which certain elite high performing individuals were a toxic, destabilising influence in team cohesion and performance.

 

The lessons learnt are that individual high performances in isolation are to the detriment of the team, produce losers, losses and disenchantment among followers. There are few fans of high performers who do not play for and contribute positively to consistent high performances of the team.

 

IMPORTANT PARALLELS

 

Sir Donald Bradman was, to many, an immortal cricketer. He was a persistently high performer which is reflected in his unparalleled Test match batting average of 99.94 runs.

 

“The Don” was forever aware of - and repeatedly stated - that he was playing for Australia. Pride in wearing the “baggy green” cap transcends eras, generations and teams.

 

The recent on-field performances of the World Cup champion Kangaroos Rugby League team is explanation enough to comprehend and appreciate the value of pride in the high performance expectations and delivery of a great team.

 

Similarly, the New Zealand “All Blacks” enjoy an enviable record of high achievement. Each player, who proudly wears their jumper, is known as an All Black for life. They take the distinction to the grave for it is only they who on their headstones can declare “He was an All Black”. Imagine if you will, the high performances in another place of the game that is played in heaven.

 

TELLING CONTRAST

 

The contrast in the ambience and atmosphere within those companies, and among those employees, who are not imbued with a sense of pride is striking.

 

Apathy, disinterest and disconnection prevail. An absence of enthusiasm, excitement and pride is evident, and is reflected in poor sales, marginal profits and low customer satisfaction.

 

Rationalisation about, and justifications of sub-optimal performance records are common. The blame- game is often centred on a distracting focus on extreme factors- the economy, the national currency and, competitor discounting.

 

External forces are best countered by internal initiatives. Pride comes from within.

 

LEADERSHIP

 

Successful business leaders are often asked, interviewed and reported upon with questions about what they believe is leadership. Predictably, the answers are many and varied.

 

A good start for all current and aspiring leaders will be to inspire within each person a sense of pride about the company, the fellow team-members, the product and the services provided. That will be a stepping stone to the attainment and maintenance of high performance.

 

In the current vexing and challenging economies and marketplaces some things stand above and apart from all countervailing forces. The most noticeable of these is high performance, underpinned by a widespread sense of pride.

 

 

 

Less Bluster, More Cluster

You're not alone … and shouldn't be. Going it alone exposes one to vulnerabilities, risk and “attack” from all angles.

 

Genuine, mutually beneficial collaborations and alliances have been elevated to the status of being competitive and comparative imperatives.

 

There is increasing and encouraging evidence of businesses, networks, communities and sectors winning business and market share as a consequence of implementing disciplined, collaborative and integrated business development and competitive initiatives.

 

Collective efforts and endeavours contribute to attaining, maintaining and benefiting from critical mass and momentum. The latter attributes distinguish those who are gaining marketplace traction from those who are losing traction, sales, customers and marketplace presence.

 

The compelling bottom-line for manufacturers, suppliers, associations and contributing stakeholders in dealing with a uniform, cohesive supply chain is PRODUCTIVITY.

 

In the challenging, if not straitened early months of 2014, the underlying philosophy of the “dark art of economics” – the allocation of scarce resources – is coming to the fore. Limited resources are being applied to where entities will enjoy and be rewarded by “getting the biggest bang for the buck”.

 

Striving for and achieving optimal leverage are understandably determining strategic and tactical decisions.

 

Servicing, contributing to and working with cohesive networks are appreciably more attractive, less labour-intensive and less expensive than endeavours to provide one-on-one inputs for a diverse range of small independent operations. A relatively small loss of independence for individuals in favour of the greater good for all is a marginal cost to bear.

 

 

CLUSTERING

 

Regional and remote communities throughout Australia and New Zealand are fast recognising the benefits and advantages of the “clustering” (read: concentration) of entities, products, services and applications.

 

Organisation hierarchies and strategic alliances between professionals and consultants are being restructured.

 

Greater impact, resonance, relevance, quality and performance standards are being enjoyed by all.

 

The town of Kununurra, in the far-north-west Kimberley region of Australia, home of the largest diamond fields in the world, the massive Ord River Diversion Dam and centre of countless tailored agricultural initiatives and innovations, is finding new directions, opportunities and scope for its local businesses, entrepreneurs and people. The individual and collective energy and excitement are palpable.

 

It is early days, but the prospects are being recognised, analysed and developed. Increased visibility in the marketplace as an attractive destination for tourists, businesses, entrepreneurs and capital is resulting in enhanced activities.

 

Bringing people, concepts and energies together is being completed with the setting of standards and securing commitments to adhere to them.

 

 

LIFT YOUR STANDARDS

 

Inevitably some don't and won't make the grade.

 

Attrition is an integral element of history, evolution, life and business. Exit and succession strategies are virtues in life – and in business plans.

 

Evidence of Charles Darwin's “Food Chain” principles will be strikingly apparent during the course of 2014.

 

In short, some businesses will fold or “die”.

 

Therefore, those who choose to “cluster”, collaborate and integrate will need to establish minimum and, in many instances, “stretch” standards to remain competitive, relevant and sustainable.

 

There is little benefit, advantage and joy derived from the tendency for things to gravitate to the lowest common denominator. The name of the game will not be numbers alone. Domination, - by leadership, discipline, creativity and innovation - is a far more compelling goal.

 

Overall, business failures and closures will be a conspicuous reality. They can be minimised by the conduct of objective, detached and timely strategic reviews. Selling businesses will be one option, to avoid the undesirable demise of some entities and outlets. It could and will be encouraged and facilitated by and among those in differing supply chains.

 

Some egos will be brutalised. However, it will be a case of ...‘e goes or we all go … down the gurgler'. That will be a cold, stark fact of life …, which, on reflection, will be fair to all concerned.

 

 

 

 

 

HARD DECISIONS

 

For many business owners and managers around the world trading conditions are being classified as “hard”. Consequently, there are few or no “soft” decisions or options available for those who seek to remain competitive, viable and sustainable.

 

The best timing for the making and implementing of hard decisions is NOW.

 

Winners do and will recognise the importance of creating a sense of urgency, being focused, tolerating risk, establishing momentum, maintaining standards and forming collaborations and allegiances, while not accepting complacency, indifference, lack of commitment and sub-optimal performance standards. In short, “less bluster, more cluster”.

 

 

 

What's New

Lessons learnt.

 

The evolving trends in consumer demand and expenditure for Christmas 2013 are interesting and insightful!... for all in businesses.

 

In essence, there are few consistent, uniform trends. Winners and losers are being identified and are being determined by individual efforts and creativity.

 

Jewellery sales, a typical discretionary purchase are down – by as much as 40% in some retail outlets. The impact is being felt throughout the full length of the supply chains. More than 21 jewellery wholesalers have ceased trading this year.

 

Notwithstanding forecasts of 6.3% (and more) increases in revenue this Christmas, over that of last year, sales are flat. However, there are noticeable movements in consumer traffic.

 

Discount department stores are enjoying a good festive season. This can be explained in part by the absence of significant ranges of new products, services, concepts and applications. “New” represents relevance, and above all, value. Price sensitivity is figuratively and literally discounted.

 

This Christmas there is a preponderance of “old”, established and traditional offerings. Many have been morphed into commodities, which are available from all and sundry. Hence, price is the key and dominant differentiator.

 

The deep pockets and advertising power of the duopoly, Coles and Woolworths, owners of Target, K-Mart and Big W are difficult to counter, neutralise and to beat.

 

The fundamental lesson: “New” is an imperative in the current marketplace. Where you can't differentiate what you market and sell, then differentiate how you market and sell such.

 

EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS

 

Another noticeable driving force in the current season is the appeal of experiences, in preference to the purchasing of things. This year the scope of “attractive” experiences is broadening.

 

In the recent past, focus has been tandem parachute jumps and Harley-Davidson motor cycle rides. For 2013, revenue has been strong for tickets to T-20 international cricket matches, One Day International games, Rolling Stones concerts, “Cavalia”, Crown Resort extravaganzas and memberships to the Eagles, Dockers, Wildcats and other elite sporting clubs.

 

If those are not “new”, they are different. Moreover, they represent good value, regardless of the price tags.

 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

 

The marketplace, the economy and consumers (as well as clients) are changing. We, in business, need to change, to create and innovate to sustain a competitive edge and relevance.

 

January 1 is the start of a New Year. It is important that a “new” you rises to meet the morning, and the challenge.

 

 

Culture Bonds, Right!

We have been here before!

 

Culture has a lot to answer for.

 

In food, it's the very basis for a pathway to health, particularly with yoghurt and the like.

 

Sporting clubs consumer culture as a key explanation for on-ground and off-ground behaviour – good and bad.

 

Culture, reflected in behaviour, clothing and events, is a magnet that attracts tourists to many established European, Asian and South American countries.

 

In the corporate world, culture explains, determines and influences practices and values. It largely determined people “doing the right thing”.

 

Sub-optimal performances and inconsistent standards are often sheeted home to poor and inappropriate corporate and business cultures.

 

Positive cultures are the bonding forces that, figuratively, hold entities, nations and families together. Negative cultures and sub-cultures contribute to varying degrees of entropy. That is, the trend and tendency towards a state of disorder.

 

Sadly, many senior executives and business owners find it difficult, if not impossible, to articulate the essential elements and attributes of their organisations' cultures. That shortcoming is readily reflected in staff behaviour, branding initiatives, advertising, company product and people images (and self-images).

 

WINDOW ON THE WORLD

 

Cultures are windows through which the world, and conversely, the entity is perceived and valued.

 

Cultures are filters that often distort reality.

 

Written statements like, “we are committed to maintaining the highest customer service standards” can be contradicted and typically stand in stack relief to decisions made to retrench staff, contain costs and to our-source services.

 

Which is to be believed and responded to... by team members, customers, clients, suppliers and associates?

 

Corporate cultures enable accurate expressions of company belief systems. Gaps between words and actions create problems.

 

ROOT CAUSE

 

Consistent deficiencies and inadequacies in customer service delivery, retailing selling skills and relationship management practices are invariably consequences of, and reflect an inappropriate or poorly deployed corporate culture.

 

Well-intended training programs usually address the symptoms and not the causes. Little positive outcome is achieved from these activities.

 

Focusing on processes is misguided. It is the inputs that need to be addressed and redressed.


A definitive statement that exhibits an understanding of the nature and importance of a corporate culture is:

 

“We do it that way, because that's the way we do things”.

 

Note that the word and first person “I” has little emphasis in a corporate culture.

 

FORCED CHOICES

 

A telling test which identifies the true nature of a culture is when staff members are subjected to a choice between expending company money to provide customer service and hence, deliver customer satisfaction – or to save money.

 

It is the thought – process of people and their resultant actions, rather than craftily scripted and framed customer service texts that project and define a true corporate culture.

 

LEARNING EXPERIENCES

 

Our son David recently shared the details of an unpleasant personal life experience. He was tempted to “point-score” by responding to the disadvantage of another person.

 

He explained that he took pause, reflected on the Urquhart Clan motto: “ Meane weil , Speak weil, Do weil”, and dismissed the thought as being inappropriate and inconsistent to the values to which he adheres.

 

You will excuse me for being impressed and proud.

 

Culture statements that are recognised, comprehended and respected typically out-rank corporate mission and vision statements.

 

True cultures are character-building and defining.

 

In essence, cultures are the very expressions of the personality of an entity, a nation, a family and an individual.

 

A sobering and insightful challenge is to ask team members, clients and customers to express in humanoid characteristics, the personality traits of a business. It results in a better, more comprehensive understanding of self, be it an entity, product, service, group or individual.

 

CULTURE DISPARITIES

 

There is much to learn, develop and refine when business advertising, literature, premises, practices and policies are analysed against the datum points of the corporate culture.

 

Inconsistencies become readily identifiable. Better understandings are gained about poor and inappropriate responses to texts, behaviour, marketing and sales initiatives. Certain perception and image factors can jar.

 

Casual comments by team members too often cause conflict, annoyance and frustration, resulting in loss of sales, profits and customers. Often the primary cause is a lack of recognition of, respect for and commitment to a clearly defined corporate culture.

Tightening The Reins

Chinese curse or not, we do live in interesting times.

 

One common phrase, philosophy and set of practices current in business is to “tighten the reins”. With thoroughbred horses this may reasonably be perceived to “nobble” performance levels. So too in business.

 

Yes, a figurative tightening of all things can mean that risks are reduced, focus is narrowed – often onto cost containment – and greater control is exercised.

 

Among the additional consequences are a lessening of flexibility, a de-emphasising of creativity and innovation, a loss in recognition of the opportunities which exist, and sensitivity to the need for change.

 

Introspection can and does lead to enhanced efficiencies. Equally, a loss of an external focus may compromise effectiveness, relevance and competitive advantage.

 

The dynamics of society, the global economy and marketplaces are such that losing touch and becoming disconnected are real and all-too-often outcomes. Getting in touch with internal operations and micro-managing processes can often be at the expense of recognising, respecting, responding to and capitalising on multi-source inputs and rewarding outputs.

 

OPPORTUNITY COSTS

 

The old adage “What gets measured gets done,” retains its currency. So too does acceptance of certain innate biases within companies, typically emanating from the offices of owners and managers, as well as the corridors of power that inevitably lead to the boardroom.

 

Corporate cultures and philosophies are often moulded, refined and espoused by the leaders. Training, education, life experiences and nature all played a role and influence performance.

 

However, little consideration is often given to the lost opportunities caused by initiatives and directions like “tightening the reins”.

 

Quantifying them is often difficult, if not impossible. So too, measures of competitive standing and market positioning.

 

Notwithstanding those difficulties and initiatives, opportunity costs are borne by entities, large, medium and small in the long, immediate and short-term. It is therefore important that all strategic corporate decisions are founded on well-informed analyses of all available facts. In short, don't be blind to opportunities.

 

RISK – AVERSE,

OPPORTUNITY DENIED

 

Much of the fun and many of the rewards in business flow from the vagaries in dealing with people; be they customers, clients, suppliers, associates, competitors, staff members, shareholders or investors. Enjoy the ride!

 

The mantras of “cash is king”, “lower debt” and “avoid risk” are well and truly articulated in all phases of contemporary society, business and politics. Perhaps it is time to re-introduce certain realities, like:

 

•  Risk cannot be avoided, just minimised
•  Change is a constant state, not an option
•  Life is a terminal condition.

 

Truly great, successful and profitable entities expect, encourage, learn from and profit through failures. Their essential common creed is:

 

Fail often – but in small measures.

 

 

BIG, HARD DECISIONS

 

“Tightening the reins” usually avoids major marketing, often capital-intensive decisions.

 

Errors of judgements do not occur if decisions and choices are not made.

 

However, hope, scope, visions and growth are typically not fulfilled when big, hard decisions are suspended.

 

In short, one should be aware of the consequences and do not close one's mind to options and alternative courses of action.

 

 

ALLOW A LITTLE SLACK

 

Champion thoroughbred horses like Phar Lap, Black Caviar and Sea Biscuit, whether racing in a sprint or staying event, were always allowed a little slack in the reins.

 

Giving natural leaders there head is, well, natural. They have the right and the expectation to stretch themselves, to aspire, to achieve and to sustain. So too business.

 

Financial and operational prudence are ill-defined benchmarks. Intuition is a fundamental ingredient and a guiding value. It is also subjective.

 

A tightening of the corporate reins should be applied judicially, to avoid unnecessary and unintentional constraint.

 

To do otherwise, will bring down the wrath of the stewards, the Clerk-of-the-Course, or the shareholders and the marketplace, if you will.

 

 

KEEP YOUR HEADS DOWN

 

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King”. It is a saying which has particularly pertinent at present.

 

With so many management teams responding to calls to “keep your heads down”, the vision and perspectives are limited. Being constrained to the parameters of the figurative trenches impinges on the prospects for action.

 

Those who take a calculated risk to stick their heads above the “turrets” may well find a landscape, the marketplace if you will, with countless unfulfilled and non –competitive opportunities.

 

WHAT IF?

 

Changes and improvements in performance inevitably flow from changes in attitudes, perceptions and confidence levels. Each of the latter can be materially influenced from objective evaluations of situation analyses.

 

Therefore, the initial steps to address and to redress the emphasis of “tightening the reins” involve the agenda of all future management, marketing, planning and selling meetings to feature prominently fundamental questions:

 

 

•  What if we do...?
•  What if we do something new?
•  What if we do something different?
•  What if we stop doing...?

 

Long may you reign over hesitancy.

Regroup, Re-Growth

The dawning of a new reality.

 

There is an increasing awakening among business owners - big, small and micro - that the consequences of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), the end of the capital expenditure mining boom and the debt dilemmas of Europe have included unintended, undocumented and non defined changes in business cultures, philosophies, policies and practices.

 

Customer service standards, relationships and instances of referrals have all been adversely affected.

 

The needs of in company signage, corporate literature and public utterances about commitments to and the pre eminence of customer service, quality, value, change and innovation remain. They stand Stark naked and contradict the daily experiences and perceptions of team members, clients, customers, associates and suppliers.

 

The ideals persist in the minds of some, but their attainment and maintenance are impeded, filtered and blocked by a seemingly omnipotent preoccupation with cost cutting, retrenchments and operational containment. Ideals are often compromised by marketplace realities. Words are debased by actions.

 

CONFUSED MESSAGES

 

Confusion abounds. Contradictions militate against well intended endeavour.

 

At the same time staff members are encouraged to extend themselves, to reach out to clients and customers to provide service excellence, to ensure accuracy, quality and value. Statements - if not pleas - are made for them to reduce costs, eliminate waste, rationalise inventories and to implement cost - free efficiencies.

 

Not surprisingly, in many instances morale is down, tensions are up, performance levels are inconsistent and tolerance levels are wafer thin. In short: the rubber band has been stretched to near breaking point.

 

BODY LANGUAGE SPEAKS VOLUMES

 

Most conspicuous in many businesses through Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Europe and North America at present is the overt body language of service providers and professionals.

 

Arguably, the gestures are unrehearsed and unintended, but they do speak volumes to the clients and customers.

 

The rolling of eyes, the shrugging of shoulders and the figurative dropping of shoulders should perhaps be confined to the underperforming Australian Cricket Test teams. Sadly, the attitudes are toxic and infectious.

 

Coaches of all codes of high performance sports and business people implore their people to look and to act like professionals.

 

Verbal slips are like dropped catches, they lose matches. Sales and relationships are literally walking out the door.

 

MAKE A STATEMENT

 

There is need for business leaders to assemble their team members to make a statement, to recommit to the corporate vision and ideals, to redefine the goals, the service values and, above all, the beliefs which have, do and that will continue to drive the company, its people and network.

 

The benefits will flow. Rekindling a sense of pride, positive self image and aspiration will be promptly rewarded.

 

Reason, not rationalism, should be the fundamental driving force.

 

Understanding, support, compassion and passion will and does engender cohesion, interpretation and confidence.

 

Declarations by business leaders and owners about tolerance of prudent risk taking, single shot failures and suboptimal performance will promote a sense of adventure, desire and proactive behaviour. Being in control is often founded on the reassurance of support from higher ranks.

 

DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT

 

One business truism is worth repeating:

 

“Nothing meaningful or better will

happen unless and until you

do something different”.

 

“Holding the line” will, at best, maintain the status quo. It is an attractive and appropriate proposition for very few entities, business owners, nations and individuals.

 

“Holding out” is perhaps worse, because one is then dependent on external factors, forces or entities to initiate a change for the better.

 

“Holding on” begs the question... for how long? It also implies you have encountered the ubiquitous “cliff” and are dangling precariously.

 

Now is the time to “let go”, not to hold on. The later implies and typically results in consolidation, contraction and solace.

 

To regroup and to seek regrowth necessitates an unshackling of mindsets, paradigms and the micromanaging of processes.

 

In many instances spreadsheets should be set aside and emphases on cost savings need to be reprioritised. All people need to figuratively and literally stand up, stretch out and walk about.

 

Talk, engagement and interactions generate refocus. They stimulate enthusiasm, facilitate recognition and differentiate one from the predictable, inertia, the mundane and lethargic norm.

 

DON'T COMPROMISE

 

Tangible and intangible rewards await those who commit to uncompromised customer service excellence, quality, value and consistency.

 

Investments in time, money, people and resources will doubtless be required. It will involve outlays before benefits, an orientation to outcomes rather than to processes, and most particularly, a bias to longer - term strategies, in preference to shorter - term tactics. Step up now:

 

Step 1:     Regroup

Step 2:     Refocus

Step 3:     Regrow

 

Enjoy and profit from the journey.