An Alternative To Selling Professional Services

A professional dilemma.


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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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


What’s in it for me?


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


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




The art of handing out business cards has been refined.


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


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


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


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




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

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




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


Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555




Strong On Capacity - Short On Capability

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


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


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


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




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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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


Barry Urquhart

Business Analyst

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555






The Customers' Journeys

An evolving and new awakening.


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


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


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




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


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


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


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




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




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


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


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




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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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



·       Automated Telephony Systems – 51%

·       Restricted Access to Human Representatives – 37%

·       Wait Times to connect with people – 34%


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




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


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


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


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




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


Cross- referencing is both supportive and highly productive.


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




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


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


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


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


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




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


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



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


Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555




Don't Promise, - Deliver

Delivering the promise is no longer good enough.


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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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


What business are you in?




How do you deliver?


For those with the right answer, success awaits.


Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555



Recognised, But Unfulfilled - The Digital Marketplace

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


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




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


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


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


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


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


Television represents a similar scenario with consistently like-trends.




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


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


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


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




My, how things have changed.


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


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


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


Product. Price. Place. Promotion.


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


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


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




1963 was a benchmark year.


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


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


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


Perceptions, Perspectives, Paradigms and Positioning.




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


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


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


The 4 D’s had arrived:


Daring. Different. Digital, Disruptive.


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


Their essential values are:


Daring – Tolerates and embraces risk, dispels fear

Different – Is lateral, not literal

Digital – A channel, not a product

Disruptive – Typically enhances, seldom replaces


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


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




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


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


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


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




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


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




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


The following progressive elements are fundamental:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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


Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555




Take Nothing For Granted

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555




Branded - For Success

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


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


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


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


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


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




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


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


For example,


Volvo: Safety

BMW: Engineering Excellence

Apple: Simplicity in design and application


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




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


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


The charity sector was interesting.


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


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


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


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




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


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




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


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




One cannot live by brand along.


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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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




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


The Doctrine of No Surprises


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


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

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




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


·       Corona

·       Heineken


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


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




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


Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555





The Power To Say 'Yes'



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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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


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


Barry Urquhart

Facilitator – Business Development Workshops

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555




80:20 Rule Myth Shattered

Ask, and you will receive. The findings of a recent national research study have shattered the widely-held contention that successful businesses generate around 80% of their revenue from repeat and referral transactions.


Referrals have declined, substantially.


Consumers report effecting direct and personal referrals and recommendations to less than 8% of entities with whom they dealt with in the 4 weeks preceding interviews.


Arguably, the most disappointing finding was that only 2% of consumers reported being requested by service providers to provide recommendations, referrals and introductions.


Clearly, the art and discipline of asking for business has been lost on many -, new - generation employees in particular.


Things don’t just happen in business. They need to be encouraged, supported and nurtured.


Follow up and follow-through are integral elements of a transaction. They are the founding steps to establishing and sustaining relationships, adding to a burgeoning customer base.


Recruitment, induction, training and ongoing development processes need to feature and to reinforce the need for and benefits from a consistent practice of requesting endorsements, recommendations and referrals.


They must be complemented by an integrated schedule of corresponding, self-initiated contacts with those prospective clients who have been identified and nominated as satisfied customers. The circle of life has similar characteristics to that of the cycle of business. Birth, rebirth and procreation are fundamental. 


Remember, ask, and you will receive. Dismiss concerns about the fear of offense and rejection.


Barry Urquhart

Retail Strategist

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555




"We Don't Do Call-Backs"



Some business practices are well beyond the sage, Albert Einstein, who once stated:


Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.


Advising prospective clients who have telephoned that they will have to wait up to 20 minutes to speak to a consultant, and then declaring we don’t do call-backs is insanity personified and accentuated.


It happens daily. Indeed, all too-often, at great expense to the profile, images, revenues, profits and competitiveness of entities.


Regrettably, managers seem oblivious to the practices and consequences. Hopefully, they do not reflect polices.


The monitoring of incoming calls does not typically recognise, register and report on forsaken businesses opportunities.  Indeed, average telephone conversation durations can be reduced, and then applauded by management.  Some statistics simply measure the wrong dimensions.


Ignorance about and indifference to service excellence and the value of relationships among receptionists, telephonists and consultants is mind-numbing.  Some just don’t get it.


The contemporary global, national and local economies are such that few, if any, businesses can afford to readily knock-back or reject outright business opportunities.


However, regular work-practices are erecting barriers, filters and impediments for those who initiated contact and have self-declared they want and need specific products, services and applications.


A lack of astute, discerning and disciplined recruitment, induction, training and development practices is omnipotent.




If I could talk to more people, I could do more business is a common refrain, particularly among incentive-based sales people.  They know the innate value and resultant sales that arise from conversations.


Sadly, many employees believe in, and are driven by the contention that they aren’t sales people.  Wrong.  Every team member contributes to the sales process and gracious, courteous and responsive communication is fundamental........ natural and easy.


Business processes that do not involve people are typically self-serving, administrative and do not generate revenue and profits.  They are correctly designated to be cost-factors.


There is an increasing awakening that in business we all need to seek out, become involved in, enjoy and follow-up opportunities to communicate.


Incentives should not be required to encourage and to have all team members willingly undertaking call-backs.  Ringing up prospective customers and clients is the first step in ringing up increased sales and profits.


Indeed, the most consistently successful business, marketing, sales and service people make it a practice to “call-back” existing prospective and past customers. They know that conversations are on-going, and that they need to be part of the process, to ensure that they enjoy the outcomes and consequences.




No-one should ever consider themselves to be too busy to make call-backs – or to initiative contacts.


Administration duties, meetings, and budgeting can wait.  Customers won’t, and should not be made to do so.


Attrition rates among the relationships with established customers are rising, in some instances up to 40% per annum.  Winning back those customers can be, and is, complex, involved, expensive and time-consuming.


Policies like we don’t do call-backs, do free-up time in the now, and in the future.  Over the longer-term there are few or no customers to call-back, speak to or to seek out.




There is much to herald about the disciplined practice of call-backs, including:


·       Commitments should be given, and fulfilled about call-backs.


·       Time horizons should be nominated.


·       Records of conversations, undertakings promised and milestones achieved should be documented, retained and programmed for follow-up (to enable further call-backs).


·       A daily schedule of at least 6 self-initiated call-backs should be implemented, to maintain enhance and celebrate relationships – which are founded on, and sustained by communications.




I commend those who become aware of the practice by competitors that they don’t do call-backs, to initiate contact with the managers of those entities to surrender yourself as being willing to receive and collate the names of those unfilled customers so that they can make those annoying, disruptive, time-consuming call-back calls.


For those customers who are subjected to the inane, if not insane practice of “no call-back policies” contact management and enquire about the identity and contact details of competitors who do call-backs.


They might just get a clear hang-ups.




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


Barry Urquhart

Conference Keynote Speaker

Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555







Information Is Power - But Not Enough

Big Data, big deal!


Countless businesses have been overwhelmed, indeed swamped, with information as a direct consequence of implementing the process and capacity of Big Data.


Invaluable insights on the perceptions, preferences, buying patterns and essential characteristics of individuals, families and groupings have been retrieved.


In the main they remain uncollated, awaiting analysis and astute deployment and application.


How ironic. So much information, and so little intelligence.




The marketplace feedback is disturbing, and damning.


A recent extensive national survey of consumers concluded that some 72% of recipients of customised, personalised correspondence – determined and influenced by data from their own past transactions – deleted or did not read the literature pieces.


Design, layout and graphics were, seemingly, not key contributors to such consumer indifference and non-responsiveness.


It seems that many contemporary consumers now determine whom they will interact with, buy from and be loyal to, and the manner in which they will do so.


In short, company initiated advertising, promotional texts and communication are, to many, considered to be unsolicited, and often, unwelcome intrusions


That is little removed from the unenviable stigma of junk mail.




Much of the prevailing attitudes and non-responsiveness to customised, big data – are the consequence of past experiences with mass-produced, non-discriminatory bulk-mail and emails.


The underlying marketing issue is categorisation, not packaging. Many marketing, selling, promotion, sales and service initiatives suffer from commodization. Therefore, individual contacts with existing, prospective and past customers and clients tend to suffer from “not being opened” – rejected - rather than being read, and comprehended and then rejected. Read: Selective Perception and Reception.




Even finely packaged offers on products, services and brands which are conspicuous in the past buying patterns of individuals have at best, a mere 50% prospect of a positive response from targeted consumers.


The importance of time, and timing does not appear to be recognised and respected by some business leaders and their marketers. Great, appealing, financially attractive and compelling value-offerings can pretty much lack relevance, if the timing is not right.


Different strokes for different folks.


Big Data alone is not the answer, just like quantitative research findings. They provide overviews on statistical patterns and address the questions about what and how.


The worth of quantitative research is optimised when it is complemented, and typically pre-empted by attitudinal research. That latter methodology probes, and provides insights on the questions about why.


That is why demographic profiles of targeted audiences only provide part-answers. Psycho-graphic profiles are multi-dimensional, insightful and, potentially, incredibly powerful. Big Data typically lacks the latter's data inputs and insights.




Among the key findings of the major research study into Big Data– initiated communications, many females expressed concern that their important and fundamental role as the primary buying agent was not recognised. That is, the differentiation between being the customer and the consumer.


Some 58% of menswear is sold to women. Not for them to wear, but for use by significant males in their lives, be they sons, partners, relatives or friends.


Yet there's a conspicuous absence of females in a large percentage of menswear advertising, merchandising, promotional and point-of-purchase literature.


The power of families extends well beyond “the hand that rocks the cradle”.




The prevailing under-performance of many Big Data- based business development initiatives does not imply or conclude that all entities should turn away from, or reject the principles and practice of data collection, analysis and use.


It does, however, highlight the imperative of recruiting and retaining people who have the skills, experience and training to effectively convert the raw information into valuable intelligence.


Like social media, Big Data is, and should be utilised to complement and accelerate existing channels to and between targeted customers.


A discerning touch is what separates the attractive and profitable latent potential from the current poor and marginal returns which are being experienced ....-and not enjoyed by all the participants.


It's all in the execution. Get it wrong, and it will kill you.





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


Barry Urquhart

Marketing Strategist and Analyst

Marketing Focus

M:   041 983 5555



The Digital Divide

Time for a reality check.


Searching and buying on-line can be cheaper, provide more information and offer greater variety. It does, however, tend to be slower for consumers taking possession of the product, service or apps, and can be disappointing – reflected in the 300% differential in product returns, compared to those bought in-store.


Above all, many consumers perceive and report the on-line shopping experience to be hollow – devoid of emotion and fun.


Purchases made in bricks ‘n mortar premises are typically faster and more emotionally fulfilling.


However, the line between the two categories is becoming blurred.


The fastest-growing component of on-line sales is “click and collect”, in which the transaction is undertaken on-line and the consumer chooses to collect the product in-store.


Thus, convenience and price advantage meet positive, emotional shopping ambience and experience.


The in-store buying scenario is increasingly involving use of a smart phone for price-checks, brand preference selection and scanning available offers. Information is power.


Modern, contemporary consumers are connected, informed, discerning, price-aware and demanding.




Consumer traffic, sales and satisfaction can be leveraged and optimised with the astute use of digital marketing initiatives.


Video walls, with dynamic changing graphics are replacing posters. As a result, there tend to be less signage and clutter, fewer displayed products and greater focus, impact, energy and a sense of urgency – all reflected in greater productivity.


Interactivity introduces a new dimension of the visual merchandising. Touch-screens enable intending buyers to find more information, to correlate and integrate differing products, colours and concepts and to customise those to best fit and suit house designs, personal needs and preferences.




A palpable consequence of professionally applied in-store digital marketing initiatives is up-beat attitudes, behaviour and movement of both customers and staff members.


The positive emotions are infectious.


They stand in stark contrast to ambience of neighbouring stores which retain “tired” dated and dog-eared posters, and point-of-purchase signage.


Real-time updates, high definition content and the integration of omni-channel displays resonate, often subconsciously, with consumers.


Encouragingly, use is not limited to telecommunications retail premises, to electronics, fashion, furniture or flooring outlets. It is equally effective in enhancing the ambience, store traffic, sales and customer satisfaction in coffee lounges, medical practices and motor vehicle sales centres.




Static displays are passé. Therefore, upgrading to digital marketing requires a budget, allocation of resources to constantly update and change presentations and the retention of people who are skilled and committed to the concepts the outcomes and benefits.


This is the new face of modern retail entertainment. Much of the customers' experience is centred on and determined by the ambience, settings and contexts.


Illuminated signs brighten up premises, product displays, and above all, customers.


These can be literally alive – with movement, colour and action. That mosaic attracts attention, consumers and results in sales.


The digital divide is palpable on several dimensions. Static displays tend to be associated with static sales and performance levels.




Location, established consumer traffic flows, natural ambience, lighting and quality premises, products, services, apps and people remain important.


The essence of great digital signage is creative content, interactive options supported by an appropriate, liberal budget and a recognition and tolerance by senior management. It is often difficult to quantify and monitor the actual financial returns on investment. Dividends from investments in digital marketing transcend multiple disciplines including, branding, image, competitiveness, relevance, attractiveness and overall appeal – in short, intermediate and long-term returns.


It's enough to brighten up your day .....- and that of your existing and prospective customers and clients.





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


Barry Urquhart

Marketing Strategist and Analyst

Marketing Focus

M:   041 983 5555




Blunt Instruments No Longer

The shackles of control are broken.


Past undergraduate students of Economics 101 were lectured (with conviction) that fiscal and monetary policies were blunt instruments, which enabled governments to control, influence and modulate national, state and regional economies. Such contentions have morphed into studies of history.


It's time to hit the re-set button.


Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Glenn Stevens, an eminently qualified economist with access to a plethora of global, national and sectional detailed data, information and intelligence recently conceded that he, the Reserve – and overseas, “The Fed” in the USA, and the Exchequer in Britain – can no longer accurately influence and forecast the marketplace or the consequences of monetary and fiscal initiatives. How refreshingly, open and honest.


It raises questions about the veracity and worth of the predictions and projections of countless economists from banks, professional associations and consultancies, who are inclined to be free with their advice and “insights” in the mass media.


To some, outside the sphere of economists, the only point of consistency among those supposedly authorative resources is that they are always wrong. The only difference is the measure of their inaccuracy.


Such common perceptions may explain, in part, the emerging presence of the new breed, - behavioural economists.


Statistics-based economics identify past happenings and trends. They do not isolate, analyse and explain the why of such reflective realities.


Given the evolving rebalancing of market forces in favour of consumers, and often, major spheres of influence (beyond the realms of government and the public sector) it is understandable that all players are beginning to recognise and respect the imponderables which populate society, the economy and marketplaces.


Sharemarkets are not immune to the new scenario. The number of investors who are reliant on, or influenced by “chartists” – those who record, track and graph trend-lines – is rapidly declining. Increasingly, they agree that -


The future is not a lineal progression of the past.


Perhaps there is now a better understanding of the nature, causes and consequences of the reference by Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve in the United States of America to:


Irrational Exuberance


Oh, to retain the exuberance and contain the irrationalism. Imagine an emotion- driven, confidence-influenced marketplace.




There are few, if any “experts” who know the customers, clients, competitors, substitutes, suppliers and spheres of influence as well as business owners and their team members.


Concessions and exceptions can and should be made to those in business who have retreated, battened-down and “tightened the belt”. Likewise, advice of “all-knowing, all-seeing” external experts, - economists and accountants included, - is most relevant to those who are detached from market-players.


Many deliberations and decisions are typically, solely or predominantly based on analyses of the ”Big Picture”, macro-economies if you will. As previously discussed, many of the contentions are spurious at best, and about as relevant as the form-guides - of past events - for horses in the Melbourne Cup, or the records of teams on the recent Rugby Union World Cup – with the exception of the all-powerful All Blacks. Their form centres most on muscle, mental strength and formations (not past performance).




There is a lot of merit in micro-management at this time. Some, if not many things are beyond one's influence and control, including fiscal and monetary instruments.


Most sectional downturns are measured in lower-order single numbers. Therefore, business is still being transacted.


Hence, the appropriate focus and accent should be on how one is to achieve, sustain and progressively grow market-share.


With most competitors and substitutes consciously contracting – inventories, advertising, marketing, workforces and resources - it is not difficult to create and enjoy the future of an enhanced and heightened presence.


Most behaviourist economists will concede that they do not have a measure on consumer confidence. It is considered one of those imponderables that “cloud” the marketplace. In many respects the big picture simply provides the backdrop for personally initiated actions.




There is no single, universal formula for success. The individualism of, and differences between businesses, products, services, economies, marketplaces and target audiences need to be reconsidered and respected.


However, there are certain fundamentals which are sound building blocks, including:


•  Invest in one's presence. This includes:
•  Premises presentation
•  Website locations
•  Product/Service merchandising
•  Team member personal presentations
Consistently, these initiatives generate the most immediate and sustainably positive responses.


•  Develop People
•  Training and development are not discretionary. They are imperatives.


•  Refine and focus inventory
•  New products, services and applications can be, and are magnets.
•  Delete the tired, the obsolete and the irrelevant.


•  Increase and improve communications
•  Integrate a multi-channel positioning.
•  Maintain consistency of message and frequency.
•  Inform, educate and engage existing, prospective and past clients.


•  Launch, relaunch
•  Excite the market place with events that launch all that is new.
•  Provide samples, trials and interactions. Emotional connections stimulate sales.




These proven and, well-established and successful building blocks have scant presence in, and influence of macro-fiscal and monetary initiatives or policies, consequently do not receive much attention.


But they do provide the framework in which you are able to do what you do best .... lead, manage and control your own business.





Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected strategic planner, consumer behaviour analyst, author and high impact conference keynote speaker.


Barry Urquhart

Business Strategist

Marketing Focus

Change - No Small Thing

Change is a big deal, particularly in the current marketplace.


Whether it is self-generated or imposed by external market forces, change demands attention, consideration, detailed analysis and the formulation, documentation and implementation of an integrity strategy.


Incremental change, and its consequences, dictate the need for respect. The scale of change differs little in importance from the frequency of that change.


In many, if not most instances, all change is significant to consumers. Accordingly, marketing, communications, promotions, merchandising, selling and service initiatives need more than “tweaking”.


Success in the introduction of change is not difficult. It is a consequence of detailed planning and respect for the impact on, and perception of existing, prospective and past clients.


Sadly, there is a long history of negative and sub-optimal outcomes as a result of change – big and small.




Clearly, a majority of unsuccessful change initiatives are derive from the management, and more disturbingly, marketing offices of companies, including manufacturers, distributors and retailers.


Greater knowledge, better education, unbounded creativity and originality, and a marketing degree, do not guarantee success and market acceptance.


Imposing and enforcing change on consumer perceptions, preferences and buying patterns is fraught with danger and difficulty. In such circumstances considerable time, money and resources need to be invested in the education and re-education of those in the primary, secondary and tertiary target markets.


Instant success is a rarity, if not a myth.




It is refreshing to learn, and reassuring to the owners, managers and marketers of small businesses that major global corporations, brands and product managers are prone to falling short in successfully implementing change.


The frequency of mistakes, shortcomings and outright failures is high. The scale of the consequences appears to be a differentiating factor.




For some 15 years the largest selling beer brand in Australia was Victoria Bitter, “VB”.


The brilliance of the advertising which featured the voice of the late John Meillon resonated with Australian drinkers and teetotallers alike.


A national market share of between 12 and 14% was enjoyed for an extended period of time, until someone decided to introduce a low-alcohol option. That weakened the presence and profile of the brand.


VB has slipped the ladder of success to approximately 3-4% market share.


The biggest selling beer brand in Australia is now full-strength XXXX, once a regional Queensland-based offering.


For global consumers the labelling may imply that it targeted to illiterate consumers. Not so. Although it could be a strikingly adroit strategy to impact among the 60%+ of the world's population who sign documents with an X!




For decades the Holden 6-cylinder Kingswood was Australia's own family motor car. Annual sales regularly exceeded 150,000.


Given the vagaries of oil supplies, and attendant price hikes, in the 1980s and beyond it was noted that a trend was emerging with the increasing popularity and sale of smaller, 4-cylinder European cars.


The decision was made – by whom I do not know – that the Holden Kingswood would be superseded by the Commodore, with the brand name Holden being removed or de-emphasised.


Sales plummeted to around 80,000 per annum. It was a costly lesson. Most changes come with consequences, some larger than others.


Holden never recovered and will cease production of motor vehicles in Australia by 2017.




Glad Wrap is a constant in many Australian kitchens.


A recent change in the packaging and introduction of a new cutting device hurt sales, - and a number of customers. Revenue bled, so too consumers, who could not effectively use the innovative cutting device.


Appropriately, the new packaging was promptly withdrawn, to the delight (and well-being) of many consumers.


The change to McDonald's product range with the introduction of All-Day-Breakfast was hardly a resounding success. It seems consumers were happy to move on from breakfast mid-morning. McDonald's franchisees found the extended hours of a breakfast offering was inefficient and impacting on profitability and productivity.


In recent times, McDonald's, and the broader fast-food sector, have been experiencing falling demand, sales and squeezed profits.


The best change seems to be good, rather than fast ... consumer driven, rather than management rushed. The margins for effort, like profits can be, and are increasingly thin.




•  Identify, isolate and analyse the demand factors for change
•  Ensure customer drive, and acceptance
•  Differentiate wants from demands – the former can create fads
•  Formulate, document and implement an integrated change strategy
•  Recognise and respect that to consumers, all change is BIG

The Big Lie - No Excuses

 Scandal. Fraud. Scam.


These are words that cause shivers in the corridors of corporations, and rightly so. Particularly, if the events and inevitable consequences are self-induced.


The Volkswagen diesel engine emissions imbroglio, in which on-board computer monitoring was deliberately set to under-report emission levels, is a striking example of appalling leadership and a poor, if not toxic, corporate culture.


It seems inconceivable that anyone could believe that a deliberate lie involving some 11.8 million motor vehicles and hundreds of thousands of Volkswagen employees around the world could remain hidden.


Once recognised and revered, the consequences for Volkswagen of the scandal have been immediate, widespread and cascading. The “fall-out” will doubtless continue well into the future. Reputational damage extends beyond single brands. Individuals, nations and sectors will suffer the odium of reputational stains.




This case study highlights the complexity of the principle of “unintended consequences”.


Volkswagen is the largest automotive manufacturer in the world, employing over 300,000 people, generating 206 billion Euro in revenue each year, and being owner of the Audi, Skoda, Bentley, Bugatti, and Lamborghini and Porsche brands.


Germany, its people and economy will be profoundly and directly impacted. One in seven of the workforce contribute to the production and export of motor vehicles. The Lower Saxony municipality owns 20% of the shares in Volkswagen and seeks regular and consistent dividends. They too will doubtless take a hit.


Questions will be put about the integrity of all things German, with probable detrimental influences on revenues.


Within two weeks of disclosure of the scandal, the resale value of all Volkswagen diesel vehicles in the United States of America had reportedly fallen by around 20%. That represents a large pool of disenchanted financially disadvantaged customers. It will probably get worse.


Satisfaction, loyalty, respect and referral business are concepts that will carry little currency into the immediate future for the Volkswagen group of companies.




The Chief Executive of Volkswagen has resigned with possible legal action pending. Two other senior executives have been dismissed, and a further trimming of the ranks is probable.


Search for a replacement leader has begun. Any trepidation about a poor record of external appointments of leaders for Volkswagen will be tempered by recognition that the current crisis is presumably a by-product of a negative, corporate culture.


Internal promotions and appointments would seem inappropriate to government, regulatory authorities, shareholders and customers.




The inept actions of many Volkswagen decision-makers beggar belief. What were the real long-term advantages and benefits? Any short-term beneficial outcomes were, in reality, false economies.


Greater respect was needed for the long-earned and justifiably commendable reputation for engineering excellence, reliability and value which had long been associated with the brand. A heavy price has already been paid, and will be paid well into the future.




In Australia, the image and standing of the 7-Eleven convenience stores franchise network have been figuratively trashed.


Seemingly widespread, if not systematic underpayment of employees is inexcusable and unjustifiable. The image of poor treatment of “back-packers”, “short term tourists”, casuals, Indian nationals in particular, will have fall-out in the international standing of Australia, the local franchise sector, convenience store operators at large, corporate Australia and many business operators.


We deserve better than that, and should not suffer from the actions of so few.


In recent times the 7-Eleven Chairman, Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer have each stood down or resigned.


The Deputy Chairman on the Board of Directors has been promoted to Chairman. However, he has reportedly been on the board for some 16 years. Therefore, he was present when the inappropriate actions took place. It is not a good look!


The same individual was the National President of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, whose charter is to promote ethical corporate behaviour and good governance. He either “stood aside” or was asked to “stand aside”. Rightly so.


What measure of confidence will 7-Eleven franchisees and the disaffected, reportedly underpaid employees feel?


He was also Deputy Chairman of a publicly –listed national network of motor vehicle dealerships. He recently made public he is standing down from that position. What has not been publicly addressed is his chairmanship of a transport company. Actions do have consequences.


Consideration must be given to the interests and concerns of shareholders, staff members, suppliers, associates and clients of that and other entities. The lessons apply to all.


In the current global digital and open marketplace there is, seemingly, no place to hide.




There are four prevailing dominant forces in the marketplace. Each must be addressed, positively and proactively, being:


•  Fear
•  Risk
•  Trust
•  Integrity


The innate fears and risks associated with big lies will mitigate against ever attaining the exalted status of being trusted and accepted for one's integrity.


Today, as forever, there are no “white” lies or little fibs. Lies, and their consequences, are big.


There is much to commend the virtues of walking the straight and narrow line.

Differing Costs Of Production, Reproduction

The concept of, and concerns about production costs are so .... mercantile.


That was an era in commerce that is long past, and now out-dated. Arguably, the peak occurred in 1637, in the Netherlands, when the price of tulip bulbs, imported from Turkey, collapsed from 2500 florins (also known as Dutch guilders) to very little. Some people “had gone mad” for tulips. Or was it that they were simply mad? Shades of prevailing property and share prices in a range of marketplaces.


In the instance of tulips the bursting of the bubble had little or nothing to do with costs. An unexpected and rapid disruption to the supply had people take pause and re-evaluate the “true value” of a tulip bulb.


The consequences were immediate, widespread and dramatically substantial. This is a lesson relevant to all at this time.


Andrew Carnegie, the US industrialist, may well have argued that production, commerce and industrial might had attained their zenith in the late 1800s.


In reality, it is immaterial. Market presence, success, sustainability, wealth, value and intellectual property worth have evolved from material goods to the intangibles, of information, intelligence and communication.




Quantifying the value and worth of brands, products, services and skills is increasingly difficult, and highly subjective. One person's junk (mail) is another's treasure!


Moreover, an abundance of information is readily available to all .... and sundry. What's more, a lot of it is accessible free-of-charge.


The capacity to retrieve, collate, analyse and selectively disseminate intelligence is a key determinant in a sound measure of worth in the prevailing digital era.


Typically, the cost of producing, using, sharing and supplying information and intelligence is typically minimal, marginal, or possibly, even zero.




Among the traditional, established and recognised barriers of entry are production costs. These include capital outlays, premises, materials, inventory, workforce, supply chains and distribution returns.


Individually and collectively, these could be, and were, formidable impediments, barriers and filters. Risk:Benefit analyses could be centred, and the conclusions determined, on these factors alone. No longer.


Original, “ground-breaking” products and services do require considerable investments in time, money, resources and people.


However, late-entrants into a product/service range, marketplace and sector can enjoy low-cost carriage by those “Barbarians at the Gate,” who are keen to intrude on the operations, presence and revenues of established market innovators and leaders.


The fundamental reasons are very conspicuous. While production costs can be, and often are, very high , reproduction costs tend to be minimal.


Original equipment manufacturers with enviable brand names like Caterpillar, Komatsu and the like, find it difficult to counter prompt, efficient and effective intrusions by unbranded interlopers. Today, reproduction does not imply inferior quality.


Protecting the integrity of intellectual property, design, processes and ingredients is becoming increasingly difficult. Patent– and copyright protection is difficult, expensive and time-consuming to invoke, enforce, police and maintain.


There will doubtless be increasing circumstances of “IBM-compatible” products and service offers, as a consequence of 3-D copying and similar technologies and capabilities.


Therefore, accelerated cash-flow positive returns will be possible, enjoyed and shared by “Johnny-come-lately” competitors, and substitutes.


Product lifecycles will inevitably be shortened, margins narrowed and exclusivity-price premiums curtailed, if not eliminated because reproduction is cost-free.




The increasing emergence of inequitable, low-cost reproductions in crowded, competitive and static marketplaces will underscore the need for all entities to place greater emphasis and value on enhanced productivity.


Windows-of-opportunity will be limited, product lifecycles concertinaed, investment return ratios will necessarily be refined, and risk-tolerance criteria will be reassessed.


A week may be a long time in politics. In business, the cycle may extend to, say three years, but seldom much longer.


Self-induced obsolescence will be considered a virtue.


Production costs may appropriately be outsourced, allowing product/service innovators and entrepreneurs the opportunities and needs to embrace the reality of utilising, profiting and creating wealth from stark and confronting NIL reproduction costs.


That will take a change in the business modelling and most likely a change in mindset.


Valuable Lessons From Product Failures

Product failures, it seems, are inevitable. Steven Jobs, founder of Apple had a refreshingly candid philosophy about the issue:


Fail big, fail fast and fail often.


Indeed, some iconic and global brands are serial offenders, or perpetrators, depending upon your frame-of-mind. No-one, no entity, product or service is immune.


The lessons learnt are invaluable, and accessible to all. Sadly, too few business leaders and marketers are alert and aware of the circumstances, the causes and the often very expensive consequences.


Coca-Cola, justifiably, stands proud and conspicuous among the great brands, companies and marketing entities around the world. A striking endorsement of its worth is the substantial shareholding retained in the parent company by the Warren Buffet-led Berkshire Hathaway group.


Its recent introduction of Coke Life, with stevia as a natural sweetener, has been, reportedly, less than stellar.


Sales in the first 5 weeks of trading throughout Australia achieved an estimated 7 million litres. That pales against a similarly inspired new product development, Coca-Cola Vanilla, which reportedly, registered sales of 14 million litres in the same initial period.


Coke Zero was a success story, with a reported comparative 30 million litres in sales.


A corporate executive stated recently that Coke Life may achieve a 1-2% market share of the Australian cola sector. The statement has the hallmark of a pre-emptive death notice.


What went wrong?


The global sales of soft drinks, cola in particular (which represents more than 80% of revenue in the sector throughout Australia) are declining. Indeed, 2015 will be a benchmark year as the sales of bottled water exceed those of bottled soft drinks.


Those in the key market segment, 30-45 years of age, are increasingly sensitive to weight-gain and obesity. Artificial sweeteners are not appealing and recent academic research has concluded that consumption of artificial sweeteners over an extended period of time can increase its consumers' girth.


Standard Coca-Cola has a long history of appealing to the younger, active youths. They can and do readily “burn-off” the reported 12 teaspoons of sugar in each can of Cola. For the more sedate consumers, that will require a 40-minute run ... calories are like that!


Thus, the potential lure of stevia, the new sweetener, is only a marginal factor in marketplace appeal.


Another issue is the green labelling. Green is not a good merchandising colour for products that are consumed into the body. The late Dame Anita Roddick, founder of Body Shop has a lot to answer for. Her use of green did introduce an acceptance of the colour for products that are typically applied to the body, not ingested.


Green may also be acceptable for BP (British Petroleum) in its implicit and explicit positive message about the importance of ecological sustainability.




The success rates of line-extended products and services are declining. It is important to be true to the market positioning of the product and the target marketing of primary consumers.


Colgate-Palmolive's entry into the microwave-heated snack market was somewhat less than a resounding success.


It seems that was simply a “bridge too far” for consumers, who were happy to brush their teeth and to clean their crockery with Colgate and Palmolive products but not ingest such. Gulp!




Good, relevant market research minimises risk and improves the prospect to attain the status of relevance. It does not ensure success.


Projective research, in which respondents are asked to project their actions, buying patterns and behavioural traits, is of questionable value and accuracy.


Steven Jobs declared that is was not wise to ask people what is was that they most wanted, given that which they were not able to presently get. He concluded most people didn't know, had not thought about such, and didn't have the answer.


It was his contention that entrepreneurs should develop products, services and applications, then “tell ‘em” and “sell ‘em”.




In 1975 Coca-Cola responded to the Pepsi-Challenge, in which consumers were invited, to nominate their preferred “blind-tested” cola drinks that they tasted from unlabelled thimbles.


Not surprisingly, over 75% nominated the Pepsi-Cola, with its higher sugar content (reportedly 14 teaspoons per can).


Coca-Cola rapidly introduced New Coke, with a higher sugar content. It bombed. Moreover, it was withdrawn from the market after just 79 days.


The key lesson learnt was that Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola are not typically consumed by the thimbleful. A full can of New Coke was just too sweet for its target audience.


The traditional Coca-Cola recipe had been retained and branded Classic Coke. Very appropriate - a classic case study on the need to manage and to meet consumer expectations.


Pepsi-Cola didn't learn those valuable lessons. It subsequently introduced Crystal- Pepsi which was a clear cola drink. Consumers, it seems, knew that real cola drinks were never transparent. The product stayed stuck to the retail shelves.




Success can be so fleeting.


John Sculley was the Pepsi-Cola executive who led the Pepsi-Challenge campaign. He was lauded internationally for his marketing and leadership brilliance.


Sculley was subsequently recruited to lead Apple. He supposedly conducted a forensic strategic audit of the company. A major weakness was identified ... Steve Jobs.


The founder was sacked. Sales fell, so too did the company share price. New products development dried up.


John Sculley soon joined the ranks of the unemployed. After several years in the corporate wilderness Jobs returned to Apple. It was a key factor in the introduction of iPads, iPods and iPhones.


On a platform of fail big, fail fast and fail often , Apple has become one of the world's highest capitalised entities and a brand leader.




The probability of product/service failure can be lessened if one asks the right questions of the right people.


Arguably, the biggest marketing failure in Australia during the twentieth century was the product of extensive and intensive research.


Leyland, the British-based motor vehicle manufacturer, asked Australians what they least liked about their present motor vehicles.


The findings were resounding. Put simply, the boot (trunk in the American vernacular) was not big enough.


Leyland promptly designed a big boot, attached an inadequate vehicle to it and launched the P76.


Alas, the company lost hundreds of millions of dollars, and is no more.


What questions were not asked included whether car owners would compromise aesthetics, leg room, space and power. Clearly they would not, and did not.


Ironically, the few P76 sedans that remain in Australia command a hefty premium ... good for some quirky individuals, but not for a corporation seeking volume sales.

Misleading Business Statistics

Statistics can be confusing, contradictory and difficult to comprehend.


Single-set figures and ratios can be, and often are, outright misleading.


Take for instance the recent national and state-based retail turnover data that was released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.


Retail sales for the past 12 months were reported to have increased by 4.3%. Very commendable, on the face of it.


However, that raw data belies the realities of the national, state, regional and local retail sectors. Increasing bankruptcies, store vacancies, widespread rent abatement and peppercorn rental payments are symptomatic of an industry under pressure and challenge.




Achieving growth in top-line statistics is relatively easy to achieve. Many retailers are implementing such strategies.


Discounting prices by 20%, 30%, 40$ and 50% can do wonders for turnover.


The disturbing downside consequences are evident in appalling margins, profits and financial viability.


Each of the four statistics so far mentioned are not the fundamentals required to be measured, monitored and optimised.


Many businesses, retailers in particular, do not recognise, respect and utilise the three sets of statistics which can, and do, materially influence and improve turnover, margins, profits and substantial finance viability.




Increasingly, astute business leaders are looking beyond accountants, advertising agencies and digital marketers to formulate, document and implement strategic marketing and business audits. Seven key statistics highlight the fact that we do not operative in a two-dimensional world or marketplace.


Barry Urquhart

Business Strategist and Analyst

Marketing Focus

M:   041 983 5555



Aldi Under Attack

Well intentioned, but questionable information.


Supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths were recently recipients of some free, unsolicited, public advice from an investment bank analyst.


He proposed that both should attack the smaller, but growing presence of the German-based interloper, Aldi, by attacking the network where it was weakest.


Apparently, extensive and intensive analysis had identified four strategic inadequacies in the market presence of the discount supermarket group. They were nominated to be:


•  Limited product range – around 1350 SKUs (stock-keeping units)
•  Dominance of house brands
•  Lack of partially-cooked and prepared meals
•  Poor customer service






It is not difficult to identify and appreciate the strongest attributes of Aldi. They are:


•  Limited product range – around 1350 SKUs (stock keeping units)
•  Dominance of house brands
•  Lack of partially-cooked and prepared meals
•  Poor customer service


Collectively, they enable Aldi to offer the lowest competitive prices to Australian consumers. In some price-surveys the differences in individual product and basket-prices can typically be as much as 28%, and in isolated instances up to 40%.


Consequently, the advertising and marketing campaigns of Coles (Down, Down, Prices Are Down) and Woolworths (Cheap, Cheap) have been ineffective against the smaller competitor. Put simply, Aldi owns the market positioning of “cheap”.


Unquestionably, Coles has taken the lead in supermarket presence against Woolworths, because of its sustained and expensive advertising theme and campaign.


On balance, it is probably widely recognised as “the cheaper of the two more expensive big chains”.




Since its introduction to the Australian marketplace in 2001, Aldi has grown its footprint among the eastern coast of Australia to number some 350 stores (in June, 2015).


A total of 50 further outlets are planned for South Australia and approximately 70 for Western Australia.


The growth rate appears relentless, reflective of and driven by consumers' acceptance and demand.




Those consumers who are attracted to the value-offerings of Aldi recognise and accept that the four “strengths / weaknesses” represent the constraints within which they make purchase selections and decisions.


An overwhelming majority anticipate and do visit competing, if not complementary, supermarkets to make “top-up” purchases. They are typically for branded products which are not available at Aldi.


Therein lies the marketing dilemma and challenge for Coles and Woolworths.


At present, and in most instances among a select and growing target audience of consumers, they are second-choice outlets.


That limits scope for impulse and spontaneous purchases. Those stimulants are usually triggered within the Aldi premises.


First choice should be a goal for both Coles and Woolworths, rather than the trading name of a liquor store network owned and operated by one of them.


A fundamental marketing, business and life principle is that it is better and more advantageous to be first, the most preferred and top of the shopping list.


That is best achieved, and sustained, by a strong focus on, say, 2, 3 or 4 strengths.




Military strategies tend to focus on the desirability of attacking the opposition where it is weakest. Identifying, isolating and accurately analysing those weaknesses are imperative.


A wrong call can be expensive, the consequences long-lasting and, all-too-often, the outcome fatal.


Therefore, value must be correctly assigned to intelligence, differentiating it from readily available information.


In this case, what is a weakness and what is a strength?


Objectivity, detachment, considered and informed decisions are called for.


The same fundamentals apply to banks, retail pharmacies, jewellers, financial planners, mortgage brokers and accountancy practices.




On the fields of battle, and in the prevailing marketplace, there is considerable fluidity. Forces ebb and flow. Contingency planning, delegated authority, integrated communication networks, unimpeded chains-of-command and short supply lines, competitive advantage and sustainable market dominance need to be deployed adroitly.


It is inconceivable, if not improbable, that Coles and Woolworths, responding to advice about the nominated weakness of Aldi would decide to substantially increase the presence and percentage of house-brand products.


For both chains that category has increased in recent years from around 12% to 25% of the product range and sales.


Besides, it can be reasonably argued that it is a strength of Aldi.


Similarly, narrowing or expanding the current product range of Coles and Woolworths to attack Aldi appears, on the face of it, to be meaningless. It is difficult to identify and quantify the purpose and the probable or desirable outcomes.


Increasing the offering of partially-prepared meals should be a decision determined by consumer demand.


Previous attempts to launch, promote, expand and highlight the DIFM (Do It For Me) category, have been met with tepid consumer responses.


The one non-negotiable, acceptable and laudable proposition is enhancing customer service, extending customer engagement and upgrading the total retail experience. That is demanded, expected and will address a prevailing deficiency in many sectors of retailing and businesses- with or without the presence of Aldi.


Care would have to be taken to avoid the temptation to refine the marketing positions of Coles and Woolworth to more closely align with that of Aldi.


Few win in such circumstances, and in the short-term it is the cheapest who comes out on top: Read: Aldi.


Moreover, look over the horizon in the global economy. German discount supermarket group Lidl has just announced its intention to enter the Australian marketplace.


Alas, another guerrilla in this crowded Australian retail battlefield or is it a further Barbarian at the gates?


This situation calls for more strategic thinking, marketing intelligence, leadership, discipline and differentiation... built on, say, 4 discernible strengths.







Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected strategic planner, consumer behaviour analyst, author and high impact conference keynote speaker.

In The Know

Big data is big on ... well, data. In other words, information. What it lacks is intelligence.


The leaders of customer-centric entities will fully comprehend these sentiments, and their implications.


It is rare that a consumer or client exclaims: You lack information.


They do, however, repeatedly declare that service providers lack understanding.


Big Data, and data at large, provide insights and, more particularly, overviews on what happens. To a limited extent they can and do offer perspectives on how things happen. Thus, for those who do not have access to Big Data, all is not lost.


However, like surveys, they have innate biases, limitations and differences.


Take for example, on-line after–sales surveys. They appeal to and attract a limited segment of customers, and an even lower percentage of people in general.


Time-poor individuals readily dismiss the opportunity to dedicate 10 minutes or more to complete a survey, with little evident, immediate and direct personally beneficial outcomes.


Time-saving initiatives in survey designs, like providing pre-coded answers, seldom, if ever, provide a complete and meaningful insight. They imply the researcher or the company already know the answers and are simply seeking to assign percentages. If it's communication you wish to promote, then be sure that it is two-way.




A meaningful understanding of the needs, wants, values, aspirations and action determinants of customers is derived from a focus on the question, WHY?


Attitudinal (or qualitative) research is invaluable. It complements and adds both data value and meaning to the data which is retrievable from sales, service and call records, much of which is accessible from the cloud and is referred to as Big Data.


External professional researchers can be retained to formulate, document and conduct both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. Their skills, experience and detachment provide for objective and pertinent analyses and conclusions.


However, that professional input should complement, not replace, the insights and understandings gained from the interactions between internal service providers and customers, clients, suppliers and associates.




Personal, informal interactions offer scope for recognising, responding to, comprehending and influencing a broad spectrum of nuances, perspectives and expressions.


People - customers and clients – feel valued when they are heard, respected and directly responded to.


Relationships are founded and enhanced, trust is promoted and integrity established and sustained when time, effort and resources are dedicated to encouraging and enhancing relationships.


Big Data is one thing. Attention to the little points of detail is another. Remember, little things mean a lot.




The prevailing straitened times ensure that the margins for error are typically wafer-thin. Strategic and operational decisions are most effective when they are founded on well-informed analyses.


Big Data provides invaluable, but only partial information. So too do statistically based surveys. Both provide perspectives on the big picture, even with one-on-one relationships.


In many instances, the findings gleaned from Big Data and surveys identify their intelligence gaps and necessitate engagement with existing, prospective and past clients, to address the issue of WHY?




Those businesses whose leaders encourage, facilitate and support increased interactions between their service providers and customers - external and internal - inevitably enjoy greater sales, customer satisfaction, repeat purchases, referrals and stability.


Specific skills, qualifications and training in research methodologies, practices and analyses can be, and are, readily complemented by the heightened sensitivities of engaged team members.


Those in the know generally seek more, achieve more and are more motivated.


One can never over-allocate time, money and resources to studying, understanding and intelligently interacting with customers. They will ensure that knowledge about the big and the small things is retrieved and can be utilised to refine philosophies, beliefs, policies and practices.




An eminently sensible approach to pursuing more information, intelligence and understanding of existing, prospective and past clients is to deploy efforts and resources to utilise and to integrate Big Data, qualitative and quantitative research and interpersonal interactions and relationships.


The most readily available pool for such is held by staff members. Leaders need to be selective in the questions. Many answers will be forthcoming, so that all will be “in the know!”