‘Marketing Strategy’ Category

Achieving Profitable Growth – Part 2

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

Good companies have nearly all the same ideas and competitive intent as the great ones. Studies have shown that 80% of management teams also believe they can deliver a superior proposition, yet only 8% of their customers think so.

The problem is they never execute everywhere, every time. Big initiatives launched are wildly successful in a few places, but fizzle out most everywhere else.

A second element of achieving profitable growth is that these strategies are based on some kind of repeatable model that strengthens and expands the core business. The power of a repeatable business model is its simplicity. Everyone in the organization, in effect, knows the business’s priorities, and has the skills and capabilities to make the core as strong as it can be. They can move fast when opportunities arise. In a slow growth economy, all that is invaluable.

Actually living your strategy day in and day out, is one of the most important challenges today.

Strategy is less about the big new thing and about delivering on the goals you set.

Repeatable Models

1.  A well-differentiated set of frontline activities that reflect the company’s core business. These include how the frontline employees (sales, customer service) support the customer and the activities that enable and support those employees. The company should be able to identify and measure these activities objectively, and demonstrate exactly where, why and how much the front line outperforms the competition.

2.  Regular, systematic feedback from customers, key operations and frontline employees. The steady flow of information allows the company to adapt its model to changes in technology and the larger environment – customers and competitors. The most successful companies develop processes and mechanics to ensure they maintain their adaptability. Customer feedback as with a NetPromoter type scoring system to include follow-up with dissatisfied customers, solicitation of quick feedback on new products and User Groups are examples.

3.  Encouraging employees throughout the organization to help define the strategy for themselves and buy into it – living the strategy day in and day out. Effective execution comes about only when the people understand the strategy, believe in it and incorporate it into what they do every day.

Achieving and maintaining success is less about the new big idea, and more about buying into and executing a few simple and repeatable ideas that are maintained as the core strategy for multiple years. A successful strategy must be translated into front-line activities that are delivered well, everywhere, every day.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Achieving Profitable Growth – Part 1

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

Achieving profitable growth is no easy feat.

Consider an annual growth rate in sales and earnings of 4-5%. Most companies believe they can attain this level or better. Sounds reasonable enough.

Yet a study of more than 2000 companies indicated that only about one in ten actually achieve that relatively modest goal over a 10 year period. In other words, nearly 90% of companies fail to achieve that growth objective.

Competitive advantage, by definition, is scarce and fleeting given market forces. The best companies are emulated by those in the middle of the pack, and best practices become commonplace rather than a market-beating strategy. Good strategies emphasize difference vs. direct competitors, potential substitutes or potential entrants.

Business leaders therefore face a growth paradox. In an increasingly turbulent and fast moving world, fewer and fewer companies are able to sustain a modest level of growth for more than a few years. And yet the vast majority of executives feel they have ample opportunity for growth.

The greatest challenge is not the market, but instead the internal complexity that clouds their focus, slows their reaction time and strangles their company’s ability to adapt.

To beat the market, advantages have to be robust and responsive in the face of competitive challenges. While the pressures of keeping up with the market seem intense enough, it is rarely sufficient. Weaker firms win surprisingly often when they display a divergent strategy.

Five Core Growth Pillars

  1. Build a strongly defined and well-differentiated core business – that is developed to its full potential and achieves a leadership position within its market. The most successful businesses are market leaders in their core business.
  2. Utilize that leadership position as it pertains to price, cost and investment opportunities to continue to strengthen the core business and distance oneself from competitors.
  3. Develop raving fans among your customers through sustained value creation. They will not only buy more from you, but will also sing your praises to friends and colleagues thereby reducing your Marketing and Sales costs.
  4. Follow a disciplined approach to expansion in adjacent markets. As companies spread out into new products, new markets and new businesses, the odds of success decline as a ratio of the distance from the core. Disciplined expansion – adding one new element at a time – doubles the probability of success.
  5. Repeat success. Apply your core assets and greatest strengths to new contexts, thereby generating further growth. As Grandma used to say, “stick to your knitting.” As you edge out, make sure you are on solid footing.

Building a solid strategy need not be overly complicated. Just make sure you incorporate a solid foundation to assure it stands the test of time.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Are You Surprising the Competition – Part 2?

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

In an earlier post, I pointed out that Business Strategy can take two forms: (1) the direct approach and (2) the indirect approach. The former consists of a direct advance to the competition, culminating in a powerful marketing frontal attack designed to overpower them. The indirect approach involves coming at the opponent from a round-about direction that he is not totally prepared to resist. Throughout history, most great generals have consistently chosen the indirect approach, risking almost anything to catch the enemy with his guard down.

Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s maxim: “Mystify, mislead, surprise your enemy.” Clausewitz, the Prussian General maintained that to one degree or another, surprise is, without exception, the foundation of all military undertakings.

Hannibal led an army of 50,000 Carthaginian infantry and 9,000 cavalry on his famous march across the Pyrenees and Alps. He emerged in Northern Italy to defeat the great Roman commander Saipio’s troops on the bank of the river Ticinus. In a snowstorm, he crushed two Roman armies along the river Trebia.

Hannibal followed a shorter, but more dangerous route through treacherous marshes to come out on Roman consul Flaminius’s unprotected flank, rather than the certainty of meeting his opponents in a position of their choosing.  As the unsuspecting Romans marched into battle, the Carthaginians poured out of their hiding places and attacked from all sides, decimating them.

Business history also reveals the advantages of the indirect approach. Marketing failures have often resulted from head-on attacks against the entrenched positions of stronger marketing rivals. Even brute force and having sheer resources are often not enough to insure the right outcome.

Choosing the element of surprise, a company may quickly enter a market, with the intent of a decisive victory. The idea is to strike quickly and adjust the marketing strategy and tactics as you learn from your encounter.

Guerilla warfare advocates a sudden assault, ferocious fighting, and then an instantaneous break of contact before the larger opponent can exploit his strength – substantial resources, technology and power – and bring the weight of his material and numbers to bear. It builds upon the element of surprise.

All corporations, are trying to fight wars of quick decision – get to the marketplace first and avoid costly, protracted warfare with competitors. Small guerilla firms, more so than their larger competitors, need to make certain they win quickly. They cannot afford not to.

The element of surprise helps one to achieve a quick and favorable decision. Meticulous preplanning and preparation is the first condition of a quick win as Israel exhibited in its successful, lightning-quick six-day war.

Five guidelines for a quick guerilla attack:

• Seize the opportune moment

• Concentrate superior forces in a segment or area of expertise where you are the leader – act with your entire army

• Outflank the competition

• Operate on favorable terrain – ground of your own choosing where a relatively few determined people can stall an army (remember the 300 Spartans)

• Attack the competition where it has not established its position

The element of surprise has worked successfully throughout history, regardless of the field of play. Where might you change the game, and use the “element of surprise” to defeat an unsuspecting competitor?

You will never know, until you try.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Are You Surprising the Competition – Part 1?

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

Business Strategy can take two forms: (1) the direct approach and (2) the indirect approach. The former consists of a direct advance to the competition, culminating in a powerful marketing frontal attack designed to overpower them. The indirect approach involves coming at the opponent from a round-about direction that he is not totally prepared to resist. Throughout history, most great generals have consistently chosen the indirect approach, risking almost anything to catch the enemy with his guard down.

Hannibal led an army of 50,000 Carthaginian infantry and 9,000 cavalry on his famous march across the Pyrenees and Alps. He emerged in Northern Italy to defeat the great Roman commander Saipio’s troops on the bank of the river Ticinus. In a snowstorm, he crushed two Roman armies along the river Trebia. Two more armies under Roman consuls Flaminius and Geminus were raised to block Hannibal’s path to Rome.

Hannibal followed a shorter, but more dangerous route through treacherous marshes to come out on Flaminius’s unprotected flank. Hannibal chose to face the most hazardous conditions, rather than the certainty of meeting his opponents in a position of their choosing. He followed this by hiding his light and heavy infantry and cavalry in gulleys near the road, so they could not be seen, and then taunted Flamininus into a foolish attack by making camp a short distance down the road from his army. As the unsuspecting Romans marched into battle, the Carthaginians poured out of their hiding places and attacked from all sides, decimating them.

Business history also reveals the advantages of the indirect approach. Marketing failures have often resulted from head-on attacks against the entrenched positions of stronger marketing rivals. Even brute force and having sheer resources are often not enough to insure the right outcome.

Surprise has been called “any commander’s greatest tactical weapon.” Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s maxim: “Mystify, mislead, surprise your enemy.” Clausewitz, the Prussian General maintained that to one degree or another, surprise is, without exception, the foundation of all military undertakings.

Surprise follows a course of least resistance. The most stunning surprises are the result of a novel, creative idea. Creativity many times consists of merely connecting two or more heretofore unrelated ideas or things. Napoleon gained a decisive surprise by connecting cannon and manure. He ordered a rocky mountain road covered with horse droppings to muffle the sound of the wheels of his artillery carriages. This allowed him to move under the cover of night and to surprise his opponent by being in a completely new position in the morning.

In warfare, a preliminary bombardment might weaken the enemy’s lines, but also eliminates any advantage you might have gained by surprise. The use of intensive market surveys and market tests practically give away any hope of sneaking up on the competition. Choosing the element of surprise, a company may quickly enter a market, with the intent of a decisive victory. The idea is to strike quickly and adjust the marketing strategy and tactics as you learn from your encounter.

The element of surprise has worked successfully throughout history, regardless of the field of play. As the mighty Goliath, in his battle array, lay on his back after being hit between the eyes by a small smooth stone launched in a sling by a shepherd boy named David, he no doubt wondered what hit him. By then it was all over, he had lost the battle and the war.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Where Have you Gone – General Clausewitz?

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Like the refrain from the Simon and Garfunkel song, General Clausewitz has “left and gone away.” As the great philosopher of war, the retired Prussian general, Karl von Clausewitz wrote On War in 1832, outlining the strategic principles behind all successful wars. Warfare is based upon two immutable characteristics: strategy and tactics. And while the nature of war has changed considerably, Clausewitz’ ideas are still as relevant today.

It is interesting to note that Clausewitz saw the linkage to business, “War belongs to the province of business competition, which is also a conflict of human interests and activities.” While the classic definition of marketing leads to a focus on customer wants and needs, this approach to marketing strategy by itself is insufficient if a dozen other competing firms are already serving the same customer wants. A more successful strategy must also include being competitor-oriented.

Competitor strategy many times becomes a market research and competitive intelligence effort providing facts and figures on market share, new product launches, product and sales force assessments, management appointments, mergers and acquisitions. From this, creeping incrementalism, or being just a little bit better in the Red Ocean seems to be the normal approach to company business strategy and tactics.

The marketing plan, however, needs to go well beyond this to dissect each marketplace participant. It should also include a plan to defend against competitive strengths, the tactics and style of operation their competitors and key marketing people can be expected to employ. Better market intelligence is needed on how to anticipate competitive moves.

Marketing executives need to be prepared to wage marketing warfare, as generals do with military campaigns. Strategic planning is a critical element as companies define strategies and tactics to attack and flank their competition, defend their positions and decide when and how to wage guerilla warfare.

Finally, successful marketing leaders need to exhibit many of the same virtues that make a great military general – courage, loyalty and perseverance.

Clausewitz stated, “Some statesmen and generals try to avoid the decisive battle. History has destroyed this illusion.” While marketing does involve satisfying customer needs and wants, the true nature of marketing involves conflict between corporations. Business competition is a war, where failure leads to loss of market position, stature and profits.

In war, the competition is the enemy and the objective is to win the battle. You win by outwitting, outflanking and overpowering the enemy. Winning in business requires no less resolve and the mindset of a field general.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

© Rich Kohler 2017. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

13 Reasons Why Your Marketing Isn’t Soaring With The Eagles – Part 3

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

And now…the final 5…reasons your Marketing Isn’t Soaring with the Eagles.

You don’t make it easy enough for people to do business with you

The easier it is for people to do business with you – the less complicated, embarrassing, time wasting, expensive, etc., etc. – the more business you’ll do.

I can’t tell you how many beautifully-sculptured, clever ads I’ve seen and read, with wonderful, compelling sales messages … and no proper call to action, and/or specific directions as to how I should go about buying the damn thing.

Oh, it’s there all right but, by the time you get the pen, the commercial is over, or you have to navigate your way through the ad TO FIND THE PERSON WHO’LL TAKE YOUR ORDER!

I repeat: The simpler you make it for people to buy from you, the more you’ll sell.

Your marketing efforts are dead-set BORING!

No need to labor this point, I’m sure. You’ve all seen so much stultifying, uninspiring rubbish yourself, and wondered:

“Who do these people think they’re going to impress with this load of bs?”

Then you toss it where you toss your orange peel.

Of course, nobody says this about your marketing material, do they? Yet, there’s a strong possibility that this IS the case.

You have to work continuously to ensure not only that you’re not boring people, but that you’re actually inspiring, exciting, captivating, or seducing a significant number of your target audience. That said, make sure that you assess the market’s perception of your marketing efforts, and don’t judge things on how you feel. Many a business has “pulled” a successful marketing effort because they were tired and bored with it, when, in fact, the market audience was not.

One of the most famous, and successful, newspaper advertising headlines ran for 30-plus years. It was, They Laughed When I Said I Could Play The Piano – But They’re Not Laughing Now!

You fail to test – test – test

Not every marketing effort will work. In fact, most will fail! The real savvy marketers test and test until they find two things: what works … and then, what works better. Along the way, they document and evaluate their results. They have absolutely no intention of repeating their mistakes.

So, before committing yourself to that big advertisement or mail-out, test your propositions, test your headlines, test whether your ultimate benefits are compelling enough.

Put another way, you have an obligation to conservatively test and let the market tell you what it wants.

You’re a small-town thinker

There’s a huge difference between having enough confidence in yourself, your products, or your services to think nationally, or even globally, and being too big for your boots.

Have you got a great product or service that would be appreciated by a wider market than you’re addressing now? But, you don’t have the budget to capitalize on the situation? OK. That’s understandable. But, at least you can start working toward a bigger audience. It’s the old power-of-positive-thinking thing.

Send your literature to a few selected people interstate and overseas. We’re truly entering the doorway to the global marketplace, so start adopting a mindset that will have you right at the front of the queue.

Maybe there is no market!
Let’s look at an example … one that is played out every day – unfortunately.

Frank and Francine have lived in Smalltown all their lives. Smalltown is a remote township of some 10,000 people. Frank, for many years, worked as the manager of the largest hardware store in town. He knew his industry well and, for that reason, he could hardly wait to open his own hardware business.

That day did arrive (courtesy of an inheritance left to Francine) and so, the Double D Hardware store opened amid a blaze of “Opening Sales.” The first two weeks of sales looked promising.

But then things started to go flat… despite Frank’s attention to marketing and advertising. You see, apart from the large franchise hardware shop, there were four other competitors … and the “Double D” made it six hardware shops in all. Six months after the opening, Frank held his last sale – regrettably, it was a closing-the-doors sale.

Ok, let’s take a “helicopter view” of what happened here.

If Frank had done a bit of homework before the event, Francine would still have her inheritance, her health and her marriage, because these, too, were the casualties of the “Double D” disaster.

Yes, Frank should have realized that the Smalltown market for hardware is finite. True, it can be ramped up slightly by good selling and marketing … but essentially it does have a defined size.

Stuart Street-Smarts, owner of the “Yards 10” franchise hardware store, knows this. He knows that the Smalltown market for hardware products is around $2,000,000 – and he owns 60% of the market. Plus, he also knows that old Sam Davies, the proprietor of Sam’s Hardware, has around 20% – leaving only 20% or ($400,000) for the other three competitors… and the “Double D.”

Stuart said that Frank wouldn’t last any longer than six months, and he was right. When Stuart did his sums he figured that even if Frank could get 10% of the market – that’s only a turnover of $200,000 – he would make less than $20,000 profit after expenses. Well, Stuart used to pay Frank a salary of $40,000.

Simple example, but the moral of the story: Make sure that a genuine market exists before you dive into the business.

So, what do you do if you are faced with a “Frank” situation? Sell! Get the heck out before it’s too late. Take the money and invest in something more profitable.

Simple message: Your business is a money-making-machine. If it isn’t, your job is to fix it. If, after considerable effort, you don’t believe it’s fixable, sell it!

There is one more mistake … and it’s a biggie, so please note it well. It is: Failing to monitor the results of your marketing campaigns.

Most business leaders and owners have absolutely no idea of the success or otherwise of their advertisements and other marketing efforts. They just go on “gut feeling.” This is absolute lunacy. As a business leader, you should never, ever run a marketing campaign unless you have a way of monitoring the results.

It’s interesting to note the elaborate systems people put in to monitor their cash, their stock and their other valuables – yet, nothing to monitor their investment in marketing.

For those who say or think, “Just keep your name out there and you’ll get results”… take it from me, you’re dreaming! At best you’ll get deferred results of which you’ll never, ever know. And, just perhaps, you could have got much, much better results if you knew what worked and what didn’t.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Begin here to accelerate your success: http://www.ignition-pathway2growth.com/

© Rich Kohler 2016. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler

 

 

13 Reasons Why Your Marketing Isn’t Soaring With The Eagles – Part 2

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

Continued from last time – 5 more reasons – Why Your Marketing Isn’t Working…

You’re not persistent enough

Very rarely does any single marketing effort – one ad, one mailing, one promotion – produce a dramatic result. If you’ve got your two feet on the ground, you’ll look for long-term, solid, predictable returns.

Plan your marketing to produce realistic results, and rejoice when something works better than you expected.

Test your propositions (As a matter of fact, test everything).

And keep at it. Marketing is not a function that should be performed by the weak-at-heart, the impatient, or the imprudent.

You forget about the people who have bought from you before

It’s much cheaper, and often a lot easier, to sell to someone who has bought from you in the past – at least so long as it was a pleasant experience for the buyer – than it is to try to attract new customers.

So, why, oh why, do most businesses concentrate almost all their energies on trying to drum up new business?

Have you got something against the people who have bought from you, or used your services, before? Were they rude to you?

Then, why are you neglecting them?

Here’s the order in which you should be directing your marketing:
• Getting existing customers to buy more, and/or more often.
• Going back to people who have bought from you in the past and reactivating them.
• Enticing new customers.

You don’t get back to your customers often enough

See above, then consider this:

People need to be constantly reminded what you can do for them … how you can help them – at least every 90 days.
• Do you believe that it annoys your customers when you do this?
• Are you embarrassed about doing it?
• Don’t think it’s worth the effort? Think again.
You have to create a regular program for communicating with prospects and existing customers (don’t give them a chance to turn into “past” customers), and you have to keep it up until;

… they buy from you, or
… you have no option but to give them up as a lost cause.

You don’t move your customers up the loyalty ladder

Once someone has bought from you, and you have followed them up to make sure that everything involved with the sale went smoothly, then it’s time to move that person up the loyalty ladder.

If he or she has other problems to solve, and the money to solve them, you’re the man! (or woman, of course).

Every time you successfully conclude a deal with a customer, that customer grows a little closer to you, and becomes increasingly easy to sell things to. So, you keep moving him or her up the loyalty ladder:
• From a prospect to a customer,
• From a customer to a regular customer,
• From a regular customer to an advocate of your business…
• and from an advocate to a raving fan!

You don’t get to the point
The best marketing is simple, precise … and straight to the point. No beating around the bush. … no cutesy-cutesy pandering. You find out what the prospect’s problem is and, in the simplest, most direct terms, you tell the prospect how you’re going to solve that problem.

Marketing isn’t about art … it isn’t about winning literary or design awards.

Ultimately, it’s about selling – successfully, efficiently, and economically. Get to the point. Tell them why it’s in their best interests to pick up the phone right now and buy whatever you’re offering … before it’s too late. And the only way to do this is to tell them what’s in it for them.

And an extension of this issue is this:

Answer the “why” question.

If your product is higher priced than your competitors’, tell them why. If your product is better, tell them why. The more factual, credible and believable the reasons you give, the more likely they are to give you the business.

Consider this: I am the customer and I want to know … FAST!

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Begin here to accelerate your success: http://www.ignition-pathway2growth.com/

© Rich Kohler 2016. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler

 

 

13 Reasons Why Your Marketing Isn’t Soaring With The Eagles – Part 1

Monday, July 11th, 2016

I’ll take it for granted that your product offering, price, and customer service, etc. are all at a standard which ensures your customers will be delighted with their purchases. However, before you can become an Elite Marketer dispensing Marketing Magic, there are two things you MUST do:

A) Resign yourself to the commercial reality that business is 90% marketing. As a business owner or manager, you must concentrate your efforts on getting your marketing tactics and implementation 100% right.

B) Know the basics of marketing. This is one area where rank amateurs abound, wallowing in blissful ignorance of the money they are needlessly squandering and the opportunities they are “burning.” Oh yes, the most dangerous animal in business is the amateur marketer.

Now to those 13 Reasons Why Your Marketing May Not Be Soaring With The Eagles – the first 3:

You don’t have a marketing plan

You must have a clear and very precise sales and profit objective – over any given period of time, but usually a year – for every one of your products and/or services.   Then you have to address the three specifics:

  • What are all the means available to you to reach your dollar objectives?
  • What marketing alternatives can you use, how can you use them, and how often should you use them?
  • How can you convert prospects to customers, and convince your existing customers to buy more, and/or more often?

You don’t know your customer

Hey, this violates the most fundamental rule of marketing: “Know Thy Customer”. You have to be customer-oriented.   Elite Marketers can give you chapter and verse on what their customer looks like. They have a mental image of the customers’ business, their age, sex, educational status, income levels, and other pertinent demographic information. They know their buying patterns, and they understand what makes them tick.   For now, ponder these two questions:

  • How does the successful marketer gather all this information about his/her customer?
  • Who is your customer? (If you can give an accurate answer to this question, congratulations… there are very few of your kind around.)

You don’t know what compels your customers to buy something

People don’t buy things because you want them to. They need their own reasons – very good reasons – to buy.   And you and your staff have to understand fully what these reasons and their motivations are, and then cater to them – as many of them as possible – in every marketing and selling situation… in every customer or potential customer contact … in everything you do.   People don’t buy products or services:

  • They buy benefits … benefits … benefits!
  • They buy solutions to their problems
  • They buy other people’s opinions of you, your business and your products
  • They buy credibility and believability
  • They buy your promises and guarantees (don’t ever let them down)
  • They buy your business and product “reliability”
  • They buy “value”… and, please, don’t confuse value with price
  • They buy certainty, honesty, convenience, and timeliness
  • They buy hope, comfort, success, wealth, security, love, and acceptance
  • They buy expectations of being pleased
  • They buy product selection options
  • They buy freedom from making a wrong buying decision
  • How many from this list can you line up against your product or service?

Let me ask you this simple question:   Why should I buy your product or service?   Come on … can you tell me right here and now why I should buy from you? (More on this next time)

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Begin here to accelerate your success: http://www.ignition-pathway2growth.com/

© Rich Kohler 2016. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler

Times are Changing – Are You?

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Nature has trained us to accept the changing of the seasons, and you don’t hear too many people exclaiming, “Oh no! What’s gone wrong? Another Winter!” And yet, while every market, including yours, is a broader part of Nature and so breathes in and out with a rhythm resembling the seasons, you’ll still hear plenty of people exclaiming, at the next contraction, “Oh no! What’s gone wrong? Another Recession!”

Surprise, surprise! Did they expect that unlike anything else in their experience, markets in general would just continue to breathe in – and expand forever? Come on! If it did that, the logical result is pretty obvious, isn’t it?

So, if and when the market, like the seasons, has contracted, how do we go about being smart – adjust our behavior to harmonize with it – or wear the consequences.

Change is Hard

From the outset, it’s smart to accept that changing behavior is hard for most people, and even harder for most groups of people – and most businesses are a “group of people”.

So just how hard is Change?

On a scale ranging from one (easy) to 100 (impossible), I see a strong case that Change is perhaps an 89 in difficulty.

Why?

Because for every 100 people diagnosed with heart disease and scheduled for bypass surgery, only 11 will make the changes to their diet, exercise and weight loss recommended to extend their chances of survival. The other 89, while clearly appreciating their need to change to avoid a significantly increased risk of death, fail to do so – because Change is hard!

So, before we get into the “What change do we need to make to meet our changing market?” a better question might be, “What will I have to do so that I and those I work with, can change?”

I’m going to leave the answer to that one – the $64,000 question if you like – to the end, and begin with what changes are indicated.

What Changes Are Needed?

Space dictates one take a narrow approach here, so we’ll address the question of, “What changes to the selling processes would be wise in a softening market?”
1. Don’t do knee jerk cuts. Don’t cut sales budgets or staff without first analyzing the likely effect of doing so. A 10% cut in sales staff or resources projected to result in an 8% drop in sales might sound tolerable, but if the bottom line effect is 12% less profit, it’s illogical to cut.
2. Think counter-intuitively. If your competition is cutting staff, then their market coverage, contact frequency and standards of services must generally suffer. That may also mean that some good sales people who were previously inaccessible to you are now on the market, enabling you to top-grade your own team and to step up coverage, contact frequency and service levels to clients who are still out there needing to buy. Don’t underestimate the power of the positive message you generate into your marketplace with this move, and be aware that a nervous market will gravitate towards strength and certainty in uncertain times.
3. Look for Savings, Then Spend. If the market is softening, and you have managed your cash flow well in the past so as to provide a capital reserve, you are going to get more bang for your buck on any purchases in a soft market as people compete keenly for your business. This could be an excellent time to embark on a project that could cost a lot more in a stronger market. The “strength message” applies again.
4. Be flexible. You could just cut 10% of your sales staff. Or, you could ask all of your sales team to take a 10% cut so that you can keep them all. The actual financial cost to them will be less than 10% due to the effect of marginal tax, and the effect on morale and esprit de corps is likely to be huge. If things tighten further, consider asking your sales team to take one day in ten off (say, every second Friday) – that saves another 10%, is likely to add positively to their work/life balance and keeps the team together so that you are at full strength if the market surges momentarily, or recovers fully.

Notice, thinking differently from the herd, can be the best route – even when it’s not obvious.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Begin here to accelerate your success: http://www.ignition-pathway2growth.com/

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.

Has Your Strategy Become – Too Predictable?

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Business Strategy can take two forms: (1) the direct approach and (2) the indirect approach. The former consists of a direct advance to the competition, culminating in a powerful marketing frontal attack designed to overpower them. The indirect approach involves coming at the opponent from a round-about direction that he is not totally prepared to resist. Business history also reveals the advantages of the indirect approach. Marketing failures have often resulted from head-on attacks against the entrenched positions of stronger marketing rivals. Even brute force and having sheer resources are often not enough to insure the right outcome.

Throughout history, most great generals have consistently chosen the indirect approach, risking almost anything to catch the enemy with his guard down. Hannibal led an army of 50,000 Carthaginian infantry and 9,000 cavalry on his famous march across the Pyrenees and Alps. He emerged in Northern Italy to defeat the great Roman commander Saipio’s troops on the bank of the river Ticinus. In a snowstorm, he crushed two Roman armies along the river Trebia. Two more armies under Roman consuls Flaminius and Geminus were raised to block Hannibal’s path to Rome.

Hannibal followed a shorter, but more dangerous route through treacherous marshes to come out on Flaminius’s unprotected flank. Hannibal chose to face the most hazardous conditions, rather than the certainty of meeting his opponents in a position of their choosing. He followed this by hiding his light and heavy infantry and cavalry in gulleys near the road, so they could not be seen, and then taunted Flamininus into a foolish attack by making camp a short distance down the road from his army. As the unsuspecting Romans marched into battle, the Carthaginians poured out of their hiding places and attacked from all sides, decimating them.

Surprise has been called “any commander’s greatest tactical weapon.” Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s maxim: “Mystify, mislead, surprise your enemy.” Clausewitz, the Prussian General maintained that to one degree or another, surprise is, without exception, the foundation of all military undertakings.

Surprise follows the course of least resistance. The most stunning surprises are the result of a novel, creative idea. Creativity many times consists of merely connecting two or more heretofore unrelated ideas or things. Napoleon gained a decisive surprise by connecting cannon and manure. He ordered a rocky mountain road covered with horse droppings to muffle the sound of the wheels of his artillery carriages. This allowed him to move under the cover of night and to surprise his opponent by being in a completely new position in the morning.

In warfare, a preliminary bombardment might weaken the enemy’s lines, but also eliminates any advantage you might have gained by surprise. The use of intensive market surveys and market tests practically give away any hope of sneaking up on the competition. Choosing the element of surprise, a company may quickly enter a market, with the intent of a decisive victory. The idea is to strike quickly and adjust the marketing strategy and tactics as you learn from your encounter.

Guerilla warfare advocates a sudden assault, ferocious fighting, and then an instantaneous break of contact before the larger opponent can exploit his strength – substantial resources, technology and power – and bring the weight of his material and numbers to bear. It builds upon the element of surprise.

All corporations, are trying to fight wars of quick decision – get to the marketplace first and avoid costly, protracted warfare with competitors. Small guerilla firms, more so than their larger competitors, need to make certain they win quickly. They cannot afford not to.

The element of surprise helps one to achieve a quick and favorable decision. Meticulous preplanning and preparation is the first condition of a quick win as Israel exhibited in its successful, lightning-quick six-day war.

Five guidelines for a quick guerilla attack:

• Seize the opportune moment

• Concentrate superior forces in a segment or area of expertise where you are the leader – act with your entire army

• Outflank the competition

• Operate on favorable terrain – ground of your own choosing where a relatively few determined people can stall an army (remember the 300 Spartans)

• Attack the competition where it has not established its position

The element of surprise has worked successfully throughout history, regardless of the field of play. As the mighty Goliath, in his battle array, lay on his back after being hit between the eyes by a small smooth stone launched in a sling by a shepherd boy named David, he no doubt wondered what hit him. By then it was all over, he had lost the battle and the war.

Combining Vision and Innovation to Create the Future

Start here to gain that competitive edge: http://www.ignition-pathway2growth.com/

© Rich Kohler 2015. All rights reserved. For copies, please contact Rich at rich@rich-kohler.com.