1. WHAT IS IT ABOUT OCTOBER?
Volatility seems innate to this monthly time span.
It does little good for consumer, investor and business confidence.
References to terms like “corrections” are not reassuring.
Overall, sentiments get infected.
Seasoned executives, analysts and consultants have seen it all before, or have studied the dramatic downturns of the Great Depression (October, 1929), and earlier.
The market forces of recent weeks have isolated, highlighted and underwritten the nature and importance of genuine strategic plans.
Many such labelled documents have been found wanting.
The need for “corrections” arose from errors and failings.
Detailed, objective strategic reviews and scenario planning workshops have proven to be invaluable.
Contingencies have been provided for, with the structures of disciplined business models.
Momentum, confidence, understanding and internal commitments have been maintained.
Competitive advantage is an inevitable consequence.
And what a learning lesson.
I have enjoyed, been inspired and am enthusiastic about the telling deliberations that I have facilitated in the formulation, documentation and implementation of ongoing, revised, refined and developed strategic, tactical and market development plans.
Many people, governments, federal treasurers, bankers and corporate leaders had not anticipated the volatility and downturn that evolved during October.
However, those who had planned (including planning to plan) have been, and are best placed to achieve and sustain optimal performance.
I could wish you every success.
However, that seems inadequate.
Therefore, I encourage you to plan for your own success – in, through and for October.
2. TRUE TO YOURSELF
Are you being serious?
The on-court rants of former US tennis great John McEnroe were confronting, explosive, evocative and arresting.
Everyone, himself included, was put on notice that he was not happy with the performance.
That tended to be extended to all performances – the sprays were often targeted at umpires, lines-people, and ball-boys/girls.
In all spheres of life, business included, to the committed, driven, striving and high-achieving certain standards are immutable.
Variances are intolerable.
Performance gaps reveal vulnerabilities.
Clearly, John McEnroe embraced and adhered to the philosophy of NFL (US National Football League) coaching icon Vince Lombardi’s philosophy:
“Winning isn’t everything
Winning is the only thing”
Whether it is in the sporting arena, politics, society or life, understanding, embracing, implementing and maintaining ideals, beliefs, success, values, trust, integrity and a positive sense of self-worth are imperative.
Half-measures can be financially rewarding in the short-term, but are not fulfilling.
Just look at Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic.
The temptations and practice of utilising low-cost, entry-level, bland external resources in the conduct of business development, client retention and customer service initiatives are typically false-economies.
Little harm is done, but Key Performance Indicators should not be about how many “things” are done.
Outcomes, results, benefits, advantages and rewards are the fundamental and essential metrics.
Many finance, banking and insurance senior executives who provided evidence at the Haynes Finance Industry Royal Commission have shown scant regard to being serious about standards, values, philosophy, beliefs, trust and integrity.
Most have referred to advertising campaigns and corporate cultures which espouse:
- Customer First
- We won’t be beaten on price
- Final sale
- 50% off
When life insurance premiums were being levied on the estates of deceased policy holders, why didn’t these executives and team members step forth and question:
Are you being serious?
And just how many bank and finance employees reviewing the suspect incomes of single-parent, low-qualified parents took pause, and pondered:
Are you being serious?
Going with the flow, complying, conforming, covering one’s butt and protecting a career and income-flow are morally, ethically and intellectually bankrupt.
At his peak, and for most of his professional career, John McEnroe was not considered virtuous.
However, he was at all times true to his values, beliefs and aims.
Today, he is a respected sports commentator.
There are no “silver bullets”, no shortcuts to sustained optimal performance.
Foremost among the key ingredients are being committed, focused, being true to oneself and, yes, being serious.
3. GIFT CARDS – REDUNDANCY
It is written… so, it’s probably obsolete and redundant, particularly when written on paper.
In all likelihood many communications reflect poorly on the dynamism and relevance of companies, processes, products, services and applications.
Gift cards are a case in point.
Those paper-based documents issued by specific businesses limit the choice of outlet, brand, product or service.
Until recently, they had relatively short periods of currency.
Expiry dates loomed large, and early.
Recent legislative initiatives have extended gift card lifespans in Australia to a minimum 3 years.
Notwithstanding those changes, up to 20% of such cards will not be redeemed.
Some will be lost, others are from companies which the recipient has little desire to patronise, or for some males the need to “go shopping” is a step too far.
Retail store gift cards and gift vouchers peaked in popularity and distribution in the first 5 years of the new century.
Uncles, aunties, grandparents and other members of the extended family tree found it easy and convenient to enclose a gift card in a Christmas, birthday or graduation card.
Bargains were readily available at post-Christmas sales.
The appeal of these events has waned appreciably.
So too have the “mouth-watering” discounts.
Providing cash as a gift alternative has become largely redundant.
As are paper-based gift vouchers.
Digital options, particularly when not limited to specific outlets, brands and time spans are preferred alternatives.
Younger people like the choice, freedom and anonymity of access to “purchase currencies”.
As sought-after gifts become increasingly related to experiences, rather than products, providing access to funds via the mobile phone is a compelling, attractive proposition.
I’ll vouch for that.
4. INVENTION, REINVENTION – IT DOESN’T MATTER
Success in innovation, creativity and reinvention takes time, persistence, resilience, tolerance of failure, resources, money and an integrated supply chain.
Thomas Edison found over 1000 ways how not to make an incandescent light.
At the time he had in his possession more patents than any single human being or entity.
From that small, humble and focused base General Electric was established, which went on to become the biggest public-listed entity in the world. Its product range included electric lights, power generators, aircraft jet engines and credit card networks.
Its fortunes have fallen on hard times during the past decade, reflective of a waning spirit in innovation, creativity, and reinvention.
Share values, and thus net worth, have declined by over 90%.
Partially filling the void is someone who knows a little about vacuums, and vacuum cleaners, Sir James Dyson, the founder and chief executive of Dyson Group.
His initial emphasis on original vacuum cleaners has rapidly evolved to bagless, cordlessand compacting units, which enjoy healthy retail prices and profit margins.
The latest addition is the Dyson Airwrap Hair Styler.
It is “engineered for different hair types”, with high velocity and noise – beyond the audible range of humans.
Impressive. I think.
A further feature is that it is “bladeless”.
Now that is a point of difference… I think.
Dyson contend that they are great at solution selling.
It well may be that they are even better at creating “problems” to solve, and thus establishing needs.
Most striking about this project is that it involved 103 engineers, 600 prototypes, more than 180 patents and 1625 kilometres of human hair.
With such a positive, outward orientation, the opportunities for the entity, which last year recorded $6.5 billion in turnover, seem boundless.
Design and operational simplicity will remain virtues – a la Steve Jobs’ Apple – with premium price tags, that satisfy the value expectations of the innovator and their early-adopter target audiences.
Driving the ongoing success is engineering, design, belief and innovation.
Originality seems to be a second-tier factor.
5. UNSOCIABLE MEDIA
An increasing number of regular users of social media are taking stock, and becoming less committed.
The adjectives “intrusive”, “exploitive”, “persistent” and “unwelcome” are entering the common lexicon.
None sits comfortably with the word, and nature of social.
Millenniums are increasingly leaving the media and individual channels.
They seem to be reflecting the importance of, and value in being “understated”.
The issue is amplified in the business sector.
Too much of a good thing is bad for business, and brand management.
Open and free access is not, and should not be perceived to be an invitation to overdo communications.
Delete, remove and unfriend are available to unsuspecting recipients.
Moreover, those options are being exercised, and yes, it does reflect poorly on individuals.
A STEP TOO FAR
It is a stretch of credibility, and believability, to invite an individual with whom there has been no previous relationship to connect, become a friend, and then within hours to “like” oneself, the business, product or service.
Opportunism is innate to entrepreneurism and commerce.
Measured use of it is laudable.
6. THE EMPEROR’S GOT NO CLOTHES
It’s time to step up, stand up, speak up and call out reality.
Put simply, the pursuit of, and responses to disruption, change, digital and social media are, in most instances, deficient, inconsistent, under-resourced and not transparent.
Let’s call a spade a spade…
The Emperor’s got no clothes.
Immense amounts of money, time, skills and resources are being invested with little-or no quantifiable and verifiable returns.
Responses are typically mute.
No one wants to admit to poor decisions or sub-optimal performances.
Everyone is doing it.
Going with the flow has a touch of Group Think about it.
Performances, good and bad, tend not to be standouts.
Disturbingly, some things in commerce are simply not spoken about.
The facilitators, designers and consultants are not being brought to account.
Measurement seems to be difficult, if not impossible.
The early signs of fracturing of newly conceived, designed and implemented business models are appearing.
Structures, numbers and budgets are being refined and refocused.
The rapid migration to all things digital and on-line is experiencing a wash-back.
Value ratings of the mass-media – print, television, radio and outdoor – are being reassessed.
As a result, better balances are being achieved.
Omnichannel and multi-channels are being subjected to makeovers in which integration between the parts is being prioritised as a primary goal.
Noticeably widespread, there is a lack of urgency.
A lack of consensus in boardrooms and management suites exists.
The score and scale of under-performance are not being quantified, monitored or discussed in open forums.
Based on readily available anecdotal evidence, it is reasonable to contend that over 80%, and possibly up to and including 90% of digital, social, on-line and disruptive strategies are not achieving significant and sustainable increments in demand, sales, revenues profits and customer satisfaction.
In many instances, difficulties are encountered in measuring outcomes and establishing cause-/effect relationships.
Many conclusions and decisions are being based on intuition – “feelings”.
Answers are rare, and wanting.
The lack of definitive, concrete evidence obscures recognition of the need for immediate affirmative actions, with appropriate follow-up and follow-through.
Few, if any, entities, brands, products, services, apps, sectors and regions seem to be immune.
The “green-shoots” of revision-and review are becoming more conspicuous.
Major, mass-volume project home builders are now distributing letterbox drops.
Imagine return to junk mail in the modern digital era.
The same entities were, and remain, at the forefront of the transition to social media marketing campaigns.
A general economy downturn, tightening of bank lending policies and competitive head-winds do not explain in full declines of 10, 20 and 25% in sales.
Creative licence is being applied to offers on renovations, property sub-divisions and joint-venture initiatives.
Interestingly, these do not appear to address consumer demands, but rather, seek to stimulate interest and intent through the supply of alternative thoughts.
It’s back to the future, with greater use of traditional established mass-media.
Issues of risk, security, stability, fear and income-flows are not readily addressed or highlighted:
Those alone temper positive responses.
The marketing of consumer household products is being subjected to the same rigorous review.
There is a widening, pronounced emphasis on point-of-purchasing, promotional and merchandising endeavours.
Old established and proven practices are new… again.
Sadly, price-discounting is common, suppressing the resultant benefits of increased volumes, with squeezed margins and thus, profits.
The importance and potential power of brand is being recognised.
It is one attribute that has been compromised with a reliance on, and preference of on-line marketing and supply.
In such circumstances, recognition and recurring transactions have tended to be assigned to, and enjoyed by the platforms.
“I buy on Amazon”, “we visit eBay” and “my preference is Gumtree” are typical refrains.
In an over-communicated world and marketplace, information-overload prevails.
Target audience segments turn-off.
Selective perception filters and blocks the transmission of what may be considered compelling, attractive and relevant offers by the transmitters (manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and retailers).
Impressive access to huge mass audiences count for little, when recipients are not positively receptive.
Impressive statistics on “hits” can be meaningless, particularly when recipients delete the missives.
A better, more meaningful classification would be “hit and miss”.
In fashion, as in life and commerce, the cut of the cloth is important.
So too is the fibre, but many social media, digital and on-line communication strategies are now threadbare.
Indeed, in some cases, notwithstanding rationalisations and justifications…
The Emperor has no clothes.
A full wardrobe, with considerations for various external factors, is now being reconstituted.
(Robes, tiaras and crowns may be a little premature…)
BACK TO BASICS
History is repeating itself. Calls to get back to basics are misplaced.
Lessons from the past highlight the need to never leave or forget the basics.
Digital disruption, change, innovation, social media and on-line business are not the total answer.
They are part of the drive, focus and solution.
At present the potential is not being fulfilled.
In a figurative and literal sense, execution is the issue.
Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.