1. “We are family”.
Three small words.
But not a three-word slogan.
Collectively, they represent a force of nature in society and business.
The importance and power of the phrase were brought home to me at a nephew’s 50thbirthday party.
He shared with his guests that he and I had had a counselling session when he was, psychologically and financially, in a bad place.
Apparently, I had said, “We are family”.
He left, with the knowledge that he had the unconditional love and support he sought.
The subsequent transformation in his demeanour, self-image and actions was substantial, and persists today.
He is confident, engaging, driven and fun to be with – as he was in the past.
I have shared the experience and applied the principles with participants of internal company business, culture and service development workshops.
The resultant enhancement in morale, performance and pride has been rapid and palpable.
Extending the essence of internal and external relationships beyond customers, clients, guests and team members to “being family” has been financially rewarding for all.
A small, but increasing number of companies have become employers of choice, workforces have become more integrated, stabilised and customer satisfaction and loyalty improved.
When the sentiments of family extend beyond bloodlines and genes people feel that they are recognised, respected and understood.
Australians, Britons, New Zealanders and people at large are better when they embrace, not when they discriminate or exclude.
This festive season, Christmas period and into the future we will all benefit, be rewarded and feel fulfilled if we subscribe to the belief and values encapsulated in the phrase …
We are family.
2. PUBLICITY – GOOD OR BAD?
All publicity is not good publicity.
All publicity is good exposure.
Its worth, value and measure of “goodness” is determined by follow-up and follow-through.
Countless and repeated opportunities are lost because the subjects of free publicity simply wait for contacts, enquiries, sales and profits to follow.
The wait can be eternal.
Beyond the subjects of the publicity, the exposure may simply be noted and register as being “interesting”.
What is lacking is the need and compelling drive to act.
Exploitation, and fulfilment of the opportunities is depended on self-initiated actions and creativity.
Publicity opens the door of opportunity.
It does not close the sale.
Moreover, penetration is seldom universal.
Recall, and establishing relevance are, at best, marginal.
Maintaining control of the publicity agenda and narrative is imperative.
That is best achieved in the established, traditional mass media.
Therefore, publicity must be recognised and utilised as a tool or means to enhance profile, advantage, differentiation and benefit.
Publicity, like advertising, is most effective with frequency (repetition).
Therefore, unashamedly, share it … – repeatedly.
MAY THE SOURCE BE WITH YOU
Furthermore, leverage the profile, market acceptance and integrity of the source of publicity.
Arguably, it is the most powerful testimony available to many entities, products, services, applications and individuals.
People believe, and believe in their preferred and chosen media outlets, whose decision to subject you to publicity is implicit and explicit endorsement.
BE SOCIAL, BUT BEWARE
Social media represent immense scope and countless opportunities.
However, the appeal is qualified in that it is not possible to control and manage the agenda and narrative.
These channels are democratic by nature, with everyone having the ability to contribute and to express and share their perceptions, beliefs and convictions, many of which may have spurious foundations.
This too is publicity, which can rapidly go viral, global – and negative.
ENJOY THE JOURNEY
It is wise to consider publicity to be the starting point of a potentially interesting, enjoyable and profitable journey.
To maintain the momentum and reach the ultimate goal involves a number of steps. Therefore, it is advisable to pace yourself.
It can produce a “good” feeling … – and lots of business.
3. CONSCIENTIOUSLY RESPONSIBLE PRICING
Market forces, not social conscience.
Those are the key driving forces behind many Australian businesses absorbing increased product costs (because of the falling value of the Australian dollar during the course in 2015).
The increasingly competitive marketplace does not enable retailers in particular to pass on additional costs through increased prices.
During the past year some twelve global brands have established retail premises in Australia, attracted in part by the historically high profit margins applied and enjoyed by local traders.
It is now a redundant business model.
Fast fashion entities, Zara, Top Shop, Forever 21 and H&M invoke smaller profit margins, achieve greater productivity, velocity and volume, resulting in attractively elevated profits.
Aldi, with its estimated profit margins of 16%, consistently beats the value offers of Coles and Woolworths which operate on profit mark-ups of 23% of branded profits and up to 32% with their respective housebrand ranges.
Detailed and extensive analysis of research data has identified and isolated the key leakage factors in sales among Australian businesses since the onset of the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) among Australian businesses.
These factors effect declines in the volume consumer store visits.
Significantly, since August 2008 sales conversion ratios have remained relatively constant.
That is – the measure of sales and service staff members being effective in closing sales among consumers with whom they interact.
The two major department stores suffer from a perceived – or real – lack of staff engagement.
That is when: consumers cannot find staff members to serve and satisfy their information needs.
This results in the downturns in the volume of store visits.
Therefore, the statement “if I could speak to more people I could sell more products” does have currency and relevance.
For most businesses to achieve increased store traffic they simply have to be price competitive, absorbing increased costs, as a prevailing marketplace reality.
To achieve and maintain optimal sales revenue and profit generation, care must be taken to closely and regularly measure, monitor and manage the following 6 key phases in the buying cycle:
Store traffic – entries to premises
Staff engagement – interactions with sales people
Sales conversion – purchase closures
Unit value of sale – revenue worth
Poor measures on any and all of the above phases impact on revenue, profits, competitiveness, customer satisfaction and, most importantly, on the first phase, store traffic.
So, in conclusion, “What comes around, goes around”. T
he “right price” on the top-line determines the profits on the bottom-line.
4. NO HOLIDAY FOR PRODUCTIVITY
At this time each year Australians, and Australia, go on vacation.
Things slow down.
Individuals, families and teams take a break.
It is both physical and psychological.
The pace starts to pick up after Australia Day, 26 January.
As a result, cash-flows, productivity and profits are typically trashed.
This year things will be different for many entities.
At our urging, an encouraging number of clients have scheduled marketing audits, interactive business development workshops, “Early Start Accelerator” events and new product/service launches, for which we will provide facilitation and master of ceremony services.
Already, there is conspicuous energy, urgency and focus among the people.
The traditional festive season is being progressively transformed in a festival season. Among the objectives is to bring fun back into business.
I commend to you the underlying philosophy and concept.
5. 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:
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:
Team member personal presentations
Consistently, these initiatives generate the most immediate and sustainably positive responses.
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.
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 a respected consumer behaviour analyst, business strategist and high impact conference keynote speaker.