Time could be against you.
Business owners and managers who have addressed the consequences of GFC (Global Financial Crisis) and the mining sector downturn with cost cutting and operations refinements may contend that they are now well placed for an economic upturn.
It could be a long wait. So many indeterminable variables are, and will be, at play that timing will be difficult to forecast, let alone to schedule.
The interim period will assume its own role and importance ……. in both relative and absolute terms.
Hope springs eternal … for better times. But realists will have determined and prepared for tough times and probable downturns in the foreseeable “interim” period.
Profits and margins are like family. They need to be respected, protected and nurtured. Communication, understanding, tolerance and support will be virtues. Individually and collectively, they will impact on relationships and the bottom line.
Going it alone does not seem right or optimal.
A fine- line will need to be walked, with an emphasis on internal and external interactions.
Achieving and maintaining a balance will be laudable, and will be rewarded.
This is one time that market share will count for little. One can’t bank market share, and priority should be given to feeding the family, not the ego.
LOSS BEATS GAIN
Emotions are powerful instigators. They are complex, all-pervading, subjective and, in many instances, unexpectedly contradictory.
Moreover, they are magnifiers. Therefore, an appropriate trigger elicits substantial, immediate and, often, sustainable responses.
This is a fundamental key to recognise and to deploy when price alone is not the answer.
Interestingly, the intensity of emotional reactions to actual, probable or possible loss is typically far greater than the intensity of the joy of gain.
That fact alone provides a great insight into the motivations and processes of purchase decisions.
Thus, the orientation of all marketing communication needs to be sensitive to the perspective in which messages will be received and actioned.
Key audiences need to be identified, defined and targeted. Specific, concise messages must be structured, purchase criteria outlined and, both objectives and outcomes enunciated.
The prospect of actual loss, or the possibility of missing out are fundamental stimulants for action.
All that is needed by the marketer is the channelling of those forces to the desirable outcomes.
Reinforcing the seemingly innate tendency towards the negative is the ability and inclination of respondents to market research surveys to provide negative-orientated answers.
Loss turns to profit when the communication is artfully structured, delivered, supported and followed through.
IT’S A BATTLE OUT THERE
The consequences of the current and ongoing marketplace battles are conspicuous, and the parallel between military strategies and those of commerce are increasingly pronounced.
Liquidations and administrations are up, and rising (17% on the past year throughout Australia), supply lines are fractured and, often, clogged, territories and alliances are being lost, morale is brittle, inventories are declining and the collateral damage is disturbing in its magnitude (Personal bankruptcies are at record levels).
Fortress mentality underlies the political statements and proposed policies being enunciated with the Brexit decision in Britain, and throughout the US Presidential primaries.
Globally, political leaders have become timid, often retreating to the trenches.
As a consequence, business sectors and economies are exposed and vulnerable.
It is apparent that little military-based strategic and scenario planning has been undertaken.
Many business and marketing plans have been found to be tactical in nature and short-term and reactionary in focus.
Sound, integrated and disciplined military-based strategic planning avoids conflict, minimises casualties, enhances morale and confidence, optimises the deployment of resources and effectively defends and protects national and natural boundaries.
Each aspect appears deficient at present.
Evidence is widespread of hand-to-hand encounters.
Significantly, the battle or the war have not necessarily been lost.
There is much to be gained from the timely conduct of a strategic review and scenario planning workshop.
The dynamic, innovative and easy-to-comprehend and apply, Business Warfareframework is ideal for conferences, interactive workshops and internal development forums.
We remain enthusiastic and energised by the creative and original outcomes which evolve from the contributions of participations.
The history, lessons and foundations of military thinking being applied to commerce have a long, successful record.
Later this month Jill and I will be fulfilling commitments in London and Edinburgh.
We will then travel to the remnants of Urquhart Castle, on the western bank of Loch Ness, adjacent to Urquhart Bay – the site of the alleged two sightings of the Loch Ness monster.
Urquhart Castle is on a dominant promontory, which for centuries effectively controlled movement on and around Loch Ness.
It was a primary target for the invading armies of England, and the defending and resurgent Scottish forces.
Establishing, defending and sustaining beach- leads is essential in strategic thinking.
Subsequently, we journey to Villers-Bretonneux and the Somme battlefield, the theatre of war in which tanks were first deployed.
It is well to remember that each successful military force and commercial entity has had the benefits of a “tank”, a long-bow or unique capacity.
It is imperative that people have the right and appropriate equipment, and that the importance of timing is recognised and respected.
Next is the commitment to fight for your rights, presence and competitiveness.
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 offence and rejection.
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 of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.