The most anticipated, yet uninspiring, US Presidential election is about to take place.
Overall, the final result will be of marginal importance to the American people, and to the world at large.
Neither of the two leading candidates (yes, there are four independents who remain in what many consider is a one -horse/mare race) engenders much enthusiasm, excitement or anticipation.
Fortunately, the USA system of government with its separation of power provisions, ensures that the presidency, judiciary or the legislative cannot singularly control the governance process.
There are significant checks and balances.
The latter years of the Richard Milhouse Nixon presidency serve as a good case study. The incumbent’s personal authority was diminished, because of the Watergate scandal, and his attention centred on unsuccessful endeavours to remain in office. Yet the wheels of government and commerce continued to turn. So, too with the post -8 November election results, unless a surprise Donald Trump victory unfolds, complemented with a significantly increased Republication Party majority in the House of Representatives, and a 60 -seat -plus presence in the Senate.
A series of major distractions within Australia is over. We know the winner of the Melbourne Cup, the National Rugby League and the Australian Football League premierships and who made the Australian Cricket Test team to play South Africa starting in Perth on Thursday.
Now we can get back to work, make some money, create employment opportunities and improve the nation’s productivity.
DISRUPT, DON’T DISTRACT
Some things never change.
Often they simply get a new label. Disruption is a classic example.
For some its meaning is an exciting, original concept – new to humankind and all things commerce; a moment of reflection may well develop a different perspective, and appreciation of change, innovation and creativity.
At the Battle of Hastings in 1066, King Harold was killed with an arrow to the eye.
His archers were armed with cross-bows.
The opponents, the Normans, effectively disrupted traditional military thinking and strategies with their introduction of the long-bow. It could fire three times longer and six times faster than the cross-bow.
Harold’s plans for advance, and a long, happy life, were disrupted.
Likewise, in September 1916 on the Western Front, for the first time the British introduced tanks to the field of battle. They were designed and manufactured by the marine engineers (hence, the phrase, “landships”). In essence, they were slow, noisy, largely immobile and had the tendency to break-down.
They were, however, new, imposing, looked threatening and, ultimately, were effective, given that many German foot-soldiers turned and ran from this new “disruptive” presence.
More recently, in Libya and Syria the forces of ISIS and Daesh have been disrupted in their advances with the effective deployment of UAVs – drones.
Securing and maintaining control over land areas is another, related issue.
Disruption is most effective when it is not a distraction. The attention of target audiences can be re-channelled and business concluded when the disruption is relevant, beneficial and readily acceptable.
Ultimately, the “siren call” of distraction ultimately is time -consuming, and ineffective.
Parallels between the strategies and tactics of warfare and commerce are well established. In both instances, advances, -be they territorial, strategic or disruptive -are best when they are targeted.
Most disruptive products, services and applications which are currently entering the marketplace will not be economically and financially successful. They will simply be distractions.
STYMIED – ANALYSIS IRRELEVANCE
Too much information, too little intelligence. The sentiments ring true for many scenarios in the contemporary marketplace.
Data, facts and cause: -effect relationships abound. However, the capacity to accurately predict the consequences, manifestations and implications of them is narrowing. Unrecognised, unforeseen and unanticipated countervailing forces frustrate “well-informed” being able to project, define and articulate the future.
The Governors, Chancellors and Chief Executives of Central Banks, regulatory authorities and well-resourced “think tanks” are openly, but reluctantly, conceding their own inability and capacity to determine local, regional, national and global economies by the use of the traditionally applied and blunt instruments of fiscal and monetary policies.
In the past the mere suggestion that official interest rates would increase had dramatic and immediate effects on share markets, property values, investment plans and consumer behaviour.
The resultant trends were typically downward.
Not so now.
Public declarations by central bank spokespeople that interest rates may increase can, and have, had the reverse effects.
For example, the comparative international value of the Australian dollar has remained stubbornly high, despite concerted efforts over three years by the Australian Reserve Bank to reduce the currency reduce in value, to below US$0.70 cents.
Meanwhile, economists still boldly make public pronouncements. Most are widely inaccurate. Questions have been raised about the bases and justifications for such prognostications. Reading tea leaves seems to have parallel levels of integrity.
The introduction of new labels, like “Behaviour Economists” – to enhance the accuracy and relevance of many economic forecasts and projections – seems to be well-intentioned but largely ineffective.
In similar vein, the results of the “Brexit” referendum in Britain have been well known for months. The fact is that Britain is leaving the European Union. However, few, if any, can agree on the consequences and when they will evolve and transpire.
Eight years after the August 2008 Global Financial Crisis, debate continues on its intermediate and long-term consequences, with little evidence of consensus and what is needed to address and redress the prevailing sub-optimal market circumstances.
Interestingly, this does not imply “paralysis by analysis”.
Rather, it suggests a situation of “analysis irrelevance”.
That might just be one thing on which many can agree.
With a measure of knowledge, experience, a tolerance of risk and an element of personal bravado, this may well be a good time for implementing the philosophy:
Ready. Fire. Aim.
EXTENDED TRADING HOURS
– GOVERNMENT HAS GOT IT RIGHT
The market appeal of cities, communities, regions and states projecting themselves, and being accepted as tourism destinations, is to some extent influenced, if not determined, by local business trading hours.
Successive Australian Prime Ministers have declared that “Australia is open for business”. However, it seems those were qualified statements, which have been compromised by recent state and local government decisions, legislation and regulations which limit trading hours.
To attract and maintain the interest and endorsement of interstate and international visitors, businesses in specific localities need to be open when those in the marketplace expect and demand them to be so.
The rights of private lives, the inequity of penalty rates and labour-force availability are separate, albeit, important issues. Tourism and hospitality are part of the service sector which currently employs some 82% of the Australian workforce. For far too many local small business owners retaining current restricted trading hours is an imperative. That is a proposition inconsistent with the wish to promote tourism.
Tourism remains the second -largest industry in the world, after finance. Its potential for wealth and employment creation is immense.
Service standards, and the continuity of service delivery are non-negotiable fundamentals.
Increasingly, local councils, Chambers of Commerce and business associations are determining and declaring commitments to promote their localities, ratepayers and members on a platform of tourism.
Commonality of purpose is, sadly, consistent with a commonality of message and promise.
Differentiation is rare. Festivals and events are omnipotent, and therefore have become commoditised.
Western Australia’s Premier Colin Barnett, who is an economist, has recently taken on the role of Minister for Tourism. Potentially, that is great news for those seeking to establish, promote and sustain Western Australia as a compellingly attractive tourism destination.
An integral aspect of his plans and proposals is to extend trading hours, against the entrenched opposition and resistance of many established business owners.
Colin has the equation about right.
Businesses need to change.
A recent missive from a long-time associate, Darlene Richard, captures the true spirit of the issue:
VOICE OF THE CUSTOMER
Life is a continuum of learning.
In commerce, those who learn and earn most, listen closely to consumers, customers and clients.
Comprehension inevitably leads to understanding, which is the catalyst for responsiveness.
This is the essence of success.
Disturbingly, the “voice of the customer” is seldom represented or heard at the table in boardrooms and in management business development deliberations.
Spreadsheets and financial ratios seem to communicate in a language unfamiliar to, and distant from the consuming public. Business-to-business scenarios differ little.
A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW
To some it is confronting, challenging, if not effronting to have an external resource present at the time of decision-making to provide a different point of view -that of the target audience.
In recent times, I have fulfilled the role of Customer Experience Advocate as the facilitator for conferences and in-company workshops, and undertaken a similar role for boardroom deliberations.
The outcomes have been consistently outstanding, often after some initial tortured moments.
The concept reflects a true desire by an increasing number of management teams to be customer-centre / focused / driven.
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 of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.