Marketing Focus: Essays on Management & Marketing February 2017

That will be, and should be, the mantra for commerce during 2017.
Momentum will precede profits, sustainable growth, enhanced productivity, more expeditious decision-making and, above all else, improved confidence.
It is indisputable that the calendar year 2016 was a period of economic slow-down for many sectors, regions and entities. In reality, it is arguable that Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia experienced recessionary conditions, albeit the term was imperceptible to many.

Supportive facts are self-evident – staff numbers were reduced, inventories cleaned out, networks refined, staff training and development were trimmed and brought in-house, bank balances reduced, dividends cut and capital expenditure suspended, delayed or reduced. The impacts were cascading and incremental.
Forecasts for, and the manifestations of, economic up-turns during 2017 should, prudently, include recognition of considerable lead-time before buoyancy and “boom” conditions return.
Appreciable under-utilisation, under-employment and low output ratios, like stock-turns and productivity, abound.
Therefore, astute business leaders, analysts and strategists will remain measured in their enthusiasm and forecasts until two key terms and concepts can be and are expressed collectively: Momentum and Critical Mass.
Hence, use of the metaphor “the green-shoots of economic activity” may prove appropriate for the southern hemisphere. Springtime, beginning in September, seems to be an ambitious but realistic expectation.
In the meantime there will be no short-cuts for the hard work and deployment of resources necessary to get the wheels of commerce turning faster.
Pastoralists will confirm that considerable time elapses being sowing and harvesting.

Oh! – and don’t dismiss the possibility and the variability of changeable weather, storms and (head) winds.
Barry Urquhart 

Three important questions for goal-setting.
Testing times demand that we go above and beyond.
In isolation, a fixation on what to do falls short. One should never plan to a goal. It is imperative to always plan through a goal.
Attainment of a goal is not a milestone. It is a stepping stone….. to a bigger and better future.
Sports arenas abound with pertinent case studies of inadequate goal-setting.
Teams set, and successfully strive towards the goal of a premiership.
All-too-often, next season dysfunction, underachievement, and often, failure evolve.
There are close parallels in commerce, society and life.

A moment of reflection at the full-time siren of what, in reality, has been achieved can be sobering. On balance, and in full perspective, the answer may well be … very little. So What? This question leads to the fundamental issue and challenge of, Now What?
Goal attainment is satisfying and fulfilling, and should be celebrated in the moment. Success, fame and wealth can be, and often are fleeting.
Vision and aspirations are by nature motivational and provide focus, structure, discipline, purpose and above all, hope.
Goals, like the future, should always be beyond. Motivation is a driving force. It is not a driven force. Reflect on the statement, “I was driven”. That is passive mode and past tense.
There is no arrival point for those who seek to grow, develop and to enhance. The journey is a constant in life, sport, commerce and politics. 
The alternative is entropy. That is, the state in which the prospects and reality tend towards a state of disorder and decline.
What turns you on?
That is the perennial question facing and challenging marketers. 
Falling response rates to advertising, promotions and communications are indicative of a significant disconnect between businesses, associations and public sector entities, and their primary, secondary and tertiary target audiences.
Hits on many social media and on-line channels can be, and are, consistently between 8 and 16% to targeted and supposed self-declared friends. That’s only part of a sad story, responses and engagements are typically between 3 and 5%.
Traditional direct mail communications record as little as 1.25% response rates, over increasingly longer and fractured time spans.
Those statistics, as disturbing as they may be, identify the issue, but give little insight on the contributing reasons.
The widespread migration to digital media is laudable, appropriate and non-negotiable. Efficiencies can improve exponentially, costs can be slashed and the capacity to customise content and offers seems boundless.
Many digital marketers have the skills to communicate with, and elicit positive responses from algorithms. High rankings on Google, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like count for little in terms of sales, revenues and profits if the subsequent and consequential communications with individuals do not generate interest, demand and transactions.
Therein lies the dilemma. Many new-era marketers simply lack the skills, experience and expertise to connect with and engage with people, based on emotions.
Here is a challenge, and possible answer.
The fear of losing what one has or of missing out is currently more powerful and influential than the allure of winning or acquiring.
It is an interesting state-of-mind.

Significantly, 63% of respondents in a recent nationwide study nominated protecting and retaining existing assets as the primary concerns and objectives of 2016. A total 16% stated increasing investments and acquisitions as a primary goal, while 23% had sought to upgrade, renovate, or redefine their existing asset base.
Only 19% of the people surveyed expected to increase expenditure during 2017 – little change there.
Hence, change is needed in the content, nature and focus of much existing marketing, sales and promotion communication.
It’s capability not capacity that matters most. That particularly applies to the digital world. The capacity of its many elements, if and when applied astutely, can be so predictive, targeted, accurate and ……. boring.
Seemingly boundless amounts of information can be collated, analysed, converted into intelligence and deployed to the advantage and benefit of both suppliers and consumers.
However, lateral, non-linear thought seems to be inconsistent with the concept. This raises questions about the degree of recognition of its value, its scope and complementary nature to digital channels.
Commerce will not thrive on algorithms alone. They provide frameworks, identify trends and profile WHAT is contained in the data-base. The essential ingredients of intuitive and analytical thoughts are invaluable in concluding WHY and HOW the raw, clustered information can, and should be applied.
The controlling, monitoring, management and administration of information that is retrieved from digital products, services and applications enable the attainment and maintenance of efficiencies.
Such are the nature of the “known knowns”.
However, Big Data, algorithms and the cloud do not have all the answers, nor indeed do they pose all the questions. Much is left unasked and unanswered.
Unfulfilled potential and widespread under-performance are two common consequences. Contributing to such in all things digital are two key factors, being:
The capability statement of many entities which have entered, or are about to enter the digital world reveals a spread of deficiencies. Many skill-sets are inappropriate and/or inadequate.
Put simply, many people – external consultants included – do not have the skills, experience, qualifications, creativity or analytical expertise that are necessary to realise the latent potential.
Familiarisations with processes do not necessarily produce the required insights and outputs.
Likewise, the collection and collation of information are laudable (and should continue), but are in reality, the initial steps in a longer, integrated business journey.
The capacity, expertise and experience to analyse, effectively interpret and to convert the base information into intelligence are rare and greatly valued.
Providing an early-teenage cricketer with a Dave Warner-inspired “super bat” will not guarantee the arrival of a run-making, next-generation Test cricketer.
Capacity (the super bat) needs to be complemented with, and utilised by capability.

Regrettably, the immense sums of capital which have been invested by companies, trading entities and associations in retrieving, filing and collating information merely produce a latent power-house capacity, awaiting supporting infra-structure, including human skills.
Sadly, a significant percentage of entities do not have, or have not applied, sufficient resources to effectively utilise and deploy the opportunities and they will therefore never enjoy the consequential advantages, benefits and sustainable competitive advantages.
Evidence of this abounds. Generalised non-specific communication and marketing offers (most of which are irrelevant to individual recipients) are regularly transmitted, distributed and presented. Annoyance among existing and potential customers and clients increases as a result. Therefore, sales conversion ratios remain disturbingly – and expensively – low.
The costs borne extend beyond financial.
Reputational and relationship costs can be, and often are, appreciable.

In essence, consumers and clients tend to know (or believe that they know) what they want and need.
With digital marketing, so too should service providers.
Indeed, arguably, they should know the customers’ needs, drives and aspirations better than the customers know themselves.

Such potential. But alas, forsaken opportunities due to a lack of resources. Many cost-saving operational and Board decisions are false economies. All entities need to invest wisely and generously in capacity and capability.

Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.

Barry Urquhart
Marketing Focus

M:      041 983 5555
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