1. Cuts in Expenditure and Resources
Cuts in expenditure and resources, to address economic downturns, waste and to achieve enhanced productivity are, in the main, mutually exclusive,
Addressing or achieving one does not necessarily impact on the others.
Removing waste and accelerating productivity are laudable goals, which are relatively constant ideals.
Ironically, the current priority being assigned to reducing expenditure because of widespread economic slow-down is, in many instances, contributing to increases in waste and decreases in productivity.
The unintended consequences are salutary lessons on the need for disciplined, structured strategies, adroit implementation, and considered, detailed analysis of the intent for decisions. Cascading flow-on effects are a typical, inherent characteristic of the contemporary interdependent society and economy in which we live and operate.
Consistency and continuity are two of four pillars of service excellence. They materially contribute to the effective management of consumer expectations (reinforcing the virtues of The Doctrine of No Surprises).
Extending their applications to marketing can be, have been, and arguably should be imperative to maintaining a conspicuous presence, profile and competitive edge in the marketplace
Cuts in expenditure can be, and often are justifiable. However, they should be a last-choice, not first. Just ask those resilient, committed, successful industry-leading marketers.
2. LIFETIME CUSTOMERS – A DYING BREED
A shocking revelation: Life-time expectations have shortened. Blame the internet and on-line activities.
Now that I have your attention, let me introduce a little perspective to a vexing subject.
The life-time spans of business relationships, in general, are being truncated. Loyalty has waned. As a result, the life-time value of customers and clients has decreased, substantially. No-one should be, or can be, taken for granted.
One rationalising consideration is that maintaining contact via the internet – a major contributing factor to the circumstances – is inexpensive and is not at all labour-intensive.
Moreover, the loss in worth, and reality of the life-time value for one are applicable to all. Therefore, all customers – including those of competitors – are in play, and potentially winnable, at all times.
The drift to digital marketing initiatives represents potential. Much of the customer communications and contact is automated, “Robo-messages”, if you will. “Personal” is a characteristic and concept that is missing. Engagement and commitment on both parts of any relationship tend to be low. Overall, many interactions are now distant, if not disconnected. The channels remain, but are not overly utilised.
A NEW PERSPECTIVE
Relationships are not, and should not be allowed to become transactional in nature and direction. Effective, scheduled, consistent and personal follow-ups can be effective, to maintain one’s relevance, and the clients’ interest. Like all relationships, one needs to work at them every- day. Respect and respond to emotions. Have fun, and …… value each transaction, celebrate each success.
3. ACTIVE MINDS
The weeks ahead will be busy with formulating, documenting and implementing disciplined strategic and growth plans, and for sharing original business development and client retention concepts and campaigns.
We are scheduled to deliver customised conference keynote addresses for professional shopfitters, caravan park operators, an accountancy practice, legal firms, members of franchise networks and a cooperative buying group.
I also look forward to the challenge of facilitating interactive workshops for an original equipment manufacturer, a regional real estate group and property development corporation.
Clearly, for some, hitting the “pause” button is not an option for some. Hopefully, the positive attitudes-of-mind are infectious
If we can contribute to your endeavours, do make contact.
4. BOTTOM-LINE. IT SHOULD ALWAYS BE THE BOTTOM-LINE
The true measure of success.
Tourism, Asia, Thailand and Singapore provide timely case studies for all business leaders in the monitoring and quantifying of key performance indicators
The attention-grabbing headline is that currently Thailand attracts more international and regional visitors than Singapore.
Bottom line: Tourists visiting Singapore spend more per person, – and overall.
Accordingly, the economy and businesses of Singapore are more buoyant and profitable than those of its near neighbour, Thailand.
Unquestionably, the authorities and business leaders of the smaller city-state desire to have tourist visits increase. However, not at the cost of shorter visits and less expenditure.
Likewise, all businesses need to take stock in these testing times. Attracting increased consumer traffic, transactions and revenue by discounting prices can be, and often is, a false economy.
Concurrent growth in activities and declines in profit seem nonsensical.
Market-share alone is not bankable.
Some customers and businesses are not attractive or indeed viable. They can have adverse effects on the worth of the entity.
Feeding families and share-holders tends to be more fulfilling, than feeding egos.
Visits to Singapore remain appealing, and present value. Those two pillars should be, and must be, the foundations for businesses that seek sustainable viability and growth.
5. CONVERGENCE, OF CONFUSION
A new trend is emerging among a limited number of smaller retail businesses.
Seemingly comparative and compatible entities, that market and sell select products and services are integrating their operations into single premises.
High rents, wages and weekend penalty rates are key factors in the decisions.
So too are static, and in some instances, declining sales. Exacerbating the situation is rampant discounting, which is squeezing margins and shaving profits.
The track record for these types of initiatives is not good. Moreover, brand names are being compromised and possibly trashed. Accordingly, there is little scope and prospect for recovery.
The underlying rationale for combining and integrating businesses seems reasonable. Cost efficiencies, opportunities for cross-selling, and lower, coordinated advertising, marketing, promotional and selling endeavours appear to be alluringly attractive.
Unfortunately, the oft-emotional, non-rational buying processes of consumers are neutralising and counter-forces.
Failure and under-performance can highlight a lack of understanding of consumer perceptions, preferences, buying patterns and purchase criteria.
Studying, analysing, comprehending, respecting and valuing customers are virtues. It seems that many business owners, leaders and managers fall short.
“I WOULD NEVER HAVE GUESSED”
Astute and discerning managers at all times try to eliminate or minimise guess-work in their decision making. The margins for error are at present wafer-thin. Consequences can be substantial and costly.
Hence, knowing and understanding one’s customers have never been so important.
INTERESTING CASE STUDIES
Retail pharmacies were innovators in the concept. Some 80% – 85% of typical pharmacy customers were, and remain, women. Their visiting patterns centred around fortnightly, monthly or seasonal schedules.
Increasing frequency was identified to be a key objective. Thus integrating retail pharmacies with newsagencies seemed logical. Daily purchases of newspapers and weekly lotto tickets were a lure.
Sadly, there is little synergy between the two distinct product offerings.
In essence, women didn’t want to gamble with their health and well-being.
Likewise, purchasing window treatments and floor coverings is done at a differing times, satisfies varying needs and has contrasting purchase criteria.
Many attempts to integrate both product categories have failed.
Combing paper giftware and scented candles fared no better.
High quality jewellery, watches and fashion accessories – were found to be incompatible with cheaper bling-type personal adornments.
More recently, “big box” pet care / food / toy retailers have introduced veterinary surgeries into premises – with separate front doors, but internal access to both businesses.
Initial consumer responses have been positive. However, the sales of consumables within the surgeries have taken a “hit”.
Some integration obviously comes at a cost.
A KEY LESSON
Cutting and sharing costs are distinct goals, which do not necessarily achieve improvements in the top and bottom lines of business revenues and profiles.
6. CUT THAT OUT – BEWARE INVISIBILITY AND COMMODITISATION
Loud. Consistent. Differentiating. Focused.
Each attribute is an essential element of marketing, to establish and maintain a presence in the prevailing, challenging and somewhat suppressed marketplace. Sadly, constrained and reducing budgets are contributing to a loss of visibility for an increasing number of companies, brand names, products and services.
Being removed from figurative and literal shopping lists pre-emptively lessens the effectiveness, creativity and originality in advertising, marketing, promotions, selling and packaging content.
Ironically, some senior executives do not recognise the fact that when existing, prospective and past clients do not recognise or recall the brand name or its value- proposition, sales and transactions are improbable
Invisibility is not a virtue.
Decisions to cut staff numbers, overheads and advertising can be decisive, and – if taken promptly.
Often, little consideration and time are given to the consequences, which can be, and typically are, immediate, deep, widespread and lasting.
This scenario is compounded by the presence of multiple like-products, services and applications, each claiming similar features, benefits and advantages – with comparable limited budgets: a boring landscape of sameness.
Making, achieving and projecting a difference, is difficult, if not impossible, with limited resources.
Commoditisation, in which each or all offerings are perceived to be part of a non-differentiated amorphous block, simply exacerbates invisibility (read: non-conspicuous presence) in the marketplace.
Accordingly, the goals set for, and expected of effective marketing sometime become unattainable.
Over-reliance on, and emphasis on single communication channels can multiply the consequences of reductions in advertising expenditure. Social media and on-line advertising present timely case studies. Both are effective among consumers and corporation team members who have entered, or are advanced in the purchase routine, and are seeking specific or targeted information.
For the uncommitted and ill-informed, cuts in newspaper, radio, television and outdoor advertising can, and often do, eliminate or preclude brand names, products and services from any degree of recognition, recall, preference or advocacy (read: invisibility).
In the absence of consistent, regular or periodic exposure to advertising and communications, top-of-mind recall rates can be negligible, – if any – within a 6-week span.
Stop-start advertising effects similar patterns in recall, awareness, preference, and above all, cash-flow! Ouch!
Achieving impact on a limited budget is difficult – not impossible.
A laser-tight focus on activities can effect relative, as against absolute, visibility, impact and differentiation.
Discrete target audiences can be, and at all times should be, identified, analysed and communicated to.
Understanding the media habits and information sources of primary, secondary and tertiary customer groups enables priorities to be assigned, budgets set and allocated, and optimal marketing channels to be utilised.
Thus, with a constrained or limited budget, impact can be achieved and sustained to high-prospect entities, individuals and groups. Leakage and losses among those in the broader marketplace are therefore minimised, and the cost-effectiveness of marketing, advertising, promotion and selling campaigns is enhanced.
Broadening audiences and target markets can be, and ideally should at all times be, achieved by personalised on-sell propositions to customers who have responded positively to the targeted communications. On-selling, recommending and referring are different and later phases of the purchase process than advertising, promotions and merchandising.
Converting satisfied customers to referees, advocates and ambassadors is an art form, utilised by outstanding, high-achieving marketers. It simply takes a disciplined, structured approach, within the construct of relationship marketing.
Secondary and cascading sales are not restricted to, or solely dependent upon the recommendations and introductions effected by purchasers.
Well connected and profiled spheres-of-influence are a diverse collective. Their access to, and influence on differing demographics, psychographics, localities and consumers can, and should, be utilised.
In some instances, that may require conclusion of commercial agreements, with financial considerations, use or access to products, services and applications or recognition in company-based initiated literature. Moreover, dedicated advertising budgets and messages are required.
Marketing mavens are typically few in number, but influential in many purchase decisions. Their seeming insatiable desire to be at the forefront of product knowledge and product-use can be sufficient currency to satisfy the needs of those individuals.
The marketing and communications initiatives of mavens make selling easier.
AN EXTERNAL FOCUS
Thus, once the internal orientation of optimal efficiency and cost-cutting has been achieved, rewards and competitive advantage await those who strive for external effectiveness.
The adroit use and deployment of external resources can and will leverage sales, revenue, productivity and profitability.
Moreover, mentions, references and reflections by spheres-of-influence counter any drift towards invisibility and commoditisation.
In short, a key objective is to become and remain the topic of conversation. Share of mind, does inevitably become share of market. That typically requires a relatively stable schedule of marketing, advertising, public relations, promotions and merchandising. Individually, and collectively, budgets and resources are essential. Retention of them is expensive. But cutting budgets and resources can be more expensive, when measured in terms of losses in marketplace visibility, differentiated market positioning, sales, revenues and profits.
So, think, cut it out, and then think again – in this order
Barry Urquhart of Marketing Focus is an internationally respected business strategist, consumer behaviour analyst and conference keynote speaker.