Dr. Escalante Management Group, Inc.
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|Posted on February 14, 2013 at 7:54 PM||comments (445)|
I never imagined anyone would be reading my stuff; so I did not consider continuing to write. Anyhow, thanks to all. The responses have been inspiring, and I deeply regret not answering your comments, some of which I just realized existed. What a marketer, ey? Please read on...
Someone once asked me, "What is one of the first things you would do to determine a proper marketing direction seeking better results?" My response was rather simple and direct. If the measurement or evaluation of your efforts in each (and I do mean "each," because all search engines are not created equal, a brochure is not the same a s a flyer, radio is not just radio...) marketing area is proving positive to the desired degree, then you should seek avenues for improvement (there is always room for improvement). If you have no measurement or evaluation criteria or system, and you are designing and launching programs (web pages, brochures, information meetings, radio and the like) because this is what has always been done (what I call historical ignorance), or because this is what the industry does (what I call collective stupidity) then you should immediately stop EVERYTHING. If tossing resources out the window without second thoughts is what you are after, then go ahead, do that - stand at the window and throw them out; why bother with whatever you are calling "marketing programs"? And then, of course, blame your lack of customer, or client, or student, or patient, or whomever response on the economy. Blame your budget cuts and layoffs or firing people (except, of course, yourself - the "leader") on decreasing revenue.
What I found sad about that short conversation was the immediate response of, "Manny, we can't do that!" "How can we possibly stop our marketing efforts?" To this, I understood that "marketing" had to continue, regardless of results or lack thereof. "Marketing" must go on, perhaps to justify expenditures and show someone that we are doing something, and that the decrease in revenue, or sales, or units, or enrollments is not our fault. Could it be there is a year-end budget fear? That fear that if we don't spend what we said we would, then next year's budget will be shorter? Can't have that, now can we? Could it be that we really don't have a clue about marketing and how it works and what it should do and how it should do all the things it does?
Maybe you took a principles (and, please, it is PRINCIPLES, not principals - use a dictionary for the sake of your readers. I have seen this on education institution brochures and websites) of marketing course at the undergraduate level, and a marketing strategy course at the graduate level. Now, you are prepared to tackle the marketing world. You have answers and techniques. I don't think so!!! Some stories I could tell about failed "marketing" efforts of some of these folks. (Oh, oh. That brings to mind some teachers of the profession who have never practiced - went through undergrad, grad, post-grad school; read all the books, learned all the jargon and formulae; participated in round-tables and wrote papers, but never actually worked in the field, never actually did anything; never had to meet a payroll; never had to design a program that someone was actually depending on for revenue to meet payroll. Ah, to have tasted the blood of battle!)
We need more money. We have insufficient resources. Our people need to work the phones harder. We need to make more pitches. We, blah, blah, blah... Somehow it is never enough.
Of course it is never enough! How can there ever be enough when there is no understanding of even what is required. It is not about what you have, rather about what you do with what you have. It is about endowing your resources with increased wealth-building capacity (this is what I offer my clients). To do this, however, to endow your resources with such power, you must understand the game and its rules.
On the first night of class, I always like to ask my students to introduce themselves. Who are you? What do you do? For how long have you been doing it? Why are you here? What do you plan to do with this once you "finish"? I have received some cute answers, some pie-in-the-sky answers, some answers the likes of, "Gotta do it. My employer demands it if I am to get a five-dollar raise next year or a lateral move to some obscure department". The one that truly blew my mind, though I know for a fact that this is happening in many industries, many enterprises, every day, happened at a summer term course: "I work for a company that has exercise centers, and sells and distributes exercise equipment. I have just been promoted to the position of marketing manager, and I can't even spell the word." Was it just me, or did anyone else feel the slap in the face?
"Well, we need a marketing "person." Joe, the assistant over in accounting, is pretty good at graphic design - maybe a good choice. Then there is Jane. Jane has, for several years, been receiving calls from potential students and answering questions about our programs and requirements and general queries; she has also maintained and updated our student database, as well as printed letters, licked envelopes and sent out mailing pieces. That certainly qualifies her to be promoted into a marketing position. Of course, there is also Judy, who knows about web pages." And the story goes on. Subject-blind people using improper criteria for such a critical issue.
Let us remember something of crucial importance: Nothing happens until somebody makes a sale. If revenue is not resulting in "cha-ching" in your cash register, then, my friend, all you have is a hobby; it does not matter if your cash register is not-for-profit. I don't care how elite your professors. I don't care how unique your products. I don't care how many wonderful buildings you have or how beautiful your grounds. I don't care how astute your financial people. I don't care how great your accounting methods - accounts payable, accounts receivable, accounts throw-awayable, what accounts because you have no revenue. I don't care... whatever. I don't want to hear the babble and mountain-high BS. Truth is, you have nothing without customers. And get off your cloud, please. They are ALL customers. These are the people who pay you a salary (I don't know, maybe you're special and God sends it to you every payday. Or maybe you get paid from instituional endowments. Your students, not customers, are special people who are a raw material, who pay a "tuition" not a "price", that you mold into something better. Yeah, tell that to your mortgage lender at month end) - the salary that allows you to go to work (the job you got because you were able to "market" yourself to someone) every day because you were able to buy a car (from someone who "marketed" to you) and put gas in it. The salary that allows you to eat, and pay mortgage, and buy dogfood (hopefully not for personal consumption), and send your kids to school, and set aside money for retirement. I won't go on with the list, you're already bored to tears.
Without true marketing you have no buyers, you have no revenue, you have no business - period! Or did you think nature would send you customers because you're such a nice person with such a good idea? If you believe that, you must be the person who created the better mousetrap; better buy a new lawnmower because the grass is probably pretty high as no one has yet beat a path to your door.
People, we marketers - true marketers - are screaming this at the top of our lungs. We want to help. We want success for the masses. We want success for YOU. If you are not successful, then neither are we; we may all have to resort to eating dogfood. If you are not getting results, then perhaps your methods suck. If your marketer is not getting you results, then maybe your marketer sucks. If your marketer sucks, then perhaps you, too, suck. Are you listening?
|Posted on October 30, 2011 at 5:32 PM||comments (235)|
Success Through Picture Painting:
A Keynote Address on Strategic Thinking
Manuel A. Escalante G., DBA
Remember if you will a well-known Italian by the name of Christopher Columbus. With a good selling proposal he was able to convince his financial backers to provide money for his journeys. When he left, he didn't really know which way he was headed; when he arrived, he didn't know where he was; when he returned, he didn't know where he had been. In spite of this lack of vision he was able to make the trip three times in seven years.
Chris was, in simple terms, operationally competent but strategically deficient. He was able to keep his company afloat, literally and in a business sense, supporting the men and families of three ships, trading goods, bringing presents to his financial backers - all this without really knowing where he was or where he stood at any given moment. Lord knows what he may have accomplished had he had a clear vision. Perhaps he may have never gone to jail. Perhaps he would not have died broke and broken.
Most companies suffer from this condition - they are operationally competent but strategically deficient. When the focus of your business is strictly limited to keeping up with an ever-increasing demand for your products, operational skills alone are enough to breed success.
Company owners and/or administrators have been working, and continue to work, the wrist - a quantitative exercise, and not the brain - a qualitative exercise. Strategic thinking is where we stop exercising the wrist and begin exercising the brain. It is really an exercise in picture painting.
We are burdened with too many numbers and not enough pictures. If I were to ask most businesspeople questions such as, "where are you taking this company?" or, "what do you want this company to become?" the answers will always be something like "we will have the largest share of the market," or "we will become a million or a multi-million dollar company," or "we will be the most profitable company in our line of business." But, you see, these replies are the result of wrist action, not brain action. They do not indicate a vision, but rather the results of a vision.
A vision determines the "look" or composition of a company sometime in the future, and this cannot be accomplished with statistics, or financial ratios, or P&L statements, or competitive analysis, or with the myriad organizational and business fads that crop up every so often. These miracle recipes, ivory tower analyses, and business fads have rarely worked and rarely will.
If business is flat or you are losing ground, chances are someone is outthinking you. It's clear that the owner of a micro-enterprise must wear many hats, from manager, accountant, and salesperson, to floor sweeper and dishwasher. But in most cases the processes involve wrist,
not brain action. We look at prices, and last week's sales, and potential
customers, etc. as issues to be tweaked and twisted based on formulas or
methods we heard or read somewhere. This turns you into beasts of burden
and slaves unto the daily ups and downs of your business, and takes you away
from becoming leaders and strategists, which is what will ultimately give you
optimal success and not just a living.
The subject of Strategic Thinking is much too broad to cover in a short keynote or in a couple of written pages; I will, therefore, limit this to a general view of the issue.
To start, if you've done things right from the perspective of sound business practices, you have formulated some type of plan that encompasses the products or services that you are to provide, the needs and satisfactions that these products or services are meant to fulfill, the prospective customers or clients you will be targeting, the methods through which you will target and reach these potential buyers, the geographical markets you will serve, the competition you will have to face, the turn-around times between the sale and your delivery, your customer service policies, your policy for returned merchandise, your pricing strategy, your method of delivery, and so on. And if you have such a plan, hopefully you are using it as a daily guide to your activities and decisions.
Many organizations have plans such as these (unfortunately, many do not. You know the name: "seat of the pants," "let's get on with it and hope for the best.") They are very elaborate - accountant-designed - systems. And you've all heard what these plans are called: Strategic Planning. In most cases, however, this is strategic planning without strategic thinking. In most cases these planning systems are nothing more than systems that force people to make extrapolations of historical numbers. They oblige owners and managers to look back at history and make projections for the next one, two, or five years by adjusting for costs, inflation, market share and so on. This type of planning is "straight-ahead" planning; it does nothing to change the direction or composition of the company.
Strategic planning is good. Indeed, it's crucial, but strategic thinking must precede it. Strategic thinking determines the direction of an organization. It is a process that enables you and your team to sit together and think through the qualitative aspects of your business and the environment it faces. The team can then decide on a common and shared vision and a strategy for the future of the company.
At this point I can hear many of you thinking, "What team? I'm a one-person operation!" If you expect to reach any meaningful and respectful success, you must have a team. God is the only One with all the answers. You alone cannot possibly hold all the required expertise and skill to run a truly successful operation. In an educational institution one teacher cannot teach all subjects; in a one-person band the music will never be as sweet as a symphony. You don't need employees to have such a team (if you do, though, please, please, use them. If you feel they are not worthy of your use, then get rid of them. If they cannot/do not contribute to your decisions and actions, they are either not worth your time and money, or you believe you and/or some cohorts hold the key to the only truth there is about your business). You can gather a team from among friends and colleagues, and hold regular meetings to discuss vision, ideas, plans, problems and solutions. Your cost for these exercises might be some coffee and cookies, and the benefits, guaranteed, will astound you.
Ok, back to thinking. If you are to become a truly successful operation you
must be a leader who has a "vision" in your head as to what you want your
company to "look" like at some point in the future. If you have employees,
that vision becomes the magnet of everyone's activities and efforts. If you
don't have employees, you will at least be very clear on where you stand and
where you are headed.
Allow me now to give you some steps in the right direction. Before you set off on painting your vision for the future, you need to clearly determine where you stand today. If your vision, whatever it may be, is to become reality you must know your point of departure. The basic steps:
1. Clarification of the current profile.
At this point you establish where you and your company are currently. Basically, you take a "snapshot" of you and your company in the current condition.
2. Analysis of strategic variables.
This is an analysis of the strategic variables that will be working for or against you in the future. This is your view (and hopefully you will by now have a team, so it will also be their view) of what may or may not occur inside and outside of your organization. If you do have a team, keep in mind that these variables are usually highly subjective in nature and correspond to each person's views. They must be thought out and discussed in a rational manner (please, none of "think as I do or get out" - this is the lowest level of very poor management/direction) in order for everyone involved to agree on the most important factors that your business will have to face. You need to discuss issues such as,
· Geographic markets
· User segments
· Company beliefs
· Internal opportunities
· Opportunities and threats
· Strategic vulnerability areas, such as capital, raw material, labor, and so on.
3. Exploration of different driving forces and possible strategic profiles.
Once your team has agreed to the variables that will work for or against the company in the future, they can explore which components of the business can best be leveraged in the company's favor and around which a successful strategy can be developed. Most people/companies have, over time, built up capabilities in two or three
areas that can serve as the root of a future strategy for the business. It is
now important for you to understand what these two or three areas are
and then to draw profiles as to where each one would lead the company
and what the company would look like if that avenue were pursued. Each
area requires emphasis or de-emphasis on different products, customers,
market segments, and geographic areas so that each picture will turn out
to be different. At this point, you can make a choice as to which pictures
you like better and wish to take up.
Once agreement has been reached (a very difficult task) on what is currently driving your business, you need to consider the following questions:
· What should drive the business in the future?
· Should the business continue to be driven as it has been, or should it explore another driving force?
· What implications will a change have on the nature of products, customers, and markets you currently offer or do not offer?
· What will the company end-up looking like if you change your driving force?
You can then identify which component of the business is strategically more important to your survival and is the key determinant of your company's products, markets, and customers.
All this is followed by the development of a statement of strategy. This statement needs to be articulated in precise and concise terms; you and your people must remember it every day.
Then, you translate the strategy into a strategic profile and vision. The vision will be what your company will look like sometime in the future. It will be a description of the products, customers, market segments, and geographic markets that your company will emphasize and de-emphasize in the future. This vision or profile then serves as a benchmark for the allocation of resources and the types of opportunities that are to be pursued in the future.
There are eight items within the strategic profile that need to be clearly articulated:
4. Development of competitive profiles.
The actions of a competitor in the marketplace will indicate their driving force. By understanding their driving force, you will be able to anticipate future activity. At this point you need to construct future profiles for the company's three or four major competitors.
5. Anticipation of the implications of the strategy.
You cannot react to changes; these must be anticipated and planned for. If the strategy is to succeed, you must devote time and thought to identifying issues that stand in the way of making the strategy work. Once these issues are identified, you must resolve them.
In closing, please allow me a few quotes.
"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours." -Henry David Thoreau
"Actually, I'm an overnight success. But it took twenty years." -Monty Hall
"Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure.” -Earl Wilson
"The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary." -Unknown (by me!)
|Posted on June 13, 2011 at 2:35 PM||comments (382)|
I plan to use this blog to bring tips and ideas on marketing and consumer behavior strategy to anyone interested in such subject matter. In their "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing", Ries & Trout say, "Billions of dollars have been wasted on marketing programs that couldn't possibly work, no matter how clever or brilliant. Or how big the budgets."
First, a few things (amongst many) that marketing is not. Marketing is not, and/or you are not a "marketer" if you:
The list goes on, but I believe you get my drift. At least those folks who are truly in marketing will.
Marketing involves a dizzying array of areas. Marketing is, regardless of what you may believe or of how it is classified or labeled in your organization, the umbrella under which fall all areas dealing with customer acquisition and retention.
"Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (Approved October 2007 by the American Marketing Association)."
I don't know, maybe it's just me. MARKETing is putting things on the MARKET. It is understanding that person whom I call "Ed". It is identifying needs/niches/vacuums in the MARKET. It is creating things (and please, let's not get academic in terminology--things, products, services, dreams, desires, exchanges, gizmos...) that someone wants/needs; it is communicating that these things exist and how they come to satisfy; it is putting these things in someone's hands to try; it is presenting these things convincingly to people so they are willing and ready to stick their hand in their pocket and buy one; it is ensuring that the communication is producing desired results; it is identifying, locating and qualifying the people to whom you will present; it is identifying if what you gave them is working as promised; it is a social responsibility in terms of morals, values and ethics.
I don't know, maybe it's just me. But haven't I just talked about marketing research, advertising/communications, sales, promotion. And don't get me started on other arenas such as distribution, merchandising, proper invoicing, customer service, and yes, why not, a manicured lawn and a clean toilet. If your place is a shambles, what can I expect inside the box you just sent me via some delivery service at some astronomical cost?
Oh, yes, I almost forgot to tell you about "Ed." The next time you are out and about, do me a favor and pick up a present for Ed. Who, exactly, is Ed, you ask? Precisely. That takes us a bit into geo/demos, consumer behavior, psychographics, lifestyle... my goodness, more MARKETing stuff.
Is it Edward, or Eduardo, or Edwina, or Edgar, or Edith? Is this person tall or short; heavy or thin; female or male; married or single or in a relationship; straight or gay? With kids or no kids; employed or unemployed. What type of work does this person do? How much does this person earn? What type and level of education does this person have? Where does this person prefer to shop? What does this person typically buy? What language does this person speak?
My goodness, so many questions. And this list is nowhere near comprehensive. If you have none of the answers, how do you expect to design, develop, launch, communicate and hope to sell anything to anyone? Marketing is difficult in that it requires that one create an offer that will satisfy someone else, as I said, "Ed."
I must stop now; I have to go market something. Speak with you in a while.