Sunday, July 29, 2007

Marketing Musings: Find Out What the Market Wants Before You Deliver It

Sergio Zyman, was Chief Marketing Officer at Coca-Cola for 30 years and he tells us in his book “The End of Marketing As We Know It”:

“Every day the (political) candidate goes out on the stump, and the next morning the campaign manager gets up and says, how did we do yesterday? He or she collects the polling data to find out if the numbers came up, or down, and looks at voters surveys to find out why. Both of those are research. A good campaign manager goes a step further by doing “presearch”. In other words, he or she asks the voters: What if we told you this tomorrow? Would you vote for this candidate? And they keep asking until they find the positioning that is going to move votes.”

Can you take a lead and start doing presearch on your marketplace? I think this holds amazing possibilities for the average business. After all, we are always being asked “ did we like the service?” but virtually never “ would we react if in future we did things in this certain way?”.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Random Quote - Happiness

I frequently cite C.C. Tung's mantra of “SAY + LOOK + DO = Reputation”. I think understanding and implementing this short saying is the best building block for any business looking to improve.

This morning I saw another quote not from a businessman, but one of the greatest influencers of the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi. This quote takes C.C. Tung's business focused statement and puts a personal spin on it:

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

Great stuff.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Week 41 - What Does the Marketplace Think of Your Business?

What is perception and why is it important? Perception is defined in the Macquarie Dictionary as “…to gain knowledge through one of the senses…” In other words, perhaps our experience versus the facts. The famous marketing authors Al Ries and Jack Trout tell us in their book “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing”:

“…the three largest selling Japanese imported cars in America are Honda, Toyota and Nissan. Most marketing people think the battle between the three brands is based on quality, styling, horsepower and price. Not true. It’s what people think about a Honda, a Toyota or a Nissan that determines which brand will win.”

Can you relate to those statements? Do you just “know” that your coffee is the best in the district or that your photography is better than anyone else’s, or that your hotel is always cleaner and more comfortable? If you are not seeing the results you would like, you could be right about your product or service, but the community may believe otherwise. Ries and Trout continue:

“What makes the battle even more difficult is that customers frequently make buying decisions based on second-hand perceptions. Instead of using their own perceptions, they base their buying decisions on someone else’s perception of reality. This is the “everybody knows” principle.”

This introduces a dangerous concept; bad word of mouth advertising. As you all know, this can literally ruin a business. “Everybody knows” can spread through a community or entire town very quickly. Think about it. When you are talking about products and services amongst friends, perceptions often rear their heads. “…they are expensive…”, “…it’s too cold on their balcony…”, “…they always turn up late…”, “…we waited an hour for a table and the staff were rude…”

On and on it goes, and you make decisions based on these second hand perceptions. The only way to proactively ensure that your business does not suffer is to keep on soliciting feedback from your customers. As I have said, just ask, and keep on asking. You will pick up perceptions good and bad every day. You are then in a position to change these perceptions by making good an error or calling the affected customer to explain exactly what happened and why it won’t happen again.

STOP PRESS: There is far more to perception than just making sure there is not negativity surrounding your product or service. Do you pay more for dinner at an exclusive restaurant? Do you pay more for Nike shoes than for a store brand? Would you pay more for a Mercedes Benz over a Lexus? The questions are of course rhetorical as people do this all the time. What this means for your business is simple: if the market doesn’t believe it, you cannot price at a premium! Put another way, perceptions will always be directly linked to your ability to charge more for your product.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Marketing Musings: What is Service in Your Corner of the Globe?

It’s funny, I am never one to shy away from complaining about “over the top” service in America. The “…are we doin’ OK here?” and “…how’s everything?” and “can I get you anything else’s?” always seem to come at the key moment for your romantic dinner or business meeting. Why, I ask myself, do they go through this meaningless routine? We have to tip anyway, please just wait on us professionally and use some judgment before barging in on our conversation.

Last week I had a brief trip to Prague and my mind was opened regarding the things I complain about in America. Whilst the city was magnificent and the people friendly, wait staff were just appalling. They really could care less whether you waited 5 minutes or 5 hours to get your dinner. It was almost as if they resented you being present, possibly a cultural hangover from the almost forgotten socialist era. Ironically, I was praying for a “…are we doin’ OK here?”

But all was not lost – on the way home I spent a few days in Norfolk on the English seaside. Here pubs have been converted into beautiful restaurants and classy bars. One particular place inspired this post as although we had a fantastic meal and experience. I don’t remember the wait staff at all. At the end of the meal they even removed our plates without me noticing! Now that is service; a great meal and experience (we had everything we needed) and a professional staff that was sensitive to our communication and personal space. England wins this round :-) and do stop in at The Hoste Arms if you get a chance.

Week 40 - What is the Market Perception of Your Business?

External performance is critical as ultimately it dictates how you are perceived by your customers and the general public. Get it wrong and the best internal systems and marketing won’t help you! Working out what people in your community think of your business is quite easy - ask. You need to find out how they rate your product, your service, your opening hours, your range, your employees, your location and anything other factor of your business that you believe is important.

There are two great questions you can ask your customers:
  1. What was pleasing or distinctive about the service you received?
  2. What, if anything do you believe we should change to improve our service?
There is no point asking a watered down version of these questions such as “…everything alright?” These days everyone is busy so they respond “yes fine” and walk out regardless of how they actually felt. Dig deeper, it will be worth it in the long run.

You will know from your own experiences that when a business annoys you, or lets you down, you certainly tell your family and friends but rarely do you give that feedback to the business owner. Some people will be like that no matter what you ask them - you will never get their feedback. But if you begin asking the questions, you will get a whole lot more feedback than you ever thought possible.

Good or bad this information is priceless but it must be collected systematically. Many business owners go on a feedback “binge” for 1 or 2 weeks, resolve to fix everything and then never mention it again. As with everything in life things change, so you need to have a system in place which reminds you to gather this information as often as appropriate.

One further point: if you are going to make promises to your clients, do what you say you will do! If the feedback card says it goes straight to the Managing Director’s desk for action and a response, then make sure the Managing Director responds! Failing to do so will leave your business with very little credibility.