Sustained Marketing success requires managed mindset change

Sustained Marketing success requires managed mindset change

We marketers, and usually sales people talk endlessly about putting ourselves in the shoes of those to whom we are communicating, and seeking to serve. It is absolutely right that we do, but then we stuff it up.

We do that by the way we define the industry we are in.

Go to any network meeting, and I (almost) guarantee nobody will define the industry they inhabit from the perspective of those they are seeking to serve.

They are lawyers, or Architects, or Insurance brokers, and so on. None will define what they do by the outcome for their customers.

Examples of the great miss-definitions abound, but two stand out.

Kodak was in the late nineties one of the great successful companies sitting on a mountain of cash, dominating an industry they defined as ‘Film’. They were so successful their advertising slogan persists to this day, we all know what a ‘Kodak moment’ is, well all over 40 do anyway. In 1975 Kodak engineer Steven Sasson invented the first digital camera, which Kodak patented, and later collected billions on the royalties until expiry in 2007. They even commercialised the technology for Apple under the brand ‘Apple QuickTake’, and even then failed to see the writing on the wall. In 2012 Kodak was made bankrupt, although it has since emerged as a different company.

Blockbuster, what a Lulu of failed strategic sight that is, although it is always easy with the benefit of hindsight. At their height, Blockbuster had 50 million members worldwide, thousands of stores, and were a critical link in the movie money making chain. In 2001, the fledgling  Netflix approached Blockbuster, seeking to sell their business into them, and run the online part of Blockbuster, for just $50 million. CEO John Antico had been looking at ways to experiment with on line delivery, and supported the idea. He had made some changes to blockbuster,  like removing the profitable late fees that penalised customers, but failed to get the deal with Netflix through his board, and it ultimately cost him his job. His successor led the business into oblivion by bowing to  the board, reintroducing the hated late fees,  and allowing the power of incumbency, and the aversion to change, to prevail.

You do not have to be a huge business to be caught by this definitional challenge that pervades the way you think, unconsciously driving the decisions you make. A client of mine is a printer, a modest sized family business that has been around for 60 years. They see themselves in an industry that has been significantly disrupted by digital, and while there is still plenty of printing being done, the volumes are modest compared to those of a decade ago, and  the prices and margins are very slim. They acknowledge they are printers playing a role in the communication industry, but they still think and act like commodity printers. At least however, they have made a start in the mindset change which drives behaviour, and which eluded Blockbuster and Kodak.

Blockbuster saw themselves in the video rental industry, not as a part of the entertainment industry to the end, and Kodak was in the film industry, not the memories industry, until they weren’t.

Marketing Myopia, a term coined in 1960 by Theodore Levitt in his seminal HBR article of the same name remains alive and well, just harder to recognise.





Will Amazons venture into book stores rewrite history?

Will Amazons venture into book stores rewrite history?

I love books, thousands of them infest my home, and I have spent years of my life browsing. I may be one of the last “heavy consumers’ of books, and particularly coming towards Christmas, my local Dymocks and Berkelouw’s which have so far survived, welcome me with open arms.

There is a physical tactility to a book that you cannot get on a ‘device’, no matter how great the design, which has the potential to generate an emotional attachment.

Perhaps it is just me?

As a result of this I am on the Dymocks mailing list. Every month or so, I get an email outlining the deals on the best sellers, books of interest, and new releases.

Now, I do not mind the odd romance, or light ‘love and discovery’ adventure, I have probably read 2 or three in my time, but they are not my normal fare.

Nowhere near my normal fare.

Despite a couple of emails, and even a phone call to them indicating my absolute lack of interest in their hit list, and observing they have access to a significant amount of purchase data should they choose to use it, I still get this crap filling my inbox.

Meanwhile Amazon is opening book stores, bricks and mortar book stores.

Unthinkable a few years ago that having disrupted and almost destroyed book stores, they then venture into them.

Shades of the Washington Post turnaround under Jeff Bezos

They will be doing all the stuff in bricks and mortar stores that Dymocks, and all the other retailers now disappeared had the opportunity to do, but lacked the foresight and understanding of their customers to be able to do, despite having 15 years head start.

Book stores have a place, long live real books, and the stores that sell them, I guess they will be branded ‘Amazon’, and Jeff will keep laughing.




The 7 mental Models for successful marketing

The 7 mental Models for successful marketing

Creating a successful marketing program is like putting together a 10,000 piece jigsaw, with two significant differences.

  • A jigsaw only goes together one way, every piece fits into its neighbours in a unique way, whereas a marketing program has an infinite number of ways of being put together.
  • When doing a jigsaw, you have the box it came in to give you a very clear and absolute picture of the outcome. Not so in marketing, and while we work hard at clarifying objectives, they are never as clear, and rich with detail as a picture.

Some weeks ago, I found myself in a huge toy store in western Sydney, doing the right grandfatherly thing on my way to get some ‘grandpappy’ time with my granddaughter, who is absolutely the most gorgeous thing God ever put breath into. I was confronted by isle after isle of toys, a vast array of options, no idea of what any of it was, all attractively packaged in adult proof packaging, each with claims to greatness and testimonials from auspicious sounding bodies.

This is not my area of expertise.

I asked a young woman looking after some stock who appeared knowledgeable for advice. She recommended a couple of things, one of which she personally guaranteed because her now 6 year old daughter had had the same one, and loved it absolutely, without reservation, and still played with it.

So I shelled out the required for this fancy looking thing with lots of colours, of course requiring a steady diet of batteries stored in a kid safe unit welded to the bottom, and wrapped it up for my  granddaughter.

A bit later after her mother had wielded the knife required to free this revelation from its adult proof packaging, Georgia was presented with this wonder toy.

She turned it over in her hands a few times, whacked it on the top, which did turn something on, that played a series of flashing lights, and a little tune, which enchanted her, for about 10 seconds. She then turned and toddled over to her seat in the corner mumbling mmmbbbbaaa, mmmbbbaa, which is code for ‘Blue Bear’, a tattered old blue of her fathers that had been rescued from a box in the roof of our place and cleaned up. She took ‘Blue Bear’ over to play with her new fancy, expensive shiny toy, then proceeded to fill her pants.

This experience struck me as an absolutely true metaphor for what we all do when confronted by all the tools, smoke mirrors  and bullshit that is sold as marketing by all sorts of shysters.

We chase the newest shiny thing, forgetting the old fashioned, basic building blocks that have worked for the last 100 years. We abandon them, in favour of the junk that delivers a short term buzz, but is long term just a waste of time and money in almost every case.

In an earlier post, I articulated my views of the 4 foundations of a brand, and used the metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle to make my point. To follow up, I thought I would  give you some thoughts perhaps tools to help you sort the jigsaw pieces as you go about building your own marketing programs.

Let me put a stake in the ground.

Nothing about the strategic framework of marketing has changed in the last 100 years. We are still finding customers for our products, solving their problems, adding value to them, and trying to make a profit on the way through. Peter Drucker was right, ‘The sole purpose of a business is to find customers’

So, the strategic foundations of marketing have not changed, but the tactical end of marketing has changed radically.

To quote that well known marketing guru, Albert Einstein,  Everything should be made as simple as possible, no simpler’.

My goal is to give you a few Mental Models’ that might help sort out and simplify the enormous array of choices you face when building a marketing program that enable you to make better choices.

I have spoken about these 4 foundations in the past, so there is little point in repeating myself, apart from reminding you that foundations are just that, foundations, without which the building will fall, and that they are largely invisible from the outside.

Briefly, the foundations are:

Business Purpose. The Why, the story of the business. This drives everything else. The foundation of the foundations if you like.

Customers. Who is it you are seeking to engage to sell. This implies that you have said ‘No’ to a lot of potential but casual customers on whom you will not spend any resources.

Value proposition. What is it that you are doing for them that delivers value. What can you deliver that makes you different, and for them, the only choice.

Leverage. What enables you to leverage, amplify and deliver the value proposition. This is in effect your brand building  toolbox, and the exercise of the leverage comes from your revenue generation infrastructure, from which you will have to make a lot of choices.

Following are 7 models I use in the marketing planning process.

In addition there is a tube of glue, the stuff that holds it all together, and you must have the tube of glue to optimise all the effort put into the rest, irrespective of how much money you spend, how smart you are, or how good your product.

There are thousands of tools, the choice is mindboggling, and all claim in one way or another to make your life easier, more successful, and ultimately, make you rich.

However, beware the vendor who tries to sell you a solution that covers everything, there is  no such animal.

The toolbox is where the huge changes have come. From a few years ago where you had a limited number of choices and the times at which you interacted were also limited, the 6.30 news on TV, driving the car on the way home from work, to an infinite number of choices, all available 24/7.

How we reach and engage customers has changed radically, the fight to the death is now for our attention.

How do you choose your poison?

A year ago, Scott Brinker’s Martech landscape had 3,874 digital tools.

A staggering number, dwarfed by the 5,381 in the just released 2017 version, which I am sure was a redundant number the moment after he drew the line under the data.

When you consider this is only the digital tools available to the marketer, the size and complexity of the jigsaw we are dealing with is immense, and there is no silver bullet, so often promised, in sight.

Sorting the options is a complex task, made easier by using a few ‘Mental Models’, tools that make the sorting easier, or at least a bit more manageable.

The process.

A process is a series of steps that are repeatable, and able to be continuously improved.

You should have worked this process in this order, the why, followed by the value proposition, then the ideal customer profile, and then, it is time for the rubber to hit the road, enough of the nice words, how do you leverage the outcomes, how do you implement?

The point here is that most of the impact comes from the strategy development you do, that is 75% of the work, and is make or break. It is the important but not urgent stuff you have to do well, but often gets passed over in favour of the urgent but not important things that happen every day to distract you.

Responding to that Facebook notification makes little sense when your strategy is unclear. The only risk there is that you might miss a really interesting cat photo, get your strategy wrong, and you might lose your business.

The tactical decisions should take less time, are less critical, but usually consume all the money, and are more easily reversible.

The strategic decisions made should always, without exception, drive the tactical choices you make.

Take heed of Einstein’s words: , ‘If I had 1 hour to solve a life defining problem, the first 55 minutes I would spend defining the problem, the rest is just maths”

Play the Options game

Revenue generation, which is the term I now use to describe what used to be Marketing and Sales, on a limited budget, indeed any budget, is an options game.

When you look at it like an options game, you do the research, collect information, and only make a choice when you have to, when the option to delay the choice is no longer open.

This is not procrastination, quite the opposite, this is the process of actively making choices to achieve a specific outcome, using the best information you have to hand.

It is an active process, the decisions will not make themselves, it will not happen by osmosis, you must choose!

There is never enough budget to do all that you would like to do, therefore you have to make choices between a range of options.

While creating a plan, and picking the right tools is all about having a picture of the outcome you want, the completed jigsaw, it is also important not to be locked irrevocably into a course of action in the face of new data, changes in the market, or just common sense.

Therefore, play the options to achieve the outcomes you want. Do not rely on others to tell you what to do.

Do the research, seek information and intelligence, make sure you know enough to ask intelligent questions, and be able to see and smell bullshit when it is in front of you, as this part of commercial life is knee deep in it, and often it is made to smell remarkably fragrant, and sounds like the siren song, so it is buyer beware.

Acknowledge the ‘Journey’

Every purchase requires that the purchaser go through some sort of ‘journey’, from the point of recognition that a  purchase is necessary or desirable, to the transaction, and beyond. In a consumer purchase, this process may take a few milliseconds, but in a major purchase, and most particularly in a B2B purchase where others need to be involved, it can be a very long process, depending on the nature of the purchase.

A customers journey begins with some awareness of a problem, followed by some level of research, it may be looking at supplier sites, forums, checking your friends, seeking ideas and specifications.

A short list will be prepared, even if it is casual, then more research will happen, web rooming, demonstration, followed by a decision to buy, then the transaction and after sales services and expectations.

This will vary in every case, the point is that in the past, the only access to the information was either the advertising or the retailers, so very early on the seller knew you were in the market, they could feed you the information, not necessarily for your best interests, but for theirs.

Not so now, you can be at the point of ordering before the seller has any idea you are there.

At the time the potential customer is moving through the process, the potential supplier, not knowing who they are, or where they are, needs to be able to engage in some way, to provide the information and advice they need, answer their questions, get onto the short list, become the chosen supplier.

The buyer has all the power, they no longer need the seller for anything other than the final transaction, everything else they may need is available to them, so the challenge of the marketer is to be in the place where the buyer goes looking for information, reassurance, and answers the questions they have progressively in a manner that reflects the buyers journey.

Usually you will see this in some sort of pyramid, with lead, prospect, hot prospect, customer, or words to that effect. This can be misleading unless seen in the context of the parallel processes.

Customers do not move down the traditional sales funnel by osmosis, or gravity, they move down because you lead them down, even when in most cases you will not be aware of their journey.

Communication choices.

Bringing this all together is communication, by whichever means you choose from the huge menu available.

Communication is the means by which everything happens.

It is where you decide just how you are going to interact with this ideal customer as they move through their considerations.

There are 4 types of communication channel, Owned, Rented, Paid and Earned media.

You can pick any combination and ratio of the four, there are no other options, but within each there are multitudes of options, both digital and analogue.

  • Owned is yours, your website, newsletter, you own it, you can do with it what you like.
  • Paid media is pretty obviously advertising, digital and/or analogue, with a huge number of options.
  • Rented is your space on social media platforms, you are renting the space in return for your information that the platform owner uses to sell advertising.
  • Earned media is the good stuff, the referrals, links and backlinks. I do not include likes, as it is just too easy, there is no skin in the game, but to write a comment or explicitly share takes some effort.

There are multitudes of options, clearly understanding the habits and behaviour of your ideal customer is essential to be able to mix the communication so that it is seen at the right time in the customers journey.

Focus only on the bits that deliver the value

The genius of Vilfredo Pareto, the 15th century Italian mathematician who first articulated what we call the 80/20 rule is working all over the place if we care to look.

Focussing attention on the few things that deliver results and ignoring the rest is a hugely sensible but usually a very difficult thing to achieve.

You will absolutely find that 20% of your customers deliver 80% of your sales and profits.

That does not mean you do not need the other 80%,  but it does mean that resources you allocate to them would be better used elsewhere.

It works everywhere.

This mental model should feed your deliberations in every decision you make, every action you take.


When all else is equal, all you have is price, and then it is a race to the bottom, and the greatest risk in a race to the bottom is that you might win.

Seth Godin’s metaphor of the Purple cow is well known, but the Zebra’s arse makes a better picture to make the point.

Differentiate on every parameter that is valuable to your ideal customer.

However, differentiation for the sake of being different, that adds no value to a customer is just a waste of money and effort, but make that differentiation valuable, and the investment will deliver handsome rewards.


Correlation does not mean Causation

I would never own a Labrador.

They are lovely, friendly, trainable dogs, great with kids, but they send you blind.

It is obvious, how many times have you seen a blind person with a Labrador? Obviously there is a very high chance that labs cause blindness.

Oh!! Perhaps it is our old mate correlation, not cause and effect.

A while ago a client launched a new FMCG product, and it worked pretty well on a limited budget, which was largely directed to digital advertising.

The agency crowed about how great their creative was, how effective the ad placement had been, obviously it had been, as the product was a success, despite me being very sceptical about the value of many forms of digital advertising.

However, I did point out that the efforts of the marketing people to identify a hole in the current offerings that left a group of consumers underserviced, the sales force in getting good distribution against the odds had helped, as had the promotional program, and the in store tasting programs that got the stuff onto people’s mouths, pretty important with a food product. Nevertheless, the cocks crowed loudly and often, claiming cause and effect where only correlation existed.

So, there are the 7 mental models I wanted to share. That just leaves the glue that holds it all together.

The Glue!

Human beings relate to stories.

They do  not absorb written information very well, visual information is much better, but stories are the core of everything.

We evolved as a species telling stories, to keep safe, remember generationally where the food was, what to look out for, and so on.

What is your story?

You need to tell one, but tell it with a point.

Telling a story without a context, without a point, is not memorable, but tell a story well, that has a point, and you have them.

All the tools around, the thousands of them are no more than leverage for your story, your purpose, your why.

So, figure out the story of your brand, your business, and tell it consistently, and well, with the point.

Your elevator pitch is a story in 20 seconds, your logo encompasses the story, somehow, every piece of marketing collateral must communicate a part of the story, so that eventually, the parts add up to greater than the sum of all those parts.

Ever heard the parable of the frog and the scorpion?

The tortoise and the hare, the three little pigs, Adam & Eve, and so on.

They are all stories with a point, we remember the stories, so we remember the point.

When you want to know how to deliver a story, watch great comedians, they are the modern story telling masters.



Your sales funnel is not a silver bullet

Your sales funnel is not a silver bullet

There is way too much emphasis put on the funnel metaphor of the sales pipeline.

No matter how we cut it, customers do not follow a neatly programmed defined process, it is chaotic at best, and no simple diagram or ignoring human nature can change that.

Moreover, it is becoming disturbingly complicated by all the tools that are now around that automate sales processes, conjuring up algorithms that supposedly make order out of chaos.

Scott Brinker’s 2017 Martech conference was held recently in San Francisco. A terrific gathering of all those involved in the Martech space, vendors, developers, customers, and consultants (probably too many of those) but do we risk losing sight of the basics?

Let me put an alternative view.

About 30 years ago I read still the only Sales book to which I regularly recommend to my clients, SPIN Selling. This breaks down the sales process into a series of steps that 30 years later have not changed one little bit.

There are now lots of smart technically shiny tools to inform the questioning, and provide information and guidance to both seller and buyer, and a slew of tools to keep track of every thought, utterance and misstep on the web, but the basics remain.

You can only have a shot at a sale when the value of the solution to a customer’s problem you are offering is greater than the cost to that customer.

No change there, despite the shiny new tools, which do have a place, but are not the panacea to sales headaches.



8 human impediments to genuine business renewal.

8 human impediments to genuine business renewal.

Why are these  changes so hard?

Why can they not see that continuing on will be a disaster?

These are two questions that I often ask myself working with businesses in distress, or often just underperforming, and looking for some sort of renewal.

Neither is possible without change, as the old saying goes ‘do what you have always done and you will get what you always got’

Pretty common sense, so why is it so hard?

Over the 40 years of working with businesses that need change, first as one of those at the bottom of the tree wondering why the monkeys at the top could not see it, and for the last 22 as an adviser, I have seen a lot.

The first thing that seems prevalent is that change only happens with a significant catalyst of some sort. Usually it is the person at the top who finally commits to the changes, often someone new, who is prepared to push very hard, and to break the shape of the status quo, and reshape a new one.

Then they have to address the very human emotions that combined created the situation in the first place.

Uncertainty. Human beings hate uncertainty, it is usually more corrosive and more damaging than staying in a known state of misery. Collectively, we will do almost anything to feel safe and secure by removing uncertainty.

Saying ‘No’ is easier. Following on from the avoidance of uncertainty, often agreeing to something new or even slightly different enables some level of uncertainty, so the easiest thing is to just say ‘No’. This is why the first sale is always the hardest, you have to get over that psychological predisposition to stay with what is known and understood. As the other  old saying goes, ‘nobody ever got fired for buying IBM’

Loss of control. We like to feel we are in control, even if it is just our immediate environment, and the prospect of losing any of that control is painful. In a world where things are changing around us at apparent logarithmic speed, this loss of control of personal space can be alarming.

Loss of face. Losing face in some cultures is a horrendous possibility to face. Even in those cultures where it does not matter so much, we all want to be liked, to be respected, and by conceding change is necessary, conceding we may have even just condoned sub optimal  practises carries personal risk.

Competence.   Again, conceding that what has gone before is not good enough calls into question the competence of those who allowed it to continue, and in some cases, created the circumstances in the first place, and very few of us are happy to be labelled incompetent.

Change is hard work. Hard work is not just keeping your head down for an extended period, it is also the work of being prepared to suffer the stress of change. Much easier to avoid it, particularly as in most situations where change is necessary, everyone is already working hard, even if it is to fight all the stupid fires, so there is no time left to fix the causes of the fires.

Skeletons reappear. Most of us have a few skeletons buried somewhere, and while all sails on undisturbed, they will remain hidden, but once things get turned over, there is a risk of the ghosts of past stumbles being revealed to a whole new group.

The harsh reality. Sometimes all of the above may be in play, but the biggest link to the status quo is that in a change, people know they will be left behind. In a world of rapid technical changes, this infests many organisations as they set about dealing with the implementation of technology and productivity tools generally.

In my experience, there is no easy way to generate change, and make the new reality stick.

You can either do it progressively, piece by piece which requires leadership, persistence, and a preparedness to communicate, communicate, and communicate some more about the reasons change is necessary.

Alternatively, you can employ the ‘baseball bat method’, and force the change. This is painful, and leaves a lasting scar on not just those who get ‘batted’ but on the survivors as well.  Whichever course you choose, be committed, as the status quo is the most elastic and resilient thing in the known universe, hugely resistant to change and able to recover from a succession of near death experiences.

Change is absolutely inevitable, the very best thing you can do is embrace it.

How many baristas do we need to drive growth?

How many baristas do we need to drive growth?

Coffee shops seem to be the harbinger of our growth patterns, they are popping up everywhere, staffed by baristas (has that become a profession?) with cutting edge hairstyles and tattoos. They all add to the GDP numbers in some tiny way, but are they all we need?

When you look at economic history, sustainable growth always comes from manufacturing, not services. Ok, some comes from agriculture, as we all need to eat, and I guess someone has to grow, transport and roast the coffee, but it pales into insignificance beside the society changing impacts of manufacturing.

When growth happens, it is as a result of manufacturing, and the changes that manufacturing drive.

Look at the culture changing manufacturing innovations of the past: The printing press,  steam engine, and the first wave of automation in the 70’s.

Now we are moving inexorably into the next wave, of  Virtual Reality, Machine learning, advanced robotics, additive manufacturing, and the changes will be profound.

In the past, we have always looked for productivity by building scale. In a manufacturing operation, the more you make of any one item, the longer the runs, the lower the marginal costs.

However, we are now approaching the point where we can create the next big change, shape the major technologies emerging.

Manufacturing robots that can be programmed to do the tasks that are not just the repetitive tasks they currently do, but the robots will start to learn, it is happening now

The next step is not just better smart products, but customised specialist products that combine the abilities of robots and additive manufacturing  to immediately create the products that you need.

The outcomes are that factories will move back closer to markets, they will be smaller more flexible and reduce the time frames of the chain, the products will be much cleaner and better for the environment, and will create growth in areas hard to imagine as I sit here in the middle of 2017

This does not happen by rote, we need to teach the new stuff at the universities and stop strangling TAFE, and importantly we need to teach these kids how to think critically and analytically so they have the intellectual tools to adapt, and we need to engage with the changes to ensure they are accommodated within our economies

The new manufacturing revolution will drive manufacturing and  consumption back to the smaller regions. China will become as expensive as Australia in 10 years, and the trade patterns will follow and I suspect  will accelerate regionally with lower barriers and shorter transit times,  rather than being international

We are reaching the point where increasingly challenging manual tasks can be taken by robots. This delivers a potentially huge productivity increase, but it also delivers one of the key questions of the 21st century: what happens to those displaced? Particularly skilled workers in their middle and later lives when retraining might sound nice, but has proven to be a mirage despite  the billions thrown at it.

However, there is a confluence of hardware and software happening at Moore’s law speed. The take-off will vary by sector and by economy, logically it will occur first in high cost developed nations and filter down

This will lead to a productivity surge, further reducing the disparity of costs between economies, leading to a change in the ‘offshoring’ that has occurred. It will no longer  be better to outsource  to China, outsource it to the bloke down the road, where when  necessary you can get our hands around his throat, and/or collaborate in a meaningful way that is very hard across borders, languages and cultures.

So how do you prepare for this?

Understand and be engaged with the developments occurring in your and adjacent domains globally. This is a big call, but putting aside some time for the reading and understanding of the relevant material by authorities and the those on the leading edge can make it a highly productive expenditure of that most valuable resource.

Normally I dislike the term benchmarking, as it leads to copying processes and programs that worked for others, but by the time you have implemented, usually less than 100% effectively, the trend setters have moved on so you are always playing catch up. However, in the case of keeping current, recognising the things the leaders are doing is pretty important, and modelling the best bits that suit  you can be very worthwhile.

Prepare your stakeholders, particularly the employees for the  changes to come. There  is nothing  so unsettling as uncertainty itself so my advice is to communicate extensively, encourage feedback and comment as well as input to the conversations.

Prepare the organisation for the changes that will evolve in the business models and supporting areas such as capital and human capability development.

As a final note, those that will survive do not have the luxury of time. The  average life of enterprises is shortening annually, it is really a commercial Darwinian process, and incumbents who are not willing or able to adapt quickly will go the way of ‘Lonesome George,’ the last of the Pinta island sub species of Galapagos turtles that dies almost on camera with David Attenborough.