Do you consider yourself to be a master tactician?

strategy.jpg

There was no greater war leader and strategist than Chinese military general Sun Tzu. His philosophy on how to be a great leader and ensure you win in work, management, and life is summed up in these 33 pieces of advice.
Here is one of my favourite ones.


Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.


Tactics before strategy examples
1. Waiter approached a customer with a smile. (Always have a smile on your face when talking to customers). The customer walks out because there is a fly in his soup. Tactic without strategy.

2. Ask the customer: “Can I help you?”. Good tactic, however the customer has only just entered the store, still in a landing mode and does not even look up when you talk to her. In fact, she is annoyed with you and walks in the opposite direction. Tactic without strategy.

3. You deliver a full-page colour brochure with your newest product on the market to your client. Client throws it in the bin after you have left. The customer wants you to deliver it in a PowerPoint format so that he can use it in his presentation to the board. Tactic without strategy.

4. Post FAQ on your website and refer your clients to the page if they need assistance. However, your customers do not have regular reception out in the bush. Tactic without strategy.

5. Great poster to advertise tourism activities in your town. However most of your day-trippers search in Google on the day for activities they can do in your town. Tactic without strategy. 

6. You encourage your customers to give you unstructured feedback. However, you do not have a system in place to capture the unstructured feedback. Tactic without strategy.

7. You have a mystery shopper in your store every month. But you do not have the time and the ability to use the information to improve customer engagement in your store. Tactic without strategy.

It is not to say that the above-mentioned tactics cannot work, it only demonstrates that many tactical implementations do not deliver the required outcomes. We need the right strategy in place that will provide a framework for the development of the right tactics that will make us money and save us money. 

To succeed at your job, you have to first get the job

It should be pretty obvious:

The primary skill you need in succeeding at your job is GETTING the job.

Getting a job is the first step in building your career. Then you will take that step of changing jobs another 7 times (the stats vary) on average. So that makes 8 make or break interviews that will determine the success or failure of your career.

Having a successful interview and getting the higher paid job has a MASSIVE ROI of $278,700 in lifetime earnings - if you crack the code.

Actually, that ROI is not real. Depending on the assumptions you make when calculating ROI, you can expect to increase your Lifetime Earnings by HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of dollars; and that is true. The science tells me to be really specific. I should quote an ROI as being a specific $$$. But we don't operate on lies, and it is impossible to be accurate and specific with an ROI calculation without making some very big assumptions.

But it is true that every interview you have for the rest of your life could make a MASSIVE DIFFERENCE;

  • You can get the job you really love - and you can't even put a price on that.
  • Every new job you take comes with an increase in pay, that impacts every month you get paid after that - FOREVER

Problem #1:

Training and personal development that is funded by the EMPLOYER is in the interest of the employer. If you want training that is in YOUR interest, you will need to find it and fund it yourself. 

Previously, you could rely on the employer to equip you with the skills you needed to succeed at the job.

They will still train you, but you can very sure that whatever that is; it will be something that benefits them more. Your personal development to date is likely to be haphazard. You read a few blogs, you participate in a few LinkedIn forums. You may even go to an industry seminar. And once you even signed up for a webinar on Facebook.

If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.

Problem #2

The Internet is like the Gold Rush of yore

I keep thinking that NOW it is really over and will mature. Then it surprises me and it sprouts more opportunities - and with more opportunities come more gold diggers.

Now gold diggers are good for the internet. Without them you won't know where to mine for the gold.

But - and it is a very BIG but - you have to be careful who you buy from. Everyone promises great things, few can deliver.

Not every diamond is the Kimberley Diamond.

Online Education could be a great opportunity, but it is being butchered

I keep thinking that the Universities will come to their senses, but I have been waiting for 20 years, and they are yet to even show that they get it.

In the absence of academic rigour and professional offer, the incredible demand for education had to be filled.

And it has been filled.

The problem is that the people who started filling those opportunities (meeting the demand) were either tech pioneers or charlatans.

You can't blame either party for embracing the opportunity. But neither of those will really give you what you need. In particular, the vast majority of actual courses on offer via online opportunities are cobbled together by people who really have an eye for the opportunity, but not the mind or the heart for real education.

This is the most common format:

  • An online entrepreneur notices an untapped niche (probably via Google Analytics)
  • They do ''research'' - you can find really interesting stuff on Google and YouTube, or maybe even on TED.
  • The put it in a "logical" sequence
  • They put up a squeeze page to collect emails
  • They promote it like heck on social media or whatever is free
  • They collect money

Nowhere along the way as there any actual understanding of what "learning" is supposed to be about and how it actually happens.

What is the solution?

If this sounds like a sales pitch, it is because it is. I hope that does not offend.

We are going to DO something about it. Things do not have to be the way they are and THIS IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT!

We are planning to launch builcareerskills.com - which will be Real Education, in an online environment

Online education and training can work if it is done right. There are big differences that must be considered. There are big challenges to overcome. And it will be done.

Ganador has been in BOTH Online /internet and Education environments long enough to know how they both work - and importantly, what does not work.

I got my first email address in 1994. I launched my first (joint venture) business idea online in 1997 (Compuspace was like realestate.com but for commercial property, before there was a realestate.com.) I mention that to illustrate that I have been in and around the online world for 20 years now. If I don't know what I am talking about by now, I never will. So I am going to share a few truths with you, and a special project we are launching.

If you want to be part of the revolution, join the waiting list and we will let you know.

Our plan is to create a series of programs for those who want to take their career development seriously. The first course is going to be (unless you vote differently) CRACK THE CODE.

Sure, there are YouTube videos that will give you some pointers. Sure, there are some guys flogging eBooks that promise to do that too. But this one is different. Drop your name in the box, and we will tell you how.

The team at Ganador who are developing this are behind the program. We are a reputable company, and have been operating in the current format for over a decade. The directors are qualified teachers and are serial entrepreneurs who have owned and operated multiple businesses before that.

  • Experienced trainers (over 70 years’ experience)
  • Exceptional commercial nous
  • Practical experience (been there and done that)
  • Curriculum is based on latest scientific understanding of human behaviour
  • Practical, skills-based. Not just 'what' to do, but exactly HOW to do it.
  • Post-course support & community
  • Great value (it won't be the cheapest course you can find, but the most valuable)

JOIN THE WAITING LIST, so that you can check it out for yourself when it is ready.

It is worth pointing out that, as cliched as it seems, that every journey does begin with a single step, and that step is for you today, right now to say: OK, LET ME HAVE A LOOK AT IT WHEN YOU ARE READY.

And BTW, you DO know that:

If you do nothing, nothing changes, right?

I hope you will join us - and I promise to make it worth your while.

2016: Suck 3, Lesson 3.

I am telling you our story of 2016 is because (a) I am setting up 2017 to be different and (b) more importantly, hoping you, can gain from our experience. Please read Part 2 too.

[CONT]

But it is not just about money either.

We have seen a problem and we want to solve it.

We have been working with a bunch of smaller/independent retailers over the years, and the one thing that always amazes us how fearful many retailers are of the world of eCommerce.

To  be fair, I have been a vocal opponent of small retailers simply going online without really understanding what they need to do to succeed at it. Trading online is very different from bricks-and-mortar trading. But it is important to have an online presence and to take the steps to master the basics and then in time to integrate it into your retail strategy in one of several ways.

Unlike many 'consultants' who regurgitate what they read online, that is not the Ganador way, so we have been struggling to think of a PRACTICAL way in which we can help some of the small/independent retailers.

Even though it cost us time away from the business and required solid investment of resources, we felt it was important.

I won't bore you with the (de-)merits of eCommerce here, but what we have done over the last few months (and the reason we have been quieter than usual) is that we have created a PLATFORM for the makers and bakers and providores of fine foods.

 

 

Click on the link or image above to visit the site - BUT since we are just out of beta, here is a TIP:

Enter the postcode as 2533 (and don't use your actual postcode).

The way the site works is that ONLY products that are actually available for delivery in YOUR postcode will be displayed to you.

That means if there is a baker/maker in your postcode, who makes fresh food (e.g. cakes etc) then ONLY those cakes will be displayed. Additionally, if there are certain products (like jams/nuts etc) that can posted/couriered to your area, those products will ALSO be displayed.

If you use our launch area (postcode 2533) then you will see a bigger range of products and get a better feel for how it works.

If you want to know more about HOW it works and WHO it is for, we have built a dedicated (back-end) site for it here.

Click on the link or image to see exactly how the concept works. In short, it is like Etsy or Ebay -- but just it is for food-related products and has options for local delivery or national delivery depending on the nature of the product.

We are ready to go national, so we are looking for businesses who sell food/grocery products that are home-made or artisanal in quality. (No major brands etc.). The site is there for the businesses who want to get started in eCommerce and need:

  1. A platform with existing traffic

  2. A helping hand when the they get stuck

  3. An affordable solution ((Both Etsy and EBay or Amazon will cost 2-3x as much to run a store in their marketplace platform.)

We are hoping you may want to either participate or more likely, know someone who may want to do so. No contracts or commitments are required - and we think it is a pretty unique opportunity. Not being a foodie myself, I am not sure if I am right; but we built it anyway.

LESSON #3

I am not about to start inflicting my muffins on the world.

Whilst it may seem like a digression, it really wasn't. It has been a GREAT learning experience which will benefit our clients  A LOT. Most other consultants/ trainers will base their advice on what they read and hear - but that is not our way. We will still focus on training and supporting businesses on conquering the world. And we will know what we are talking about.


Are you ready to make 2017 a great year and finally get THAT job that will transform your career?

Join our waiting list below to be FIRST to know when we go live with the smartest, most effective eCourse that will teach you to CRACK THE INTERVIEWING CODE

Click to find out more and sign up.

Click to find out more and sign up.

2016: Suck 2, Lesson 2.

I am telling you our story of 2016 is because (a) I am setting up 2017 to be different and (b) more importantly, hoping you, can gain from our experience. Please read Part 1 too.

As a consequence of the above, we have created two projects, and a third that is too soon to talk about. The first project is BUILDCAREERSKILLS.COM.

Companies (our clients) spend a fair bit of money on equipping employees to do things a certain way. And we remain happy to help. But this year (in 2017), we want to help the INDIVIDUAL too. That will be you, dear reader.

There are vast number of skills that can make a real difference to YOUR career. They are not easy to acquire, because those skills that don't directly benefit the company are rarely funded by the company training program.

We are old enough and have been in business long enough to have many successes and failures under the belt. (And, as mentioned earlier, I have learned more from the failures than the successes.)

And like ALL our programs, this series will be:

  1. Effective/ practicable - and just work

  2. Be based on the very best, proven science

  3. Lead the way in becoming best practice that other people will follow in the future

You can check out our WAITING LIST site if you have a moment. It is just a brief description of our plan, and once we are ready to go, we will let the waiting list know. Of course, I will also announce it here; but if you want to qualify for the special bonuses, drop your email in the box and get first dibs. That will help me to know which programs are more in demand.

LESSON #2

It is important to have a good grasp on your core skills. In our case it is our ability to see the patterns of behaviour that few other people do. By doing that, you can identify new opportunities whilst still leveraging your core strengths. In our case we are doing what we have always done, but we are going to offer it to individuals too. We are going 'retail'!

Sometimes your/our TIMING may be out, but that is not entirely under your control. I don't know who said this first, but this insight is worth thinking about and remembering when things don't quite work out:

Success comes most swiftly and completely not to the greatest or perhaps even to the ablest men, but to those whose gifts are most completely in harmony with the taste of their times.

Are you ready to make 2017 a great year and finally get THAT job that will transform your career?

Join our waiting list below to be FIRST to know when we go live with the smartest, most effective eCourse that will teach you to CRACK THE INTERVIEWING CODE

Click to read more and sign up for the waiting list

Click to read more and sign up for the waiting list

2016: Suck 1, Lesson 1

So, 2016 sucked. A real Annus Horribilis if you ask me.

There has been health issues, hospital visits, family deaths and our revenue was the worst in 10 years of trading as Ganador, and that includes the GFC.

And I can tell you, it is not good for the egos of a consultants who supposedly advise other people on how to make money. On the upside, there has been fabulous family milestones, great client projects and successes.

It was Warren Buffet who said:

"It is good to learn from your mistakes. It is better to learn from other people's mistakes."

Well, I have made enough for both of us, and I am happy to share.

Some of our, ahem, "financial under-performance", has been part of the normal win/loss ratio of business and some of it has been by design.

The reason I am telling you our story of 2016 is because (a) I am setting up 2017 to be different and (b) more importantly, hoping you, can gain from our experience.

Any business has to constantly reinvent itself to remain relevant. We cannot merely 'advise' it and not do it ourselves. Some of that time spent navel-gazing may seem unproductive, but in reality is is working ON the business. At Ganador, we have actually reduced our service offering and we have shifted focus to be more specialised.

We have had a bit of re-design of the GANADOR site.

We would love it for you to check it out. And tell us what you think. To be honest, it is not easy to describe what we do. Ganador  is about the SKILLS and STRATEGIES for SUCCESS, so we still call it 'training', but with TWO differences:

  1. It is not 'off-the-shelf' training, because we really believe one size rarely fits all when it comes to specific companies with specific cultures dealing with specific challenges. So it is BESPOKE programs that we design develop and deliver..

  2. It is more than mere training too.For training to be effective, it needs to align with the culture and the strategy - and sometimes it is actually the culture or the strategy that also needs to change in order for the company to be truly 'future-proofed' by good training. (There is no point in changing how you sell, when your whole customer journey is a bit squiff, right?)

Is that training? I suppose so, just because 'strategic enablement' sounds a bit wanky, it is not particularly helpful even if it IS more accurate.

If you,dear reader, can come up with a nice descriptor that we can adopt, I will send you a bottle of my favourite red...

LESSON #1

Even if it does not immediately produce revenue, analysis, introspection and 'strategic thinking' will pay off in the long run. It is the ONLY way to NOT run into a wall. When you are a small business, doing this can be costly in taking you away from immediate revenue opportunities. But you have to do what you have to do.


Are you ready to make 2017 a great year and finally get THAT job that will transform your career?

Join our waiting list below to be FIRST to know when we go live with the smartest, most effective eCourse that will teach you to CRACK THE INTERVIEWING CODE

Click to read more and sign up

Click to read more and sign up

Have you heard about the Brotherhood of Managers?

I found a piece of writing to share. It is pretty 'out there'. Fasten your seat belts.

I am releasing some extracts on the blog here, and the whole book (PDF) will be given for free (yes, I have the rights to do so) to those who subscribe to buildcareerskillss.com (click on the image)


FROM THE INTRODUCTION:

Do you suffer from the desire to be successful? Do you aspire to a great career? A job in management with a six-figure salary, gold frequent flyer card and an expense account? If so, reading this book may be the worst thing you can do. It is a dangerous book if you aspire to be a successful manager. The knowledge that you may acquire is a classic double-edged sword: you gain the knowledge but you lose the option of failure.

After reading it, you will have no more excuses to fail in the corporate world. I shall reveal the secrets of the Brotherhood of Management. I am the magician who breaks ranks with his colleagues and cohorts and reveal the secret inner workings. I will show what is behind the ‘curtain’ – what really happens in those meetings behind closed doors. 

But let me warn you. This book does not contain The Answer. There is no ‘Next Big Thing’. I am not a wannabe consultant here to sell you the next buzzword dressed up as a panacea. It is not a one-chapter book that has ten chapters. It is not padded with pithy examples of why the world needs the next sexy concept.

For at least three decades our prophets and disciples have published the gospel of the Brotherhood and converted so many of you to believe in the Corporation.

You have been led to believe that it is for the common good. To be passionate. Focus. Adding value. To live your life according the mission statement – to abide by our vision. To align your goals with ours. Synergy. Team work. Everything you thought was good and pure turns out be a gigantic crock of shit.

This message may not be what you want to hear, as the truth is seldom pleasant. The two most likely responses are firstly, denial: ‘What a load of crap’. Or you can get aboard the motorboat of scepticism: ‘But, but, but, but…’ 

Once you have digested it, you may well realise that it may be what you always suspected or it may even be what you feared. You may be disappointed for living your life believing in the magic, which is now proven to be scoundrel’s trick. Whichever way, after reading this you will know the truth. 

It will be easy to dismiss all this as contrarianism simply for the sake of it. The Brotherhood is a seductive and destructive taskmaster. It seduces you with its rewards, but it can destroy your soul in the process. In some ways those people who lack the talent, ambition or willingness to compete on the capitalist treadmill are perhaps blessed in ways that the rest of us do not appreciate.

Even as I climb the corporate ladder, I struggle to reconcile my work, my place in society and my destiny with the environment I find myself in. I struggle to keep faith in the validity and centrality of the marketplace. I recoil from the massive fraud that is perpetuated upon unwitting employees under the name of management. Yet as a trained manager I participate in that activity willingly – even excelling occasionally. But enough is enough.

There was no sudden revelation, but rather a gradual dawning of the horrible truth. As I sat in more meetings, participated in more projects and went through the stages of company lifecycles, the truth emerged as an ugly monster. When God expelled Adam and Eve form the paradise, He meted out a punishment that few realise the extent of. On the other side of the paradise wall is where hell is.

The moral philosopher Denis Kenny  explains the dilemma we face clearly.

“…(T)he most formidable obstacle we face (…) is the imperial ambition of the global market…(T)he new secular religion of the invisible hand of the global market, promising universal salvation, is preached relentlessly and imposed ruthlessly…This rapidly expanding empire is…rapidly creating a monocultural wasteland in which only one value, the cash nexus, will prevail.”

I wish I had said that.

The dilemma I find myself in is that I am at once a private sceptic but a public disciple of the new religion of the open market economy. I am not a closet communist or frustrated leftie – on the contrary. If capitalism did not provide benefits to a majority on wide scale it would not have succeeded as widely as it has. I am concerned about the lack of (serious) debate that this new cosmology has elicited – the unwitting acceptance of its predicates and principles. Kenny refers to mankind as preferring “the less demanding role of a creature submissive to idols of its own making”. What a sad indictment of humanity that is. 

Managers are the whores working the Temple of Capitalism, plying their trade on innocent passers-by, seducing them with money, fame and a sense of accomplishment. All the while paying their dues to the Pimp of Productivity.

Strangers (and sometimes even enemies) who have been thrown together by the vagaries of chance in so-called teams are not natural. But that is the way it is. And at the vanguard of the open market economy are the managers; desperately trying to control the beast created by entrepreneurs. 


It gets pretty juicy later on. Be sure to put the blog in your RSS feed, or subscribe at career builder site and get the whole thing. (I have to still complete some formatting to make it available in PDF, so it should be ready later today, but subscribe anyway by clickin on the image below.)


How the Woolworths Board failed their Masters test (ICYMI)

 

I am not immune to retail stupidity.

So it was that when I recently drove past a Masters store, and thought I’d see what was on special, thinking there might be something that I did not know that I did not need until I saw it cheap.

To my surprise, the “specials were “10% to 20% off”, and it struck me that it did not seem much like a fire sale to me and I could not help wondering that if they didn’t know how to conduct a liquidation sale, then chances were that maybe they just weren't very good retailers.

It is hard to tell for sure, because I don’t know how long they still plan on trading and what rate of sale would be a optimal to extract the best margins; but my instincts were that it was poorly executed.

Much has already been written about Woolworths and Masters and there are limits to what one can say being outside the inner circle; but there is at least one obvious, in fact I would call it ‘glaring’ truth that must be addressed.

I don’t think anyone can lambaste Woolworths for trying something. Anyone who has ever owned a business will know that not everything you try will work out. In fact, success often surprises us more than we care to admit.

Failure is part of the business landscape, and I certainly won’t be the first to cast a stone at the Woolworths Board.

I am not going to point a figure at their brand, their marketing or inability to put on a decent sale. I am not going to try and fault their ranging or pricing or even their locations. I am sure they spent a lot of money on that. (They had to spend the $3.3BN on something.)

But I do hold them accountable for something.

Human beings are unique in may respects compared to other species of animals. But the one unique attribute I take great comfort from is that human beings alone have ballistic prowess. That refers to the fact human beings are the only animals that can actually hit a moving target.

In order to hit a moving target, you need to be able to anticipate speed and direction and calculate the forces necessary to deliver your projectile to a certain point in the future.

Monkeys can throw nuts at each other. But they can’t hit a moving target.

Am not the first one to figure this out.Wayne Gretzky, Canadian ice-hockey player is often quoted as having said: “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.”

We need to apply our ballistic prowess in all spheres of life. And that is what the Board of Woolworths did not do.

The two big guns in Supermarkets have been copying each other for years: liquor, hotels, hardware, fuel, loyalty cards, metro stores - you name it, they clone it.

That strikes me as stunningly poor leadership. Specifically, poor vision. Helen Keller said “the only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” Ain’t that the truth.

It is not surprising then that the fastest-growing supermarket chain does NOT do loyalty, fuel, hardware et al?

Who knows if ALDI will be around in 10 years? Their strategy may also fail. The puck may never arrive at the place where you think it is going to be at some point in the future. No one knows for sure. But the one thing that you won’t be able to accuse them of is that the simply copied the competition.

If you are going to fail, do it on the merits of your own ideas. But to fail simply because you can’t even copy properly, is a pretty serious indictment on the leadership.

Don't you agree?

Why do retail mergers always fail?

Image: www.axial.net

To merge or not merge, that is the question!

There was a recent announcement here on Inside Retail that Terry White and Chemmart hope to merge. Before I comment, a few salient points by way of qualification:

There has been some chatter here on a post by Dave Farrell on the topic of consultants. I too, have a particular view about the consulting industry. I am not a practising consultant.

Free advice is worth what you pay for it, and I am not in the business of working for free. I offer my view here because I am in the education business and this development is something we can learn from. And you can learn from it, even if you disagree with me. I base my views on what I have read in the press, the experience that I have gained and knowledge that I have, and I specifically don’t have any inside knowledge of the proposed deal.

Back to the merger:

There are two typical objectives for mergers:

  • improving current performance (or economies of scale)
  • reinventing a business model (e.g. when an established business buys an upstart to acquire new technology or market)

In this particular instance the declared strategy is:

“The merged group will leverage scale and combined capabilities to increase the competitiveness and marketing strength of the pharmacies and to improve service levels and health delivery to customers.”

The rationale for the merger is:

“We have a substantial array of core retail capabilities and support platforms which are scalable to handle this growth and support future network expansion. Significant investment in our Enterprise Resource Planning system is already driving efficiencies and improved operations, allowing pharmacists to raise customer service levels and drive strong retail sales growth.”

In short, they are pursuing economies of scale.

Yet, Harvard Business review cites that study after study puts the failure rate of mergers and acquisitions somewhere between 70% and 90%. 

When you quote the opportunity to invest in ERP as a primary motivator for a merger, all signs suggest the priorities are backwards.

Or maybe it really is about an IPO, and not about raising customer service levels and building a business. Hello Dick Smith.

I base my scepticism on the following thoughts:

1.       When you already have 200+ pharmacies in a country the size of Australia, then scale is not your issue. And besides, when your key suppliers are GLOBAL pharma companies, 500 stores do not buy you more clout than 300 stores. Where else are you going to buy your Nurofen after all? (And remember, the supermarkets already sell most of your product lines and they have many more stores than you do or will ever have.)

2.       The behemoth they are creating will simply be a bigger version of what they already have, crippled by additional layers of bureaucracy and systems, and confounded by incompatible cultures.

3.       The merger does not solve the ACTUAL PROBLEM that exists in the pharmacy channel; which is shite customer service. Cheaper prices, cheaper SMS marketing and the like are not examples of better customer service.

You may still want to argue points one and two, but not many people will argue point three. I have worked with a few pharmacies before, and I have asked individuals the same question:

What do MOST OF your customers have in common?

Not once did I get the reply I was hoping for: Most pharmacy customers are patients; and if not an actual patient, certainly seeking a treatment. And this category of consumer has very specific needs, which all but a few old-school, mavericks are brave to enough to meet.

And what consumers don’t need is the ability to walk into an even bigger warehouse filled floor to ceiling with cheap crap. That is what supermarkets are for.

I would suggest that one operator in that high-volume, low-margin space will do just fine, and that the real opportunity is to differentiate on patient (customer) care, and not the desire to screw down your suppliers another few cents.

As stated at the outset, I am not offering this as advice to TWC or Chemmart – I simply don’t have all the facts to do so. I am suggesting that we can learn something from their plans and how that compares to best practice, common sense and past experience.

I suppose there is 10%- 30% chance that they can pull this off successfully, but I won’t bet on it. I wonder if the shareholders will?

How to make a meme

This image illustrates everything that is wrong with the internet/ social media/ the world: Someone takes half-baked idea, adds some pseudo-intellectual horse-shit, mixes in a pretty picture and hits PUBLISH: A meme is borne.

The context here is that this image is being associated with the Olympics – Nike is the sponsor. (Their window-treatments in retail stores reflect the same theme.)

THE PROBLEM

E pluribus unum does NOT mean ‘out of many, you are the one.’

The message here is that Olympians are special, they are chose – they are one-of-a-kind winners.

The proper translation is “Out of many, one”. (This is on the seal of the USA.) The message there (and the correct one) is that out of many, one.

That is out of diversity there is unity. Unity is about togetherness and common ground. It is the antithesis of being different and special.

They are making the message as if it is about the ‘star’ when the real meaning is about the ‘constellation’.

So here is a classic example of how easily the truth is perverted by popularity. Looking good is more important than being right.

Now THAT is a lesson for you to take on board.

Are you successful because you got lucky?

Success is not so much because you were smart, creative and passionate as the self-help gurus would want us to believe. It really isn’t.  For the most part, our success or failure has a lot to do with timing and synchronicity – more than most people want to admit. Whenever I write about this, I get push back because many people refuse to accept that success may be a result of anything but their own making. This is a straightforward case of the powerful influence of . This is a straightforward case of the powerful influence of confirmation bias.


But, don’t take my word for it.


There is a write-up in The Atlantic on how we are likely to disregard the role of luck in our success. I have written an extended exposition of that on this blog previously, but here is the executive summary:


Bill Gross (of IdeaLab) has done some work trying to quantify the role of luck. There is a TED Talk on this titled the single biggest reason why start-ups succeed. He says:

 “Little wonder that when talented, hardworking people in developed countries strike it rich, they tend to ascribe their success to talent and hard work above all else. Most of them are vividly aware of how hard they’ve worked and how talented they are. "

He quantifies the importance of timing (which is usually a manifestation) of luck at 42%.
Maybe we don’t talk about it enough because we don’t want to diminish those other factors that reflect better on us than admitting that it was ‘mere luck’.

But ‘good timing’ is something that we should be able to identify and talk about with foresight, not only hindsight.

Sometimes we are so enamoured with the idea and so blinded by passion and lured into the excitement of execution that we don’t want to think about timing. I suspect sometimes it is fear that someone else will do it before us if we wait. And in both instances we get fooled into pulling the trigger too soon.

And then there are cases where we think the time is right but it just isn’t. But it is for the next guy who comes along with the same idea. The one who just got lucky – even if he or she doesn’t want to even admit it.

This is further backed up by more insights be people who should know.

This is Guy Kawasaki quoted in the Aus Fin Review as saying:  

"The way Silicon Valley works is that a lot of ideas get thrown at the wall, then the few that stick, people walk up and paint a target around them, and then say 'I hit the bullseye!'," he said. "So I won't pretend I've got any special insight on that. Better to be lucky than smart."


Steve Jobs spoke about you needing passion... BUT specifically said it was SO THAT you could push through and keep trying. Passion isn't the thing that makes you successful; it merely helps you persist to work hard and keep going. 

Gary Player – well-known South African golfer – popularised the notion (even if he did not originate it) that the harder you practice, the luckier you get. It is not talent, it is not a mindset and it is definitely not a passion. 

The only conclusion that one can come to is that the necessary prerequisite for success is repeated effort, hard work, persistence, hustling or putting yourself out there. Whatever you call it, it is about showing up every day and giving it your best shot. Then, DV, you may find success – for it’s a GIFT. 

Effort, even persistent effort STILL, in and of itself, won’t make you successful, but it at least makes success a realistic possibility. 

 

Learning from Pokémon Go: lessons for your business model

Learning from Pokémon Go

There are many lessons to be learned from Pokémon Go. None included in this article will be tactical executions that will allow you to create lures, leverage your proximity to the Pokémon Gym or even explain how you could incentivise the Pokémon crowd to shop your store.

If you really want that advice, I am hoping that some employee in your company is googling that topic to figure it out, because it shouldn’t be what most readers of this blog should be bothered with.

But if that is NOT the case, then there are valid lessons to take from this experience.

Lesson #1: Your survival depends on your agility. Not a technology, not a fad. Not a promotion. But your agility to adapt and respond and to capture the shifts that matter, and do so continuously. It does not matter if you missed Pokémon or whether you are late to Snapchat. No single ‘curve’ is THE curve. But if you miss them all consistently, it proves that your business model is not responsive to the market.

(For a good example of someone who is always ready to ride a wave, go and have a look at what Mark Flethcer is doing at his Newsagency Blog, trying to elevate the game (with some success) in a moribund channel. But it is not about jumping on this particular bandwagon early (it helps that he is a bit of tech geek) but read back and see how his local area marketing responds to the events of the day – immediately. If you can adapt to a trend that lasts a day, then you are bound to succeed.)

Lesson #2: There is no point in looking to a consultant to predict the trends for you. You can’t outsource the viability of your business model to someone else. Nobody predicted the success of Pokémon Go in this incarnation – probably not even the makers. You will find a lot of ‘gurus’ telling you after the fact that these are the reasons why it worked and became successful and how you should do something similar. The key phrase here is after the fact. There is no limit to the number of preconceived ideas and biases masquerading as insights that you can glean from a success. After the fact.

Lesson #3: The lesson I want to share can be illustrated with this picture, taken by me on a Sunday morning (17 July) in Perth. What you see there are a small group of about 30 -40 people chasing Pokémon in the park. They are all gripped by the small screen in front of them, but they are missing out on the stunning view.

Is that your position too?

There was a discussion on a LinkedIn group explaining how Pokémon should have been the solution that shopping malls should have come up with. That is clearly ridiculous, because (a) no one has the scale that could create a global viral sensation and (b) it is just one fad that will last for a few months only.

The question is: while you are obsessing about this one, silver bullet marketing tactic, do you miss the bigger picture?

Happy hunting, anyway.

Dennis

Dr Dennis Price is co-founder of Ganador: Australia’s only B2B Customer Education Agenc

Learn the difference to gain the advantage

(OR - Why Content Marketing is crock...)
 

This article from our occasional newsletter - to get it sooner - drop your name in the box - you know the drill :)



There are two major flaws in the way people are approaching marketing today. One relates to ‘content marketing’ and the other to ‘customer experience’. And the solution outlined below solves both problems.

If you want the executive summary, here it is: CE is a way of doing business. It is not an optional extra; it is a necessity.  

CONTENT MARKETING

There has been a buzz about ‘content marketing’ for a few years now – but strangely, few seem to really practice it well, and despite the ongoing hype, it has not really taken off as a mainstream marketing activity. And rightly so, because organisations are letting the desire to produce content drive the strategy. Consequently they apply it inappropriately. 

This is to be expected because the people promoting that view typically see themselves as content producers, therefore content must be important. (Marketing Agencies are scrambling to re-position themselves as 'content marketers' their traditional domain is being eroded.)

Marketing needs a purpose (expressed as verbs): it must persuade, entertain or educate. 
Old-school ‘Persuasion Marketing’ still has a role to play, but technological evolution is making it harder as it increasingly empowers the consumer/ end-user at the expense of the seller. The focus has therefore shifted to entertainment and education as the core purpose of marketing.

Wrongly, thought-leaders have saddled the Content Marketing horse. Content is a noun, trying to replace a verb.
There may be a place for ‘entertainment’, but I suspect that is more about enriching a brand personality rather than hard $$$ ROI. That is why Customer Education (CE) is actually the main game, and ‘content’ is merely one way of educating customer.

Customer entertainment is valid, but not hugely effective on delivering tangible results. We all love Air NZ for coming up with videos like this.

D
Great content. Very entertaining. Enhances the brand. But would you pick them to fly next time you go to NZ because of that piece of content?

If entertainment produces questionable ROI and persuasion is becoming avoidable, what remains? The good news it is actually something that is a win-win outcome for both parties of the transaction: it is customer education.
 

WHAT IS CUSTOMER EDUCATION?

Firstly, Customer Education Is Not Customer Experience
Customer Experience (CX) is what happens when the customer uses your product: The way it works, how easy it is and how obvious it is, how smooth it is and how well it does what it is intended to do.
Imagine your product is a car: the fact that it starts every time, drives quietly and is powerful enough for the customer to enjoy the ride. The fuel consumption does not provide a shock at the bowser. Everything just works and works well.

But that does not mean the customer knows how to set the radio or the climate control. They may not know how to get the spare out and replaced. They might not know that simply holding the key fob close to the lock is sufficient and you don’t need to actually insert the key to open a door.

There is a difference between the customer having a comfortable experience sitting in a comfortable seat and knowing how to fold away the seat in such a way that they maximize boot space. A comfy seat is customer experience but knowing how to configure the seat requires customer education.

Customer education ensures the product and service is enjoyed functionally; it improves how a product is purchased and how it is used. Customer Education unlocks the benefits of WHY a product was purchased.

You design the experience. THEN, you educate the customer so that they can enjoy the full experience possible.
 

B2C CUSTOMER EDUCATION

Customer Education is more common in retail environments, even if it is not called that (or in fact not done all that well.)

Buying a pair of yoga pants should be simple, it should fit and should be good value. They may even deliver it for you – all that provides a great experience. But WHY did you buy the yoga pants? You bought it to look good and feel sexy. Smart retailers will make that possible through customer enablement. The swing tag can tell you how to take care of the garment so that it continues to look good and not become saggy. The in-store experience could include an education element – via the sales person or a chart on the wall – to ensure that the customer buys the colour that suits their complexion. A handy booklet could show them how to mix and match with other types of non-athleisure wear so that don’t end up looking stupid.

Customer Education unlocks the purpose of the purchase.

This does not apply only to consumers.


B2B CUSTOMER EDUCATION


Most organisations already do customer education to some extent – the question is simply how well!
In fact, this article is in itself a piece of customer education; by educating you about the nature and benefits of customer education, we both stand to potentially gain.

Most manufacturers have relied on technical writers to create manuals for their products. They realised that the retailer would do a poor job of getting the end consumer to use the product correctly. Very few have taken the time and the effort to educate their customers (the retailers) to on-board consumers effectively.

A ‘user manual’ is customer 1.0. The world has moved on. Manuals work very poorly, especially in a world where people throw it away without even reading it, knowing they will turn to YouTube if they need to find out how to do anything.

Customer Education in the B2B environment is an untapped opportunity. As far as I can tell, Ganador is the only specialist Customer Education Agency in Australia. (That’s a bit of SSP – shameless self-promotion. If you google “B2B”, “Customer Education Agency”, “Australia”, Ganador occupies EVERY SINGLE ENTRY – other than ads – on page one, and is the one and only organisation to be listed.)

Examples of Customer Education projects

Some of the cases where we’re helping:

  • A gaming technology supplier to ‘onboard’ licensed venues to a new system.
  • A broadcaster educate their advertisers on more effective advertising practises
  • A publisher educate their re-sellers on better merchandising
  • An Association develop practical member case-studies
  • A jewellery distributor Launch a Customer Portal for their retail network
  • Company Reps to adopta solution-orientated sales interaction framework

You get the idea. We did of course create content along the way. But that was secondary. The content was only one piece of a CE framework. We changed processes. We did research. We developed tools. We implemented technologies. We re-designed the customer experience to capture every learning opportunity for the customer, without them even knowing that they are learning.

Opportunities for Customer Education

  • How does a Transit Authority (best) educate people how to open a door when it does not open automatically?
  • How does a Hotel (best) educate their guests on evacuation procedures? (Or how to figure out the damn TV.)
  • How does a Government (best) educate voters on how to vote correctly?
  • How does a medical technology company (best) educate doctors about an innovative new product?
  • How does a wholesaler get retailers to use the portal for account maintenance?
  • How does a brand get retailers to build displays that are ‘on brand’?

The short answer to the above is that they do it poorly if at all. The consequences could be major; disastrous in fact. The opportunity is amazingly big for the early movers.


BACK TO THE FLAWS


We have outlined why content marketing is not a new thing, and why focus on the “content” (the noun) will produce very little action. Content is a piece that fits into the bigger picture of Customer Education.

We also outlined why limiting Customer Experience to be the equivalent of a series of moments of truth in the sales interaction is the wrong view of it. The customer experience begins before they purchase and lasts the lifetime of owning your product. The right experience is the one that covers that whole timeframe.

The only practical way you can enhance the customer’s experience when they are using your product while they are not interacting with you directly, is to educate them upfront about how to best use your product to ensure a lifetime of positive experiences.


THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION


That is proverbially speaking a million dollar question. In reality the question is worth nothing, but the answer is worth a lot more.

Think about your product/service and your customer. Then think what your future would look like if they TRULY knew exactly how to get best use of your product/service. What would happen to your future relationship if customers knew more about your product, and how to optimise it for themselves, more than any competitor product?

  • If the answer is: ‘we will be in trouble’, then you really need to work on developing products that customers want.
  • If the answer is: ‘they will be unlikely to buy any other competitive product’, then you need customer education. That is the only ‘marketing strategy’ that will do the job.

It does it a disservice to even call it a ‘strategy’, because Customer Education is a way of doing business. It is not an optional extra; it is a necessity.  How well are you doing it?

How to measure customer service to get a true result

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MYSTERY OF CUSTOMER SERVICE?

There are two astounding statistics about Customer Service:

ONE: More than 95% of management teams we’ve surveyed claim to be customer focused. (I suppose the remaining 5% would the margin of error, because I have never come across those people.)

TWO: Fully 80% of executives believe they offer good service and 8% of consumers agree. And this is not some internet statistic, it is based on a study by Bain & Co.

 Translations: Executives are living in Cuckoo Land.

 

You can’t blame the executives, because their beliefs are often based on mystery shopping reports. More about that shortly. It has always puzzled me as to why that would be dramatically incongruent, and I would like to offer a hypothesis and hear yours.

I have considered all of the following:

  • Executives outsource the measurement and management of ‘customer service’ to others
  • Executives don’t appreciate that delivering good customer service is a function of a customer-orientated culture.
  • Executives tend to under-estimate the complexity of embedding a customer-focussed culture. Typically, the implementation of customer service is based on the over-riding principle of ‘do unto the customer as you want done to you’; but this is too simplistic in a larger organisations.
  • Most people (including executives) judge customer service subjectively. They judge good and bad based on what they personally consider to be good or bad.

All of the above are partially true, but the main reason why I believe there is such a discrepancy between

The metrics used to generate the customer service score are arrived at by: 

  • Considering a specific attribute/ touch point (sales person greeted me in a friendly manner) 
  • Allocating a score to that attribute (6 out of 10)
  • Summing and averaging the scores
  • Determining an overall satisfaction rating (e.g. &0%)

There are obvious problems with that because all parts of the journey (all variables) are not equally important. The way I used to deal with that (when I owned a mystery shopping company) was to agree relative importance with the client and then calculate a weighted average. (I don’t know if anyone else does that.) But even this is still flawed. 

 To illustrate very simply, let’s use five percentage scores across five variables to determine an overall score. 

 Typically, your CS score will be calculated like this: 

The scores will be added and averaged to arrive at a final score. 

 If Score 5 improves from 60% to 90%, then the overall score will improve to 76%; approximately a 10% improvement. 

 But customer experience is not the result of cumulative averages and aggregates.

 Everything can perfect, but if the final interaction is absolutely terrible, then the customer’s overall experience will be completely negative. 

 Customer satisfaction should therefore be calculated as a PRODUCT and not the AVERAGE.

 Consider the same five scores. 

If the Score 5 improves to 90%, then the overall score will improve to 24%; approximately a 50% improvement. 

 In the latter case, which better reflects reality, your overall customer satisfaction is materially worse to what you have been told up to this point. 

 If you consider that the student or housewife (mystery shopper) who came up with a 90% on a particular attribute did so through a filter of strong biases, inexperience and lack of perceptiveness AND that the actual experience is so materially influenced by variations in score, then that explains the biggest conundrum in customer service. 

 It explains why a Customer Service Score is more like 15% or 25% rather than 80% or 90% as you have been led to believe. That is because overall CS scores are a product of a series of touch points, NOT the average. 

There is one important consideration to remember: If you have numerous (say 12 or 20) touch-points, then even if you score 90% on every one of them, you will eventually end up below 20% score for example. The ACTUAL curve of a customer experience is not reducible to a formula, since there are many subjective considerations that can make a curve/line jump up and down in ways that math can't predict. But using a cumulative product score is a better approximation of reality that the simple average.

And that is my hypothesis for the gulf that exists between what the owners and executives believe and what the customers actually think: customer service is a product of all the touch points, not the average.

Don't believe them, - Burn those bridges baby

img: gsdpuppypaws @deviantart

Should I burn those bridges?

It is commonly believed and accepted that one should ‘never burn those bridges’. But is that really the smartest strategy?

Whether you are leaving a company or a relationship, I’d suggest that you burn away.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting you go out of your way to be a dick about it.

If you know there is no going back, then you are more likely to think harder about it and to commit deeper and longer. The psychology behind is clear (one of Cialdini’s six principles) and is often used in behavioural change programmes like AA and Weight Watchers. By publically declaring something, the level of personal commitment dramatically increases. That is exactly what you need when you are making a big decision.

You can’t step through the same river twice, according to Heraclitus the philosopher, and it is quite true.

Drinking from the same well twice is very rarely healthy. That is why I coach people never to accept a counter-offer. The short-term need of the company to retain you eventually passes and is replaced with a subtle resentment that they were manipulated into paying over the top. It rarely lasts.

Whilst many people will have an example that proves that maintaining that second option has proven to be a good idea, those exceptions actually are a lot rarer than you think. And I will suggest that even if you do go back for seconds, you will never know what would have played out if you actually didn’t do that.

If you fail, fail forward. Burn those bridges and go confidently into the future instead of relying on the back-up plan.