The only advice you will ever need

Why do you read blogs like these?

In last week’s article a few readers disagreed with central ideas of the post. (When they sign off ‘annoyed’ or ‘rubbish’ is the first word in the comment, presumably they disagree a lot.)

The argument I put forward was essentially this:

Most of us agree that a great retail experience is the key to future growth and success. If that is the case and this happens:

  • Option A: Pair of Shoes + In-store experience = $100.
  • Option B: Pair of Shoes + Online experience = $70.

If customers opt for Option B, they may SAY that it is because it is cheaper, but logically and reasonably people are choosing Option B because they DO NOT value the In-store Experience at $30 more. 

Another commentator accused me of continually attacking retailers. I was hoping that it was a helpful debate to have, and to focus the attention on how much customers really value the in-store experience. (The service of providing a communications platform like this by the team at Inside Retailing is, in my humble opinion, invaluable,)

My advice was essentially this:

  • Create a smart strategy.
  • Re-design your customer experience.
  • Re-train yourself and your staff.
  • Take a few risks. 

Another commentator took umbrage at this advice with a good dose of sarcasm. His point of view is that advice like the above is worthless.

This brings me to these important questions:

  • Is it really worthwhile to read up on your industry, gather different opinions and attempt to stay informed?
  • What is the nature of the advice that you get in general business books or blogs?
  • How much is the advice that you get worth and importantly, how much do you value that advice?

I looked at two opinion leaders for some guidance:

The 12 most important lessons learned at the recent (2012) NRF conference in the US can be found here. In the meantime here are just two of lessons extracted from that summary:

  • “Websites are consumers of software applications. There are not manuals. They’re tools.”
  • “Stop being in arms race for likes and followers – start liking your customers.”

Then I turn to Seth Godin again. He provides some advice on pricing. His formula for pricing is that you have to consider the two S’s.

  • Substitutes (alternatives)
  • Story (of your product)

Even though I wrote an eBook on pricing – with 8 steps and plenty of formulae, I consider the value and relevance and importance of Seth’s FREE advice more than the $12.87 of the eBook, because it focuses your thinking on the two critical aspects of pricing – which is more important than understanding the difference between a mark-up and a margin.

As you can see the nature of these insights (Seth, NRF as well as my earlier advice) is quite generic.

That is for good reason.

I could give you the recipe for a world-class meringue and the three pastry-chefs reading this blog will be ecstatic. The other readers not so much.

If you were given advice like this, you would have to apply inductive reasoning. By looking at the fact, you have to draw a general conclusion.

Alternatively, I could suggest that to make a good dessert, you must use fresh ingredients and consider the local tastes.

If you were given advice like this, you must apply deductive reasoning. (Deductive arguments are attempts to show that a conclusion necessarily follows from a set of premises or hypotheses.)

Most advice that will get on blogs and mass media will be of the latter type. Whether you are pastry chef or a backyard barbecue boffin, you could make something of the latter advice.

Which brings me to the main point I would like to offer for your consideration.

When you receive ‘advice’ – whether it is from Seth Godin or Dennis Price or your next door neighbour; it is ALWAYS worth nothing unless you add the missing ingredients.

So, the commentator was right; my advice was worthless. It always is. So is everyone else’s; including the best paid consultant or your local GP.

The ‘advice’ can only become something of value for you, the reader, if:

  • You THINK about the advice in context of your own business/ issues.
  • You DO something about it

No writer/ consultant/ trainer will ever be able to do those two things for you.

Even if you receive poor advice and you decide to do the opposite; it paradoxically turns out for the better, right? The difference being that you have taken the time and effort to realise (as in make real) the value of the advice.

If you reconsider the premise of last week’s post – we have to focus on fixing the in-store experience - and my ‘advice’ was:

  • Create a smart strategy.
  • Re-design your customer experience.
  • Re-train yourself and your staff.
  • Take a few risks.

In order to realise the value of the advice, you have either pay someone to do it for you or you have to do it yourself; but without doing anything, it really isn’t worth much.

This is why I closed my post with this statement: Will you just click to the next blog, or will you explore the alternatives? And that is true today again, as it always is.

The risk of having plenty of free, unsolicited advice on tap (thanks to the internet) is that we skim over everything and take ownership of nothing. (By the way, I am as guilty as everyone else.)

My golden rules for the information age:

  1. Ignore all unsolicited advice. (If you are reading someone’s blog that is presumably solicitation?)
  2. All advice is worthless unless you act on it – or against it.
  3. Seek advice from people who you disagree with.
  4. If the only tool you have is a hammer – every problem looks like a nail. (What is your adviser’s trade?)
  5. If you never disagree, don’t bother. (Because you are not thinking about it.)



PS: I am a big boy and I am happy to cop criticism; if you write opinion pieces and you don’t get criticised you are not doing your job well enough. (It is perfectly on-brand, for me…) So, please don’t read this as a defensive exercise.

Dr Dennis Price consultants to and trains the retail supply chain to (re-)capture their entrepreneurial mojo with the right skills, strategies and systems to grow a sustainable business.

War without winners

12 Truths for Retail in 2012 - from NRF Conference

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