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Consensus Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

meeting

A lot is written today on team building, shared vision and other such warm, fuzzy management goals. Yet the executive who excels at encouraging disagreement will make better decisions than the one who focuses on building consensus. Management expert Peter Drucker gives three main reasons for "organizing" disagreement among staff members.

First, it safeguards the executive from becoming a prisoner of the organization. "The only way to break out of the prison of special pleading and preconceived notions," says Drucker, "is to make sure of argued, documented, thought-through disagreements."

It provides alternatives to a decision. "If one has thought through alternatives during the decision-making process, one has something to fall back on."

It stimulates the imagination. Imagination must be challenged or it remains latent and unused. Disagreement is the most effective stimulus we know. "Unless we turn the tap, imagination will not flow. The tap is argued, disciplined disagreement." (Note- disciplined, not rude.)

These ideas are especially pertinent to marketing management. Be sure to organize disagreement among your staff at your next marketing meeting. Considering all the options is the safest way to arrive at a course of action that will succeed.

Quotes are from The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker. Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. 1967.

Top Marketing Concept #1

guy with mobile phone

"You can catch more flies with honey than you can swat with a sharp stick."

In this analogy, the flies are your customers--very hard to catch-- and the product or service you offer is the honey. The question is: Are your offerings wonderfully irresistible? How can you make them so?

Quality is important, but in the current marketplace it is more important to know precisely what matters most to your customer. A "total quality" product may not be affordable; your customers may be happy with a lot less. Of course, customer service is a key, but that is no different than what your competitors are offering. What makes products and services truly irresistible is a unique differentiation-- something that the customer can't get anywhere else. For example, there is a self-serve gas station where the manager will pump your gas for you at the self-serve price. Now that's honey.

The sharp stick of Top Marketing Concept #1 is direct mail or email facilitated by database marketing. People will invest a lot in this form of advertising because they believe that sending a message by mail or email into homes or businesses insures that it will be noticed and read. Not so. You see, even with a pointed stick you can still miss your target. You need a swatter, a broader instrument. Some experts call that "integrated direct marketing" and they define such an effort as comprising print advertising in appropriate trade or niche publications, an 800 number, some telemarketing or personal selling efforts, perhaps some billboards or www banners, plus direct mail.

We recommend complementing your direct mail/email with other media. This builds your image and reinforces your message, and it is the interplay among various media that increases your direct mail/email response to way over the 2% which is the industry average for mailings that are not supported by any other media or efforts.

But first, start with the honey. Because you can point and swat all you want, but without honey, you may never catch the busy things.

Stagflation, recession, etc

concerned

"A pessimistic outlook can be more damaging to your company than faltering demand for your product of service." - Anon.

"Be aware that research has shown that companies that continue to advertise in adverse economic times will gain market share. Why? Simply put, it's because your competitors are sitting idly waiting for the market to turn around, while you're aggressively pursuing business!" - the Strategic Planning Institute of Cambridge, Mass., "Profit Impact of Marketing Strategy" Study.

"With talk of recession, budget deficits, ... and uncertainty with respect to interest rates, it is important to develop contingency marketing plans. No one knows which economic scenario will develop, but with the bottom line at stake, it is crucial to be prepared to adjust operations for the greatest possible profits...IN ANY EVENT!" - Avraham Shama

Avraham Shama in his book, Marketing In A Slow-Growth Economy, suggests these activities may help marketing managers:
    1.    Study how inflation affects the target consumers. Different targets are affected differently. Thus, various degrees of modifying the marketing mix are called for.
    2.    Keep costs down but don't lower prices, since consumers will relate this to low quality--which could result in decreased demand.
    3.    Institute a flexible price policy; frequent adjustment of prices may be important. An examination of the cost and price structure for consumer goods every 90 days is wise. Maintain competitive pricing. Emphasize profit margins, not sales volume.

The buzz words to use in advertising messages are: VALUE, ECONOMIZE, SALE, FUNCTIONAL.

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