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Top Marketing Concept #2

employee group

"You can eat your cake and have it too when you're counting on your chickens to hatch."

There are great rewards for the company that encourages its employees to be innovative. In this fractured analogy, your cake is your profits, the chickens are your employees, and their eggs are the new ideas you need to have profits.

In the past a company could count its chickens but not make them hatch, and most companies didn't even care if their chickens hatched any new ideas as long as they were in the coop scratching away at their jobs. Today, companies must have the ideas and insights of their employees. And when you have involved everyone in the quest for new ideas, then go ahead and eat your cake, that is, use some of your profits on their ideas, because only in that way will you have more cake, more profits.

Here are some ways to involve your staff in the quest to be innovative. First, explain why it is so important. In a highly competitive marketplace, innovation is crucial to survival. Next, set a goal such as, "We will come up with three new services this year," or "We will improve our products in a certain measurable way by year end." Encourage employees to get close to customers or in some cases, to meet with other employees for cross-functional idea sharing. Ask for their ideas on what might improve their jobs or what projects they would like to work on to facilitate innovation. Invite an expert on creativity training to your firm. Many large corporations have realized significant benefits from such seminars. Plan with employees how to carry out their vision. Have contests and give rewards for great ideas.

In Peter Drucker's book, Managing for the Future, he discusses how the Japanese organize to innovate. Every major industrial group in Japan now has its own research institute whose main function is not technical research but research into knowledge, that is, to bring to the group awareness of any important new knowledge in technology, management and organization, marketing, finance, training, developed anyplace in the world. These think tank groups have emerged from the Japanese belief that leadership throughout the developed world no longer rests on financial control but on who knows the most.

Why couldn't your organization have a research institute? Why not stage a monthly meeting where people come together to share their discoveries, with each one responsible for an area such as technology, marketing and so on. Just by compiling the reports and taking minutes on the discussion that would ensue, new ideas would be generated from which innovations would emerge.

Another way to organize to innovate is through the Inquiry Center. This is an idea introduced by Gerald Zaltman and Vincent Barabba in their book, Hearing the Voice of the Market. The concept is to have a group of people within your firm whose job is to listen to or do research to discover what customers want and what they are willing to pay for. This group then makes known their findings to the various departments, and is also responsible to understand the voice of the company and to reconcile these two voices.

How would you implement an Inquiry Center? Very loosely, say Zaltman and Barabba. 1. Find the right people who are good inquirers and change agents. 2. Give them broad goals. 3. Let them go. 4. Figure out what they did. 5. Institutionalize it.

Make your chickens hatch so you can eat your cake and still have it!

©2001. DAY Communications. All rights reserved.

Simple Research for Better Sales

man researching

Why and how to do simple research to improve your market odds

You don't need a Ph.D. in marketing research to practice it. Using simple methods you can discover most of what you need to know in order to successfully market your product or service.

For knowledge about the marketplace and your industry, simply read and listen. Read one national newspaper at least once a week, a news magazine or two of opposing editorial viewpoints, the most important trade journals of your industry; attend business meetings, and watch TV news and analysis programs. Search online for pertinent keywords and concepts, and join newsgroups and read their articles. Do all of this with an eye toward how the trends will affect your firm. Open your eyes and ears to what is going on. What could be a more simple method of doing research than that?

For knowledge about your offering, try a simple technique called Attributes Listing. Research means to travel through, to survey; it is careful, systematic, patient study and investigation in some field of knowledge, undertaken to discover or establish facts or principles. Attributes Listing is a way of creative problem solving. It's an idea finding method--a simple research technique. You want to discover everything pertaining to what you offer. Next make a list of benefits. Sometimes these overlap with attributes, but they are the aspects of your product that benefit the customer, not simply its descriptive features.

A research technique that can help in listing benefits is Brainstorming. First, state the problem, such as, "What features of  this product will most benefit my customer?" Then, going around the table each person makes a statement and no one is allowed to criticize or even  analyze the statements made. All ideas, no matter how crazy, are important contributions. Someone keeps a list of the ideas which can be later evaluated and studied in depth.

Next, try a Competitor Analysis Matrix, another simple research technique. Make a grid by putting the names of two to five of your competitors across the top, and down the side you will have your list of attributes which has both your strengths and your weaknesses clearly delineated. Now fill in the blanks under your competition's headings and see how your offerings stack up. Be sure to compare your pricing with theirs and your advertising with theirs as well as all aspects of your marketing program.

Another simple technique is the direct-response split run or more simply, split testing. If you are sending out a direct mail letter to try to get people to call you, send two letters to a random sampling, each with a different lead paragraph or headline. This can be easily done, especially with your own computer. You will see whether one approach has a greater appeal than the other. Then do the larger mailing using the most successful lead in.

Finally, do research on your prospect. One expert says you should know 25 needs of your prospect before ever approaching them--even to set up a meeting. Although you would focus only on three or four of those needs, knowing 25 gives you the edge you need. Discover their needs by investigating their firm and products. Visit their website. Also, much can be discovered at the public library or by asking associates for insights.

THE REGIS TOUCH - A book review

computer board

by Anne Yeiser

What can you learn from the Silicon Valley marketing experience? Can the hard-won insights of a high-tech marketing consultant benefit you?

The Regis Touch by Regis McKenna is subtitled "Million Dollar Advice from America's Top Marketing Consultant." The author has worked with more than 150 companies in Silicon Valley and helped bring success to upstarts such as Apple and its Macintosh.

He learned by experience that fast-changing industries must play by a new set of marketing rules since the old rules assumed that technologies and markets change slowly.

McKenna reveals these major points...

The new marketing, like the old is a battle for positioning, but the new requires dynamic positioning which is achieved through positioning the company, not just the product.

In a culture where constant flux and radical change are the norm, one must focus on intangibles such as quality and leadership in carving an image, rather than on price or product specifications. That is the only way to combat the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) that trail rapid change, and to survive when the unexpected occurs-- and it will.

Recognizing that complexity is a growing cultural phenomenon, a company must target a specific niche rather than trying to be all things to all people. Products must be viewed in terms of unique benefits to capture prospects who are diverse and demanding.

Product positioning must be shored up through word-of-mouth campaigns in the marketplace because buying decisions hindered by FUD are based on personal recommendations more than on advertising. McKenna outlines how to launch a word-of-mouth campaign.

Strategic press relations and a good reputation in the financial community are also indispensable. All these elements and processes result in dynamic positioning.

Market creation, not market sharing, is essential in fast-changing industries. The traditional market-share strategies focus on advertising, promotion, pricing and distribution and on winning market share from others. Market-creating strategies instead emphasize 1. applying technology, 2. educating the market, 3. cultivating the good will and recognition of retailers, analysts and anyone between the customer and manufacturer who has an influence on the buying process, and 4. creating new standards. Marketing managers must think like entrepreneurs and be willing (allowed) to experiment and take risks.

Companies in the fast lane must be market-driven, not marketing-driven. Marketing-driven businesses stake their livelihood on advertising and promotion, while a market-driven approach 1. develops strong products, 2. requires the manager to understand the structure of the market, and 3. focuses on building relationships and strategic alliances with other people and companies in the marketplace. It uses advertising and promotion to reinforce positions, not to create them.

The new marketing is qualitative, not quantitative. Marketeers who rely on numbers can miss the action since extrapolating the trends of the past or the present "almost never works," says McKenna. Example: In the 1940s, computer companies estimated the total world market for computers to be several dozen. They obviously failed to envision the rapid spread of new applications, or the sharp decline in prices.

Qualitative marketing is based on intuition-- that sense of what is going on in the marketplace based on a broad-based, first-hand study of it. It takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of competitors, the perceptions and attitudes of customers and prospects, and the social and political trends of the nation. These factors are continually, creatively monitored, and marketing strategy is adjusted accordingly.

McKenna recommends:
»» a clear but flexible company mission,
»» internal and external audits to define company goals and market trends before strategies are laid,
»» roundtable discussions rather than lengthy marketing reports,
»» a company culture that encourages innovation,
»» an organization that enables fast decision making, and
»» selling to the right customers - those that make quick buying decisions, which often are not the [bureaucratic] Fortune 500.

He discusses 10 intangible competitors which marketing managers in fast-changing industries must confront. The first one mentioned is change. The U.S. auto industry is cited for ignoring the growing demand for small cars, which is how it lost market snare to the Japanese.

To discover McKenna's other nine intangible competitors, read The Regis Touch. To evaluate whether they might threaten your company, consult with us!

THE REGIS TOUCH, by Regis McKenna. Copyright 1985. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc.

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