Why So Many Huge Companies are Floundering in the Digital Age.

I explain the detailed reasons “why” in my book, “The Four Faces of Marketing” which readers can download below… but summarily, Companies aren’t “good” or “bad” it’s their decision-making leaders that are the important variable!

In larger companies like P&G, Unilever & General Mills, those with operational skills are promoted to strategic positions where they simply don’t have the tools… they are smart, street wise and intuitive, convergent thinkers, but lacking in knowledge and missing the ability to think divergently… They’re like Nokia’s execs, believing, “We did everything right” when they are doing too much wrong… They’re performing “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” management routines… with extraordinary high salaries, and the major shareholders of similar ilk are blind to their shortcomings.

Until these Companies nurture balance in their “Hierarchies of Marketing” they’ll continue to flounder.

Old Warren Buffet really nailed the curse of Corporate Business when he coined the term, “Corporate Cancer” and identified his “ABC’s”… When companies exhibit Arrogance, Bureaucracy and Complacency, they’re either done for, or in for a LOT of pain!

If you’re keen to know more, get my book from http://j.mp/ALLmktg

confused business leaders

Many great executives lose sleep every night wondering “what am I doing wrong?”

CEO evaluation, identify a good CEO

Is your CEO a Time-bomb?

They say, “Cream Rises to the Top”, and generally it does… rancid or not!

How can you determine if the CEO, leading the Company you have your life savings invested in, or who is the employer controlling your professional and financial future, or is the head of the organisation you’re counting on for your security… is adequate for the job?

 

Here’s some symptoms to look out for that are sure give-aways your CEO is NOT up to the job.

 

1. CEO gives employees, investors and stakeholders no idea of the Company’s Mission and Vision statements.

Particularly staff, but everyone who contributes to the business, should understand their “reason for getting out of bed in the morning”. Without direction, how can people apply initiative, work as a team, and contribute top “the cause”? The answer is they can’t, and frustration, boredom, and complacency prosper, becoming the “norm”. For customers, if you say a “the lowest cost air-travel possible, their expectations come in ‘line’ and less customer dissatisfaction & complaints follow, with less costs, less staff pressure, … etc. (you get the picture.)

When CEO’s arrogantly boast profits inherited or experienced due to incidental or fragile circumstances (usually circumstantial) you want to watch out for short term profits that don’t dissipate faster than they came.

 

2. The CEO doesn’t understand the Hierarchies of Marketing.

My favourite quote for this year is borrowed from David Packard, of Hewlett-Packard fame, who said, “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing people”.  He was expressing an understanding of STRATEGIC MARKETING, in a world where OPERATIONAL marketing people are the functional folk who manage our daily marketing activities.

If your CEO doesn’t intimately understand the Hierarchies of Marketing, he’ll be loading his team with operational people delivering clever tactics, but in the absence of a single holistic strategy. Business will be reactive not active, budgets will be way out, production shortfalls and overruns, desperate discounting and high pressure sales drives… pressure, pressure, pressure, cost, cost, cost… while R&D will be minimised, market research will be nominal or “postponed till next financial period, and so on.

In the words so Sun Tzu, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

 

3. The CEO doesn’t Thoroughly Understand that Ethical Options are a Huge Business Opportunity and Not the Problem

Social media, the internet and globalisation, and all the communication ramifications have changed the game… It is often said, “Those that don’t observe the mistakes of history are bound to repeat them” and history has proven – so often – that when the “masses” discover contempt from the “elite”, heads role!

There is no reason a corporation can prosper and be immortal… companies don’t fail, its leaders who fail to run them properly who fail.

People want ethics and need satisfaction… it is up to C-level executives to deliver and they will secure customer loyalty. What’s incredible is that innovation using creates blue-ocean opportunities, and companies that deliver always prosper even more so. Imagine if tobacco companies had self-controlled their greed and capitalised on customer goodwill and brand equity? Marlboro was the 7th most popular brand in the world – it COULD have spawned industries! Imagine if building industry had introduced an innovation to replace its asbestos voluntarily at any of the times points since 1918 when it was discovered to be dangerous. Ethical leadership could have created HUGE opportunity in every time this was ratified, in 1933, 1942, 1943, 1947, 1949, 1953, 1955, 1960 and 1964. Ethical leadership would have led to R&D with something better/safer/ newer. They could have “upsold” and avoided the legacy of corporate criminality. Imagine if petrol companies hadn’t bought up and buried alternative energy patents decades ago when they wanted to protect their businesses… So many companies might still exist if their CEO’s had vision through an ethical high-road expressed in Corporate Values.

 

4. The CEO Takes Bonuses and High Salary Regardless of Company Performance

Any CEO who puts personal gain before their Company can’t be trusted to lead. If they don’t have “skin in the game”, a sense of balance, dedication to employees, customers and shareholders before themselves, a higher purpose than personal wealth, beware.

 

4. The CEO Doesn’t Intimately Understand the Importance of Balancing all the Elements of the Marketing Mix.

If your CEO perceives the word, ”Marketing”, to mean sales, selling, promotion, advertising, getting people to buy stuff, marketing communications , and doesn’t recognise the 8 “P’s” of Marketing… you’re doomed.

 

My firm surveyed every Australian IPO over 3 years during the 2000’s and found almost everyone, WITHOUT a Marketing qualification of the Board, experienced a less than issue price per share. EVERY company with Boards inclusive of a marketing qualified board member, had a higher than issue-price market value per share. Not one failure/collapse, was experienced by tertiary qualified marketing representation on the Board.

 

Remember, businesses don’t fail. Brands don’t fail. Products don’t fail… It is Managers, leaders, decision-makers who make wrong decisions who cause failure.

 

The Objective of the following is to empower business leaders to achieve breakthrough, profitable sale growth: Here goes…

Understand What “Marketing” is

The first thing a CEO MUST do is recognize the definition of the word, “Marketing”… Believing that “Marketing” is simply the “1 ‘P’”, Marketing Communications, or “P=Promotions” … maintaining a perception that “Marketing “ is simply advertising, promotion, publicity and tricks , fluff and ‘smoke and mirrors’ or ‘sales support’, just locks CEO’s into a world of pain.

A CEO MUST understand that “Marketing” is actually the complete function of “managing exchange”… combining disciplines that include:

  • Quantitative methods
  • Market analysis
  • Consumer and buyer behaviour
  • Motivation leaning & either psychological skills
  • Pricing optimization and strategic management
  • Distribution and supply chain control & Management
  • Sales Process
  • People
  • Segmentation, Targeting & Positioning, AND
  • Internal Politics

Understand the Hierarchies of Marketing

It is sheer suicide to allow a person who has been in one industry, working there way “up” over the years, to rise to a Marketing Leadership role, without having secured tertiary or specialised STRATEGIC management education.

Why this has happened in Marketing, is abhorrent. But imagine, promoting a nurse to brain surgeon, because he or she worked in a hospital for 25 years?

Imagine, promoting a receptionist to Senior Tax Counsel because he or she worked for a tax account for 20 years?

Imagine, promoting the stewardess of a Qantas jet to head pilot, because she’s been flying for 30 years?

Its is MORE stupid to hand over strategic decisions for a business to someone who’s expertise has been buying print, organising photos, copy editing brochures, or drafting advertising schedules… sheer madness!!!

Understand Segmentation

A “market’ is nothing more that a corral of heterogeneous segments.

As soon as I hear naïve commentary that starts off with “All people want” or “Everyone wants…” I shudder!

As soon as you start treating your customers as cookie-cutter copies of each other, you have definitely, absolutely undermined your sales and profit opportunities.

As soon as you confuse your corporate identity from your branding, you are sunk!

McDonalds has limited itself by lacking strategic competence at this level. So has Telstra – big time! Woolworths (operational giants, strategic dwarfs) have no idea what they are missing. Even Apple, debatably excellent marketers, are cruising for a bruising… watch THEM decline if they don’t ‘get it’ soon!

Mars owns the global canned pet food market because is recognizes and rends to the existence of segments – you don’t maintain 85% market share for 30 years without a GOOD reason! But even the mighty can fall.

The Hurdle for Business

The issue is REAL Marketing has been defamed into an ancient art form by the self-interested opportunists of the operational strain… people without qualifications, who lack understanding and knowledge, always push people away who threaten their power.

Snake-oil sales people, with fast tongues and greedy motives will put down common sense to play on emotion and fear. Comedy and doubt, to feather their own nests and ANY cost.

The solution lays within the grasp of so any open minded CEO, COO of CMO

Leaders of organizations MUST be operational. They must know their businesses.

The opportunity costs is they cant have the strategic competence of those with different skill sets.

One of the best CMO’s I have met in years recently told ne he enters a meeting hoping he’ll be the least expert of all participants and that he’ll learn the most… but many business leaders perceive they know it all or should appear to know it all… with outcomes synonymous with the fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

There are a significant number of strategically skilled consultants and experts across the globe who do understand strategic marketing in its complete sense, and who can contribute to decision making strategically.

GREAT CEO’s recognise their own weaknesses as well as their strengths. Greater one’s act decisively and do something about it.

Want some more insight? Download my free e-book, THE FOUR FACES OF MARKETING, here… http://j.mp/ALLmktg

Too many marketing strategists believe their own BS! Pricing Strategy, Communications strategy, Online Strategy, branding strategy etc. isn’t genius… it is obvious, common sense that evolves out of the fact that perfect knowledge leads to perfect decisions.

I’ve had an extraordinary number of commercial successes in my career, record-breaking ones… NOT because I am one bit smarter, more intuitive, have more street cunning or am unusually lucky, but because I persevered long enough in learning my trade to be able to recognise the one, inalienable truth of business: If you genuinely know what the customer wants and can give it to them, they WILL buy!

The absolute secret, of all extraordinary business success, is knowing the customer.

Is it REALLY that simple?

Whether it is the individual or the segment – yes!

There are so many examples of this across the internet, in each of our careers, recorded, diagnosed, studied and reported by academics around the world, and demonstrable in every case study and high return annual report… so why do we complicate and confuse, cloud and cover this fact?

Think about it…

Pricing Strategy: In particular Value-Based pricing? Know the customer!

Communications strategy: In particular advertising & positioning? Know the customer!

Retailing: In particular store layout, ranging, staffing, location? Know the customer!

Manufacturing: Everything from branding, sizing, packaging, new product development, distribution strategy? Know the customer!

Why is the business community in denial?

When FMCG hummed a merry tune, the industry habitually committed to segmentation studies annually… but as operational executives with corporate political skills rose in a culture of corporate arrogance, costs were cut to carve out larger profits, ignorant to the fact they were really blunting competitive advantage and digesting brand equity.

In adequately training marketing personnel, briefing and sustaining market research of questionable quality, undermined the payback from segmentation studies and other market research.

Over the years, the team at my firm has written strategy for transport, banks, FMCG, commodities, utilities, government that has generated record-breaking results, unimagined sales growth, and extraordinary profits… why? Simply better understanding of the customer – EVERY time!

Darrell Lea shouldn’t have gone broke, and COULD be saved… but is would take an open-minded and clear-thinking CEO, fully supported by shareholders, to save it.

DL, like so many other medium and large companies, suffers the two most eroding factors in business decline: Operational focus (not strategic) and corporate arrogance (generated by leadership of senior executives).

DL needed, and could still be saved by, blue ocean strategies identifiable by the most rudimentary market research, a disciplined adoption of advanced product portfolio management, a re-alignment of customer experience management, and an investment in corporate marketing governance, but mostly by skilled and prudent leadership.

The TRUTH is businesses don’t fail, management does. No difference here to Ansett, FAI, or any other noteworthy failure.