Marketing Through the Millennium


Download Article: Strength in Numbers


Marketing Through The Millennium

To Survive, Companies Must Focus on New Ways of Doing Business

by Ira Blumenthal

Change is inevitable-growth is optional. Change forces all business owners to adapt, adjust and be energetic in building their businesses. After all, there are only three things a company can do with change: ignore it, adapt to it or embrace it.

By focusing on new ways of doing things, a company can revitalize their business. In particular, marketing in new ways and with different strategies not only simulates new business, but gives a company a new fervor for productivity.

Following are a few strategies that companies should think about when analyzing their marketing plans.

Ideas, Information

Companies should develop a culture that encourages and fosters new ways of looking at things. They constantly should strive to create, develop, test and refine ideas.

Organizations and associations are resources and committed to offering ideas, information, data, conferences, publications and more. In addition, local college continuing education classes, public workshops and even the library are resources that can be utilized.

Learning about new ways to hire, train and motivate employees, for example, can be critical to success-especially because the labor market is so tight. Also, clearly understanding various financial models and business reporting methodology is imperative to managing a business. Keeping abreast of trends in marketing (i.e. electronic communication, direct mail and response, telemarketing) also is important.

Market-driven

It is vital that companies focus their efforts in their customers and no longer take the position, "We want to market and sell what services we offer." Instead, they should adopt a more realistic (and modern) position, such as, "We want and need to market and sell what the customer requires." This approach is market-driven, focused and positioned.

Planning

Most companies have a sense of where they're going or want to go. The business world is much too complex not to have a well-organized business plan. The plan should not just include a vision, mission and strategies-it also must include measurable objectives, a list of barriers to achieving objectives, tactics, time lines, targets, budgets and contingencies. Other important components include implementation and control (managing the plan) and situational analysis. 

History is full of stories about once-successful companies folding because they did not have an effective operating plan. There's clearly a future for those who do plan.

Education is vital

There is a constant flow of new information, ideas, and emerging trends in every industry. Professionals must focus on education-when companies are through learning, they're through.

Companies should emphasize education in two ways:

  • They continually should strive to learn about new ideas, collect information and find new ways of doing things. Ongoing education only can help in business building.
  • They must educate their employees. Companies should provide an environment where their employees are learning-as a result, their companies will grow.

Risk Taking

The old way of looking at risk was to ask the question, "What is the risk we're taking in doing this?" The new way to look at risk is asking, "What is the risk we're taking if we don't do this?"

Taking risk is vital to success. Energetic, aggressive, successful companies take more chances . . . especially if the downside of not taking the risk is great.

Adapt and Adjust

The speed of change now requires companies to constantly remain flexible and easily adaptable to changes-in the marketplace, with customers and in the economy, among others. History is full of industries and companies (i.e. Eastern Airlines, Howard Johnson's) that went from distinction to extinction because they failed to adapt and adjust.

For example, Howard Johnson's continued to focus on sit-down restaurant service and what has been called "comfort foods" (i.e. pot roast, meat loaf). For 30 years, it marketed this concept in the same way-same colors, graphics and even waitress uniforms.

During this period, fast food became the rage. Fast food was marketed with unique promotions, meal deals, drive-through service and kids meals. Howard Johnson's was out of date-and, eventually, a dinosaur in the restaurant industry. A company's business needs to stay relevant (services, materials, marketing) and avoid reducing value while cutting costs. It may seem simple, but it's vital for survival.

Technology

Companies have to adapt, adjust and embrace new technologies. From order entry to presentations, confirmations to specifications, sales tracking to sales trainingautomation and computerization are keys to success. They are important to gaining more information, such as contacts and leads. Successful companies constantly are working to make operations more efficient.

On-line marketing and communication also are vital. Being on-lie might not produce the kinds of leads and sales results that alternative strategies might, but it can be an opportunity for gaining information, such as specifications and market conditions.

Implementation

Great ideas are not successful because of poor execution and implementation. For example, a businessman was a staying at a hotel in California and found a Japanese newspaper under his hotel room door instead of the expected USA Today. He was confused and wondered why his room had been picked to receive the Japanese Times when everyone else received USA Today.

He asked the hotel manager why, and the manager said, "We have 75 [Japanese] guests staying at the hotel, and we thought in the name of hospitality, we'd provide them with a newspaper they could read."

Needless to say, the idea was on target, but the execution was poor-the hotel staff should have delivered the newspapers only to those who could read Japanese.

Companies should ascribe to a 5 to 95 percent rule: Everything in business (and life) is 5 percent idea and 95 percent work and implementation. This requires detail, resource allocation and an obsession with doing it right.

Value

Value does not mean cheap. It means providing services that meet customers' expectations. Companies should take the step by exceeding their customers expectations.

Tom Peters, a best-selling management author, calls it the "pursuit of wow." Companies should build customer satisfaction through real value: exceeding, not just meeting, customers' expectations.

Extra

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is simply a little bit extra. Sam Walton, a retail legend, once said, "Wal-Mart strives to get extraordinary results from ordinary people." His viewpoint on extra came in the form of his people: their product and program knowledge, hospitality, customer service, desire to exceed all customer expectations and need to satisfy the customer with value.

Companies who take time to educate, train and motivate workers, as well as instill a culture of service and courteousness, will excel. It's simple, logical and importantcompanies are represented by their people.

Strength in numbers

Call it seeking synergies, finding symbiotic relationships or developing strategic alliances (i.e. working partnerships), there is strength in numbers. Strategic alliances are geared for value, efficiency and growth. Aligning with others can be good for shared leads and cooperative marketing.

Companies should network, make and use contacts, and develop alliances for business growth.

Summing it up

Business building is complex, but it can be approached in a logical, well-organized fashion. Marketing principles, such as focusing on customers, are constants in business development. A company must market their products or services as if their livelihood depends on it-because it does.


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