As a 6th grader, over 33 years ago, I sold Haribo Gummy Bears and Gummy Cola Bottles generously packed into 35mm film canisters for $1 within my marketplace of Bear Creek Intermediate school in Keller, Texas. With no career coach on staff to guide me or being required to mortgage away my future home to attend sales/marketing seminars from the "gurus" in the industry targeting 6th graders; I did what any 6th grader in 1983 would do...I thought like a 6th grader.
Pulling the Pieces TogetherIf you bring this forward to the present and put some professional terms to it; I analyzed my marketplace for a demand, performed a SWOT analysis, determined viability of the business model, self-funding or needing investors, secured suppliers for: products, packaging, logistics, distribution and best sales channels for maximum ROI impact.
You may ask yourself how could a 6th grader 33 years ago, have found all those resources and performed those business functions. Glad you asked. Let me explain.
End ResultsFor those wondering what happened to my candy dynasty, it ended on a challenging note. The last day of school, before summer break and before going to the Junior High across town for 7th grade; my school bag was robbed of my cash box. I was playing Wall Ball (Butts Up) and left my bag just around the corner where I could still see it while I played and waited for my mom to pick me up from school. One of my competitors, bully, thief or an adoring fan must have been watching until my back was turned and took my cash box and left the bag unzipped. The price of fame and fortune.
I planned on starting back up my business in 7th grade but quickly learned they didn't allow selling products on campus and thus ended that business; however, I didn't take way the experience and taste of the glory of entrepreneurship. I started looking for the next opportunity...that is another story.
ApplicationHow many times have you heard or read about evaluating the marketplace is too difficult to do or as we get older we become less inspiring and more expiring?
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph to evaluate your market you need to think like them. Pretty simple but we complicate it just like our dreams. If you were to ask a child what he/she wanted to do when they grow up, we get a handful of answers and some are bold or maybe even "impossible". But that is just it...as we get older we have a load of information stored in our brains through our experiences to tell us the chance of success is 1 in a 1,000,000 and focus on the 1,000,000 vs. a child sees the "1" because they don't know anything about the other 999,999 nor even that they exist a potential roadblock or threat to their dream!
I greatly enjoy both the articles and LinkedIn profile of Liz Ryan. Her view of HR is more than accurate on the HR mindset stereotypes but earth shattering on how HR should fit into today's business structure. Before and after I was introduced to Liz Ryan's insight I was known as a manager with low turnover and out-of-the-box or some might say unorthodox interviewing practices. I informed them they were going to interview me first and when they are done I had a few questions. Many didn't know how to react and would give me the programmed answer to the ill-prepared interview question, "tell me about yourself." One of my favorite questions was asking them about their dream job with no restrictions and it could be the job they were interviewing for, a mixed title one or one that doesn't even exist. The answers were both inspiring, insightful and refreshing for both of us.
My challenge to each of you is to pull out those old notes, drawings, dusty file folder on your computer labeled "dream job" or revisit the thoughts you had of what you really wanted to do when you grew up. It is never too late to try and today would be a great day to start your dream job and meet.
Great question. Hmmm...my answer is yes.
Spider Project ProcessI don't claim to speak spider, however I will translate the fact the 1 inch diameter spider in my driveway spent all night covering every aspect of a successful project with the goal of catching a very large quarry, my black sedan.
The spider gives us a great 5 point strategy on project success. The spider achieved his goal of catching the car, however he chose his target poorly due to not including enough internet market analysis during the strategy stage. Maybe he had issues with his "web" access! lol
Application to BusinessNow I'm speaking from my expertise in strategic marketing, customer experience and business strategy; yet these 5 simple elements can apply to any project for any size company (pre-start-up to the Fortune 1000) to a personal or non-profit entity. The steps seems so basic, yet many projects fail because one or more steps are skimmed over due to time constraints, lack of subject comfort level or flat no clue.
With #1 Strategy, I see possibly one of the biggest failure points is choosing the target. I agree execution is very important, however with a solid strategy you are implementing failure and defeat. Take Mr. Spider in the real life story...yes he succeeded in capturing his prey, however was it the best target for him to choose at this point? His execution was flawless but his results could easily be seen as a semi-failure. I agree with the post by Robin Jewsbury to go after your Goliath of your industry vs. working with them. What needs to be assessed during the strategy stage is do you run straight at the 800lb gorilla/Goliath with sling swinging and yelling "your end draweth nigh" or do you look for an oversight with a well planned strategy targeting a discreet exposed weakness?
In some cases you may be able to completely take down the 800lb gorilla/Goliath or at the minimum build a thriving business based on the small weakness he doesn't even know about or feel it is of any concern (pride). So many examples come to mind on the latter...Blockbuster vs. Netflix, RadioShack vs. Amazon/Walmart, Taxi Industry vs. Uber, etc...
ConclusionThink about past projects that went well and others that didn't. What were the elements of success, needed improvement and failure in each? Was it only wrong people in the mix or right people wrong roles or was it the simple missed or underdeveloped step in the Spider Project Process?
Hmmmm...think about it a little longer and you might recall that slight off feeling you had during a project where you or someone on the team should or shouldn't do that one thing? Yep...then you look back and realize where the cog in the wheel started coming loose.
You know, I think I am going to buy a slingshot this weekend and start looking for my 800lb gorilla/Goliath to start using the Spider Project Process.
There is a superfluity of articles about RadioShack ranging from "told you so's" to "they were too big to fail" and everything in between. I would like to take a different angle on the past, present and future of RadioShack with the help of Marc Antony from Shakespeare's play, Julius Caesar.
The voice of Marc Antony speaks on behalf of the people who foresaw a long prosperous future for RadioShack if they had just been allowed to change. Caesar has been replaced by the brand RadioShack as a living or formally living person. The Nobles (which includes Brutus) are Amazon, Walmart, past RadioShack CEOs and Lenders.
"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury RadioShack, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones; So let it be with RadioShack. The Nobles: Amazon, Walmart, past RadioShack CEOs and Lenders hath told you RadioShack was ambitious: If it were so, it was a grievous fault, And grievously hath RadioShack answer’d it. Here, under leave of the nobles and the rest– For the nobles are honourable men; So are they all, all honourable men– Come I to speak in RadioShack’s funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me: But the Nobles say he was ambitious; And the Nobles are honourable men. He hath brought many revenues for over 90 years home to Ft Worth, TX and globally whose ransoms did the general coffers fill: Did this in RadioShack seem ambitious? When that the customers, employees, common stockholders have cried, RadioShack hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: Yet the Nobles say he was ambitious; And the Nobles are honourable men. You all did see that on many occasions I offered him freedom from the Nobles by throwing off the chains of market relativity stagnation and I thrice or more presented him an opportunity to even make a profit, Which he did refuse: was this ambition? Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And, sure, he is an honourable man. I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, But here I am to speak what I do know. You all did love him once, not without cause: What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him? O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason. Bear with me; My heart is in the coffin there with RadioShack, And I must pause till it come back to me."
Well said Marc Antony. Competition can be a leading factor, especially when they are Walmart and Amazon; however the leadership over the decades and major lenders, are the ones with the stain of red upon their hands when the end draweth nigh and the last breath is expelled from RadioShack and the last dollar taken from his clutched dead cold hand.
I truly believe if Joe Magnacca had gotten a green light from the board in closing the underperforming 1100 stores immediately when he came on board February 2013; and truly rebranded both internally and externally with a complete culture change; then we would be seeing RadioShack in a much better light and position. I know, I know...the answer my friend is blowin' in the wind. Whoops, wrong century.
Note to Self...Do not go gentle into that good night...could be a part 2 with the Sprint/RadioShack branded store chapter.
How about we address an interesting topic in the web cache of the finer things in life with a different perspective. The focus is "grilles." No, I'm not referring to 2lbs of grill bling in a rapper's mouth driving a Bentley. I'm referring to "grille rights" of car manufacturers when it comes to key features of a vehicle that are signature to the manufacturer invoking near/far brand recognition and often times euphoria. Grille examples: BMW...kidney grille, Rolls Royce...radiator grille, Bugatti...horseshoe grille; and to the subject matter prompting this post, Aston Martin's distinct grille.
Recently I was slightly deceived when I thought at first glance from a distance and an obscured view, the Aston Martin's distinct grille on a beautiful DB9. As I voiced to my wife the pure beauty and form, a very distant second to hers, of the Aston Martin we were approaching at an angle; I was taken back by the fact it wasn't an Aston Martin but simply a common Ford Fusion. Yes, I know these two brands should not reside within the same article, sentence or even breath.
Findings & Future
This travesty prompted my research and I discovered many felt the same of this high-likeness as the message of the articles ranged from Aston Martin suing Ford for the Fusion/Mondeo copy to ones actually aware to the fact Ford did fully own and later a small percentage of Aston Martin. Only Aston Martin and Ford know all the details of the ownership agreement and perhaps it included "grille rights." If Ford was paying the bills and your salary, how could Aston Martin say no? Mercedes owns a 5% stake in Aston Martin and I don't envision a repeat offense of a "grille" infraction, however we will see Mercedes' technologies and engines infused within Aston Martin vehicles, per Andy Palmer.
Interesting. I get the access to R&D, manufacturing costs and time-to-market savings, along with a stick in the eye of BMW and Volkswagen, but what is in it for Mercedes/Daimler in the long run?
Hmmmm....almost sounds like "reverse grille rights" leading to future ownership rights if certain KPIs are met by Andy Palmer and team; resulting in Daimler not missing an opportunity again to bring a hopefully new and improved successful ultra luxury brand under the brand umbrella in a few years.
For further interesting side-by-side comparisons, I added the Hyundai's Genesis. At least Ford didn't change their emblem to look like Aston Martin and their company name to distance themselves from their mainstream brand.
Attention Luxury Car Manufacturers: What does Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Rolls Royce have in common, but missing?
Attention Luxury Car Manufacturers: What does Aston Martin, Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Rolls Royce have in common, but missing?
So what is the answer to the question? People
People? Yes, people. How can this be the common missing factor among such a highly esteemed group of finely crafted and beautiful cars? Simple. The television commercials and short films are normally filled with interactions of people, automobiles and a lifestyle; however not the same criteria is applied to the print advertising. Don't believe me? A quick Google image keyword search for "brand X (example: Rolls Royce) print ads" will show these ads with an interaction between people and the automobiles, brand or the lifestyle at zero or near zero.
Your clients fall into two basic categories:
Luxury automobile manufacturers are notorious for focusing on the elegant design and fine craftsman of the car and apply those same points to their marketing. Yes, there are those that eat up the specs of the car and the designers and engineers should be proud of them. I recently watched a past Lamborghini presentation of a new model release by a very competent director of design or engineering. He gave it his best to put on the face of a marketing expert but the words coming out of his mouth were design, specs, design, specs, 1-2 marketing words, design, specs, design specs, 1-2 of the same marketing words, etc... This was painful for me and it looked the same for the presenter and maybe some of the audience if I could have seen them.
There is a time a place to discuss specs on a vehicle but no one buys a luxury automobile on specs alone without knowing the brand first. The brand helps make a human connection to what the brand means and is worth to that person. Some in Group #1 or #2 are sold in their pocketbook and/or mind after they connect with the brand because the connection is already there.
The problem is the majority of buyers of any luxury goods are influenced by people in some way. Why it is widely accepted Swiss watches are the finest in the world? Why it is widely accepted Latin women are the most beautiful (I'm married to one)? Why it is widely accepted Italian leather is the best? Why it is widely accepted French wine has no equal? Finally, why it is widely accepted Texas is the best country in world to be born in and live?
Some might disagree with some of my examples (no negotiation on Latin women and Texas); however what is true all of these examples come from the Global collective interaction of three things: 1. Product 2. People 3. Lifestyle = Experiences.
My strategic marketing challenge to each of you and other luxury car and goods manufacturers; package the 3=1 throughout your marketing campaigns form here forward. You will see not only a boost in sales, but a stronger demand for your brand and the lifestyle that comes with it.
And yes, if you need someone outside the industry but an expert in consumer behavior, business strategy and marketing to make the 3=1 a reality and success in your industry; I'm available to discuss it.
Hmmm... I read over the MarketWatch article summarizing the new plan to make a come back. Yes, I agree getting back to Business 101 is crucial for any company struggling to find its place in today’s market and survive. My question, is that all it takes to: retain customers, satisfy shareholders, attract new/old patrons, increase market share, climbing revenues and world peace? To keep in the same line of less than earth shattering strategies; I have composed a simpler plan with a 3-step process (LOL for those needing a heads up).
1. Purchase the Staples Easy Button for $5.99 with expedited shipping. Spare no expense. Staples Online Catalog
2. Open package in the next boardroom or shareholder’s meeting.
3. Push button…all is perfect.
The Staples plan is to be in jest; however which one makes more sense to truly address the core problem and not just the fundamentals? Answer: Neither, but the latter would be a great commercial for Staples. Hint. Hint. Staples, contact me and we can discuss it for a nominal fee.
Now seriously, we all understand milestones must be trending upwards for revenue, profit, customer feedback, market share and shareholder satisfaction over the next two years prior to a nice chunk of debt maturing or the CEO will be in trouble. My question, is importing Mr. Antonio Urcelay from Europe Toys R Us and his magic, going to work here? I do hope he succeeds, however I trust he isn’t planning on applying the same tactics he used in Europe just because it worked there. If the fairly simple “TRU Transformation” plan is a sample of his strategy to bring “shock and awe” to the consumers and investors; better start updating the resume.
Think about it…Toys R Us is considered an established American icon and therefore sought after in other countries much like certain foreign products here; therefore a status symbol to own or seen patronizing. Someone from Italy living in the USA might not be very impressed with your Italian dress shoes because they are considered mass produced, not a market leader and/or low grade quality in Italy. When dealing with international channels, it greatly depends on the target market’s location and demographics within the location to help determine the strategic approach to apply. I remember in the 90’s a TV special on the overseas market demand for old American worn out jeans among the affluent in an Asian country. People were paying $100+ USD equivalent to wear old pair of jeans (donated in the USA), especially the American brand, Levi’s. Some of these same people were driving 80’s Cadillacs to further up their status level amongst the public. If you had tried to apply the same successful strategy in the USA by marketing American worn out jeans and boat size gas guzzlers in the 90’s; it would be safe to say you would have failed quickly and miserably.
I grew up in the 70-80’s and Toys R Us was the place to go for the latest and greatest toys, bar none. Parents flocked there to buy the newest “must have” item for their children, along with obtaining the status symbol of people knowing they shopped where you could only get it first. Harkin back to the 80’s and recall with me Banana Republic, Chess King, Journeys and Millers Outpost. Two are gone and the other two are barely on the radar of shopping destination significance. So does this mean Toys R Us is irrelevant in today’s marketplace and can’t find success among the world of Walmart and Amazon.com?
The core issue isn’t adding labor coverage, reducing aisle clutter and simplifying pricing; the underlying issue is returning to what made it a desired shopping destination as it was in the 70-80’s and how to get there. What is the fix? The simple answer is in the stories of historical brand reconnection. Why did GM and Chrysler bring back the Camaro and Charger and what market did they target to sell them? The generation(s) impacted and far along enough in their careers to have the means to buy a new one. Brand reconnection not only influences the original generations but subsequent generations. Think of Lacoste brand: was big, disappeared, returned, big again and thus the cycle of influencing multiple generations starts all over. Did they target demographics with zero clue of why someone would wear an alligator on their shirt? No. They focused on the group that made them big in the first place and still had the means to purchase their product. So the bottom line advice is to focus on brand reconnection, along with implementing “TRU Transformation” in a two pronged strategy.
I have more detailed ideas on how to implement the strategic marketing side of the two pronged approach, however I think I am done with “free” for this topic.
If Toys R Us or any other executive, c-suite or board needs confidential strategic marketing help; you can contact me via email, phone, meet for Starbucks in Dallas, Texas or fly me out to HQ.
Mr. Samsung Galaxy--
If you think about the very successful Galaxy S line of phones from Samsung; what is the durability issue known and/or perceived in the marketplace…easily cracked screen. It isn’t abnormal to see a proud owner of a Galaxy S phone with a cracked screen. It is great for “after the fact” screen saver sales so fingers aren’t cut swiping the cracked screen. YouTube is filled with torture test showing the near whisper of it being dropped it cracks in fear. That maybe a slight stretch; however ask any Galaxy S phone owner with a cracked screen and you will get their sad story of how it happened to them.
Let us say the S4 is more durable than the S3 and the S5 is more durable than all the previous models. The problem still remains with negative experience of past owners, perception in the marketplace and the competition using the past quality issue to define the future perception regardless of improvements. Do you go to battle on all fronts and throw millions, millions and millions on multiple campaigns and hold your breath hoping each possible issue has been addressed and market share and units sold tick upwards? If you think that is the best option, I have some ocean front property in Dallas, Texas you would be a perfect buyer and it is in your price range.
Samsung, how are you going to fix this? Did you say you’re not sure and you were hoping I might have an idea or two? I do and it is a simple strategy where an entire marketing campaign could revolve around one message while addressing the screen durability issue on all fronts.
Fact #1: All wireless phones, regardless of manufacturer, are susceptible to a cracked screen.
Fact #2: All wireless phone owners will drop their phone at least once during ownership and/or fear they will drop it.
Commercial segment #1 (Simple bold black letters on white screen, “Has this happened to you?”). Show day-to-day ways people drop their phones. Examples: Pulling out or putting in pocket or purse, children drop it while playing game apps, drop it in bleachers during young children’s sporting event, 2 year old finds phone on the coffee table and starts using it as a hammer with his toys, etc... (Note: Do not show Samsung phones, only the main competition). Phones should all fall and show cracking along with focusing on the expression of the owner in slow motion.
Commercial segment #2 (Simple bold black letters on white screen, “So, your phone isn’t bulletproof?”).
Commercial segment #3 (“How about the next best thing?”). Show Fast/Slow 360 motion of Otterbox Commuter and Defender cases with screen protector for Galaxy S phones. Then show similar examples in segment #1 but with Galaxy S phones in Otterboxes. Phones drop but no screen cracking and with happy owners.
Commercial segment #4 (Simple bold black letters on white screen, “Get your free Otterbox with a purchase or upgrade to a Galaxy S phone.” Depending on outcome of below paragraph, show retailer(s) participating in promotion on following screen.
Financial Partners: Besides putting in place a contract with Otterbox to subsidize a portion of the costs of the cases, find retail sponsors to help offset more of the costs or set up an exclusive contract with a large retailer. Maybe one based out of Fort Worth, TX desperately needing foot traffic in their doors to bolster slumping revenues.
Message Summary: Plant the seed all wireless phones can end up with cracked screens but the focus is exposing only the competitors with the flaw. With the free Otterbox cases it will put in the mind of the consumer Samsung has addressed and fixed the issue by providing an extra layer of protection. Competition + cracked phone = bad thoughts. Samsung + Otterbox = happy thoughts. The next big thing just got bigger and better.
Attention: QuikTrip--What is the primary goal you have for your customers to experience?
Let me walk you through this scenario:
We all know some people, maybe you, will drive across town for .05 cents less per gallon. Let's give them a reason not to go anywhere else.
So QuikTrip, to quickly beat the competition to market, now the word is out, you need to find an Executive sponsor.
Attention: Big Box Consumer Electronics Retail Industry...Go Small. Go Big. (Examples: RadioShack and Best Buy)
Attention: Big Box Consumer Electronics Retail Industry
We all know the day, month, year or even the decade of the Big Box Consumer Electronics Retail Industry is closer to an end as we know it. Here are some examples of industry carnage you may remember: Incredible Universe, Circuit City, CompUSA, Ultimate Electronics, McDuff, Federated, Highland Superstores and many more. So the question all of the surviving stores are asking is how we survive in this highly competitive industry. We will discuss two current business models out there with strategies for each.
Business Model: “Footprint for Rent”...Best Buy renting out large amounts premium floor space to manufacturers staffed with their experts (example: Samsung Experience).
Problem: “Footprint for Rent”
Best Buy is widely known to the general public as the “window shopping” store. People will go there to see, touch and experience the product they have already researched, to narrow down options or see what is available in the market; but ultimately purchase it online.
Strategy #1: Promote heavily you are the only place where you can see, touch and experience the products you want to buy. Use the negative market perception to your advantage by accepting consumers “window shop” your store but have less buyer’s remorse because the 360° expectations were met vs. buying it on the Amazon.com sites of the world with a shot in the dark satisfaction of the purchased product. Think infomercials...so many times the 30 minute ultra-positive and packed with proof the new product will solve all your problems often times ends up woefully not meeting the promised expectations due to quality, functionality, true appearance which added up equal a much higher percentage of buyer’s remorse.
Strategy #2: Cut your losses by shrinking the stores to a footprint between 10-20K and only showcasing high margin and/or latest technology items; while sinking big money into ecommerce and unleashing the hounds of advertising to promote it. With the savings, pricing should be closer to Amazon with fair amount of loss leaders at first for initial market penetration push. Sublet the remaining balance of the store footprint to Samsung to give them their own “Apple Store” showcasing all their products with ease of access between the two stores and an outside entrance (think Starbucks in Barnes and Noble). Samsung wants to be Apple so help them get one step closer by having their own stores, just connected to Best Buy locations. It will be a win-win for both parties.
Business Model: “Eggs in a Basket”...RadioShack refocusing heavily on one single business segment, mobile phones, therefore putting all their eggs in one basket hoping they don’t trip.
Problem: “Eggs in a Basket”
RadioShack has survived many battles over the years of market shifts; however this one we affectionately call the internet isn't going away. They recently tried to stop the hemorrhaging by focusing heavily on mobile with the hopes it will save the sinking ship. Cash reserves are running out, market share is decreasing, stock price is worthy of shareholder mutiny, executive wing has revolving door and there is nothing to differentiate them from any competitors.
Strategy #1: Shift to an Amazon.com hybrid business model. Shut down within 30 days all under performing stores and phase out the others (including franchises); leaving only key over performing stores to be marked as regional locations. Franchises would convert to an online presence using the company ecommerce business model where orders were filled in the distribution center; however sales generated from the franchise website would be earmarked for them. Invest in advanced distribution centers strategically placed throughout the world and pass on the costs savings to the consumer. Leverage whatever legacy knowledge can be used in today’s market place to your advantage and kick the rest to the curb. Advertise with re-branded tag lines like “This isn’t your Grandfather’s RadioShack or Look out Amazon, Shack is Back.” This will be a tough pill to swallow in the halls of the executive wing down to the store; but if RadioShack doesn't make a drastic change it will soon be added to the list stated in the first paragraph.
How long has it been since you had a Hostess Twinkie or Ding Dong? Friend....that's too long. With the onslaught against "non-healthy" snack foods by certain groups of people; Twinkies, Ding Dongs and other snacks are getting the short end of the stick and slowly shrinking in market share and probably shelf space too.
If we look at these and other snack foods logically during the buying process; does someone really think they are eating something healthy when they purchase them or what about a 1/2 gallon of Blue Bell Ice Cream. Ignore the media and other health experts; if one wants buy these items...let us help them do so.
Here is the framework for a successful marketing campaign for Hostess Twinkies and Ding Dongs.