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How to Meet Market Demand for $1

Backstory

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 Together

If 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.

  1. Analyzed Marketplace…Kids love candy.
  2. SWOT…I knew which candy kids wanted but with little capital and other resources to bring it to market. Great opportunity with no school snack machines on campus (think 33 years ago) and I had great relationship with the T&P Suite (Teachers and Principals); but could run into being shut down by teachers or principal due to policy or complaints.
  3. Business Model…I had to find and line up all my resources to make money and lock up the market on campus. The bags of gummy colas and gummy bears costs around $2.50 each with quantity of 40 and 60, respectively in each bag and the film canisters were free. I could stuff about 7 gummy colas in a canister and 10 gummy bears in another canister. If you work the numbers, I was rolling in the $$ for a 6th grader 33 years ago.
  4. Self-Funding or Investors…Allowance and birthday money or ask angel investor (Mom) to help pay for inventory.
  5. SuppliersProduct: Local grocery store. Packaging: Father’s 35mm film canisters (washed). Logistics: Mom. Distribution: Me and my book bag. Sales Channels: Me and manual social media (word-of-mouth).

End Results

For 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.

Application

How 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.

Can a Spider Teach us Project Success?

Great question.  Hmmm…my answer is yes.

Spider Project Process

I 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.

  1. Strategy–What prey to target?  What is project success?  Probability of success?  Most effective place to set up trap? 
  2. Planning–Do I have the resources (time, talent and materials) to create a reinforced 8ft high web stretched over 1/2 across a driveway to capture the prey?
  3. Execution–Implement plan of 10 hours spinning web connected to key points before daybreak when prey will stir out of it’s slumber.
  4. Results–Plan was a success.  Prey was fully captured by web.
  5. Repeat (if applicable)–This only applies if the spider survived the 30 mile commute of the car’s owner.

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 Business

Now 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…

Conclusion

Think 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.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen…

 

Photo Credits: “Julius Caesar” (1953)

Introduction:
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.

Characters:
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.

Poetic Freedom:
“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.”

Conclusion:
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.

Attention: Aston Martin…Ford’s Stake in Aston Martin = Grille Rights?

wikipedia/Alexandre Prevot     

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.

 

Backstory

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?

  • Daimler egregiously passed on the opportunity to buy Bentley and/or Rolls Royce back in the 90s
  • Horrific lessons learned from the Daimler-Chrysler complete mismatch debacle
  • Dismal sales success with the ultra luxury Maybach line
  • Return of Maybach under the co-branded name Mercedes-Maybach
  • Lending engine and technologies to Aston Martin
  • Denying future larger stake in Aston Martin

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.

 

Perspectives & Branding

I absolutely love perspectives, especially ones unearthed from the most unlikely of sources.  I have gleaned small to large amounts of knowledge over the years from many regardless of position, background, lack of industry expertise, income level, IQ, age and a host of other demographic elements.

So here is my perspective, built not on automobile expertise of 20-30+ years, but a connoisseur in customer experience, business/marketing strategy, voice of the customer and content marketing.  I operate in perpetual observation mode of changes in the marketplace of as many consumer products I can digest; along with the topic in this post…automobile body style changes, side mirrors, tail lights and now more than ever, grilles.  I often can tell a vehicle make and model at night with just a glance of the tail lights.

If you think about it often times the subtleties of a product add up to greatness and brand loyalty or at least create brand recognition.  The logo size and location on the product or even the natural flow of technology in the user experience can create brand loyalty and pride of ownership.  Ever seen an apple on a laptop or phone, shirt with a man on a horse playing polo, white star on top of a pen or an elongated crown on a watch?  Proper strategic branding, expectations and implementation can make or break the success of a product/company with a large impact on the bottom line.  Read Patrick Kulps’ article on Apple Surpassing Google as the top valued global brand in the newest list.  In Patrick’s article, branding and product (more branding) impacted the bottom line with a nice treasure chest full of gold coinciding with the rankings of the list.

 

Your Brand

Think about your brand.  Is it great enough to be in the top 10 valued brand list before or after Apple?  It could be with some help.  Remember Apple wasn’t always great and had to work up from unknown>good>not-so-good>good>great with a few bumps and set-backs along the way.  Apple still has plenty of room for improvement before reaching excellent status.  Ask yourself the following questions and feel free to comment or reach out to me to discuss.

  1. Do my internal and external clients value my brand?   (Be sure not to answer the question too quickly with a confident “yes” unless you have solid data to back it up.  Your perception or the nodding of heads from your CXO peers doesn’t count).
  2. Should we broadcast our target demographics and/or execute after solid research and strategic planning?  Do our target demographics want to feel targeted directly or subtle targeting?

 

One More Thing

Did I fail to mention the similarities between the Aston Martin Rapide S and the Hyundai Genesis grille along with the poor attempt at a wing badge (see red cars in above picture)?  I don’t recall in my research, Hyundai having a stake in Aston Martin currently or at one time?  Maybe they are vicariously living through Mercedes’ 5% ownership.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; however with a price delta over $166,000 USD, one might consider it more of an insult.

“It is better to fail in originality, than to succeed in imitation…” Herman Melville

Attention: Consumer Electronics Trade-In Programs–Key Element #3: Legal

Attention: Consumer Electronics Trade-In Programs

Blog Series Summary:
You will probably agree there are no shortages of “trade-in” programs for practically every industry under the sun; from ink cartridges to transmission converters.  The question is what makes up a successful “trade-in” program?  You will see from the graph below my “7 Key Elements of a Successful Trade-In Program.”  These elements can be applied across nearly any industry; however I will focus on consumer electronics.  I will summarize my thoughts on each element separately, along with some comments of the major players in the industry (Walmart, Sams, GameStop and others). 


Key Element #3:  Legal

Stay tuned.

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:

  1. Ones in the lifestyle.
  2. Others aspire to be in the lifestyle.

Group #1

  • They already own your brand and lifestyle or that of your competition.
  • This group accepts a certain level of lifestyle as normal when it comes to automobiles, furniture, private jets, hobbies, clothing, homes, activities, careers, family, friends, travel, boats, education, etc…
  • They are directly and/or indirectly influenced by their peers when it comes to purchases to maintain the expected or perceived normal standard of living.
Source:  Robb Report Website

Group #2

  • They want to own the brand and to be perceived to be a natural fit for Group #1 and the lifestyle.
  • This group already has picked out one or more of the following:  car, house, plane, boat and clothes for when they do reach Group #1 via pro athlete contract, sell their big idea or .com company, win the lottery, next big promotion, etc…
  • They are directly and/or indirectly influenced by their peers and what Group #1 is doing when it comes to purchases to know what is expected when they arrive in Group #1.
Source:  therichest.com

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.

Nathan Christian Whitington | +1.214.556.1322 | nwhitington@gmail.com

Attention: Consumer Electronics Trade-In Programs–Key Element #2: Business Analytics

Attention: Consumer Electronics Trade-In Programs

Blog Series Summary:
You will probably agree there are no shortages of “trade-in” programs for practically every industry under the sun; from ink cartridges to transmission converters.  The question is what makes up a successful “trade-in” program?  You will see from the graph below my “7 Key Elements of a Successful Trade-In Program.”  These elements can be applied across nearly any industry; however I will focus on consumer electronics.  I will summarize my thoughts on each element separately, along with some comments of the major players in the industry (Walmart, Sams, GameStop and others).


Key Element #2:  Business Analytics
As discussed in Key Element #1, People, we see what lengths it would take to ensure you have the right people in the right role, with the right skill sets.  The culture, not the personality, of the organization needs to be built upon trusts and integrity with it daily being communicated, demonstrated and adhered to at all levels of the organization, starting from the top.  It is a lot of work, however is it harder to clean up a mess along with the collateral damage or negate it all by making the tough and thorough decisions?  If your organization has almost reached it, working towards or at the starting line; imagine the automatic honest flow of information between departments, employees, company levels, vendors and customers.  The impact of your organization would change the very landscape of markets, industries and the world of business as we know it.  Top talent would flock to your company and other organizations would want or be forced to replicate it.  Your question now is what does this “perfect company” dream have to do with a trade-in program and business analytics?   Everything.

Business Analytics or Business Intelligence is another key element of the total solution and without a solid grasp of the current health of your organization, coupled with powerful automated and what-if tools to give you insight into all levels in real-time; you are probably behind your competiton, slow to react to the marketplace and/or hemmoraging due to decisions based on bad or old data.

Now that we got the painful punch to your “we have business analytics” ego out of the way…let’s note some comparisons of good vs. no so good business analytic thinking.

1.      Not So Good:  We have a group of data analyst experts who are awesome at Excel and pivot tables.
Good:  We replaced three of the FTEs with automated tools complete with dashboards and what-if scenarios.  We saved over $312,000 in yearly total compensation packages alone, not counting the priceless savings we achieved with speed of access, accuracy and versatility.
2.      No So Good:  We use the data from last month and sometimes we get fresh data from one week ago to base our business decisions.
Good:  We use automated tools pulling data from all our different systems to bring real-time information into our reports, dashboards and what-if scenarios to help ensure we are making the most informed decisions possible.
3.      No So Good:  We base our decisions on how we have always done business since the days of the founding of our organization and our leaders are seasoned experts.
Good:  We look at real-time data analysis to show us past, present and future trending to help us adjust or continue our current strategy.
4.      No So Good:  We have to start over on our manual pricing strategies when C-suite makes a knee-jerk decision based on an announcement in the industry or worse, our competition.
Good:  We use automated pricing tools and reports in order to quickly respond to internal and external factors.  We gave our C-suite dashboards to conduct what-if scenarios based on the real-time data to make timely but solid decisons to determine company, shareholder and market impact.
5.      No So Good:  When looking at Mergers and Acquisitions, we evalute the financials, leadership, marketshare  and potential.
Good:  When looking at Mergers and Acquisitions, we evalute the financials, leadership, marketshare  and potential; however we incorporate their data into our business analytic tools to conduct what-if scenarios for a true impact to our organzition giving us strategic direction on how to move forward or not.
6.      No So Good:  We hire market data firms to provide analysis to determine if we should open new locations.
Good:  We pull information from our database to conduct geomapping for customer demographic clustering.
The above samples of the not so good thinking are what most companies consider when they think Business Analytics.  It is more than just throwing data in a spreadsheet, analyzing it and presenting eye candy graphs; it is one of the 7 key elements in the building blocks of a complete strategy and without it you’re shooting from the hip or playing your odds against the house.  If you just rely on Business Analytics to drive your decisions, you will end up with a catastrophe and I do hope you already have the right people in place to help clean it up.

In the article, “How The Top 10 Richest Americans Failed Before, During or After They Made Millions,” is interesting to evaluate each of them on the surface against the “7 key elements…” chart.  Each one is missing at least two of the elements to help ensure success.  One product was ahead of it’s time (missing elements:  marketing, supply/demand and people), another was a potential illegal venture (missing elements:  legal, operations and people) and another was losing money on negative orders (missing elements:  marketing, operations and people).

So the questions you need to ask yourself as a CEO, CXO, President, Owner, Partner or other Senior Manager within the Consumer Product Industry with a Trade-In Program or wanting to start one:

1.      Are GameStop, Walmart, Sams, Cosco, Best Buy, RadioShack and others applying the first two of the 7 Key Elements of a Successful Trade-In Program?
2.      Do they need the other 5 key elements to have a successful and balanced trade-in program?

Now speaking to the CEO, CXO, President, Owner, Partner or other Senior Managers in consumer products where you don’t feel a trade-in program is warranted or you’re in another industry.  Remember a slight variation of the questions above impact any company on Wall Street to Main Street within any industry:

1.      Do you have the right people in the right place with the best business analytic tools available in the marketplace to check the short and long term health of your company?
2.      Do you need the other 5 key elements to have a successful and balanced business?

The next Key Element will be Legal…which I may need to note a disclaimer since I’m not a lawyer, however I wanted to play one on TV.

Feel free to email or call me with questions on any business topic, industry or company.  The first 15 minutes is free and I am also available to meet @ any Starbucks in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas if you are buying.  –nathan

-nathan c whitington | 214.556.1322 | nwhitington@gmail.com

Attention: Consumer Electronics Trade-In Programs Key Element #1: People


Attention: Consumer Electronics Trade-In Programs

Blog Series Summary
You will probably agree there are no shortages of “trade-in” programs for practically every industry under the sun; from ink cartridges to transmission converters.  The question is what makes up a successful “trade-in” program?  You will see from the graph below my “7 Key Elements of a Successful Trade-In Program.”  These elements can be applied across nearly any industry; however I will focus on consumer electronics.  I will summarize my thoughts on each element separately, along with some comments of the major players in the industry (Walmart, Sams, GameStop and others).

Key Element #1:  People
The success or failure of any well-rounded company is being strategic in regards to employees and management.  We have all heard variations of a company stating “people are our most valued asset.”  What does that really mean and how does it impact your organization having a successful trade-in program?

Asset as defined by businesdictionary.com; “something of value that an entity owns, benefits from, or has use of, in generating income.”  The essential missing piece in the definition is the employee’s perspective which is rare because most companies feel they own the asset view since they feel they are taking all or majority of the risk.  They forget the employer/employee relationship is a two way agreement that doesn’t automatically become one sided when employment paperwork is signed and therefore giving up all rights and solely becoming property of the company.  For people in a company to truly be an asset; the company must demonstrate consistently, not just at Christmas, the employees at and below mid-management are valued more than “be glad you have a job in today’s economy” attitude.

Let’s change the above asset definition to the employee’s perspective…”a healthy company and management one can take pride in ownership as an employee, benefit from or has use of, in generating income and a career.”  Notice I included “management” in the definition because a business is made up of people and a manager can make or break an employee’s perspective of the entire company.  An employee can work for a company with great pay, benefits, co-workers, product, etc… but have a boss that drives the employee to look for another job, quit or he ends up being promoted outside the four walls of the company (fired).  Employees, especially on the front line, view their manager as an asset to develop, sell or retire.

One of my favorite shows is Undercover Boss with the common outcome of the CEO or Executive gaining an eye opening perspective from the employees where they don’t feel valued because they are just a number, warm body to fill a hole and/or their ideas are shot down or never answered due to their position or lack of experience or they have a manager that is truly unfit to be manager.  The disconnect between the two parties is where strategy is missing and needs to be interjected and intertwined in the company DNA at all levels and phases of the employment process.  A strategy perspective needs to be applied for:  defining job roles, hiring practices, promotions, meeting documentation, evaluations, suggestions, skip level meetings, bonuses, awards, communications and the list goes on and on. 

Below are 36 questions to ask yourself to start the dialog in your head to determine if your company is strategic when it comes to your employees at all levels:

  1. Does your company plug in a vacant or needed role with a warm body with a sink or swim outcome attitude?
  2. Is communications within the company sporadic, rare, confusing, selective or non-existent?
  3. How do your employees see you as a manager?
  4. If the employees gave their managers an annual review, would the outcome be they no longer have a job, demoted, put on probation or high marks with a raise?
  5. If you did Undercover Boss at your company, what would you discover or not want to discover?
  6. Are company politics a driving force in decision making in any part of your company?
  7. Do you require skip level meetings throughout the company more than once a year?
  8. Do you continually look for strategic candidates without having a written or specific job description?
  9. Do you have hidden gem employees to this day still hidden or lost forever?
  10. Do you have a suggestion box and/or survey tool used and taken seriously and encouraged involvement with rewards?
  11. Does upper management work on the front line 2-3 times a year?
  12. Have you lost good employees and never heard their side of the story possibly revealing more than what you were lead to believe?
  13. How do you know if the people in their current roles are the best fit for those roles?
  14. Do you move heaven and earth to help your employees reach their career goals, even if it isn’t in their current role or within your company?
  15. Do you request from your employees individually and in brainstorming meetings to solve issues and/or bring new ideas for the department and/or company?
  16. If employees are surveyed anonymously would the word “favoritism” crop up in double digits when it comes to manager relationships?
  17. Do lower level employees voice distrust or other non-flattering attributes to their immediate manager about upper management?
  18. Are the managers starting from under the CEO, President or Owner the right people for the position?
  19. Do your managers keep a healthy buffer between you and the employees or keep you in the dark or on a limited need to know basis?
  20. Do your managers know the company goals, plans, vision, objectives and health of the company?
  21. Are your managers dedicated to all their employees and not just some of them?
  22. When an employee leaves do you find out why without strictly going by the HR file?
  23. Is there animosity between any departments and how are you addressing it with consequences?
  24. Do any departments have more weight or pull than others creating an imbalance of power and a lack of unity?
  25. Do you provide profit sharing or bonuses without financial buy in requirements?
  26. Do you give authority bandwidth without penalty to your mid to lower level managers to make business decisions to help them grow and develop?
  27. Are all departments created equal when it comes to adhering to policies and procedures?
  28. Do employees fear management is out to get them by watching and documenting their every move?
  29. Is there two way protocol when it comes to meetings to ensure all parties are represented and notes are documented and distributed?
  30. Do your employees fear any healthy disagreement or push back to their manager would equal some form of  “pay back”?
  31. When searching for internal/external job candidates do you attempt to match the candidate to the job description or the job description to the candidate?
  32. Do you provide town hall meetings with all levels of your management team?
  33. At the core, are all your managers strategic in their thinking by bringing new ideas, products, procedures, improvements to the table to better the entire company and /or industry?
  34. Do you require your managers to allow employees to present ideas bigger than their manager’s title or department to upper management verses filtering deemed worthy projects?
  35. Do you have strategic thinkers with company and/or industry game changing ideas in your organization not being utilized?
  36. Would you want to work for your own company as a lower level employee?

People are the foundation for a successful trade-in program and really for any company.  If you aren’t strategic in how you hire, retain, develop and promote your employees; you are looking at building upon a cracked foundation from an unhealthy atmosphere, chaos, slow leaking away of good talent, lack of communication, deteriorating moral and inability to meet key objectives.
 
Strategy is more than just a buzzword; it is a 360 degree way of thinking that should be oozing out of the four walls of your company, executive wing, management and employees verses a chosen few.

The question to ask yourself throughout this blog series are GameStop, Walmart, Sams, Best Buy and RadioShack applying true strategy to their trade-in programs?

The next element will be Business Analytics…stay tuned.

Attention: Toys R Us

Attention:  Toys R Us, Come Back Plan?

Problem
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.

Strategic Direction
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 Fix
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.

Attention: 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.