Welcome to the first edition of The Brimstone Report from Brimstone Hill Associates. This is not another bulk email blast of industry news you can get elsewhere, but will contain information and ideas you may find interesting, useful or that are just plain fun. There's no denying that we are living in interesting times --maybe a bit too interesting. So about once a month I'll be coming to your inbox with a small diversion from your daily grind. And, since I'm in the communications business, it is also meant to be a little bit promotional, but in a low key way.
2009 (and maybe beyond) promise to be something different. The best way to survive is not to panic, stay focused, keep marketing, keep selling, be innovative, and never give up. Let's work to make the best of it because we're all in this together... and we can help each other succeed.
Noel Noel Ward Director Brimstone Hill Associates 603-672-3635 firstname.lastname@example.org
Need is a Relative Thing These Days It borders on desire
Back in about 1899, a Mr. Charles Duvell, then head of the U.S. Patent Office, purportedly claimed that "everything that could be invented had been invented." This statement has long since been reduced to Urban Legend status but now, some 110 years later, there is still a message in it for marketers.
When you think about the things we all actually need to do our work, enjoy our homes, have some enjoyable activities, our true needs are pretty much satisfied. As Jimmy Buffett once noted, "Need is a relative thing these days; it borders on desire." After all, many of the things we believe will make our respective worlds a better place are largely desires. A bigger screen TV. A larger house. More gadgets in your car. A cooler cell phone. A few more megapixels in your camera. Or a faster print engine. This means if you're selling a product or service you have to either convince a prospect they have need for it, or make it desirable. Just ask any iPhone or Blackberry addict if you have any doubt.
Whether one is schlepping consumer products or business goods and services, this means we have to make our products and services more desirable by talking about not just what they do, but what they can do for companies and people who purchase them. That may be making them more competitive, able to offer more services, operate more efficiently, reducing costs, you name it. But it often comes down to building desire
Marketing has always been about making people want things. And in lean times with lots of choices and fewer dollars some of the winners will be the companies that are best at creating desire.
Photo of the Month The Green Wave
In 2007 I had a long weekend between speaking gigs in LA and San Francisco so being a lover of road trips, beaches and great views, I headed up Highway One. In Big Sur, after a splendid lunch with a view at Nepenthe, a restaurant perched on the edge of a cliff, I found Pfeiffer Beach, a bit north of Big Sur Village. This wave was kind enough to stand still for a beauty shot.
Tales of the Open Road Road, Roll me Away
One of the things we'll be doing this year as we travel around is capturing video content with print providers, vendor executives, industry analysts and more. We'll be getting a first-hand look at what's going on out there and how different companies are managing through what seems (at least for a while) to be the "new normal." We're putting what we capture together as an ongoing series called Tales of the Open Road and will be showing up here and shared with other media outlets as well.
The first stop on the 2009 Tales of the Open Road Tour was with AXIS, a transactional service bureau in Orlando, Florida. Since we were in town, we went over to Vision 2009, the latest iteration of Konica Minolta's conference for dealers and partners. We'll have links to video and stories of what people were thinking and saying soon.
The next stop is at the Dscoop conference in Orlando, February 19-21. Dscoop is the energetic trade association of HP Indigo owners and we'll be down there shooting a lot of video as we talk with Dscoop members, HP executives and those of the partner companies that support Dscoop. We'll have some of what we shoot on our site, and over at WhatTheyThink.
The Open Road Tour is also going out to print shops and we have a few printers lining up for visits in the first quarter. We'll bring back video and point you to where you can see and hear all they say. This is going to be fun!
Finally, we're connecting with vendors and their customers for video shoots in Paris, France in late May. Check it out!
Surviving in a Competitive World A Five-point Framework
There's no doubt that business is getting tougher all the time. The never-ending battle for customers is compounded by globalization and liberal trade policies that have opened the doors for new competitors. Increasingly fickle customers are demanding better service, more products, improved quality, and lower prices. At the same time, companies are under relentless pressure to deliver value to shareholders or investors in the form of dividends, profits and growth. Management guru Colin Thompson of Cavendish in the UK says survival in a competitive world requires a focus on customer value and shareholder/owner value and communicating this focus so that everyone in an organization works toward common goals. Thompson suggests a five-point survival framework as the foundation for meeting the pressures of today's complex and competitive world.
Understand your customer's values: Make certain you know what pleases the customer and makes them come to you.
Understand shareholder/owner value: Know what drives the creation of value in a business and what stakeholder expectations are.
Develop a common view of the business: Ensure your team has a clear understanding of your mission and your vision for the type of business you wish to operate and which is most likely to be successful.
Ensure everyone is working towards the same goals: Make sure all employees' objectives align with a common mission and vision. In particular, ensure that the vision at all levels aligns with the corporate vision and objectives and supported by local objectives
Check that you are achieving your objectives: Identify and track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), at the corporate level and the local workplace level. In particular, ensure that local KPIs align with corporate KPIs.
While these are all seemingly straightforward, little of this survival framework is easy. This takes some work. Employees must be educated regarding your business objectives, how they contribute to them and it's critical to foster an environment that makes each member responsible for adding value to the organization. The focus has to be on the customer and how satisfying customer needs creates value for the company. And you have to monitor and measure how everyone is doing --and make adjustments as needed. It is hard work to build, implement and manage this type of organization, but the long term benefits are growth, greater stability and the customer loyalty that helps ensure survival in tough times.