To attract customers – be available in all channels

Robert CrowderLast night I was having a discussion with Robert Crowder who is the chairman of SkiClub GB and owner of Crowders Nurseries and www.crowders.co.uk.  We were talking about retail and the role of e-commerce for garden centres in particular.  Robert reminded me of such a simple truth that to maximise growth opportunity it is essential for the product and service to be available in as many channels as possible. Especially channels that are growing like e-commerce.

Being in the right channels

This morning Robert sent me these quotes as follow up to our discussions.  This is from today’s trading update from the Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership:

Charlie Mayfield John Lewis“Although we expect to report profits up on last year, trading profit is under pressure. This reflects the greater changes taking place across the retail sector. We expect those to quicken, especially in the next 12 months as the effects of weaker Sterling feed through. We will now accelerate aspects of our strategy. This will involve a period of significant change, investment and innovation to ensure the Partnership’s success.”

Continue reading

Pensions firms will they attract and educate or just extract?

Rob Gardner RedingtonRob Gardner of Redington has just thrown down a challenge to the Pensions industry. click here. His quote (below) is in response to the success of Auto Enrolment.  Auto-enrolment is handing a whole new batch of customers to pensions firms.  Will the firms lean forward and seek to help these customers with great products and advice that help them secure their retirement.  Or will they just take this new crowd of customers and work out how much money they can extract from them.

 

 

Rob puts it differently in his article in Pensions Expert

For the first time in decades, we have a captive audience of pension savers. We could do what we have always done and hope some of it sticks. Or we can take up the challenge and recognise that the workforce of today will want to engage in a different way.

We could simply direct employers to the Pensions Regulator website, or we can start to develop communications fit for a world where Siri and Alexa capture the imagination of a new breed of savers. On the whole, the population lacks both the confidence and knowledge necessary for financial security. 2017 must be the year we really start to address this.

Redstart Financial EducationAs well as being a pensions investment consultant and co-founder of Redington, Rob is campaigner for better financial education (Redstart) so we can all create a more secure financial future for ourselves.

Disrupt, produce, fulfil – boosting productivity

From time to time I go looking for events where I might learn something new and get a different perspective.  I also try to combine going to these events with meeting a friend, so we can discuss the subject.  The LSE provides some great events and attracts interesting speakers.  I try to avoid famous politicians as they tend to only say what we have already heard.  I look out for people with expertise and something to say.  Especially if it is about something I know little about.

Timothy Massad Chairman of CFC

Timothy Massad with President Obama

Last night I went to hear Timothy Massad who has been on the front line of the U.S. effort to combat the financial crisis and reform the international financial regulatory system. He was appointed by President Obama as Chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission and was formerly as Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability at the U.S. Treasury. However, President-elect Trump will replace him as is customary with a new president.

Continue reading

Attract don’t Extract

attracting customers employees shareholders

I have spent all my working life believing that when organisations serve customers better and seek to help people, then they do better than organisations who just want to extract money from people. When I started work in 1979 it took me some years to realise that my view was not always shared by those whom I worked with.

I worked in marketing in food and drink (initially biscuits, then chocolate and then soft drinks). I saw my role as being to help the organisation to

  1. find out what matters to customers
  2. make products better by creating things that solved problems for people
  3. ensure products were profitable
  4. ensure products were available in the right places
  5. run marketing campaigns to let everyone know about them.

As a result, we would get more sales and customers would keep coming back.

Now 38 years later, I still think business is that simple. It is simple to understand. The challenge is to work with the people, the finances and the products to do it. This is the primary role of a business owner, a marketer or a CEO. This is what will attract more customers, grow profitable sales and maximise value for shareholders.

We were frequently told our job is to maximise shareholder value. For the management team that meant hit the quarterly numbers and ensure the company could pay dividends.

Maximising shareholder value

For me, maximising shareholder value means being more attractive, more visible and more available to more customers. But this costs money, so I kept running into people who were worried about adding cost to products without a guarantee of extra sales and were sceptical about the benefits of marketing spend when profits were under pressure. So for others maximising shareholder value was about cost control and financial management. The customer could easily get lost in these financial discussions.

Sound financial management and cost control are essential for success. But quite quickly financial discussions can start to view the customers as a target that we should extract more money from for the benefit of the shareholders. The discussions are about capturing loyal customers, seeing how far we can push up prices, how low can take the product quality. This mindset is an extractive mindset and not an attractive mindset.

Industry disruptors

What I have observed over the intervening years is that the best businesses are those that have the best reputations. This is linked to the most enduring growth and profit performance. They all start with great products that solve a problem for people. The are dedicated to better products. This is particularly true of industry disruptors

  • Easyjet disrupted European air travel with better flights (and cheaper ones) they made it easier to book and easier to travel. (Maybe they are becoming more extractive now they are more corporate)
  • First Direct created bank accounts where every customer is left feeling totally taken care of
  • Hiscox created insurance that pays out when you need it, with great claims handling and protects what you need
  • Uber created taxis you cn get hold of when you need them with no effort
  • Miracle Gro created gardening products that make it easier to
  • Dorset Cereals reversed years of cereal manufacturers engineering cheaper products with cheaper ingredients
  • Hotel Chocolat now fill our high streets with chocolate shops where Thorntons used to dominate
  • Redington did it for pensions investment management and have helped trustees to reduce and eliminate pension fund deficits

The attractive mindset knows that the business can only grow by attracting more customers.

Align shareholders, employees and customers

There is a commonly held belief that the interests of customers shareholders and employees are at odds with each other. This suggests there is a conflict between them

  • Shareholders want to give the customers less and charge them more
  • Employees want to work less and get paid more
  • Customers want to pay less and get more

This conflict does exist when you have an extractive mindset. My experience is the best businesses do not suffer from this conflict and the reason is that have an attractive mindset

Better products sell more and customers are very happy to pay higher prices for them. Prosperous growing businesses are fun places to work and attract better people. When the business seeks to attract more customers and seeks to attract better staff, this results in a virtuous circle of growth. When a business is working out how to extract more money from customers and get more for less from their staff, the business enters survival mode.

This blog and all my future posts are about observations on how this works, when it works, examples of it working and lessons we can learn from them. These lessons of the attractive mindset can be applied to business organisations, charity fundraising, political campaigns, club memberships or any organisation that exists as a group of people trying to get things done.

This is a hybrid of a campaign for better business and a series of practical insights you can use to make your organisation or business perform better.

I hope you will join me for the ride.

You can follow these posts by signing up for email updates click here
viewing this blog www.chrisradford.net
On Linkedin click here
On Twitter @chrisradford
Or join this Game Changers Linkedin Group (520 members) where discussions can happen

Attracting more customers vs extracting more money from the ones you already have

Value adders vs value extractorsDo you believe that this is true?

“No-one ever achieved significant growth in their business without attracting additional customers”

The need to attract new customers underpins everything I believe is important for businesses and organisations who want to grow. Attracting more customers is something that all business leaders should consider every day. Attractive Thinking is the key to unlock your maximum growth potential.

Attracting new customers matters

This is because you cannot get significant growth by just selling more of what you have to your existing customers.

Really? So how can we be sure it is true that you cannot get significant growth just from increased spending from existing customers? Well, there is a large body of evidence based scientific research that demonstrates this is true. This research was kicked off by Professor Andrew Ehrenberg in the 1960’s and has been continually updated and expanded by the Ehrenberg-Bass institute under the leadership of Professor Byron Sharp (@byronsharp). You can read a summary of the research, its implications and the resultant scientific “laws of marketing” in Byron Sharp’s book “How Brands Grow”. The work of Ehrenberg Bass is now sponsored by over 100 global brands who study their work to glean insights about how to grow their business.

My own Attractive Thinking article is about the five questions you need to answer if you want to attract more customers. Download here The article goes beyond the Byron Sharp insights and provides a practical framework on how you can attract more customers. This is a better way to get growth than extracting more money from them.

What if chief executives focused on helping their customers solve a problem? And then used their insight to create products and services that customers are attracted to and really help customers. This would make for a much better world than businesses who just focus on how much money they can extract from customers. When businesses do this

  • They get more growth
  • They are a happier more creative place to work
  • Have happy more loyal customers
  • They get more referrals

Simpler approach to tax and money benefits everyone

In the video below, Martin Wolf describes an alternative financial system that would work in the public interest and encourage the right kind of risk-taking. This kind of radical financial thinking is what we need. We certainly need to stop believing what the wealthy tell us who have a vested interest in the current system.

The focus on simplicity and transparency is similar to some tax ideas I put on Twitter yesterday. In a nutshell, politicians should stop trying to incentivise our behaviour through complex tax reliefs and should run a much ‪#‎simpler‬ ‪#‎fairer‬ ‪#‎transparent‬ ‪#‎better‬ tax system.

As an example abolish all the current tax reliefs and abolish National Insurance switch to

  • £20K tax-free income threshold for people,
  • 40% flat rate income tax on people,
  • 5% income tax for local authorities
  • 5% revenue tax on businesses
  • a flat rate 15% VAT on consumer purchases.

This then stops all the tax avoiding behaviours because there is nothing to avoid. There is no pension tax relief, no mortgage interest relief, no eis. Then people will behave in their own best interests and not to avoid a tax. I am sure the economy would work better.

Martin Wolf understands the financial system better than me and explains it here

 

Why is it that large institutions dehumanise us?

I was at an event on Monday, where I got some insights on the role of government and large institutions in defeating poverty.  I left with a strong sense that achieving this task is inhibited by the way large government and business institutions don’t work for people. This article sets out preliminary thoughts.  Answering the question will take longer than is possible here.

This was a Tory conference fringe event organised by Tim Montgomerie of The Good RightThe event hashtag was #defeatingpoverty.  This featured four government ministers discussing their ideas on how to reduce poverty, increase social mobility and expand opportunity.  This may seem ironic to some, since Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Ian Duncan Smith and Ruth Davidson are frequently attacked by the left for doing things that achieve the opposite of these aims.  

But I discerned a theme underlying all their ideas.  It is clear they do believe in #defeatingpoverty.  But these four ministers have a distinctive take on how to do it.  They each believe that it is not the government’s job to provide us with everything we need and give us the money to get out of poverty, but their job is to provide us with the tools we need to help ourselves.  The most valuable things the government can do is to provide education, an economy with jobs, healthcare, housing, public transport, infrastructure and essential utilities.

Now, that could easily have been said by many Labour politicians as well. 

Conservatives and Labour have similar goals but believe in very different means

It is interesting that if you listen closely to both left and right-wing politicians and dig into their remarks, the surprising thing is they both seem to want similar outcomes.  What they disagree about is, what is the best and fairest way to get there.

But the media prefer disagreements to agreement.  Agreement does not make good politics and does not make good media.  So what happens in the media debates and interviews is that this common aim is obscured and missed and the discussion concentrates on the means to get there.  These debates tend to focus on how each side has different means to get to the aim rather than revealing the common ground and purpose. 

Labour_1592957cLabour argue that the conservatives do not understand what it is like to be poor and disadvantaged.  The Conservatives just look after their rich friends and the tax and business policies are evidence of how the conservatives are nasty, self-interested and unfair.  Austerity targets the poorest and the rich thrive.

Conservative_logo_2006.svgConservatives argue that Labour ideas are too expensive, we cannot afford them, that they remove the incentive to work, they do not celebrate excellence and suppress individual initiative and enterprise.  Labour policies are prone to create higher tax and spend, reduce our competitiveness and depress growth which creates more poverty.

Now I know that the arguments from each side are more nuanced and go into greater depth than I have done here.  But if you dig deeper into the speeches from each side you will find that there is a commonality of aim but a disagreement about means. 

Because they favour different means, when describing aims, they each use different language.  The Conservatives talk about opportunity, family, jobs, growth, choice, excellence.  Whilst Labour discuss fairness, social justice, jobs, public ownership and control, growth.  Each side emphasises these because they each believe they are the most important means to reduce poverty, increase social mobility and expand opportunity for all not just a privileged few.

The_Good_Right_Cover2So whilst it seemed odd to some people that the Tories should hold an event titled #defeatingpoverty, for me it is not bizarre at all.  The Good Right within the Tories is a subgroup that champions this purpose.  It is great to see this as an aim expressed clearly within the party

But if the both Labour and Conservatives agree about the aim, who has the right answer on the means to achieve the aim?  The Conservatives or the left-wing alternatives?

The left argue that the market punishes the weak and the only way to fix this is through collective action by government and government taxation.  This is the best way to help the weakest and to lift them out of poverty.  The right argues that the dead hand of government suppresses initiative, creativity and enterprise and business is better suited to many tasks.  But in my view both of these arguments misunderstand the nature of large-scale institutions and the way they do and don’t work.

Large institutions are letting us down 

After Thatcher, it was generally accepted that government-run organisations and businesses are not efficient or effective at many tasks and they should leave many things to the private sector.  Business does it better goes the argument.

But in the 21st century we have increasingly seen that it is not just government run organisations that can fail but many badly run, inhuman organisations of all types from business, government and not for profit sectors.  In fact in many areas, the government do things better.  (There are great hospitals, schools and transport services that show this).

We have recently seen a number of dramatic examples of institutions that do not serve the people they exist to serve.  If we want to help people lift themselves out of poverty or help them get anything else done, then we need to address the way our larger institutions are not working for people or to help people.  I would highlight three areas of concern 

1. When people go to work in large institutions of business, government or charity they can lose their humanity and their talent to be people

1-compressed-300x200Steve Hilton wrote about this in More Human and analysed it in many different fields   

Something strange happens to people when they cross the portal of their workplace each day.  They lose some of the skills they naturally have at home and with their friends.

I frequently observe that people in their personal lives understand how to flourish and understand how to interact with people, so they connect with others, are active in their lives, take notice of what happens, keep learning and find ways to give.  But as they go to work they feel they are not allowed to do this and they stay within their job descriptions, are constrained by rules and remain in their silos at work.  At its worst they develop a sense of entitlement. 

This is manifest in all levels at work from the customer service handler who cannot help the person on the phone, to the executives at Volkswagen who thought they could cheat the government and the public for 10 years, to the bankers who have lost sight of their purpose to serve customers,  the charities who bamboozled older donors into giving more money.  There are news stories every week and we all have experiences of dealing with institutions and being frustrated, horrified and indignant.

2.  Large institutions and government favour single national solutions.  But single national solutions to do not encourage the development of creative, innovative ideas.  They tend to suppress initiative. 

Even though everyone loves the idea of it, the NHS is now a monster that we cannot control and most worryingly many staff are very disheartened, frustrated and just want to leave even though they love looking after people. 

The history of state-funded education since 1975 has been pretty disastrous under both Labour and Conservative governments.  And again we see that many teachers feel like the NHS staff.  They are disheartened, frustrated and just want to leave even though they love young people and love their subject. 

Large businesses very rarely create great innovation from within.  However, they have come up with a solution.  What they do is wait for smaller businesses to come up with stuff and then acquire the smaller business and apply their investment and systems to scale it and grow it.  But in this solution the innovation and fresh thinking happens elsewhere away from the larger business.  There are a few examples that contradict this, but they usually involve one extraordinary individual (e.g. Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Larry Page, Bill Gates) who operates like a small business owner but with big business money.

3.  The welfare state focuses on what people are not or don’t have rather than what they can do or might achieve.

Alex-SmithAlex Smith has written about how the welfare state has provided a safety net and done many great things, but there has been an unfortunate side effect.  It addresses what people have not got and what they cannot do.  It treats those it helps as dependents.  It has led many of those who depend on it to become disconnected, inactive, have narrowing horizons, and a sense of entitlement.  It is disempowering them and creating an environment that discourages initiative and self-help.  Whereas people flourish when they connect, are active, take notice, keep learning and find ways to give.

Click here to read more

So my title question was:  Why is it that institutions dehumanise us?

In this article, I have written about why I think this question is important. I have not answered it yet.  I will follow this up later.  I will also go on to discuss why this matters to business when they create products and services that aim to attract more customers.

What priorities were discussed at the event?

I was inspired to write about these issues due to the debate at the Good Right event on Monday.  It is not directly what was discussed, but it was implied in the ideas that we explored.  My takeaway from the event was that I feel that I side with the Good Right in believing it is more important to capture the human spirit and our capacity to innovate than to equalise the outcomes for everyone.  

Something that matters a lot to me is that all politicians should support the aim to defeat poverty, develop social mobility, build social justice and create opportunity

The team last night highlighted five areas that must be the priority for a government that wants to achieve these aims.  These are things that will help us to help ourselves.  These are the priorities for the government institutions

  • Build more houses
  • Provide better education
  • Have effective healthcare
  • Building national infrastructure
  • Have a growing economy

Tim MontgomerieThank you to Tim Montgomerie and the team at The Good Right and the Legatum Institute for provoking me to write about this and providing a lot of the stimulus material.  You can see more by clicking on the links

More Human … its amazing how many people disagree with the idea this is desirable.

Steve Hilton, More HumanI have just finished reading More Human. This book written by Steve Hilton and published last week. Steve Hilton was an adviser to David Cameron from 2006 to 2012 (and was caricatured as special advisor Stewart Pearson in “The Thick of It”). It is not often I feel compelled to write a blog about a book I just read, so this book has clearly had a big impact. The last time I wrote a blog about a book was when I read Nassim Nicholas Taleb on The Black Swan.

So do get a copy and read it now.

 

Steve Hilton analyses and explains things that have frustrated me for many years about the way business, politics, government, schools, healthcare and many institutions operate against people rather than for people. He shows how institutions and bureaucracy frequently frustrate and damage the people that they set out to help. He discusses how leaders have the very best motives to help people (there is no conspiracy to harm people) but often feel trapped by the way things work and believe they are doing the right thing in the circumstances. He describes how staff in airlines, civil service, social services, schools and many places can end up behaving in ways that are not human, even though they are almost certainly caring and loving with their friends and family.

The central idea is that we have lost touch with what it means to be human. The institutions and bureaucracy we have created do not treat people as human. This has affected everything: the food we eat, the schools our children go to, the growing inequality, the lower engagement with politicians, the hospitals and healthcare services and we use, our inability to eliminate poverty and they ways we bring up our children.

Yet, the world is full of examples of how when people get together to make things happen at a human level, then great things do happen. How is it that we cannot harness this more effectively?

I cannot do his ideas justice in two paragraphs, you have to read it.  At first you may find some of it seems fanciful and impractical. But if you find yourself thinking that then I would urge you to read on. Steve Hilton diagnoses many things that are wrong and the fixes he suggests are radical. The ideas are not classically left-wing or right-wing. Many of the ideas require a change in what we find socially and culturally acceptable, not just a few short-term policy fixes.  It is amazing to me how many people disagree with the idea that being more human is the way forward.  (See tweet from Alan Duncan)

Steve Hilton concludes that to make something happen needs a large number of people who are committed to be being More Human actually in positions of power and leadership . He invites us to join in and have a go and run for office.

Is there anything we can do in business today?

Whilst much of this is in the political arena, this need to be “More Human” also affects business and there are things business can do within the current economy and politics.

I believe that when we set out to help customers solve a problem or satisfy a need rather than just focus on how to extract more money from customers, then we create a better business. And this will be a more human business. By that I mean we enjoy more growth, make more money, are a happier place to work, create more jobs and build sustainable long-term value.

This is the difference between being a value adder and a value extractor. Value adders want to help customers. Value extractors work out how to get the most money from them. The interesting thing is that all big innovations that really transformed industries and markets involved helping customers solve a problem, not just making more money from customers.

So EasyJet challenged the European Airlines like BA who were all value extractors. First Direct and MetroBank challenged the value extractor banks. AirBnB are challenging the hotel chains. All these game changing businesses focused on the people’s real needs and problems and enabling us to do things we wanted to do as people.

There is now a change happening in the food industry. The supermarkets were value adders who provided what people wanted, created wider availability and delivered better value. They have become value extractors driving prices up through pricing, confusing promotions and local dominance. But now they are looking vulnerable to many smaller businesses that help customers in more relevant ways from discounters to local food producers and retailers.

If you are working in a business with a value extractor mindset and you think there is a better way to get growth by helping customers, it is not easy to get people to see it. But there is a way. I explain the thinking and the approach in this paper.

Steve Hilton definitely fits my definition of being an attractive thinker (and doer). I filled out the form in the back of his website under the button “Run for Office”. Looking forward to see what I get back.

So the election pollsters got it wrong? What does that tell us about how we should use market research?

Party lea

 

Ben IpsosThe polling business has had some cause for self-examination following their failure to predict that the Tories would get 37% and Labour would get as little as 30% of the votes in the recent general election. And there has been plenty of debate about this. See this article by Ben Page of Ipsos Mori.  What I wanted to do in this blog post is to draw some practical observations about what business leaders and marketers can learn from this, where we should use market research and what to be wary of.

But before looking at the implications, what went wrong?  

There has been a lot of debate and discussion.  I particularly like the assessment made by Dave Penn click here (@davidpenn1) and Keith O’Brien click here (@keithobrien) and discussed by Mark Earls (@herdmeister) and Phil Barden (@philbarden).  They argue that pollsters have failed to absorb and react to the implications of Daniel Kahneman’s finding that decision making is governed by two systems in the brain.

  • System 2 is the rational conscious analytical, slow, considered part.  This is what is measured by traditional market research and polls.
  • System 1   is the subconscious, intuitive, emotional, gut instinct part that is fast and essential to our ability to get by in life.  This is not easily measured by market research polling.

Since polling concentrates on system 2 rational thinking and behaviour, it can misread what people are actually feeling and fails to predict what they will actually do.

Political commentators seem to miss this point about system 1, when they debate the order of questions, the methodological differences between phone and online polls, the sampling error.  Politicians don’t get it  with comments like Vince Cable complaining that people misled him on the doorstep and a sense among the losers that voters were confused or misled or afraid and this explains why they were so foolish to not vote for them.

Lord Michael Ashcroft

Lord Ascroft has commented that Lynton Crosby’s team seem to be doing something different and they knew they would win.  Even Lord Ashcroft is curious about how they did that?

Can we rely on market research?  Should we use it?

Inevitably the measured answer is “it depends”.  I have long noticed that there are only really three business questions that market research is used to help with.  These questions are

  1. What should we do?
  2. Are we doing it?
  3. What will the customer do?

I would argue that market research is helpful and reliable for the first two and quite hazardous and misleading for the third one.  The industry promotes products and services that help top answer all three questions.  I would suggest that the industry has not come up with a satisfactory approach to answer the third question.  the reason they sell a lot of product to answer that question is that business leaders have an insatiable appetite for the answer to the question “What will consumers do?”  Executives like to manage risk and market research is used to justify decisions.

What the pollsters error teaches us is that research is not yet a great indicator to understand what people will do.  Some like Dave Penn are using neuroscience and behavioural economics to pioneer new techniques to try to overcome this problem.

What can we use market research for?

Lets look at the three business questions that market research is used for.

1.  What should we do?

Whilst consumers find it tricky to accurately predict what they will do and they are not good at imagining products they have no experience of, they can tell us a lot about their lives, their problems, their needs, their frustrations.  Also we can observe their actual behaviours.

As business leaders we know that we have to offer customers things that help them address needs and solve problems e.g. feed the kids when they come home from school, get breakfast on the way to work, communicate with my friends.  We can watch what people do, we can find out about frustrations and problems, we can measure what really matters to people.  We can find this out through personal experience and observations or we can use formal market research.  So

  • Usage and Attitude studies
  • Observations and interviews in store
  • Panel surveys and interviews
  • Consumer workshops and group discussions

This is called exploratory research and if it is well designed it informs our plans.  Do not expect consumers and customers to imagine possibilities that we have not shown them.  That is our job to create and imagine that.

2.  Are we doing it?

Business leaders are suckers for measurement.  we want to know if things worked, we want to know about the customers experience, were they satisfied, will they recommend us.  This is another area that professional market research is brilliant at. So

  • Brand tracking
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Net promoter scores

These all help us see how we are performing.  Provided we did the work properly in the “What should we do?” part and we are measuring things that matter to our customers, then this is really valuable.

3.  What will the customer do?

This is where it all goes wrong.  It is what business leaders most want to know.  The question rings out, “have you researched that?” and executives feel they have to go and that.  But much of this work holds out false promise.  the worst possible question is

“Will you purchase this product in the future?”

The reason for this is simple. As people we are very bad at predicting what we will do in the future.  This is mainly because we do not know what our priorities will be in the future.  It is hard to see how market research can help us overcome that.  But it is also because of the influence of the unconscious system 1 on our decision making.

My own approach to concentrate all the effort and work on questions 1 and 2.  if we get that right and do that well, then the products and services we offer to customers will be attractive to them and enough people will buy them.  Asking them if they will buy them does not give us a better indication.  Lord Ashcroft understands this and proclaims his polls to be only a snapshot.  However even he must wondering about the quality of his snapshots in 2015.

Read this article about  Attractive Thinking to see how to answer questions 1 and 2 and avoid the need to use research to answer question 3.  This is about coming up with a plan for growth that you are confident will attract more customers.

Top 10 books that changed the way I do business

A client (David Edwards from UL) asked me yesterday for some advice on what books he should read to develop his product marketing knowledge.  This prompted me to reflect on which books have had the greatest influence on me.  All these books have had a material effect on my approach to creating growth strategies that everyone is convinced will work.

Product marketing is about more than marketing, it is about attracting more customers.  Over the years I have found very few marketing text books that were really helpful and stimulating.  But many books that have influenced the way I think about marketing and attracting customers.

None of these books give a simple answer straight out of the box.  They are all thought-provoking and will help you to move your thinking forward.  If you want easy answers then look elsewhere, if you like a challenging thought-provoking read, then take a look.

My top 10

The science and laws of marketing

How brands grow

Start with Byron Sharp.  He has taken the pioneering work of the late Andrew Ehrenberg and made it accessible to everyone.  This is about why it is more important of get more customers, not just focus on customer loyalty.  It is about why light buyers matter so much.  It is why the 80:20 rule is wrong.  It is based on years of research into how people actually behave and not anecdotes and armchair thinking about marketing theory and customer loyalty.

 

 

Byron shows us why evidence matters and how to bring science into marketing.  Byron shows you that there are 10 laws of marketing and why you cannot ignore them.
Watch his TEDX Talk here

The Text-Book

marketing byron

This is the only marketing textbook I would recommend.  It takes the laws of marketing as explained in How Brands Grow and tells you how to apply them to the business decisions you need to make to develop a marketing plan that will actually work.

It is written by whole team at the Ehrenberg Bass Institute of Marketing Science and has some good case studies.  It is aimed at university students studying marketing and strategy.

This academic work is known and been adapopted by global brand leaders like P&G, Mars, Unilever, Colgate and Google for some time.  It has only become accessible to everyone else in the past 5 years.

Leadership and innovation

Find your light bulb

Mike Harris shares his experience of creating totally new and game changing brands by taking a radical approach to providing service to customers in conservative industries.

Find Your Lightbulb draws from Mike’s experience of creating game changers in banking (First Direct and Egg) in telecoms with Mercury and in internet security with Garlik.

This book is about leadership and driving extraordinary ideas through your organisation and creating somethign that will attract more customers.

 

Behaviour and psychology

Daniel Kahneman Thinking Fast Thinking Slow

Daniel Kahneman reveals why and how people’s decisions and behaviours are not entirely conscious or rational.  He discovered that we have two systems in our brain,  System 2 is the one we all know about, it is conscious, rational, slow and cautious.  System 1 is actually the driver of many decisions, it is unconscious, instinctive, fast and very importantly, we could not function without it.

This book helps you understand why people buy, why emotion matters, what triggers a purchase and you will think differently about how to attract customers when you have read it.

Advertising and marketing communications strategy

IPA Peter Field Les Binet, The long and short of it

This report analyses the results of 998 marketing campaigns.  These campaigns were all submitted to the IPA Annual Effectiveness Awards.  They were all assessed on the basis of the results and the effectiveness rather than subjective critieria like creativity or design

This report updates an important study called Marketing in the Era of Accountability. It tells you what worked and what did not work so well.

 

 

This highlights and confirms the importance of increasing market penetration (i.e. strategy speak for “getting more customers” ) and the role of share of voice in building market share.  They also discuss and demonstrate why generating emotional response to campaigns is important to get value for money from your marketing

Looking to the future

Black Swan Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Improbable events

Nassim Nicholas Taleb shows us that looking to the future is a bit of a mugs game.  The most likely thing to happen in the future is an improbable vent that you cannot predict.  So stop worrying about it.

His writing is dense and a bit inaccessible, he is a mathematician and ex stock trader with a big brain.  But what he writes about is important and has implications for strategy and practical decisions.  I wrote about what we should do about this in 2008 in this post.

 

 

My conclusion is we should spend less time worrying about the future.  We should spend more time strengthening our ability to withstand unexpected shocks.  Read here

Social Media

Penny Power, Know me, like me, follow me

There is increasing evidence that digital marketing and social media are attracting a disproportionate share of advertising revenue as these new media have become more fashionable “must haves” in your marketing plan.

Penny Power takes a different approach and shows us what social media is really for and how to use it to build a following and create a network that will help you and your business and even how the network will help each other.

Penny’s approach echoes the whole Attractive Thinking ethos.  It is about attracting people not broacasting to them and capturing them.

 

This book is a classic, it may be 7 years old, but it is not out of date.  It reveals some fundamental truths about who we are, how we interact and what that means for your business, brand and marketing plan.

Strategy

Good strategy, Bad strategy, Richard Rumelt,

Richard Rumelt has studied many strategies and the book has loads of examples.  This makes this very practical and well grounded.  Richard invites us to look inside the business for what we can do and what we are good at.

Rumelt dispels popular misconceptions about strategy – such as confusing it with ambitions, visions or financial goals – by very practically showing that a good strategy focuses on the challenges a business faces, and providing an insightful new approach for overcoming them.

 

Remember a strategy is merely a set of actions designed to achieve a particular goal. This book will bring you back to what really matters, so you create a plan that will work

Getting recognition and being recommended

Key Person of Influence, Daniel Priestley

This book together with the KPI programme showed me a whole buch of stuff that is known by entrepreneurs and not so well understood or taught in large corporate environments.

Daniel Priestley highlights five steps that are essential if you and/or your business are to gain recognition and be recommended.  Daniel has talked with thousands of entrepreneurs and gained insight into the problems they have to overcome.  The KPI method is an effective way to overcome them.

If you want to develop your career and be secure in your ability to attract customers or employers, then read this.

He has followed this up with another book called Oversubscribed how to get people queuing up to do business with you.

Avoid being misled by common sense

Common sense, Duncan Watts,  Everything is common sense until you know the answer

In the 2001 election, William Hague created the Common Sense campaign for the Tories.  It did not work.

“Why is the Mona Lisa the most famous painting in the world? Why did Facebook succeed when other social networking sites failed? Did the surge in Iraq really lead to less violence? And does higher pay incentivize people to work harder? If you think the answers to these questions are a matter of common sense, think again.

 

Common sense is one of the most dangerous ideas that pervades general thinking and our decision-making.  Yet science nearly always demonstrates that many ideas that were common sense were plain wrong.  (e.g. sun goes round the earth).  Duncan Watts will help you fine tune your antennae to detect common sense ideas that are misleading or just plain wrong.

And another 5 books

Inevitably I found it difficult to nail this list down to 10.  But the list above is my top 10. Here are my next 5.

  1. Viral marketing, The science of sharing.  Shows what goes viral and why
  2. Switch, How to change things when change is hard:  Argues that we need only understand how our minds function to unlock shortcuts to switches in behaviour.
  3. Contagious: How to Build Word of Mouth in the Digital Age:  Does what it says on the tin
  4. Marketing Manifesto:  The booklet from the Marketing Society on what marketing leaders must focus on to increase their effectiveness and impact  download here.  I helped the team to create this book.
  5. The One Thing You Need to Know: This helps you discover the question you need to answer, get the right answer and then get everyone else to agree with you.  You will be better at pitching within a corporate environment.