Business strategy is dead!
Long live business strategy!
The history of enterprise and entrepreneurship is littered with failed attempts to re-birth business strategy. After the Second World War, marketing was seen as the answer to the economic problems of our globe. Rationing was dead; the baby boomer generation was on the way, and the glory days of consumerism were champing at the bit.
And, for a while, everything looked as if marketing, and the emerging strength of brands over commodities, would win out. Until!!!! Along trotted the naysayer CEO’s, who sided with the accountants and economists, and pigeonholed marketing into a box on the organisational chart.
From that point on, everything seemed to go downhill. I dread to think how many times I have been handed a business card with the title ‘Sales & Marketing Director’, boldly emblazoned on the front, in a type size double the name of the poor person given the task of explaining why sales, one of the four fundamentals of marketing, had suddenly assumed a position greater than the sum total of the whole.
Marketing has not been the only pretender to the throne. In the 1980’s Jan Carlzon, highly successful CEO of Scandinavian Airways gave us Moments of Truth, a landmark in the service culture revolution of the time. Many of Carlzon’s ideas were picked up during the 80’s and 90’s by purveyors of total quality management (TQM) as testament to the perceived importance of a service ethic. Then, like so many other business fads, even the concepts of TQM have finished up languishing in the cupboards of Human Resource managers around the world.
There was talk of the service revolution, but it never eventuated because too many managers and business owners reduced everything to production, rather than customer need, aiming to maximise profit through increasing turnover (shades of the commodity mentality of the 40’s and early 50’s).
Salespeople focused on features, not benefits, while insurance agents sold on fear, not need. If only they had been taught the value of looking at the customer’s need, rather than fearing the wrath of their manager if they didn’t achieve increasingly inflated sales targets.
So, now we’ve arrived at the midway part of the ‘teens’. A new century, and a new opportunity for business strategy. But what is it?
To me it is a simple truth, and one that has been staring us in the face since the baby boomers showed everyone how selfish they were going to be.
If business owners and managers around the world were able to understand the power of their brand, and how simple it is to apply those principles in their business planning, not only would there be a greater number of satisfied customers, there would also be many more profitable companies around the world.
Simply put, all goods, services, people and ideas can be successfully conceptualised, created and communicated as brands. The starting point for business planning around brand, is to understand that everything we do begins and ends with our customer.