Andrew Latham’s ‘S’ curve…

The ‘S’ Curve in Business – definition borrowed from Andrew Latham, Demand Media:

Businesses, or the products of businesses, that follow an S curve are characterized by a shallow start, where only early adopters and niche markets buy the product or invest in the company. Then they experience a rapid growth, and the product or business has a dominant position in the market. After the rapid growth, these businesses maintain a high performance level but with little growth, which often signals a mature but saturated market.
We see similar ‘S’ curve examples in cellphone/smart phone penetration in 3rd world markets, in Moore’s law where we are able to predict that the number of transistors we will be able to pack on a square inch of IC board will double every two years…and most recently we have…Uber!

Five Things Clients look for during the Sales Dialogue:

  1. Did you do your research about the (Client’s) Organization. Did you understand what their market environment is and how they fit into it. Did you know who their competitors are and how they stack up against them. Were you able to demonstrate an awareness of what keeps them awake at night?
  2. Were you able to clearly articulate your solution proposition such that it not only answered the questions the client raised during the dialogue, but in fact anticipated and clarified those that were never articulated, but that were on the Client’s mind?
  3. Were you able to demonstrate and articulate deep awareness of what the client stands for – The Values the Organization embraces, The Professional, Social and Global considerations that resonate within the Organization.
  4. Were you honest when responding to questions about your Solution, any limitations that may not totally cover the Client’s expectations, and most importantly did you encourage the client to articulate any references to competitive Solutions…and did you respond with Honesty, Clarity and Conviction.
  5. Throughout the Sales Dialogue process, did you ensure (and indeed encourage) the client to share the Organization issues, concerns and aspirations without interruption. Did you listen more than you spoke throughout the Dialogue…I mean true listening from the heart to understand and appreciate what the Client’s real issues and concerns were.

You see…in the final analysis, the Role of the Sales Professional is not so much about selling…. as it is about empowering the Client to buy!

Key Factors in the execution of a Value Proposition…

A good Brand Strategy is always parent to any value proposition worth it’s salt.
How strongly you brand your product or service will dictate how to position the value proposition.
I disagree that the value proposition can afford the either/or options of “make for less – sell for more,” or the reverse?
Sometimes the brand strategy will lead to the formulation of the value proposition…almost in parallel. Consider the Sony Walkman…what was the value proposition there…it was all about carrying your music wherever you went…nothing quite abut making for less and selling for more ore vice versa?
Consider the IPhone…the iconic nature of the brand married to the world class creative genius that was Steve Jobs carved out a niche for this product with almost the same kind of ‘Lifestyle’ appeal of a Luis Vuitton, or a Lexus. It is not an exaggeration to say the IPhone that was launched 8 years ago…truly transformed Apple!
The 5S model did exceptionally well with it’s diminutive screen even tho the big players were gunning for the large Phablet size phone screens. The IPhone was able to dictate that the screen size really became incidental when supported by the hugely ‘desired’ brand credibility…and thereby the value proposition that allowed them so sell $ Bil. 43 in the last 3 months alone ending in Dec. 2014…
The Value Proposition is largely predicated upon the brand strategy…get the brand strategy right and the Value proposition will follow.

Regardless of whether or not a product or service is sold…the concept of the Value Proposition should remain equally relevant. If we consider a ‘transaction’ to have occurred, when a product or a service exchanges hands, then this idea may be easier to deal with (note I am substituting transaction for sale)

Let’s consider the Homeless Shelters as a not for profit service. The value proposition is clearly as important here – what can we do to convince the homeless and/or displaced folk feel a sense of trust and security in utilizing the services the shelters have to offer. The key to note here is that the facility could boast 100 beds with a guarantee of a shower and breakfast and still run half empty…with people still preferring to sleep on the streets?
It is the value proposition that will define whether the shelter will have 100% ‘occupancy’ on a cold night…or whether it will remain unused…even while we know there are while more folk out there…shivering in the cold.

The Brand should always precede the value proposition.
Let me explain: The Walkman came from an existing and highly credible ‘Brand’ – the Sony Corporation replete with the Sony Logo…a highly visible and recognizable entity in the Personal Entertainment space for eons. Ergo, the Walkman was just another value add product from an existing and easily distinguishable brand. In this sort of scenario,…the Value proposition (Mobility of one’s music collection) becomes one with the brand …and when you think about it…the two cannot truly be separated.
If the concept of the Walkman was launched…say by Acme Corp from, Nowheresville, Someplaceelse, the result may not have been quite the same…sans the warm and fuzzy that the Sony Brand was able to generate and deliver on.

On being First To Market…

Do you have to introduce new products far quicker than competition

Being ‘First to Market’ has always held a certain appeal to the manufacturing and marketing side of the house – as well as in the eyes of the ultimate beholder – the consumer.
But there is a key game changer today!
The availability of the Internet…and the accompanying plethora of Social Media platforms and other World Wide Web based ‘listening posts’ have given rise to a new concept that hitherto had a lesser influence on the ‘need for speed to market.’

I am going to refer to this new concept as “The Need for Dominating Consumer Share of Mind.”
Our purchase habits have never been the same ever since the Internet enabled the World Wide Web to become that hugely successful channel for all things product…be it product information, Features, Competing Products,Advantages/Disadvantages, Technical Spec. Comparisons, Pricing, Consumer Feedback…and all literally in the blink of an eye?

So simply obsessing about getting new products out to the market before the other guy blinks…may be an obsession whose time has long since passed…

We need to dominate our existing consumer/future potential consumer’s mind well in advance of putting anything out in the market. We must inform them (well in advance) what we are about to launch, using the most seductive means available to us, and ‘wow’ them with the sheer uniqueness, value, lifestyle options the new product promises them. All this literally in advance of any product launch.

We then need to maniacally monitor this process to ensure we are truly achieving the sort of advance dominance of our Consumer’s share of mind,  and that they are waiting with bated breath for the product to become available.
Witness Apple’s launch of the new, larger screen IPhones and IWatch…which launched to the largest ever record for sales in a single Quarter – upwards of $ 42 Billion???

So any debate around the need for speed to market w.r.t new product needs to be in conjunction with “The Need for Dominating Consumer Share of Mind.”

When it comes to Branding…you’ve gotta’ keep running to stay in the same place…

Let’s face it – Branding has always been a key factor in our personal identification with things:

From the Cutting edge to the mundane and humdrum?
From the Glamorous to the plain/Vanilla
From the Luxurious,High fashion to the affordable and totally unfashionable
From the Unaffordable/ Un-attainable to the totally ubiquitous
From the Exclusive to the accessible to all

So does that mean any brand can ever afford to sit on its Laurels? Of course not!

Brand loyalty is truly a function of those rarest of rare brands that have made an unequivocal promise to deliver the best quality, value for money and lifestyle enhancing characteristics – to it’s users.
This means that when you pay top dollar for an established brand – you get back in return exactly that – best quality, best value for money and a unique identifier that sets you apart as a member of an exclusive group of individuals who possess a unique ‘lifestyle’

The truly great brands span a broad spectrum of demographic and psychographic as well as pricing bands…from the eminently affordable icons like Coke and Pepsi, MacDonald’s and Wal-Mart to the esoteric, high end lux brands like Luis Vuitton, Lexus, BMW or Burberry.

What each has in common is an unswerving commitment to their customer, a reputation for consistent and predictable quality  and an innate ability to stay ahead of the next ‘great’ idea, thought or product revolution curve, well before it begins to take shape on the distant horizon.

These brands are always looking over their shoulder in anticipation that the  specter of complacency and /or the FDL (fat, dumb,lazy) syndrome may be gaining  ground.
They are always challenging the status quo and exploring different ways and means of keeping their brand fresh, vibrant and ever desirable.

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I am intrigued that there seems to be such a lot of negativity (or absolute, utter, disbelief) in the idea that Branding can truly be a science, or a predictable process that can add value to a Corporation’s Market Position, Image, Market Share, Customer Loyalty, and Longevity.

Consider this as a potential (loosely stated) definition of the Brand and Branding:
No Brand can be nurtured, developed and established unless every single Cent spent on advertising, is directly driving towards that singular question: “How can we build up our brand?”
It is said that 95 of all advertising is created ad hoc (David Ogilvy – in ‘How to create advertising that sells’).
Ogilvy goes on to suggest that most products lack any consistent image from one year to another.
Ergo the manufacture who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined image for his/her brand gets the largest share of the market.

So it becomes apparent that the Brand does not exist in isolation, but is instead, is a direct result of Advertising investments, and consistency of approach in striving to achieve as sharply defined an image as possible of how the Brand should be perceived.

DAGMAR, or defining advertising goals to measure advertising results – is a process that can be easily aligned to the concept of creating and developing a highly recognizable brand (think BMW 3 Series, Lexus, Apple, Airbus).
Both (Advertising and Branding) become the wood behind a single arrow…the Corporation’s Branding/Advertising strategy to ensure every Cent they spend is put behind building and constantly sharpening their brand image.

We do not invest in Advertising without any expectation of a direct correlation to projected, improved sales?
We always look for forecasted, predictable buying behaviours as a result of specific, targeted Advertising effort. And this is where the Brand Image comes into play…all things remaining equal, would you buy that Nissan over that BMW 3 series…as a matter of fact, even if all things were not equal, but you had the power of choice…would you buy that Nissan over that BMW 3 series?

I believe a part of the wisdom of creating brands that are larger than life is exactly that – they bring larger than life promises to the consumer…that lesser brands are just not able to deliver with conviction and finesse!

What is the ultimate social utility of Marketing?

Marketing cannot exist to simply ‘create desire.’
Marketing does indeed have a social context that needs to be considered by all marketing campaigns. Consider the following three common factors we are all aware of that can be found in most marketing campaigns today:

1. The Promise: At their core, all marketing campaigns are making a promise of some form or other…that the product or service will perform in a specific way, that you will benefit in a specific way or ways, that certain ailments will disappear, that you will suddenly look like a super model after 2 weeks using the product in question…and the list goes on and on.

2. The Comparison: Most marketing campaigns in general offer overt or covert comparisons to other existing products and services out there, that they assure you their product/service can out-perform

3. The Silence: Thirdly (and perhaps most damning of all) marketing campaigns tell you just what they want you to know about their product or service without disclosing anything else they may be aware of, that could potentially change your buying decision, if that information were to be made readily available to you up front.

So what is the social context we ought to consider in all our marketing activities then?
We need to consider the real well being of the customer/consumer at all times and generate our marketing strategies around a truth based platform.

Make a promise – keep a promise: do not market/advertise something with promises that you cannot deliver on.

Comparisons: Comparisons need to be publicly demonstrated/validated. Consider using current Social Media tools that are readily available. If your cellphone can run for 8 hours while your nearest competitor fails after 4 hours – demonstrate this real-time via YouTube  or other social media platforms. If that storm proof lighter can create a flame in  the rain, with 50 mph winds blowing, and has a 100% strike rate (100% of your clicks will create a flame) whereas your nearest competitor only has a 75% strike rate, demonstrate/validate that through public comparison tests

The Silences need to be broken: If your product or service has limitations that are critical, though not likely to be discovered unless specific criteria are met, do disclose them up front. (Remember your client’s well being at all times).
If that Camp Stove uses Fuel that will not function at temperatures colder than 0 degrees, let them know.
If those Run – Flat Tires will not run effectively for more tan 50 kilometers, let them know.
If that Nicotine Strip will kill your addiction to Cigarettes but make you a slave to Nicotine Strips…for Gods sake tell them that!