Change the marketing language

In my conversations with company owners, executives and entrepreneurs about marketing, these are the words that they use most:  Social media Website Content Cost Likes Comments Views Data Logo Leads Time Effort This vocabulary reflects a desperate search for results through activities. It corners marketing into the expense column of the income statement and fills any senior manager or owner with dread - "where must I spend my money?". However, after paying careful attention to the way the client describes their requirements, I try and introduce a new set of words: Market share Customer value Brand reputation Objectives Messaging Meaning Effectiveness Efficiency Timelines Budget Resources Results These words shift the conversation from "marketing as the colouring-in department" to "marketing as a growth facilitator". It moves the mindset from expenses to investments, from tactical activities to strategic momentum. I recently bought a house and was amazed at

Don't let your business get old with you

Many business owners and entrepreneurs try to build their companies overnight in an era of promising quick success. Most of them are still trying decades later. Two things that strike me: just how long it takes to build a healthy business, you can never do it by yourself. The problem is that so few entrepreneurial types believe in getting help. They are so possessive of their idea and determined to succeed that they often "go it alone, forever." The result is many a promising business stuck in adolescence. These "stunted" businesses go around in circles because the owner refuses to reach out for help. They get more determined as the business increasingly loses more momentum. The website starts to look stale. Price discounting becomes the norm, and razor-thin margins suffocate progress. Customers start to bully the business. Competitors copy it and eventually outperform it. Sometimes even the office building itself starts to look like a museum. Inside these businesse

Beautiful actions

Where does excellence start? Surely it begins by knowing the fundamentals and then incorporating them into your decisions before executing with discipline? Beautiful actions = [understand the fundamentals] + [incorporate into decision-making] + [execute with discipline] I want to live a life filled with beautiful actions. Actions that are rooted in the fundamentals. It's also frustrating that it often feels like we live in a world where things are ungrounded. Take South Africa, for example. It is so unstable, without a foundation. Debt levels are too high; basic education is a mess; infrastructure is outdated, absent, or broken. We're fundamentally an uncompetitive country. Half the population have no hope. We're in trouble. Another area where things are often baseless is in marketing and branding - mostly, businesses behave randomly. The equivalent of ugly actions. A mess. There's no link between operational capability, brand positioning, marketing activity and sales p

Are you wasting time trying to succeed?

Three things determine business success at a macro level: Market opportunity - is there a large, buoyant market for what you sell? Most small/medium companies over-estimate market size - they think they swim in an ocean of opportunity when really, they play in the kiddies pool. Awareness - do enough people, or prospective customers, know of you? Not knowing you exist is a major inhibitor to growth.  Message clarity - if customers don't know what you offer them, they cannot take action. You'll be surprised how few businesses are crystal clear about what they sell and why you should use them. Each of these points has underlying factors; for example, market size depends on volume and value and how many already serve the market. You might be in an ocean of opportunity but crowded out by competitors.  Awareness is not merely a case of raising it through advertising, but also how vast your network is. Most entrepreneurs that succeed do so on the back of others that give them a foo

What to pay a consultant?

How do you know that a consulting project will deliver results?  The short answer is that you don't just like you can not guarantee the successful outcome of most things in life. You don't know if your marriage will work - you believe it will; you have confidence that it will - but you cannot guarantee it. Chances are 99.99% that your next flight will land safely, but it is not 100% guaranteed. Again, you have confidence that all will be fine.  There is no certainty anywhere in life, yet we pay for things despite this uncertainty because we are confident it will deliver. The same applies to paying a consultant. Pay for value, not time A consultant adds expertise to a project that will add outsized long-term returns to a business. The value of the consultant is the role they play in unlocking this long term value creation.  In his book, Value-Based fees, Alan Weiss clarifies what the consultant brings to an engagement and, therefore, why you pay them. You pay them for the long-t

Living in uncertain times

We live in uncertain times, but maybe the world has always been like this? Maybe things are just as uncertain today as they've always been? Maybe uncertainty is a constant, not a variable? The fact is, we simply don't know what's going to happen tomorrow. Uncertainty is constantly uncertain. But practically, what does this mean? Maybe it means that, in reality, we all sit with questions and anxieties that is linked to uncertainty, yet uncertainty will never disappear - it's always there. Questions such as: should I change jobs, am I living in the right country, where should I send my kids to school, and will I have enough money are all just some of the common questions linked to uncertainty. In truth, I believe no one knows the answers to these questions because it is simply uncertain. Uncertainty is the same for everyone. Although I believe the level of uncertainty we face hardly moves up or down, essentially making it a constant in our lives, I am intrigued by the que

Premium pricing as commercial muscle-flexing.

Charge more. That's the most un-sexy but best business advice you can give to almost anyone. Price is to a business, what altitude is to an aeroplane - the higher it goes, the safer you are. A plane at 30,000 feet has many more options than one at 500 feet.  The higher your price goes, the more the rest falls into place (pun intended). Selling your offerings for more forces every part of the business to perform better. Suddenly quality must be higher, products more innovative, sharper service delivery, staff more motivated and sales less driven by those easy deals. Charging more is the ultimate performance metric for a business. It's a raw measure of strength.  Investors often prefer companies with strong brands, but this is not because of the brands themselves, but what they allow the business to do - charge more. Brands command premiums which lead to profits which in turn fuels the business. Money creates money, and suddenly everything starts to make sense.