Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Scenery Planning: Don’t Trap Yourself On A Dead End Street.

Don't Trap Yourself On A Dead End Street.
Talking with some friends of mine about the article I posted in this blog a couple of weeks ago, entitled "Bad Advertising Can Hurt Your Business", I realized there was an underlying theme which was worth mentioning and about which I’d like to talk with you today: The need to think about the most critical situations that your company could be facing and about the actions you would take to cope with each of them.

The importance of being prepared for the unexpected.

Among the comments I got about the aforementioned article, there were two that really caught my attention: one referring to the fact that many employers were trying really hard to weather the storm and keep their employees on their jobs, and another one referred to the fact that, during emergency situations, decisions are often made on a desperate way.

If we think about it, emergencies do not happen overnight, at least not while you are managing your business. Emergencies often offer signals, signs, and they usually occur after a sequence of events, not suddenly.

Setting up your business to be prepared for all possible scenarios is simply an exercise of imagination and planning, giving you the chance to think in advance about all the possible answers you can give to unexpected situations.

Some time ago, during a training session I was taking in Venezuela, the instructor told me that "the best managers get always prepared to face the worst situations."

I could not hold my curiosity and asked "Why?" To which the instructor responded: "If you only plan for the best situations, or you just go along with the boom of the good times, any unexpected situation takes you completely by surprise. But if you plan for the worst situations, then the wow factor disappears and you have the confidence of knowing there is an action plan for every possible situation."

At that time, it appeared to me much like when one buys a life insurance policy: You are not really buying it to make use of it, but just to be prepared if something unexpected were to happen. Or are you?

Listening to what happens to your customers, competitors and the general market.

  • What will I do if our clients begin to unsubscribe from our services for no apparent reason?
  • What will I do if sales decline by 30% for two consecutive months?
  • What will I do if competition launches a new product at a price lower than that of my product?
  • What will I do if government increases VAT to 25%?
  • When should I decide to close my business if it doesn’t make the numbers?

An exercise like this opens up your mind to a world of possible ways to act in the event that your business could get in the middle of an specific situation that has developed suddenly and unexpectedly. This is not an exercise of negativity or anything like that.

Quite the opposite: it’s like keeping your mind alert and thinking that "anything is possible and anything can always happen." If you’re familiar with Murphy's laws, remember that "if something can go wrong, it will go wrong".

Getting back to today’s subject, and although probably none of these situations actually happens or is very unlikely, you will have already done an analysis of what paths you’ll follow, regardless of how simple such analysis is, and you'll be better prepared than many others business owners who simply get dragged away by the situation.

Hence the importance of always listening, or more appropriately said, "monitoring" everything that happens around your business: customers, competitors and the market in general.

Build options for your business. Don’t lock yourself into a dead end street.

Have regular meetings with your partners or staff members who occupy supervisory positions, and brainstorm about the different, unexpected situations which your business may confront, and develop potential action plans to deal with them.

It’s a very interesting planning exercise which will help you manage your business with greater confidence and efficiency. And although something unexpected can always happen, the important thing is to try to keep it from finding you empty handed and out of ideas.

Keep always in mind that, as my instructor once said: "The best managers are those who are prepared for dealing with the worst situations."

Do you think it’s a good idea?

Related articles in this blog:
When Bad Advertising Hurts Your Business.
Suffering Of Tunnel Vision While Managing Your Business?
Things You Can Learn from the Army.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

When Bad Advertising Hurts Your Business

Is this a positive message?
Today I’d like to share with you a personal reflexion, maybe some of you will agree and others not that much, but I feel I must deliver my contribution during a time in which negativism, uncertainty, and many other things we are all aware of are prevailing.

I saw the advertisement you see above (which translates to something like "Help. We need to sell our furnishings to cover payroll") fitted to the storefront windows of a furnishings store, and couldn’t help but be surprised, but not in the way the store’s owner had wanted: The ad didn’t convince me to go into the store and buy some furnishings on sale to help them put together the money to cover the payroll.

Instead I felt really bad indeed about how desperate the situation was for the company (at least that’s what I learned from reading that sign) that pushed them into selling their products at the lowest possible price to get the money to make for payroll, but unfortunately that's not my problem as a consumer.

My problem continues to be  buying a product that satisfies a desire, solves a problem, has a price that I can afford and it’s of good quality.

When your advertising delivers the wrong message.

This advertisement reminded me of those salesmen that try to close the deal using  arguments like: "Hey, I haven’t sold anything this month and if you don’t buy from me today, my children won’t have food to eat", and so on.

Back at the times of Adam and Eve, when men still hadn’t got so used to lying outright, perhaps such an argument would be valid and would touch the heart of the person you were talking with, who would kindly respond, "I hear you, my dear friend, how much money do you need to feed your family?".

But in our times, when sales people use every possible reasoning to close a sale, to convince prospective customers and get the money out of their pockets; in these times, strategies like these will not work, or at least, wouldn’t be that easy

Going back to the advertisement I shared above: What a poor image it has created for the company and the people who manage it, not to mention the actual products they sell in the store!

Why do I think this way? As every other time I have shared with you my thoughts, here you’ve my reasoning:

  • At what point the administration of your business got out of your hands, so much as to force you to go out and ask your clients for "help" so that you can cover your companies’ duties with employees? Shouldn’t you be asking for “business” instead of “help”?
  • Crises never occur overnight, or just fall out of the blue. Why didn’t you first try out other promotional mechanisms to advertise your business in a more appropriate and less pitiful way?
  • Why didn’t you just organize an "inventory sale" or "going out of business and we are selling out everything" kind of campaign?
  • On top of everything, why do your employees have to suffer for your bad situation and wait for your to sell your furnishings so that they can get paid what is due to them? The next step could be something like offering your furnishings as payment to your employees. Can you imagine the situation: "Hey, Manny, I can’t pay you this month. Why don’t you take that sofa in the corner and we're even, okay? "
  • A company that appears to be in such a desperate situation, is probably going to go out of business any time soon. If that happens, who would be responsible for the products sold?, Who honors warranties?

And in the same line of ideas, we could keep coming up with multiple thoughts inspired by such an advertisement, but I think with those five you already have enough to understand what I meant.

I am positive you now clearly understand why making the wrong choice on your promotional messages can definitely hurt your business and its image.

Advertising should be aimed toward satisfying your customer’s needs, not your company’s.

A message like the one on the ad, which cries out for help, generates an immediate response which is, "And what are you telling me? What does this have to do with me?"

Necessarily an advertising message must offer customers benefits, opportunities. You should talk about how great it would be to buy the products you sell in your store, because they will allow customers satisfy their innermost desires in a unique way, inviting them to buy today, because tomorrow they won’t enjoy the same offer, and things like that.

Please, don’t build advertising messages like the one shown above, in which all you’re saying is that you simply need your customer’s money to solve your problems, which by the way, are simply yours and not theirs.

Don’t you think?

Related Post:
Sales Strategies: Your Client Is Not A Fool! Neither Should You.
Corporate reputation and sales reps’ responsibility.