Friday, October 21, 2011

Creating a Positive Professional Image

As HBS professor Laura Morgan Roberts sees it, if you aren't managing your own professional image, others are.
"People are constantly observing your behavior and forming theories about your competence, character, and commitment, which are rapidly disseminated throughout your workplace," she says. "It is only wise to add your voice in framing others' theories about who you are and what you can accomplish."
There are plenty of books telling you how to "dress for success" and control your body language. But keeping on top of your personal traits is only part of the story of managing your professional image, says Roberts. You also belong to a social identity group—African American male, working mother—that brings its own stereotyping from the people you work with, especially in today's diverse workplaces. You can put on a suit and cut your hair to improve your appearance, but how do you manage something like skin color?
Roberts will present her research, called "Changing Faces: Professional Image Construction in Diverse Organizational Settings," in the October issue of the Academy of Management Review.
She discusses her research in this interview.
Mallory Stark: What is a professional image?
Laura Morgan Roberts: Your professional image is the set of qualities and characteristics that represent perceptions of your competence and character as judged by your key constituents (i.e., clients, superiors, subordinates, colleagues).
Q: What is the difference between "desired professional image" and "perceived professional image?"
A: It is important to distinguish between the image you want others to have of you and the image that you think people currently have of you.
Most people want to be described as technically competent, socially skilled, of strong character and integrity, and committed to your work, your team, and your company. Research shows that the most favorably regarded traits are trustworthiness, caring, humility, and capability.
Ask yourself the question: What do I want my key constituents to say about me when I'm not in the room? This description is your desired professional image. Likewise, you might ask yourself the question: What am I concerned that my key constituents might say about me when I'm not in the room? The answer to this question represents your undesired professional image.
You can never know exactly what all of your key constituents think about you, or how they would describe you when you aren't in the room. You can, however, draw inferences about your current professional image based on your interactions with key constituents. People often give you direct feedback about your persona that tells you what they think about your level of competence, character, and commitment. Other times, you may receive indirect signals about your image, through job assignments or referrals and recommendations. Taken together, these direct and indirect signals shape your perceived professional image, your best guess of how you think your key constituents perceive you.
Q: How do stereotypes affect perceived professional image?
A: In the increasingly diverse, twenty-first century workplace, people face a number of complex challenges to creating a positive professional image. They often experience a significant incongruence between their desired professional image and their perceived professional image. In short, they are not perceived in the manner they desire; instead, their undesired professional image may be more closely aligned with how their key constituents actually perceive them.
What lies at the source of this incongruence? Three types of identity threats—predicaments, devaluation, and illegitimacy—compromise key constituents' perceptions of technical competence, social competence, character, and commitment. All professionals will experience a "predicament" or event that reflects poorly on their competence, character, or commitment at some point in time, due to mistakes they have made in the past that have become public knowledge, or competency gaps (e.g., shortcomings or limitations in skill set or style).
Members of negatively stereotyped identity groups may experience an additional form of identity threat known as "devaluation." Identity devaluation occurs when negative attributions about your social identity group(s) undermine key constituents' perceptions of your competence, character, or commitment. For example, African American men are stereotyped as being less intelligent and more likely to engage in criminal behavior than Caucasian men. Asian Americans are stereotyped as technically competent, but lacking in the social skills required to lead effectively. Working mothers are stereotyped as being less committed to their profession and less loyal to their employing organizations. All of these stereotypes pose obstacles for creating a positive professional image.
Even positive stereotypes can pose a challenge for creating a positive professional image if someone is perceived as being unable to live up to favorable expectations of their social identity group(s). For example, clients may question the qualifications of a freshly minted MBA who is representing a prominent strategic consulting firm. Similarly, female medical students and residents are often mistaken for nurses or orderlies and challenged by patients who do not believe they are legitimate physicians.
Q: What is impression management and what are its potential benefits?
A: Despite the added complexity of managing stereotypes while also demonstrating competence, character, and commitment, there is promising news for creating your professional image! Impression management strategies enable you to explain predicaments, counter devaluation, and demonstrate legitimacy. People manage impressions through their non-verbal behavior (appearance, demeanor), verbal cues (vocal pitch, tone, and rate of speech, grammar and diction, disclosures), and demonstrative acts (citizenship, job performance).
My research suggests that, in addition to using these traditional impression management strategies, people also use social identity-based impression management (SIM) to create a positive professional image. SIM refers to the process of strategically presenting yourself in a manner that communicates the meaning and significance you associate with your social identities. There are two overarching SIM strategies: positive distinctiveness and social recategorization.
Positive distinctiveness means using verbal and non-verbal cues to claim aspects of your identity that are personally and/or socially valued, in an attempt to create a new, more positive meaning for that identity. Positive distinctiveness usually involves attempts to educate others about the positive qualities of your identity group, advocate on behalf of members of your identity group, and incorporate your background and identity-related experiences into your workplace interactions and innovation.
Social recategorization means using verbal and non-verbal cues to suppress other aspects of your identity that are personally and/or socially devalued, in an attempt to distance yourself from negative stereotypes associated with that group. Social recategorization involves minimization and avoidance strategies, such as physically and mentally conforming to the dominant workplace culture while being careful not to draw attention to identity group differences and one's unique cultural background.
Rather than adopting one strategy wholesale, most people use a variety of strategies for managing impressions of their social identities. In some situations, they choose to draw attention to a social identity, if they think it will benefit them personally or professionally. Even members of devalued social identity groups, such as African American professionals, will draw attention to their race if it creates mutual understanding with colleagues, generates high-quality connections with clients, or enhances their experience of authenticity and fulfillment in their work. In other situations, these same individuals may choose to minimize their race in order to draw attention to an alternate identity, such as gender, profession, or religion, if they feel their race inhibits their ability to connect with colleagues or clients.
Successful impression management can generate a number of important personal and organizational benefits, including career advancement, client satisfaction, better work relationships (trust, intimacy, avoiding offense), group cohesiveness, a more pleasant organizational climate, and a more fulfilling work experience. However, when unsuccessfully employed, impression management attempts can lead to feelings of deception, delusion, preoccupation, distraction, futility, and manipulation.
Q: How do authenticity and credibility influence the positive outcomes of impression management attempts?
A: In order to create a positive professional image, impression management must effectively accomplish two tasks: build credibility and maintain authenticity. When you present yourself in a manner that is both true to self and valued and believed by others, impression management can yield a host of favorable outcomes for you, your team, and your organization. On the other hand, when you present yourself in an inauthentic and non-credible manner, you are likely to undermine your health, relationships, and performance.
Most often, people attempt to build credibility and maintain authenticity simultaneously, but they must negotiate the tension that can arise between the two. Your "true self," or authentic self-portrayal, will not always be consistent with your key constituents' expectations for professional competence and character. Building credibility can involve being who others want you to be, gaining social approval and professional benefits, and leveraging your strengths. If you suppress or contradict your personal values or identity characteristics for the sake of meeting societal expectations for professionalism, you might receive certain professional benefits, but you might compromise other psychological, relational, and organizational outcomes.
Q: What are the steps individuals should take to manage their professional image?
A: First, you must realize that if you aren't managing your own professional image, someone else is. People are constantly observing your behavior and forming theories about your competence, character, and commitment, which are rapidly disseminated throughout your workplace. It is only wise to add your voice in framing others' theories about who you are and what you can accomplish.
Be the author of your own identity. Take a strategic, proactive approach to managing your image:
Identify your ideal state.
  • What are the core competencies and character traits you want people to associate with you?
  • Which of your social identities do you want to emphasize and incorporate into your workplace interactions, and which would you rather minimize?
Assess your current image, culture, and audience.
  • What are the expectations for professionalism?
  • How do others currently perceive you?
Conduct a cost-benefit analysis for image change.
  • Do you care about others' perceptions of you?
  • Are you capable of changing your image?
  • Are the benefits worth the costs? (Cognitive, psychological, emotional, physical effort)
Use strategic self-presentation to manage impressions and change your image.
  • Employ appropriate traditional and social identity-based impression management strategies.
  • Pay attention to the balancing act—build credibility while maintaining authenticity.
Manage the effort you invest in the process.
  • Monitoring others' perceptions of you
  • Monitoring your own behavior
  • Strategic self-disclosure
  • Preoccupation with proving worth and legitimacy

source: working knowledge @ HBS

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Seven Things That Surprise New CEOs - Author: Michael E. Porter, Jay W. Lorsch, Nitin Nohria

Most new chief executives are taken aback by the unexpected and unfamiliar new roles, the time and information limitations, and the altered professional relationships they run up against. Here are the common surprises new CEOs face, and here's how to tell when adjustments are necessary.
Surprise One: You Can't Run the Company
Warning signs:
You are in too many meetings and involved in too many tactical discussions.
There are too many days when you feel as though you have lost control over your time.
Surprise Two: Giving Orders is Very Costly
Warning signs:
You have become the bottleneck.
Employees are overly inclined to consult you before they act.
People start using your name to endorse things, as in "Frank says…"
Surprise Three: It Is Hard To Know What Is Really Going On
Warning signs:
You keep hearing things that surprise you.
You learn about events after the fact.
You hear concerns and dissenting views through the grapevine rather than directly.
Surprise Four: You Are Always Sending A Message
Warning signs:
Employees circulate stories about your behavior that magnify or distort reality.
People around you act in ways that indicate they're trying to anticipate your likes and dislikes.
Surprise Five: You Are Not The Boss
Warning signs:
You don't know where you stand with board members.
Roles and responsibilities of the board members and of management are not clear.
The discussions in board meetings are limited mostly to reporting on results and management's decisions.
Surprise Six: Pleasing Shareholders Is Not The Goal
Warning signs:
Executives and board members judge actions by their effect on stock price.
Analysts who don't understand the business push for decisions that risk the health of the company.
Management incentives are disproportionately tied to stock price.
Surprise Seven: You Are Still Only Human
Warning signs:
You give interviews about you rather than about the company.
Your lifestyle is more lavish or privileged than that of other top executives in the company.
You have few if any activities not connected to the company.

Implications for CEO Leadership

Taken together, the seven surprises carry some important and subtle implications for how a new CEO should define his job.
First, the CEO must learn to manage organizational context rather than focus on daily operations. Providing leadership in this way—and not diving into the details—can be a jarring transition. One CEO said that he initially felt like the company's "most useless executive," despite the power inherent in the job. The CEO needs to learn how to act in indirect ways—setting and communicating strategy, putting sound processes in place, selecting and mentoring key people—to create the conditions that will help others make the right choices. At the same time, he must set the tone and define the organization's culture and values through his words and actions—in other words, demonstrate how employees should behave.
Second, he must recognize that his position does not confer the right to lead, nor does it guarantee the organization's loyalty. He must perpetually earn and maintain the moral mandate to lead. CEOs can easily lose their legitimacy if their vision is unconvincing, if their actions are inconsistent with the values they espouse, or if their self-interest appears to trump the welfare of the organization. They must realize that success ultimately depends on their ability to enlist the voluntary commitment rather than the forced obedience of others. While mastering the conventional tools of management may have won the CEO his job, these tools alone will not keep him there.
Finally, the CEO must not get totally absorbed in the role. Even if others think he is omnipotent, he is still only human. Failing to recognize this will lead to arrogance, exhaustion, and a shortened tenure. Only by maintaining a personal balance and staying grounded can the CEO achieve the perspective required to make decisions in the interest of the company and its long-term prosperity.

source: Harvard Business School Working Knowledge

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pay your Undesirable customer not to use your Brand?

Concerned that its image is being tainted by the rowdy stars of reality TV show Jersey Shore, fashion brand Abercrombie & Fitch has taken the unusual step of offering to pay them to not wear its clothes.
Specifically singling out Michael 'The Situation' Sorrentino from MTV's TV show, who prominently wears Abercrombie apparel, the brand announced that it has offered compensation to the hard-partying star to cease wearing A&F products.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Abercrombie & Fitch commented: "We are deeply concerned that Mr Sorrentino's association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image. We understand that the show is for entertainment purposes, but believe this association is contrary to the aspirational nature of our brand, and may be distressing to many of our fans. We have therefore offered a substantial payment to Michael 'The Situation' Sorrentino and the producers of MTV's The Jersey Shore to have the character wear an alternate brand.  We have also extended this offer to other members of the cast, and are urgently waiting a response."
Now in its fourth season, the popular reality show details the exploits of the loud and hedonistic cast as they carouse around the US state of New Jersey – clearly a lifestyle that Abercrombie & Fitch does not want to associate with its more ‘preppy’ image.
But will its move to pay off the cast from using its clothes save its brand from damage – or make ‘the situation’ even worse?
Unwanted advocates?
A&F certainly isn’t the first brand to attract unwanted advocates. Fashion brand Burberry famously became the uniform of choice with football hooligans and so-called ‘chavs’ in the UK, to the extent that some pubs and clubs banned customers who wore the label. At the time, the brand blamed a downturn in sales on its adoption by this unsavoury element.
While there was no high-profile star to crack down on, Burberry did seek to reduce the visibility of its distinctive checked pattern from its goods, including entirely removing its checked baseball caps from its line.
In a more recent example, retail outlets targeted by looters in the recent UK riots have had insult added to injury by experiencing a fall in brand perception as a result of their association with this unsavoury element.
With Adidas and Nike branded clothing featuring prominently in media coverage of the looting, both labels saw their brand buzz plummet, according to YouGov data. Elsewhere, Blackberry’s association with the rioters has been well-documented, with looters using its Blackberry Messenger to coordinate attacks. This has resulted in its brand buzz dropping from 7.9 to -6 since the unrest.
But in the age of endorsements, businesses are also very sensitive to the power and influence wielded by celebrities. Mike Spicer, CEO at Pulse Group, highlights: "Brands are much more aware of the impact that media and celebrity culture have created with the growing need for transparency in the public domain. Brands are now responding more quickly than ever to negative associations and are now choosing celebrities or programmes that are closely aligned to the brand values in order to present it in the most positive, and plausible, way."
A bold move
And so it is that Abercrombie & Fitch has chosen to address the negative perception that it believes it is attracting via Jersey Shore. And A&F’s announcement – even if it is done as a stunt – has been hailed by some as a very positive move.
Customer experience expert, and founder of consultancy smith+co, says: “For me it is a terrific example of a Bold brand in that Abercrombie & Fitch are very clear about what their brand stands for (aspirational lifestyle) and who it is targeted at (preppy teenagers). I think it's innovative offer is a real win/win for the brand because if the cast of The Jersey Shore accept the money NOT to wear its clothes it removes the potential for negative brand associations and if the cast do not accept the money and continue to wear A&F product it then becomes a continuing reminder that these people are not A&F target customers.
“In either case it draws attention to the brand and what it stands for. The trouble with most brands is that they are unwilling to make these strategic choices and want to be all things to all people and offend nobody. This is probably the first example of 'negative product placement' - i.e. we will pay you NOT to show our product- and it opens up all kinds of possibilities!”
Julian Reiter, MD of brand marketing firm Positive Thinking, agrees: “I think it’s a very brave and brilliant move – it certainly gives the story more talkability and raises an important debate about reputation being central to brand success and the decisions brands need to take to keep their marketing strategies on track. I’m sure it is a publicity stunt, and a hilariously clever one at that! There’s only one clothing firm one the lips of millions of people today – that can hardly do any harm, can it?”
Craig Wheeler, managing director at direct response and relationship marketing agencywdmp, believes that its move will strike a chord with many consumers.
“My ‘water cooler’ research indicates that I’m not the only person groaning at the prospect of Big Brother being back on our screens and frustrated at the number of reality TV shows filling an already dull TV schedule. So good on Abercrombie and Fitch for trying to protect the brand. It could be seen as a smart PR move, one that will certainly get the brand talked about and deliver column inches. Plus it might also create a positive impression of the brand by striking a chord with like-minded people who are tired of lacklustre reality programmes. At a time when society is taking a stand on a number of recent issues at least we now know that Abercrombie and Fitch are willing to do the same. I wonder if the marketing folk at Burberry wish they had done something similar a few years back.”
Backfiring on the brand
But not all reactions have been positive, and there are some concerns that the stunt could backfire on the brand.
“Companies should avoid negative stories and bad press as much as possible, and in my opinion, A&F has acted in a way that might benefit ‘Jersey Shore’, yet damage its own reputation,” says JR Little, senior consultant at brand agency The Brand Union.
“It's a risky move, regardless of how you spin it. If it is for PR purposes only, and it appears to be, it could raise awareness of the brand but it’s unlikely to increase sales. Americans don't like it when corporations pick on individuals. There will always be an Americana bias to support the underdog. In this situation, it appears that a corporation has picked on a guy who has every right to wear what he wants. Sure, his values might not match those of the company (hard argument to buy from a company with many controversies under its distressed-leather belt), but going on the offensive may make A&F appear to be a bully, and simply empowering 'The Situation' to speak out against them on TV and social media (as he already has).”
Raman Sehgal, owner of ramarketing, also believes that the label could be playing a dangerous game. “As a big fan of the A&F brand, I think this is quite a risky strategy. It's a very interesting move from a brand equity perspective but one that could backfire big style in terms of financial costs. Brands have to accept they can't control everything. The fashion brands that were given unwanted exposure by criminals in the recent UK riots highlight this point. They, like A&F, have to keep faith in their real target audience in that they will not be swayed by such fad shows and media exposure.”
Mark Blayney Stuart, head of research at The Chartered Institute of Marketing, agrees. “It's a strange reaction because trying to control how your brand is perceived is likely to be counter-productive. Better to take the positive effects that come from 'any publicity is good publicity' and don't worry about elements you don't like. Burberry has suffered from its 'chav' association. But the point is, you just have to be robust and get on with it. If Burberry had started paying people it didn't like not to wear its brand, it would have just made things worse (if it had any effect at all).”
He adds: “If it is a publicity stunt, it's a weary one. The problem with a story like this is that a conspiracy theory can be quickly read into it. When Gap changed its logo a while ago and then changed it back again, what was an almighty cock-up was being cynically supposed in some areas as a publicity stunt. Which in a way confirms our starting point; at the end of the day, any publicity is, on the whole, good publicity. Trying to influence what other people think about you, however, is doomed.”
Jessica Bower of brand development agency Sundance, picks up on this final point: "A&F and other brands would do well to remember that brands exists through how others see them, not always how the brand/company sees itself. That is the inherent challenge in managing brands."    
Ultimately, of course, the impact of A&F’s action will only be clear once the dust settles. And while some – including Michael Sorrentino himself – leapt upon the news that the brand’s stock price dipped last week, experts have suggested this was more likely the result of other factors rather than its offer to the cast of Jersey Shore.
What is clear, however, is that this story has certainly attracted a lot of attention to Abercrombie & Fitch over the past week. And as Blayney Stuart emphasised: “Any publicity is good publicity.”
“They have both generated an enormous amount of press from this (more column inches than their PR company will know what to do with), as well as given themselves a huge platform to reiterate their premium positioning,” concludes Stuart Wood, executive creative director at FITCH. “Maybe they could pay me to stop writing about it.”  


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

top 10 half-witted holiday complaints of 2010! Enjoy!

Half-naked women on beaches, sand that is too hot and beds that are too comfy all appear on a list of holiday complaints made last year.
Online travel agency has compiled a list of what it considers to be the top 10 most absurd gripes of 2010, which includes that of a man who spend his holiday in Majorca. He complained that the number of bikini-clad women on the beach caused him and his wife to fall out because he was caught ogling at them "on more than one occasion".
Another who went to the Costa Del Sol was unhappy that his all-inclusive hotel provided too much buffet food because he put on 'at least 5lbs', while a third whinged that his holiday in Portugal had been spoilt because his hotel bed was "too comfy". As a result, he kept oversleeping when he would have "preferred to be up early and making the most of it".
A lady who had holidayed in Lanzarote with her family of four, meanwhile, moaned that the warm weather meant the sand became too hot for her children to walk down to the sea for a swim.
Chris Brown, founder of the website, said that, while the firm was happy to deal with any issues that arose, "we regret we cannot be held responsible for the temperature of the sand, weight gain as a result of the amount of tasty food on offer or the number of fellow English tourists in the vicinity".
The latter complaint referred to a couple who were disappointed by their two week holiday in Marmaris, Turkey, as there were "too many English people around" and they had wanted to experience somewhere "more exotic".
Other gripes included a man who had been to Tenerife but felt ripped off because the Prada sunglasses he had purchased from a street vendor for E4.50 were fakes, and another who felt "pressured" into making love to his wife when on holiday in Bulgaria because the couple in the room next door had made a lot of noise while doing so.
A lady who was intending to go on holiday with a female friend to Dubai was likewise irritated when they got to the airport in the UK without their passports because they had not been reminded to bring them and had not thought them necessary.
But a young woman who went with a group of friends to Ayia Napa in Cyprus was equally unhappy that the reception desk at her hotel was staffed on a 24-hour basis because she felt they were being "judged" for returning to their room at a late hour – even though the resort is renowned for its all-night party culture.
Finally, a male holidaymaker had a good old whinge at the fact that his plane flew too high because his fear of heights stopped him from enjoying his flight to Mauritius.

Is Marketing really a War? Or is it Management?

There have been a number of books in recent years suggesting that successful business is like warfare, e.g. Mark McNeilly’s Sun Tzu and the Art of Business, and likening business leaders to successful generals. But while both business and warfare require leadership, the type of leadership required is very different. Leadership in battle takes place in extreme conditions, but leadership in business and commerce is not a life or death struggle.

However, successful businesses and successful military campaigns do have two things in common. Both require their leadership to select and maintain an aim. They also require the maintenance of morale amongst those who are to achieve the aim. Leadership provides the inspiration and direction but management provides the means of attainment.
While some think marketing is another name for promotion and communication, The Chartered Institute of Marketing defines the word as "The management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably". It makes it quite clear that while the purpose of marketing is to produce profitable income, by satisfying customers, the nature of marketing is one of management. Thus successful marketing is about the efficient and effective management of investment and resources to produce profitable income by anticipating and satisfying customer demand.

Producing profitable income
So how should marketers go about managing their assets and investments to produce profitable income? Peter Drucker said that "if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it." While this statement may perhaps be simplistic; for those whose responsibility is producing income, then the demonstration of effective management will require quantifiable measurements of "inputs" and "outputs". In other words, effective marketing requires the measurement of those activities which directly or indirectly produce income, together with the amount of income produced
In small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), those responsible for producing the income may have very few staff, other than those employed in selling and sales administration. However marketers may be termed, whether sales manager, sales and marketing manager, or marketing manager, they may often have sole responsibility, with minimal assistance, for all the specialist areas of marketing, such as research, communications and customer relations. Marketers in small companies are usually fully occupied having to be involved in all the activities which assist directly and indirectly with producing income. Thus because few people are involved in marketing in SMEs, marketing can be more effectively controlled.
In larger businesses, where there are specialist marketing staffs, management becomes more of a problem. While marketing is about the effective management of assets and investment to produce profitable income, it also requires the effective management and motivation of people. Since Marketing has always attracted creative people, who generally do not like to be constrained by quantified objectives or performance measurement, their effective management can be difficult.
Until the advent of the desk top computer, virtually all businesses were managed through manual data systems and processes. To produce a sales forecast could take days of work, marketing and business plans could take weeks or months to prepare, and be obsolescent by the time they were complete. However, the developments in computer based automation have revolutionized business operations especially in marketing organisations. Those activities that previously took days or weeks to prepare are now done in hours or minutes. Where does that leave the marketing specialist? For the executive responsible for managing marketing resources the question must be, what do the people involved in the marketing department do that contributes to producing sustainable profitable income for the long term? How are they employed? Is their time used efficiently and effectively? Because so many activities are automated, are they fully occupied? What do they do all day? How do we know?
Become effective managers
One thing that the executive responsible for managing the marketing staff should do is to establish exactly the detail of each employee’s job. This can be done by getting them to write their own job descriptions, detailing all the activities for which they believe they have responsibility, and which they actually carry out. Making a comparison of their own job descriptions with their official descriptions can make interesting reading, as it will highlight job overlaps, mistaken authority, and gaps in performance and responsibilities. By ensuring that all staffs have clear job descriptions and objectives to achieve, managers have better control over all their resources.
Although marketing specialisms cannot easily be quantified in their direct contribution to income production, marketing managers must demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of their specialist staffs with quantified performance data. Both marketers and marketing organizations must justify their existence as well as their use of assets and investment. Those that fail to demonstrate their contribution and efficiency are likely to find that they are surplus to requirements.
Analysis of what is done by marketers and how they do it may invite radical change. While technological change has produced innovative ways to communicate with potential and existing customers, as well as produce market research, marketers must expect that similar changes to working methods and organisation are inevitable. Regardless of whether a company is large or small, their aim is to produce money, not just for shareholders but to benefit employees and invest for the long-term future.
If marketing is really about managing resources to produce profitable income, then the executives responsible need to become effective managers. Effective marketing management requires quantifiable performance measurement, with the ability to motivate specialist staffs to efficiently contribute to producing profitable income, for the future of the business.

- By Nicholas Watkis.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Facebook Deal - Tool to Customer Engagement?

"Facebook itself already has over 200 million loyal people actively using its mobile service around the world, putting it in the ideal position to influence purchasing behaviour," suggests Justin Cooke, Chair of the British Interactive Media Association (BIMA) and CEO of digital agency Fortune Cookie. "It’s a very targeted marketing tool that will encourage users to build new relationships with companies or brands by making them aware of one another at the right time and in the right place, changing the face of brand/consumer relationships."

Facebook’s new Deals platform appears perfectly pitched for the customer sweetspot. Combining elements of increasingly popular location-based services such as Foursquare and social-buying initiatives such as the phenomenally successful Groupon, Deals allows users to find offers in their vicinity.

By using Facebook on a mobile device, users can look for special deals in their area, view what offers are being provided by firms they ‘like’ and also see what their friends have bought. Once an offer has been found, the user simply goes into the store to redeem it.

But it would also appear that Facebook Deals is also a very attractive proposition to brands. It not only enables merchants to target and offer deals to Facebook users to drive more business, but it does so without Facebook taking a cut of the margins – something that could have implications for the likes of Groupon.

How to get the most from Deals

Starbucks were among the first big brands to sign up to the scheme, offering 30,000 free cups of coffee to customers who ‘checked in’ at their various UK outlets. Mazda were also quick off the mark, giving away five cars every month for five months, as well as a 20% discount on certain models for those who check in.

Cooke predicts that most early adopters of Facebook Deals will be businesses that have "used sponsored listings on Google and created target advertising on Facebook". But Jefferies believes that there will be pressure on many brands to embrace Deals sooner rather than later. "Brands should consider acting swiftly on this opportunity – if people start checking in and expecting to see a deal but there is not one available they could quickly become dispirited about that brand."

So how can brands best approach Deals? Are there any potential mis-steps they can avoid, or winning tactics that can be deployed?

Jefferies believes that there are a number of things that brands need to be aware of before setting a Deal live. "The main one is tracking – we see the in store systems being able to track discount codes and take up across stores being a major factor for multi-site retailers getting involved. In addition to this, brands must ensure they can meet demand – if customers attempt to use a Deal and the product is not available they are likely to be disappointed. In addition, in store employees must be informed about all the deal basics and how to manage difficult situations that may arise, ensuring customer satisfaction is always maintained."

So will Facebook Deals be a runaway success? 

For brands to really gain traction, there needs to be critical mass of people ‘checking in’. However there is still some reticence to broadcast individual movements on a regular basis. One reason being, phone batteries are cited as a key reason for reservations towards checking in on Facebook; enabling your GPS tracker can drain the battery.

Encouraging people to ‘check in’ means they are posting their destination and highlighting that they are out (or away from home or work). Some individuals may not be happy to allow partners, employers and burglars to constantly have a good idea of comings and goings.

The most serious concern, however, regards privacy – an issue that has consistently dogged Facebook. "Is there going to be a code of conduct for how Facebook and the promoters will handle personal data?Only recently Yahoo! warned us about default settings (a warning liked by 26,000 readers). Facebook’s default setting or the 'recommended settings' mean that your status, photo, posts, bio, favourite quotation, political views, family and relationship details are shared with everyone. Changing all to Friends only, and you're safe from the prying world, but not from advertisers for much longer.

Not everyone, however, is convinced about the validity of this concern. People who want to post their location have to opt-in and deliberately enable Facebook (and FourSquare et al) to do it for them.

Indeed, despite some concerns, Facebook Deals has on the whole been warmly received. Whether or not brands will embrace it remains to be seen – but when it comes to the Facebook factor, it certainly shouldn’t be short of businesses willing to at least give it a try. What is for sure, however, is that irrespective of whether Facebook Deals is a success, it represents a milestone in the development of location-based marketing.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Segmenting by Purpose or Job-to-do

When planning new products, companies often start by segmenting their markets and positioning their merchandise accordingly. This segmentation involves either dividing the market into product categories, such as function or price, or dividing the customer base into target demographics, such as age, gender, education, or income level.

Unfortunately, neither way works very well, according to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, who notes that each year 30,000 new consumer products are launched—and 95 percent of them fail.

The problem is that consumers usually don't go about their shopping by conforming to particular segments. Rather, they take life as it comes. And when faced with a job that needs doing, they essentially "hire" a product to do that job. To that end, Christensen suggests that companies start segmenting their markets according to "jobs-to-be-done." It's a concept that he has been honing with several colleagues for more than a decade.

"The fact that you're 18 to 35 years old with a college degree does not cause you to buy a product," Christensen says. "It may be correlated with the decision, but it doesn't cause it. We developed this idea because we wanted to understand what causes us to buy a product, not what's correlated with it. We realized that the causal mechanism behind a purchase is, 'Oh, I've got a job to be done.' And it turns out that it's really effective in allowing a company to build products that people want to buy."

Christensen, who is planning to publish a book on the subject of jobs-to-be-done marketing, explains that there's an important difference between determining a product's function and its job. "Looking at the market from the function of a product really originates from your competitors or your own employees deciding what you need," he says. "Whereas the jobs-to-be-done point of view causes you to crawl into the skin of your customer and go with her as she goes about her day, always asking the question as she does something: Why did she do it that way?"

from :Clay Christensen's Milkshake Marketing as published in HBR

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