What required to be a leader

To be a leader, you only require 1 (one) thing and one thing only – followers. It’s not about your title. It’s not about your wealth. If you lead by title or use authority to lead, you don’t have followers, you have subordinates.

There is research by Professors Jacqueline and Milton Mayfield that indicates 3 communication skills that every leader needs in order to motivate followers to give their best. Those 3 skills are:

  1. Direction giving
  2. Meaning making
  3. Empathy

The keyword here is “to motivate followers to give their best”. To give their best is beyond what money and authority or title can motivate people to do.

Do you have followers?


It’s not about pricing, it’s about perceived value

I work for a company that sells a lifetime holiday product. We often get questioned about the value of our product. The sales process is getting harder and harder every year. It seems like the only tactic that works is to give a discount.

It gets me thinking. Does our product have poor value? How can we prove our product value? And most importantly, how do our potential customers create the perceived value of the product?

I don’t have the answers to the first two questions (yet). But, my assumption that could answer the third question is our potential customers compare our product value with the discounted holiday offers in the market. Online Travel Agents (OTAs) have done a great job in creating the perception that doing business with them offers a great value. And, it could be true but it’s not always the case.

People’s brain is lazy by nature. People always choose the easiest path to get something. If we want to prove our point, we have to come up with a way to show customers that their perception is not accurate.

In our case, the challenge is we need to find a way to overcome the time gap. Our product offers a lifetime holiday, while customer’s mind looks only at a short term horizon (many compare prices on OTA websites). Our sales and marketing strategy should start with this thought.


It’s time to change

The plus side of the current virus crisis is that it allows companies to think if what they are doing is the best way to do business. Many are finding the way to reduce cost and find their ways to come back. Some companies didn’t do well before and now could hide their issues behind the virus pandemic.

Changing business model is a big deal and wouldn’t happen often. If you are a sales-driven organisation, it’s likely that you have been struggling for a while. You probably are in a discount game and in a cost cutting mode for a while. These 2 words are a clear signal that you have to change. And, there is no better time than using this crisis to change. This is because you are about to have another cost cutting exercise.

I am a firm believer that demand creation should be done with marketing. This is because the focus can be placed on solving customer’s problems and on building up brand for a longer term. Putting sales in front of the business model means the focus is ‘right now’. And, it doesn’t matter if a solution is right for customers or not.

It’s time for companies to put customers in front of their business model. And, the way to do it is to have an infinite mindset with marketing thoughts. As Steve Jobs once said – “Marketing is to create demand, sales to fulfil it”.


What is your contingency plan?

Do you have a contingency plan when things go very bad? If you don’t, I strongly suggest that you should create one. It’s very simple to create a plan. However, it could take some times to build up a backup to the level that you would be safe if bad things happen.

You can start with your family’s financial. You actually should start with the family’s financial. What would the worst case scenario look like? You and your partner are out of jobs at the same time for, say, 12 months. What do you need to survive for 12 months without incomes coming in.

The easiest and most obvious starting point to put the plan in action is to list all necessary expenses e.g. mortgages, school fee, groceries, etc. It will give you the bare minimum amount of money to need per month. Multiplying that number with 12, you get an annual amount. You should then come up with a saving plan to reach that amount while you still have incomes.

I think most people got the above idea. However, not many people are serious about it, nor have a discipline to get through it.

I always prepare for the worst and didn’t expect that something like the virus crisis would happen. I am luckier than a lot of people in many ways. But, it makes me feel good that I can look after my family in difficult times.

If you haven’t done it yet and still earn incomes, I strongly recommend that you do it now.


My prediction for the post-virus world

When the whole virus crisis ends, I predict that…

  • There will be more new online business models that we didn’t think of before.
  • More businesses will adopt the work from home model permanently.
  • As a result, building developers will struggle as demands for leasing space will drop.
  • Office furniture sales will drop.
  • More internet equipments will boom.
  • Laptop sales will increase. Microsoft should be happy.
  • The delivery business will spread widely to all sort of products.
  • Printed media will finally die.
  • There will be more social interaction / relationship apps to connect people.
  • People will do online dating through video call apps like Zoom.
  • There will be more online restaurant i.e. a restaurant front will be on Facebook for customers to place order and food will be delivered to customer’s place. There is no need to have a physical restaurant anymore.
  • Online learning will be adopted everywhere.
  • There will be more children as people stay at home more ?? Or condom sales will rise.
  • Of course, there will be more online shopping.
  • Department stores will struggle as shops will be close. People will buy things online.
  • People will need help to maintain their health as they will stay home more.
  • Demand for holidays will increase because people are bored staying at home.
  • There will be a lot of digital events.
  • Movie theatres will struggle.
  • Car sales for consumer use will drop.
  • Car sales for commercial will increase.
  • There will be fewer airlines left.
  • Travel agents will rise to sell holiday packages. Online bookings will be used mainly for accommodation only.

Enough for today.


The rule of 7

For marketers, it’s argued that this rule still applies:

Your prospect has to SEE or HEAR your marketing message a MINIMUM of seven times before they take action.

That’s one of the reasons why customers are bombarded with the same messages or the same ad over and over.

In the online world, we can use social media to schedule posts to achieve the rule of 7. Technically speaking, there are 2 methods to do it:

  1. Remarketing: A lot of companies use this method. An email is sent with offers. Customers click on one of the offers and may delete the email. Then, those offers follow them to the website they visit or to Facebook feed, etc. The only annoying thing for me using this approach is the same offers still follow you even though you already bought the offer.
  2. Drip marketing: Drip Marketing campaigns allow you to send a set of messages to your potential customers. Drip Marketing campaigns enable you to consistently send your message out to your audience on auto-pilot. You can target emails and social media to deliver your messages.


Prepare yourself for the post-virus era

I am still on that though, the though about how to survive as a marketer after the crisis ends. I keep on talking about the future and I have been told in numerous occasions that we only focus on short-term. I don’t think that short-term thinking is encouraging. At the end of the day, lives will have to move on. As a leader, we need to give hope.

In a marketing area, due to social distancing, more and more people will live their lives online (even more than today). The skill sets that would be useful will be 1) new ways to communicate to customers using online channels and 2) creative content creation.

For the online channels, messaging technologies like Whatsapp, Line, and WeChat will rule the world. They will become a one-to-many channel and we may not need for example Facebook feeds anymore.

In terms of content creation, there are a lot of rubbish content out there, ads included. Content will be created for specific niche markets. Content for mass market will actually be dead, after have been in a zombie stage for a while.

Are you ready for the new world?


Marketing opportunities during the lockdown periods

Who would think they could compete with Zoom in a video call/conference market? During the lockdown periods, online platforms that allow people to do activities, well online, are on the rise. Zoom’s stock price has increased more than 117% over the past 3 months.

Then, come along Houseparty. It is a FaceTime meets Zoom meets trivia–style app that got over 2 million downloads last week. It targets different segments from Zoom. It is less official with more entertaining features than Zoom.

When joining Houseparty, the app asks permission to connect with your contacts and social networks so it can add existing contacts to your friends list. Opening the app signals that you’re around and free to talk and displays a list of friends who are online and “live” parties you can join. There’s a dropdown tab for games, which include HeadsUp, trivia, and Quick Draw!

Every crisis has opportunities in it. The best approach to a crisis is to imagine how consumer behaviours would change after the crisis ends. They could be more health conscious. More companies might adopt a work-from-home permanently to reduce their office leasing expense. Those post opportunities to people who are creative with forward thinking.


Nike has done it again

You got to love this. Nike just launched a new slogan/campaign to promote social distancing. They are very good at coming up with inspiring slogans that trigger action. Within an hour, several of the big-name athletes the company sponsors had posted the ad on their respective social media channels.

This time, the slogan says “If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance,” the ad reads. “Play inside, play for the world.” 


How David Cote went through recession

I keep on thinking what it would be like after the virus crisis ends. I (and you all) know the world won’t be the same. But, there are lots of uncertainties there.

I came across an interview of David Cote. He is a former Honeywell’s CEO. He took the company through the big recession during 2008-2009. I didn’t think to get much as I thought it would be a feel-good story from another ex-CEO. But, I was wrong. His view and his strategy are very, very interesting.

I am not going to get into the details of how he successfully took Honeywell through one of the major recessions of our generation. I want to only share one thing about his story. He had only one thought and one thought only – what would be the best plan when the recovery happen? His strategy then followed this only thought – how he looked after customers, employees, and suppliers. This was a positive thinking from a CEO that cascaded down to everyone in his company.

And, I love this statement:

The right approach is pledging to do all you can to minimize the impact on employees while we meet the goal that comes first, taking care of customers. Saying employees should come before customers ignores reality. If you want a future for employees and investors, take care of customers first. The next issue is, How do I allocate pain between investors and employees in a downturn?

David Cote