Black Friday

Did you receive Black Friday sales emails from in the past 5-6 days? I did. I actually got about a zillion emails about Black Friday Sales from every companies that I could remember. Does it work?

My answer is “I don’t know”. One thing that I know is though it’s a good way to be average. Everyone does it so we should do it too. I actually fell for it too. I am looking for buying something from an electronic store in Australia. I got their email and went to one of their stores last night. The discount wasn’t exciting so I didn’t buy anything.

Doing average work in the crowded space could give you a quick return. However, it hardly gives you a sustainable growth. If you have to discount your prices, it means you may have an issue with your value proposition. Worse, if you do that often, you are basically doing the same thing as 2 million competitors out there.

I don’t do the Black Friday sales. I was thinking I may come up with my own concept such as Red Wednesday instead. It could be a new trend.


Great Leaders

Yes, I think about how to be a great leader a lot. This is because this is a skill set that is very difficult to improve. It requires a constant learning. I sometimes feel that I got it right but the feedback from my team says otherwise. What I am saying is I am still learning and I don’t feel like I can stop learning anytime soon.

I came across these 2 quotes about great leaders in the past few weeks. I would then like to share them here so you can join the learning journey with me.

“Great leaders are optimist. This is not the same as being positive. Positive is finding the light in the now; optimists see the light always.” This one is from Simon Sinek. I like it because I am always told that as a leader I have to be positive so the team is motivated. Being an optimist is more important.

I don’t know the source of the second one – “Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.” It’s great because that is what all leaders should be. You have to help your team get better and better, even one day they will leave you for a better opportunity.


The Infinite Game

I am preparing myself for the end of the year break. I normally spend 2 weeks back home in Thailand with my family. It’s a nice way to reward myself. Part of my break is about finishing a few books. So, I have bought 3 books and hopefully I can finish them all before the year end. One of them is The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek. A disclaimer, I haven’t read his book yet, but I am a big fan of Simon.

I have watched his Youtube videos about the infinite game concept in the past few weeks. From what I gather (without reading the book yet) is that there are 2 types of game players – the finite and the infinite game players. And, the differences are:

  • The finite players play to win.
  • The infinite players play to keep playing. Their mindset is to beat their yesterday’s self.

It’s a very intriguing concept. I like to think that I have the infinite mindset. I will tell you more once I finish his book.


Prospect Theory

I am in search of a way to fight with a discount tactic. As I work in the hospitality industry, it’s a mammoth task to fight against the influence of Online Travel Agents (OTAs). Customers always look for good deals, deep discounts. It’s really difficult.

However, it doesn’t mean there is no hope. I just need to think harder and do more research. I came across the theory called “Prospect Theory”. The main idea of this theory is people don’t evaluate things in absolute terms. They evaluate them relative to a comparison standard, or “reference point”. Basically, if I tell you a cup of cappuccino in Australia costs $4.00. It’s just a single number that doesn’t mean much. But, if I also tell you that a similar cup of cappuccino in Thailand cost about $3.00. Then, the first idea that comes to mind is that coffee in Thailand is cheaper than in Australia.

This theory makes me think that we don’t always have to give a massive percentage discount e.g. 50% OFF. What we could do is to do the same tactic as many retailers i.e. have a reference point. For example, instead of saying getting 10% off for your next booking, we could say book now and pay only $99/night (normal price is $109/night).

That is just one way to do it. I am sure there are other ways. I will share with you if I find more ways in the future.


Stupid questions

There is no such thing as stupid questions. I once came across a definition of stupid questions from Randy Pausch (the professor who wrote the famous “The Last Lecture). He said stupid questions are 1) the questions that you (the person who ask) already know the answers and 2) the questions that you don’t want to hear the answers. Every other questions are legitimate.

I also like this quote very much and I have to remind myself every day. The quote says “Silence is the best answer of all stupid questions. And, smile is the best reaction of all critical situation.”

I hope you have a very good week ahead.


Customer personas

If you agree with the concept that we cannot do everything to everyone (because it’s a formula to be mediocre), you will need to understand your customer personas.

It’s the same concept as knowing your target market, except with customer personas, you make them like real life customers. You create personas and describe them as a (group) of person. For example, your product may target a group of young, working moms. You could name this group “Young Sarah”. Then, you come up with her descriptions. For example, the young Sarah has a busy husband who travel all the time. She works full time and also has to look after a one year old boy. They are a double income family. When you have her profile in mind like this, your campaigns and your messages will be specific for her. You are talking to her.

This concept is critically necessary for your marketing efforts. Unless you have unlimited resources, you will need to be clear on who your customers are.


Building a website

I have built lots of websites in my career. One thing that I learn is I cannot make everyone happy. I recently launched a website for our members. I did lots of research, asked feedback from the team and some members. However, there are still people who don’t like the website.

.What I learn is the following:

  • You have to just accept that you cannot make everyone happy.
  • Changes are hard for people. And, if you try to change their habit, you have to think and plan carefully.
  • You have to have a thorough testing plan. We thought we did a lot tests but it wasn’t sufficient. There are 2 factors and many combinations – browsers and mobile devices. Some customers use desktop and Chrome. Many use iOS devices but could use Chrome, Safari, or even Firefox.
  • Popup doesn’t work well on mobile devices.
  • Even it works on iPads, it doesn’t mean it would work on iPhones. Worse, even it works on iPhone 7 it doesn’t mean it would work on iPhone 11.
  • Flash is not recommended. The technology will be banned from Chrome next year. Apple stops using it long time ago.
  • Be very mindful about older generation. They can use mobile devices but they could struggle with navigation icons. The challenge is you don’t know what they don’t know.

I have a firm belief that building a website requires a clear vision of your target customers. You have to paint a picture in your mind who your users are. Hopefully, it’s not as broad as our member base.

Just be gentle with them.


How to get out of the discount game

It depends on your industry. It is certainly difficult if you have a track record of giving discounts all the time. It is super difficult if your target customers only expect to get discounts from you and your competitors like in the hotel industry.

But as a smart marketer, we should be able to do something. Talking about the hotel industry, the key strategy all major hotel chains e.g. Marriott, Accor, and Wyndham use is a loyalty program. The basis is simple they encourage guests to make direct bookings with them instead of using Online Travel Agents (OTAs). Those guests earn points which can be used for future bookings. It’s a kind of keeping customers in their ecosystem. But, it could be seen as another discount tactic.

To get out of the whole discount game entirely, you will need to change your mindset. The key success factor would be that you stop offering an average product. You have to stop offering your product to everyone. You have to understand that it’s not possible to please everyone and in doing so (pleasing everyone) you are on a road map of being average. Once you change your mindset, you will start to think who need your solution (your product) and you will start thinking deeper and deeper on how you could “serve” those customers.

Another way to say it is, to get out of the discount game, you need to be remarkable. You cannot be remarkable if you try to attract everyone. Find the people who need your help, tell them how you could help, and do the work to help them. Your universe will be much smaller. But, you will get quality. There is no way for you (or anybody) to get both quality and quantity at the same time. If you can, please let me know.


Building a brand with no budget

I work in marketing but I don’t have a branding budget. We have been talking about the importance of building a brand every year but nothing solid happens. In fairness, building a brand is difficult, time-consuming, and could be very expensive. It’s a long term investment that you may not see favorable results, in a short term, or at all. I gave up about fighting for branding a few years ago.

However, I have connected a few issues we are experiencing this year with the lack of brand awareness. So, I cannot give up if I want the company to be successful. I highlighted 2 points to the company about the important of having (at minimum) a positive brand awareness. Firstly, a clear and publicly known, positive brand positioning would justify a premium price. And, secondly, it would help increase our conversion rates.

The bigger question is – how can we do the brand work if we don’t have a dedicated budget? My answer is in Seth Godin’s Minimum Viable Audience (MVA) concept. It’s not possible to build a brand for the universe (the whole country or region). It would be super expensive and would take about 200 years. But, creating an ecosystem with the right groups of customers in there, it may be possible. At the end of the day, no product could server everyone. It’s a formula for being an average. And, that is what I am doing. I am pushing for an ecosystem and only invite the customers who we think we could offer them a holiday solution.


Ford v Ferrari

I saw a movie “Ford v Ferrari” last weekend. It was a good movie. It’s a true story when Ford tried to beat Ferrari in Le Mans. Here is a teaser – ” American automotive designer Carroll Shelby and fearless British race car driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary vehicle for the Ford Motor Co. Together, they plan to compete against the race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.”

One interesting aspect of this movie is bureaucracy and politic in a corporate environment at Ford. When personal interest is larger than the company’s interest, the future of the company start to fade. I related this aspect the company I am working at. This year has been super challenging. People ask me if it’s because our product is obsolete or doesn’t meet customer’s demand anymore. I am inclined to say yes but I think that is not a complete answer. I genuinely believe that if we have the right people (skill sets, with less self-interest) we could do better than the current situation.

Corporate culture, politics, high self-interests are very difficult to change in the corporate environment. To change, it has to start from the top. It would take (at least) a few years. But, most importantly, we need a courage to change with the right people in the jobs.