The rule of 7

In the crowded world we are living in today, I am not sure if this rule is still valid. It is a part of a marketing job to send messages to customers and to expect them to take actions. For a direct response marketing, it’s getting more and more expensive because you send a new message to a new group of customers all the time. A branding marketing is better in this aspect but this approach takes longer times with consistent focus.

The rule of 7 says that a customer has to see an advertisement or message 7 times to remember it or to be inspired to take action. The rule applies to most if not all channels e.g. TV., emails, social media.


Product positioning and target market

I was in a meeting yesterday discussing about one of our hotels. The team told me that this hotel which is situated in a CBD area has a corporate business as a main target market. However, the hotel performance has not be good. And, I was explained that one of the reasons is because the corporate business in this area has dropped significantly in the past few years. It could be the case, or not.

This hotel was built and branded under an art theme. Originally, its rates were set higher than other hotels in the area because of its artistic differentiation. It didn’t work well so the rates had declined and the team took whatever markets they could find. The hotel lost its positioning.

Corporate marketing could be important. However, would they pay extra to stay at this hotel to have an artistic experience? I don’t think so. The problem is when the product positioning and the target market do not match, you struggle. The team need to figure out first on how to fix this mismatch. If not, they will struggle forever.


Why should business take business strategy seriously?

I got a serious interest in strategy when I was studying my first Master Degree. I came across an idea of “managing your desired outcomes”, which I think it’s a fundamental principle of any strategy – personal or professional. If you apply this principle – plan your desired outcome – you will always 1) think a few steps ahead and 2) you will respond, not react. Your life is going to be much simpler because you always know why you do what you do. As my interest in this area grew, I then chose to do a Ph.D. in business strategy. I learnt that there are many tools that help businesses do strategic planning such as SWOT Analysis, TOWS, The Balance Score Card, and etc. The problem is there are so many of them. I really doubt that anyone, apart from those high-fee consulting companies, would know or get benefits using those tools. They are very, very theoretical.

A few years later, I came across two great books that entirely changed my perspective about business strategy – one is Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard Rumelt, and the other one is Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. I summarised the concept of Blue Ocean Strategy in my previous post.

Why did I like these two books very much?

The first book by Richard taught me about the core principle of a strategy. He suggested that a good strategy needs to have the following three components:

  1. A diagnosis – what is going on? What is(are) the challenge(s) that you or a company encounter? I find that this is the most important step in any strategic activity. If you don’t understand a problem, how could you come up with a solution?
  2. A guiding policy – once you understand the challenges, you need to come up with guidance or a direction on how you think you can overcome those challenges. It could mean that you need to add more product features, or you may need to add another product line, or you need to improve your service offering.
  3. Coherent actions – There is no distinction between a strategy and an execution. You may have heard people saying –  oh it’s not working because  even though a strategy is good the execution is bad. The execution bit is a key part of your strategy, period. To execute the guiding policy above, you need to design all related / relevant actions.

What’s about the Blue Ocean book? The concept of the blue ocean strategy is to encourage us to stop restricting our thoughts around the traditional competition and industry boundary. The authors call this traditional concept “red ocean” – the trade-off between differentiation and low-cost. The blue ocean strategy argues why we have to choose if we could do both. The question is how and if you could find a way to do it, you wouldn’t have to worry about competitions anymore. The idea is basically to look for gaps or unfulfilled pain points or demands and offer something to close those gaps. In short, blue ocean strategists focus on creating and capturing new demand, not fighting over existing customers.

Having the right strategy for your business is important, and most importantly, it’s not difficult at all.


When OTAs struggle

I was a bit surprised to read this news – Tripadvisor Reorganization Brings Exec Departures and New Life for Viator. A few weeks ago, there was also news about Expedia’s CEO stepped down because there was a disagreement about his strategic direction and the expectation from the board. Basically, those Online Travel Agents (OTAs) are struggling to compete in the market.

In the Tripadvisor’s case, what they tried to do is to fight back in a tour and activity segment led by Aviator, a company they acquired in 2014. Aviator’s performance dropped due partly to the entrance to this segment by Airbnb and

My 2c is I used Aviator a few times and it pretty much positions itself as a shopping centre for tours and activities. Airbnb, on the contrary, is a platform for anyone to host holiday experiences. The Airbnb’s approach is admirable that I even think to adopt for my company.

Who would think even the largest OTAs in the world struggle to compete?


The coaching habit

I attended a leadership conference last year. It was a good conference. It’s good to get out of the office and hear different perspectives from different industries. One of the sessions that I found very beneficial was the one from Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of the book “The Coaching Habit”.

He was full of energy and very funny. The most important points I took from his session on the best way to coach the team were:

  1. Can you stay curious a little longer? This question is to enforce yourself to listen intensely to a person who asks you for advice. Most of us have a habit of jumping into a conclusion in the middle of the conversation. Just stay curious, we could hear something that is different to our perception.
  2. Can you offer a solution or advice a little slower? I used to read an article that a company’s leader in China worked around his factory every morning. He talked to his staff. When someone asked him for advice, what he did was only asked questions to his staff. A series of questions helped the person who asked to think. In the end, his staff came up with a solution by himself.

I haven’t done them well, the 2 points above. I improved on point 1 but I still suffer from point 2. Leadership is an ongoing learning process. It requires great commitment and continuous practices.

I still have a lot to learn.


The role of Public Relations (PR)

What is the role of PR in the modern, social media driven world? Many said PR is dead because no one would read a long press release. Also, consumers today do not read magazines or newspaper as much.

I agree and disagree that PR is dead. I don’t like the concept that PR has to prepare a press release, send to a bunch of journalists and wait anxiously which ones will pick a story. You have no control whatsoever in this process. I think this process (or concept) is dead. It makes companies feel good to do this with a minimum return (if they can even measure the return).

I support what I called a PR 2.0. Why do you need to rely on journalists when you can communicate with customers and the public directly? Doing it this way, you take control 100% of every aspect of your stories. You can even put a call to action in your stories.

One important thing to understand though, people don’t read much anymore. They skim through articles, stories, posts, etc. PR should tell compelling, short & sharp stories. How their company or product could solve people’s issues.


Why would customers buy a product from you?

Have you ever ask yourself this very question? Why would people buy from you, not from your competitors, or from the shops next door? I find this question very useful. This is because it’s sometimes difficult to find a good answer.

In my industry, the question I often ask is ‘why would guests choose to stay at our hotel, not the hotel next door?’. We have a hotel in a place called “Gold Coast” in Australia. There are more than 1,000 hotels in this tourist city. In the city’s tourist spot, there are more than 100 similar hotels to ours. Hence, the question I ask – why?

The response I got is frustrating. We don’t have a good answer. Could it be our service? Or, could it be our room standard quality? Our beds? Kitchen? All of the above, or none of the above? As far as I can see, the hotels next door offer the exact same things that we do. That’s why all of us go to the price war. We offer discounts. We focus more on the revenue management function.

Some changes in the way we think need to happen. We have to find the right answer. Some woks are in progress. We started by giving a unique positioning to each hotel. We will separate them all with different positioning.

Wish me luck.


Please leave me alone

I am approached by a lot of external suppliers / vendors. They normally contact me using emails or LinkedIn requests. The most annoying way is they contact my boss or my CEO. You know what? I’ve never used any of them. They just wasted my time.

Assuming that they see this blog post, I want to explain to them that I have a strategy. It means I know which direction I am heading and what I want to achieve. If I see gaps in my resources, I will search for what I want. I normally use Google search or ask people around me for the services I need.

Having said that if those vendors want to get my attention, they may want to change their approach. Instead of bombarding me with what their services could do fore me, they should start by asking me what my (business) problems are. They should ask about me, my worry, my concerns, or what keep me awake at night first. It’s not all about them.


The law of diffusion of innovation

How to make your idea spread? How to make your product reach the mass? There is a theory called “The law of diffusion of innovation”. You may have heard about it before. The law said there are 5 groups of people – innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.

The first group, innovators, accounts for only 2.5% of the population. Early adopters account for about 13.5%. The last 3 groups account for 84%. There is a little gap between the early adopters and the early majority as Geoffrey Moore calls “crossing the chasm”. That is your tipping point.

What does it mean? It means that if you want your idea to spread, you first have to ignore the early and the late majority. These 2 groups will not try anything new until someone else tries it first. You have to aim at the early adopters. They are willing to try something new and if they like your idea, it will tip.

This simple law should be a basis in your marketing strategy.