Who is Sara Blakely?

Do you know who Sara Blakely is? I didn’t until I came across this article – 10 Marketing Lessons From Sara Blakely. She is a founder of Spanx, Inc., an apparel company that focuses on pants and leggings. She introduced a footless pantyhose.

What are the 10 lessons we can learn from her? The article is a good read (and you should read as it takes only under 5 minutes). The key takeaways I got are the following:

  • Be unique. I like that she suggests that you should be able to tell yourself in 30 seconds how you or your product differ from others.
  • Failure is nothing more than just a signal to you that you are in the wrong path. Embrace it and try again.
  • Plan and setup goals. I do it every week. I list what I need to achieve each week and each month.
  • Think big. You may or may not achieve it but you should set a goal to achieve something bigger than yourself. Something that could change the world. Something that would help customers have a better life.

I summarise her points from 10 to 4. I think my next move would be starting up my own company. I have been working for other people for too long.


Short-term and Long-term Dilemma

The biggest challenge in my career is how to balance between short-term and long-term to drive a sustainable performance.

The issue is to be sustainably profitable you need a group of true passionate customers who believe in your brand. To achieve this level, it requires a continuous, smart, strategic brand and ‘know your why’ investment. Many companies are always under a pressure to deliver a right-now performance. To deliver the right-now performance, we have to concentrate most if not all resources to short-term sales and marketing activities.

And, because you have to come up with new promotions all the time to sustain the short-term results, you wouldn’t have the time and the energy to invest in the longer-term future. Worse, the cost of doing business is getting more and more expensive because you have to target new customers all the time. It’s basically a death spiral. We would keep on doing it until it eventually ends.

If people at the top don’t understand this dilemma, it’s going to be hard to change.


Telling your stories

I went to visit one of our hotels yesterday. It is a hotel that struggles in the past 5 years to compete in a crowded market. I was appointed to look after its market now. Challenging and exciting at the same time.

What surprised me the most is that this hotel has a lot of stories to tell. The problem is we don’t tell those stories to the world. We only told those stories to the team and partners, which is fine. But, in the intensely competitive world, we need to get the stories out there. We need the stories that will make the hotel unique. We need to tell the stories that give reasons for guests to choose us.

That’s my number 1 priority to help this hotel. Our team will update its website to have a section that allows us to share the hotel’s stories. We will then use social the spread those stories. After that we will encourage passionate guests to share stories.

It’s all about telling your stories.


Audience-centric storytelling

Another buzz word I afraid – audience-centric storytelling (ACS). At its core, ACS is a story told from the perspective of a customer. It’s more compelling than brand storytelling because it blends both the power of storytelling and social proof.

We are all familiar with User-Generated Content (UGC). But, with ACS, we would be more specific about how a product could solve customer problems. It could be a blog post that use a real customer explaining his problem and how he uses a product to overcome it. Another effective form of ACS is a video review by customers.

The concept of ACS should be used on other channels too such as a company’s website, emails, social media (of course).


Marketing for unattractive product

I don’t know how to write the headline of today’s post. There is an argument that marketing cannot make you rich if your product is not unique and competitive. I agree with this argument. I once read somewhere that advising is a tax you pay on your unattractive (or mediocre) product.

Having said that what if you, a marketer, don’t have a choice. It’s your job and you are not ready to move on. So, you get stuck with this mediocre product. I am in this situation. And, my solution is I apply 2 principles of marketing which are 1) no product is designed for everyone (search for the right target market), and 2) create a minimal viable audience.

Everyone has to adapt and everything has a life cycle. Every story has an ending moment. A restrictive product is difficult to market. It requires a great understanding from the top. But, I believe marketers can make a difference.


The danger of working with averages

We all have heard and used this term a lot. I heard it is used in every meeting. We sometimes made decision using this term. That term is ‘average’. Calculating average is easy. You divide a total sum of terms with a number of terms.

The problem with averages is that outliers can completely throw off an entire data set, rendering the average figure entirely meaningless.

This phenomenon is known as “the power law” – a situation where a handful of extremes control the distribution, making the term average entirely useless.

If you have the data with skewed distribution, it’s better to use “median”. The Median is the number found at the exact middle of the set of values.


What should PR 2.0 look like?

I am not a PR expert. But, I do have a strong opinion about the role of Public Relations’ in companies. It cannot be the same i.e. writing press releases and send them to journalists. It’s a reactive approach, waiting to be picked by the journalists. Worse, the PR team has no control on how the releases are presented to readers. That cannot be a good business.

The future of PR, or PR 2.0, would look like how Allison Stich, VP of PR at Marriott, described:

  • PR will shift from mass communication to interpersonal communication.
  • PR will shift from looking at PR as editorial space to reaching a consumer’s mental space to make a connection.
  • PR will appeal to a brand’s no. 1 loyal fan rather a lot of people.

I don’t believe a lot of people like to read a press release. I don’t think PR should be waited to be picked. Those PR people are talented writer. They should take a more proactive approach to present their work.


Unbundled services in hotels

There is a prediction that in the next 10 years, hotels will apply the same approach as low cost airlines. The approach is to unbundle all service elements and offer them individually with fees. Will it work?

The argument is Airbnb has successfully introduced the concept by separating a cleaning fee from the rate. I found it odds at the beginning. But through times, I feel indifferent. Everyone seems to be ok about it. It works for Airbnb.

My doubt is Airbnb introduced a cleaning fee as a seperate fee since its inception. There was no expectation from customers at that point. Hotels are different. There is a solid expectation there that customers don’t have to pay a (seperate) cleaning fee and Wifi.

So, I am not sure if it’s going to work. What would be the right strategy here? Move first or wait until someone does it? I would wait at this stage.


Say Hi to February

Time flies very fast. We are in February now. It’s my routine that when a new month comes, I list what I need to achieve (my key objectives) in the month.

Our marketing team now looks after the hotel portfolio too. The daunting task is there are more than 55 resorts and hotels to worry about. During the transitioning periods, we got all sorts of information from all hotels. And, one thing that I notice is that we tend to do a lot to offset shortfalls in performances. My immediate question that I asked myself yesterday was “did they get a lot from all of those activities?”. Or “did they get very little from each of them that was why they had to do a lot?”. Let think for a second. What is the problem here? They didn’t get a lot from each activity. That’s why they had to do a lot.

In the world where resources are scarce. That ‘do a lot to get a little’ hardly works. Your team would run around like a mice in a spinning wheel. What missing is “a good strategy”. If you spend a little bit more time to understand (and list) all the challenges, you will have a clear direction of what need to be done. You would do less to get more.

That’s my mammoth task in February. How can I tell the team that we need to step back and rethink about our challenges. Then, we will agree on a sharp, focused action plan. Wish me luck.