A decision to make

If you are working in the hospitality industry, you may have the same thoughts as we all do now. What should we do as a marketer under this virus situation. More and more countries have been shutting down. Consumers got panicked and pretty much stopped unnecessary consumption. Unfortunately, having a holiday fell into the unnecessary basket.

I noticed that the number of hotel and travel agent promotional emails dropped by more than half. I think everyone decided to hold off all marketing activities at least for the next few weeks.

I myself have been thinking what to do. It looks to me like we reach the point that none of promotions or marketing would work. Or would this be a great opportunity because the competition is close to non-exist?

Most of us never witness something like this in our life time. It sends a shock wave to both consumers and businesses. I believe no one has the right answer.

What would be the best strategy under this situation?


In the crisis

It’s hard to believe what has happened to our world today. The virus situation impacts everyone and every business. Hotels got lots of cancellations. People hold on to their holiday plans. Some people are in a panic mode stocking up everything.

I am of the view that things will get better soon. I don’t scientific evidence to back me up only a gut feeling. We should see a positive light from July onwards. What I’d like to encourage all of us to do is to share positive news and to share encouragement, to share hope.

From a business perspective, there are 2 suggestions to choose from. Firstly, we should have promotions to encourage people to spend. And, the other suggestion is safe the money as the return wouldn’t be worth the investment. I did the first suggestion and the result was in line with the second suggestion. Unfortunately, I cannot stay still and wait.

I will keep on trying, Winston Churchill once said “If you are going to hell, keep going”. At least this situation is not as bad as going through hell. That’s good news.


Louis Gerstner’s management principles

I have a few “book” mentors. They are the leaders that I admire and they wrote books to share their wisdoms. One of them is Louis Gerstner. He was a former CEO of IBM who turned IBM around. When he took over the role, he shared his management principles with his executive team. I want to share some of them that I strictly follow until today.

  1. I manage by principle, not procedure.
  2. The marketplace dictates everything we do.
  3. I look for people who work to solve problems and help colleagues. I sake politicians.
  4. I am heavily involved in strategy. The rest is yours to implement.
  5. Move fast. If we make mistakes, let them be because we are too fast, rather than too slow.
  6. Hierarchy means little to me. Let put together in meetings the people who can help solve a problem, regardless of position. No committee decision making.

One of his quotes that I like is…

Watch the turtle. He only moves forward by sticking his neck out.

Louis Gerstner

I put my neck out there all the times. It would be chopped off one day.


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.


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.


Intensity vs Consistency

These 2 key words will be used in a background of my strategy this year. They will be used in different context. And, they are both important.

Branding: consistency is more important. We need to be consistent in our positioning, our messages, and our content creation.

Strategic priorities: there are so many things to do. Instead of setting a priority and allocate resources the old way, we will do them all but apply intensity levels to each priority.

Staff training: I will need both intensity and consistency. Intensity alone won’t make knowledge sticks. Consistency alone won’t change their behavior.

Leadership: consistency is a key here. I have to communicate more often with the messages towards our agreed strategy.


What is strategy, really?

I am always interested in strategy. I feel that it’s a term that we all use, but not many people know what it actually is.  It happens to me a lot at work. It’s always like this, I talked to my team on, say, our social media activities, I asked one of my team why there was no progress. One of many answers always is – “I don’t understand why we are doing this. I don’t think we have a strategy for our social media”. I then asked “OK, we have discussed this many times. Before I go through it with you again, can you please tell me, in your words, what is a strategy?” If it happens to you, your boss asks you this question, what would be your answer? It’s intriguing, and I really want to know your answers.

When asked, what is a strategy? I often heard something along the line of – it’s planning, it’s how a company uses resources, it’s a way to achieve our goal, etc. It’s not wrong, but it’s also not right. I am not saying what I have in mind about the answer to this question is the right answer. However, I did some research to get to the bottom of this.

The outcomes of my research for the answers to this question involves the following keywords:

  • Problems
  • Competitive advantage
  • Strengths/weaknesses
  • Execution/Implementation
  • Choices (what to do and what not to do)
  • Differences
  • Change of external forces
  • Branding/Positioning

I also found terms like strategic planning, strategic building block, branding positioning, resource allocation. If you do the search yourself, I bet there is an 80% chance that your search results would be the same, with those keywords.

With all of the above, I want to propose my own version of what a strategy is. I am a big fan of Richard Rumelt’s book (Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The difference and why it matters) so I am influenced by his thoughts. Below is my proposal.

“A strategy is an activity that utilizes the insights of your challenges to design a coherent set of actions based on your strengths to address newly identified opportunities or to overcome obstacles.”

According to Richard, the first step to check if you have a strategy at all is to see if you understand your challenges or not. In his words, “A great deal of strategy work is trying to figure out what is going on. Not just deciding what to do, but the more fundamental problem of comprehending the situation”. Basically, what he said is, “diagnosis is a judgment about the meanings of facts.” I think his book is impressive and if you have the same interest as I am (in Strategy), you should read his book (if you haven’t done that yet).

Strategy work is important. It determines lives and deaths of companies, battles, negotiations, everything. It’s more important than many people thing. Surprisingly, not many people understand what the true strategy is.


Start with the product

It’s getting harder and harder to have a product that stands out of the crowd. Some companies like mine have a product that lasts for a long time and it’s not easy to come up with a new product. What are we going to do if we have to stick with our existing, non-attractive product?

In my opinion, there are 2 options to deal with this situation:

1. Repositioning the product: it means looking for the minimal viable audience and reposition your product to suit them. It is the same product but you create reasons for this group of people to buy your product.

2. Partner with other products: for example, if you are selling hotel rooms and your hotel doesn’t have a unique proposition, you may partner with a cooking company and offer a cooking package while staying at your hotel.

Remember this – there is always a solution to every business problem.


Good strategy for 2020

No, I don’t have business solutions for you next year, sorry. The year end is approaching and some of us is thinking or planning about next year. Will it be harder? What am I going to do to get better results? What is my strategy for 2020?

I read (no I skimmed through) this article – Science Behind Successful Business Strategy – and I don’t get much value out of it. So, I told myself, I will offer a different suggestion. For next year, I would like to encourage you to do one thing for me (well for yourself). Please think, or list, or write down your current business challenges. What are the challenges that keep you awake at night? Write them down.

There is a simple way to help you understand your business challenges. It’s to ask a why question 3 times.

  1. Why can’t I generate sales from my Facebook page? Because I don’t have enough audience.
  2. Why don’t I have enough audience? Because I don’t post valuable content for my customers.
  3. Why don’t I post value able content for my customers? Because I don’t focus on generating valuable content.

Well, your strategy in this example should be creating content that offers your customers’ solutions to their problems.

Doing this is far more important than coming up with mission or vision. Understand your business challenges is the most critical step to develop good strategy. This is my wishing you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year message.


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.