30 years' business experience in 5 bullet points

These five points are aimed at people/businesses (e.g. consultants, service providers and representatives) who serve the commercial/B2B market specifically. Whilst there are exceptions to every rule, that really only serves to prove the rule.

  1. Your product/service must solve an actual problem of some scale. Not your passion, not what you like and not what you think is a good idea – solve people’s problems. If you first have to convince the customer that they have a problem of a certain kind that only you can solve, you are in for long, hard struggle. If they don’t think they have that particular problem, then you won’t often succeed
  2. You must be able to demonstrate clear, tangible benefits that can be translated into dollars. You can talk about quality, experience and the like, but what people really buy must make or save them money. And they don’t like taking risks – it must be obvious – because they are taking risks with their career if they make a mistake. (unlike a consumer who can throw
  3. Your product must have a point of difference. Not a gimmick. Not the brand. Not the promise. It must actually be different in a way that this difference is a compelling reason to choose your product over another.
  4. You must be specialised and focused. Don’t be www.doanythingformoney.com – but have the courage to narrow your offer down to the point where you/it is unique. Being geographically unique is of limited benefit to a small range of products – in most cases the global market is open to you, so the smallest niche becomes viable (long tail).
  5. You must have a product. Even if you sell a service, the physical manifestation of that service is a critical element of what the customer buys. People are funny that way. Banks must give a credit card (plastic) as the physical manifestation of their financial service for instance. Do the same with your advice, membership, service etc.

I am pretty sure that none of the above would be your first reading of it. I certainly did not make it up and I have heard and read that same advice numerous times. What I am doing, is endorsing it with my 30 years’ experience AND highlighting to you that if you don’t follow it and just glance over the real intent and content of those strategic principles, then you are trying to reinvent a square wheel that does not exist and will not work, no matter how interesting or different you think it may be.


Want to know if you have what it takes to be a leader?

There are many ways you can process this memo from David Ogilvie, ad guru of the ages, who wrote about his weaknesses.

I wonder what you make of it?

Personally, what is see writ large is EGO. In fact, I would suggest anyone currently interviewing for a job memorise a few of those to regurgitate when asked the ‘what-are-your-weaknesses’ question.

Each one of those ‘weaknesses’ is perverted boastful claim.

I am candid to the point of indiscretion.


Translation: I will tell you the truth the way I see it, and I don’t really care if it hurts or you think it is insensitive and indiscreet.

I am intolerant of mediocrity.

Translation: I will kick your ass if you deliver mediocre work – it isn’t really about my intolerance, it is about your incompetence.

I won’t bother translating each one, but re-read it again and you will see what I mean if you didn’t read it that way the first time.

There is an important point to this, and it is about leadership.

From Kennedy to Clinton to Jobs to Branson and Bob Hawke; in each and every instance these iconic leaders had egos to match the scale of their ambitions.

  • ·         Great leaders hear their followers – but they don’t listen to them.
  • ·         Great leaders understand their customers’ needs, - but don’t give them what they want, but what they need.
  • ·         Great leaders don’t pursue a point of difference to be competitive, they do it because they know being different is how you win (and they are confident enough to own it).

In each instance the ego has to be big enough for them for them to go against the flow and do what they want and what they believe in.

A clear and compelling vision is the necessary starting point for any strategy, but it is the one thing that does not emerge from consensus and consultation – it is the first task of the leader to articulate that vision. And that requires the confidence and chutzpa that emanates from a big ego.

Some people can disguise this unpleasant necessity better than others, David Ogilvie it seems may have been one of those, but ultimately being ‘nice’ is not a leadership requirement. Hitler being one simple case in point.

The real leadership issue is however not whether you have an ego large enough, but whether you are willing to pay the price that having a big ego demands? That is; a willingness to be unpopular and the risk of being wrong.

You either have to be self-absorbed or be brave to believe your own vision and back your own ego. The self-absorbed leaders are the poor leaders and the brave ones are the good ones.

I hope you work for a brave leader, because the ego of a self-absorbed leader makes for a toxic workplace.

I searched for the key, and this is what I found

This is an extract from my monthly newsletter - and important enough for me to want to share it here. (You can get more like this HERE - and I am sure you will figure out how to subscribe if you like it.)

For a long time I searched for the key.

The key to success. The key to happiness. The key to anything you care to name. It took a while for it to dawn on me:

There is no key.

And it took even longer for me to actually believe what I knew.

Does too many cooks spoil the broth or do many hands make light work?

Both. Neither. Sometimes.

I subscribe to over 300 blogs. I am a prolific reader. I am a student of life.

You can learn from success and you can learn from failure. There is a time to stand out and there is a time to fit in. You can study your competition or you can ignore them and focus on your own business.

Sometimes the one thing works better than the other and it is only ever clear with hindsight. That is why hindsight is wonderful; but then again foresight may even be better. So ideally you want both…

You can see where this is going.

We think in a linear manner, but life weaves a tangled web.

Our survival instincts require as to make quick, repeatable decisions. As you meander on the path of life, it is useful when you need to distinguish between a snake and a harmless stick. And is not so useful when you need to decide between a merger and acquisition.

It is liberating to know there are no secrets and no ‘keys’, and you consequently acquire permission to dream and are encouraged to take risks - with no better justification required than simply saying ‘who knows’ or ‘why not’?

So, are you worried if ‘that thing you want to do’ is going to work out the way you intended? Don’t be – nobody knows. And it is okay if you don’t either.

There is no panacea. There is no magic bullet. Just (re-)load the gun and keep shooting. Show up every day. Do the best you can with what you got where you are. Keep doing it if it makes sense to you and harms no one else.

Happy Birthday Moonyeen

Happy Birthday Moonyeen....

The heart of saint makes you a great mother.

A passion and a body to match makes you a great lover.

The insight of wizard makes you a great  trainer

The commitment of a Stoic makes you the best life-mate I could have asked for.

I have had many blessings in my life, but none greater than the privilege of sharing this journey with you.

Ganador Blog is about #thinkdifferent. We cover topic of business- and personal development aimed at entrepreneurial marketers. (c)Applies. Posts authored by Dr Dennis Price.

3 lessons to learn from the supermarket big boys - Part II

Last week, in Part I, I briefly covered the evolution of supermarkets and showed how their business model came to be and what lessons we could take from that. Lesson #1 was about pricing and Lesson #2 was about branding.

(Read it here if you missed it.)


There are three key strategic takeaways from studying the history of supermarkets:

Firstly, standing still is certain death. The middle ground, where are you trying to be all things to all people, is not a sustainable strategic position. Any concept in between will be squeezed out towards one or the other. (Read more about the Big Squeeze here.)

Knowing where you are, where you want to be and the translating that into a business model is the essence of a strategy. That is, the ‘positioning’ you adopt dictates your strategic imperatives.

For example let’s say you can choose to be a (1) mass-market, disposable fashion segment operator, or you can choose to be (2) a high-end, high-fashion boutique operator. Depending on your choice, you will build your brand, your supply chain, and your pricing strategy based on that initial choice.

And this is the important part: If you choose option 2, you cannot simultaneously play in the low price, high volume segment. It is self-evident, but yet every day, we see the exact opposite.

Secondly, the key to driving costs down is aggressive innovation in technology. Big box retailers like supermarkets have led the way in innovative technology, from bar codes to big data and beyond. The financial, direct cost of technology is coming down, but the rate of change is adding a significant indirect cost of constant learning and re-learning, constant tweaking and changing. This is the advantage of the little guy because the investment is lower and the turnaround is quicker.

Finally, and most importantly, every supply chain will have (or attract) middlemen who want to rort the system and ‘clip’ the proverbial ticket without investing in the ownership (and risks of owning) the product. This has been so since time immemorial and it is true today. The new incarnation are SEO services, providers of marketing automation services and the like.

If history is anything to go by (and it is) you can plan for the following inevitabilities:

1. Businesses will evolve towards a more efficient supply chain with fewer middlemen. I don’t know what will replace these middlemen, but something will. Something like the Google Buy Button may well be the thing that changes the game completely.

2. The oscillation between big and small will continue. The Amazon-Alibaba-Google cohort will become the price/convenience operators and the only point of difference will be … not that. The strategic challenge is to find a competitive advantage that capitalises on your smaller size and taps into something the customer really values.

It won’t be product knowledge, because the internet killed that. Figuring out the answer is a key strategic imperative.

The good news is that customers naturally prefer to deal with the little guys, the ‘market operators’ of today, but they won’t do it any price (lesson #1).

Even better news there ARE answers, the question is simply whether you will find it.

Have fun



Ganador: Management SOLUTIONS (especially tough ones)


3 lessons to learn from the supermarket big boys - Part I

The evolution of supermarkets contain many lessons for modern retailing.

Fixed stores evolved naturally out of markets. Following that, several key changes occurred in a few decades: the introduction of self-service, growth of chains (geo-scaling) and then the explosion in size for stores (and concomitantly the increase in range.) Parallel to this was the ever-increasing focus on price.

This historical development reveals that an important driver in the evolution of the supermarket is that the distribution channel was extremely inefficient. (To understand the strategic role that the inefficiencies and friction plays, read this piece.) The low volume purchases of these small traders led to high costs and sizable mark-ups. Traders purchased their supplies from a wide range middle-men who rorted the system, adding additional costs to an already expensive distribution system.

Supermarkets dominate the one end of the barbell (convenience/price) and specialty stores dominate the other (service/depth & knowledge). Graphically it can be illustrated as below:

Lessons to be learned from the evolution of supermarkets:


Saving money is big driver of purchase behaviour. Customers generally would avoid the supermarket, but the price/convenience factor is compelling. The basic business models behind both the supermarket formats dates back many decades, and the anti-chain sentiment (in the US) of the 1930s was at least as strong as the movement against big box stores that we see today.

Focus on price will commoditise your business. Once you are commoditised, there is no escape. When you are locked into a price-based strategy, you better focus on costs relentlessly.

But price is not the only strategic competitive advantage. It feels like it is the easiest to pursue, because you can simply go to a shelf or a unit of merchandise, or log on to a computer and change the process. It feels like you have done something. And you have. But not necessarily in a good way. Once you start sliding down the slippery slope, it is very hard to climb back up.

I am not suggesting that price-differentiation is a bad strategy, just that it requires all the other parts of the business model to be aligned with it, and a specialty shop will achieve that alignment with great difficulty because of structural constraints.


Customers don’t buy brands, at best ‘brand’ is a heuristic. I cannot write it any better than the inimitable Bob Hoffman:

A lot of people have shaky jobs. And many have unstable families. Some have illnesses. All have debts.

Lots have washing machines that are broken, and cars that need a tune-up, and funny things growing on their backs, and boyfriends that are always getting high, and socks that have holes, and hair that is falling out, and toilets that are unreliable, and 10 pounds of extra stomach, and kids that are unhappy, and teeth that hurt, and rent to pay, and...

...a lot of things to care about.

One thing you can be pretty sure they don't care about is your brand. 

Yes, I know you've been told that people love brands, and want to engage with them, and co-create with them and be all social with them. But stop and think about it for a minute. Do you really believe this? Does it even pass the giggle test?

If you're a marketer and you believe people care about your brand just because they buy it, you're headed for trouble. What we blithely call "brand loyalty" is mostly just habit, convenience, mild satisfaction or easy availability. 

‘Housebrand’ is a strategy that is about channel power as much (or even more than) it is about margin, and least of all about giving the consumer value.

Customers don’t buy a ‘housebrand’ because they trust the ‘house’, it is because they want it cheap and believe that it comes from the same factory anyway.

Tabloid researchers and gurus on Today Tonight will tell you that people love the Aldi housebrands more than Coles or Woolworths. Not true. Consumers are simply more likely buy it when they don’t recognise the brand (as in Aldi) and they don’t know they are buying ‘homebrands’.

I am not suggesting that branding is not important, but rather that the role it plays in the consumer decision-making process is different to what people think.

Next week I will cover the final (strategic) lessons to be learned from studying the big boys.

Coming out as a retailer

Without exception, we can attribute success or failure of a retail business to people. Even if we blame an extraneous event, it is not the event as such, but how the people react to the event that determines the eventual outcome.

I believe that view is relatively uncontroversial.

But if it is so, and it is widely accepted, the question that immediately follows, is why the topic of ‘people’ is not at the top of the agenda? Executives and retail owners occupy themselves with a range of matters – from big data, mobile strategies, store location, margin management and a long list of topics – but spends very little time on people.

If your marketing, sucks it is because you don’t have a good marketer or an interfering executive – either way it is a people issue.

If your merchandising sucks, it is because you have poor buyers, poor recruiters, poor trainers, poor managers – pick any one, but whatever you pick, it is a people issue.

High shrinkage is a result of having disloyal or untrained staff. Or it may be a result of poor systems – which of course are designed and implemented by… you guessed it: people.

Name any aspect of retail and behind it stands a human being making decisions. Of course luck (good and bad) plays a role, but once it happens you still have to decide how to respond and counter the bad luck and capitalise on the good luck.

I have come to the conclusion that people in retail don’t focus on people as much as they logically and necessarily have to, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the way that most people enter the retail business is by accident rather than design. The retail sector seems to be largely populated by people who left school, and without having a specific passion or interest took a job – in retail. Or some may have drifted to Uni, and then after graduation simply turned the part-time job into a full-time one. Consequently, far too few people who work in retail are dedicated to it as a profession.

Secondly, retail jobs are easy to get. Even if you are passionate about retail, the hours are relentless, the pay is pretty average, and the specific skills required are often basic (easily learned). Consequently, there is a high turnover of staff, especially at the entry level. Few people in retail had to jump through hoops to get into retail, and those who really choose to be there don’t necessarily feel a sense of accomplishment.

Thirdly, it is also easy to start a retail business. How hard is it to put a few tables and some shelving in a store and put some merchandise on it at twice the price you paid for it? (It is not easy to be good, nor is it easy to survive and be successful, but is easy to start.)

Fourthly, in the pecking order of industries, retail ranks pretty low. It is seen as large provider of jobs, but not much else. I have never heard of any other industry turning to retailing as a benchmark for anything. What great innovation was made in retailing that is adopted in other industries? (Even ‘eTailing’ was invented and is led by non-retailers, usually computer nerds.)

This leads to a confluence of two powerful, negative forces that conspires against us:

Firstly, the people who are committed, passionate and professional are in the minority, outnumbered by a large number of people who simply take up space in the retail environment. Secondly, those who have risen through the ranks to executive status or those who has the courage to strike out on their own to start a retail business spend very little time on people issues; usually only when the ‘issues’ are pressing and unavoidable such as Union issues, or recruitment and the like. Even then it is more about going through the motions, rather than proactively engaging with people with the specific goal of building a culture that underpins, and delivers on the brand.

In order to counter these negative, restraining factors, it is high time for retailers to come out of the proverbial closet. There is no shame in being a retailer. Retailing is not only an essential (and very large) part of any economy, in a modern society it is complex, challenging and worthy of our best physical and intellectual efforts.

It will probably always be true that it will be easy to get started in retail, but it is equally true that it is incredibly difficult to succeed and to be called a good retailer.

A champion athlete can complete a marathon in close to two hours, and is not offended that a Sunday jogger who clocks up a few kays on the weekend also calls himself a ‘runner’. That is probably because that is how every champion started.

So, no matter how you got your start, or how many ‘joggers’ there are in retail; the only thing that is needed for you to become a champion retailer is make the decision to come out as a retailer and to ‘own’ your profession. And then do everything within your power to focus on the people in your organisation and to continuously raise the bar with every appointment, with every interaction.

Make your people your priority. And it starts with you being proud of being what you are and who you are. Wear your ‘retailer’ label with pride.

Be more. That allows you to demand more.


Ganador: People and Performance.



The 7 sins of retailing

Today is the day for some tough love. It is always easier to see the flaws and mistakes in someone else’s business than your own; but no matter how unpleasant it is, it is beneficial to take the time to diagnose the failings in one’s retail business. This list has been compiled from a life spent in and around retail:

Sin #1: Not having a proposition

Proposition = price X product x promise. That is: what does the customer GET for in exchange for their money? What is the value in that exchange? (Not just monetary value.)

You have heard the old bromide that you sell the sizzle, not the steak; the hole-in-the-wall and not the drill. THAT (sizzle) is your proposition. It is not about features, it is about benefits.

How does this sin manifest itself?

·         Image ‘drift’

·         Always on sale

·         Focussing on what you have instead of what they want

Sin #2: Not having (enough of the right) stock

Timing your clearances and timing your buying is at the art and science of being true merchant.

How does this sin manifest itself?

·         Falling in love with your stock = thinking you are the customer

·         Not knowing what is selling and what is not (no proper system in place)

·         Not knowing the metric and not knowing what to do about it

Sin #3: Not presenting properly

Configuration and visual merchandising is crucial to drive retail productivity. Everyone knows that, but few people seem to understand the difference between visual merchandising and interior decorating.

How does this sin manifest itself?

·         Don’t understand the hotspots

·         Trying to manipulate customers instead of simply fishing where the fish are

·         Fail to use smart design principles to lead the sale

·         Unbalanced allocations (too much space for poor contributors and vice versa)

Sin #4: Not attracting the right customers

Not all customers are equal. If all you sell is ‘on price’, all you’ll attract are cheapskates. That is only a good idea if it matches your proposition; for the other ninety percent, it is a really bad idea.

How does this sin manifest itself?

·         Poor marketing comprising most clichés and noise, and a promise of the cheapest price

·         No Point of Difference

·         Fail to use proper psychology (not the pop-psychology of pseudo-experts)

Sin #5: Pitching price instead of value.

Customers can NOT be persuaded to buy stuff just because it is there - not frequently enough to be a viable business anyway. Retailers don’t understand the (true) cost of consumption and trade-offs the consumers take in order to do the transaction.

How does this sin manifest itself?

·         Price-only advertising

Sin #6: Not Persuading Browsers to be Buyers

Too many retailers have become lazy in their selling. It is true that no one likes being sold to, but you should still ‘help them buy’. This can be done effectively with the application of the correct techniques. A few years ago we persuaded a newsagent to allow us to experiment and we had a few days of ‘active selling’ and compared those days with like-for-like days in the previous week, month and year. The results varied between 18% and 28% UP in a business that was trending down. Despite that, they still weren’t prepared to allocate a staff member to the floor. Go figure.

How does this sin manifest itself?

·         No/slow sales growth

·         Customer Complaints

·         Walk-outs

Sin #7: Not building the system to deliver the outcome

Often people claim to have 20 years’ experience when they really only have one year’s experience twenty times over. Retailers are no exception. In order for a business to make a step-change to the next level, it has to do something different AHEAD of the step-change; that is only logical. If you merely arrive every day to make it through the day, doing approximately what you did they day before, nothing changes.

How does this sin manifest itself?

·         Tired, de-motivated owners

·         Unsellable business

The overall message may appear to be negative and critical – and it is that too. But the KEY point I would like to make is that ALL of these ‘sins’ are easily fixed – and customers will forgive you in due course. Every singly ‘sin’ is based on a decision you have taken, and each and every one can be fixed in the same way.

Simply make the decision to do it differently and follow through.

Quite easily done.

Dennis: Ganador: Making success happen


Ganador Blog is about #thinkdifferent. We cover topic of business- and personal development aimed at entrepreneurial marketers. (c)Applies. Posts authored by Dr Dennis Price.

30 key success factors for ecommerce retail

If you want to do e-commerce, my first piece of advice is to NOT do it, unless you have resolved a clear, unique value proposition. Just like in the ‘real’ world, a retail business stands and falls by its ‘proposition’. The worst possible reason to take on this channel is because everyone else is doing it.

But if you are going to do it, address this list of key success factors:

A: Be findable

1.       SEO & Search

2.       Build an database

3.       PPC optimization

4.       Remarketing

5.       Social Media

B : Be shoppable

6.       Accessibility

7.       Check-out process

8.       Design

9.       Good Images

10.   M-Commerce

11.   Navigation

12.   Page load time

13.   Payment options

14.   Option to save product for later

15.   Stocks availability

16.   Unique detailed descriptions

17.   User Experience (UX)

18.   Security

19.   Shipping

C: Be relatable

20.   Customer service

21.   Reviews

22.   Online Chat

23.   Personalization

24.   Quality Content

25.   Regular Updates

D: Be knowledgeable

26.   Analytics

27.   Pricing

28.   Personalization

That is only 28 tips, but the opening paragraph counts double. It is the most important piece of advice I can possibly give you. Adding a new channel is not the same as opening another store. Different business, different customer behaviours, different marketing different pricing and a different supply chain – in short: different in almost every way. The twenty eight Key Success Factors listed above is meant to convey the list of activities that will be required to successfully operate an online store. To get an idea of how different online shopping from a desktop is to online shopping on a mobile phone, read this article from McKinsey.

Should you do it? Of course!

The essence of retail is about selling what people want to buy, when and where they want to buy. And if online is where customer are, then you should be there to. (The reverse applies too as can be seen from online-only start-ups entering the bricks and mortar channel.) But customers flow seamlessly between different channels and one of the toughest challenges to address is integrating the experience seamlessly – not the least of which is the challenge of price harmonisation across channels.

In the final analysis, the observant reader will note that the essence of successful retail is still the same, no matter which channel applies: develop a compelling, different proposition and then be findable, shoppable, relatable and knowledgeable. It is just that the execution is radically different and should not be underestimated.

Ganador – Solving problems with smart solutions



Have you heard the one about Bumblebees not supposed to be able to fly?

This myth was debunked very nicely by Dr Karl; and the story goes something like this:

According to John McMasters, who back in the 'good old days' was principal engineer on the aerodynamics staff at Boeing Commercial Aeroplanes, it seems the aerodynamicist of the myth was probably an unnamed Swiss professor famous in the 1930s and 1940s for his work in supersonic gas dynamics. The aerodynamicist was having dinner with a biologist. In the idle chit-chat, the biologist noted that bees and wasps had very flimsy wings — but heavy bodies. So how could they possibly fly?

With absolutely no hard data, but a willingness to help that overcame good dinner party etiquette, the aerodynamicist made two assumptions in his back-of-envelope calculations.

The first assumption was that the bees' wings were flat plates that were mostly smooth (like aeroplane wings). The second assumption was that as air flows over an insect's wings, it would separate easily from the wing. Both of these assumptions turned out to be totally incorrect — and the origin of our myth.

The aerodynamicist's initial rough calculations 'proved' that insects could not fly. But that was not the end of the story.

Of course, being a good scientist, his sense of curiosity got him interested in this problem. Clearly, insects can fly. He then examined insect wings under a microscope and found that they had a ragged and rough surface. In other words, one of his assumptions was way off.

But by then, overzealous journalists had spread the myth he had inadvertently created. The story had flown free, even though the bumblebee supposedly couldn't.

There is a lesson in that for all of us. In fact several lessons if we really want to be honest. For instance that much of what we ‘know’ isn’t really knowledge at all. But I want to focus on one particular epistemic principle that we will be well served remembering:

Things that we know today are always overturned in the face of advancing knowledge. As time goes by, we learn things that allow us to create better explanations. But no matter how good the explanation today, there is always a better one tomorrow.

This force of advancing knowledge has a profound implication for our everyday lives and specifically for business strategy:

Everything you believe and take as fact today is changed tomorrow in the light of new evidence.

Just like we once thought the earth was flat and that the start revolved around us, we now know better. Just as Newton’s explanations were eclipsed by Einstein’s theories, everything we know today is at best found to be only partially correct tomorrow.

So how can the Truth change? Well the answer is that it hasn't. The Universe is still the same as it ever was. When a theory is said to be ``true'' it means that it agrees with all known experimental evidence. 

SIDEBAR: This is a point where both THEISTS and ATHEISTS argue their own position. Theists claim that ABSOLUTE truth exists. This is a philosophical assertion based on the notion that ‘it is just so’ – it is something we simply intuit universally. The ATHEIST must argue necessarily that everything is relative. That is, that ‘truth’ is simply that which agrees with all current experimental evidence.

Every person (consciously or not) must take a position in one of these two exclusive camps; one where TRUTH is an absolute and one where it is relative. I find it absolutely hilarious how some people can’t argue against the notion of an absolute truth, but equally firmly adopts an atheistic worldview.

But science has taught us nothing if not that there is always a better explanation around the corner. Some take great comfort from science’s commitment to constantly disprove itself as if this of itself guarantees that we are getting closer to some grand unifying theory of everything. Of course it could just as easily be just a gigantic rabbit hole down which we chase that absolute truth denied by scientists in the first place.

Whatever way you choose, when it comes to human affairs like business strategy, marketing and management and the like, clearly there are no absolutes.

What is right today is wrong tomorrow.

Whoever is best at the strategic arbitrage opportunities and can identify the shifts and changes best and soonest stands to profit most.

But more immediately and possibly more relevant to most of us mere mortals, this shifting foundation of knowledge means that we should recognise this universal truth. The more convicted you are of your opinion, the more compelling the consultant’s exposition the more certain you can be that it, whilst it may seem right now, it is bound to be proven wrong tomorrow.

If you research and study the evolution of the ‘marketing concept’ and/or the ‘evolution of retailing’ then you will notice that ‘the right way’ is always the current way of doing it – the prevailing paradigm so to speak.

Current best practice is always superseded by something better. So a healthy dose of cynicism is a prerequisite in our modern world; for the lack of it will result in us chasing down the ephemeral promises of every fad that comes along.

The bumble bee that is not supposed to fly and the frog that gets slowly cooked in the pot of boiling water are great motivating stories – but nothing more than that. The absolute truth is a bit more elusive and it takes a lifetime to pursue and, who knows, may only be discovered once we pass away.



Why we can't improve our customer service

Doctors tend to wash their hands just over 60% of the times that they should.

Do you wonder why that is?

Alice Stewart who discovered the link between childhood cancers and pre-natal X-Rays had to wait 25 years before UK hospitals prohibited X-Rays for pregnant women.

Can you think why that might be so?

Customer service is the single most effective differentiator in crowded, commoditised markets, but whilst 80% of businesses think they provide great customer service, but only 8% of their customers agree?

I wonder why that is so?

Seriously, think about that for a moment before you continue to read on. Why is that people can’t see the obvious?

I have thought about how it can be fixed, and I have come to the conclusion it can’t be fixed because it comes down to a host of biases in our thinking processes that make us think we are better off than we really are.

  • I am a better than the average driver.
  • I am better than average looking.
  • Other people are always wrong.
  • Other people should get their act together.

When we all think that, we ARE the other people.

But we refuse to believe it because there are psychological benefits to thinking we are better than we are.

Just watch Australian Idol or any similar show. Next time you see someone wearing an outfit that they really shouldn’t be wearing, you will know this is a powerful effect that is alive and well everywhere you look. From doctors to girls with muffin tops – it doesn’t discriminate based on age, sex or status.

We all think we are a little bit better than the next guy.

Except we are not.

And that, dear reader, is what stands between us and getting better; knowing and accepting that we might not be as good, special, beautiful, smart or successful as we like to believe.

The harsh reality is that our customer service is not as good as we think it is. At least until we accept that it isn’t - and do something about it despite the firm belief that we don’t need to.

The above applies to all of you of course – not me. I really am much prettier than the average…

Just kidding – have fun.


When customer service is a perfect paitning

Was your Customer Service once beautiful?

“There is one great difficulty with a good hypothesis. When it is completed and rounded, the corners smooth and the content cohesive and coherent, it is likely to become a thing in itself, a work of art. It is then like a finished sonnet or a painting completed. One hates to disturb it. Even if subsequent information should shoot a hole in it, one hates to tear it down because it was once beautiful and whole.”- John Steinbeck, Sea of Cortez.)

The one hypothesis we all hold dear as the ‘perfectly complete painting’ is the quality of our customer service. How many people, staff members, companies and executives firmly believe that their customer service is perfect? Do you?

Even when information or customer feedback or staff feedback shoots a hole in it, still they hate to tear it down, they hate to revisit what they think and ultimately believe what good customer service is.

Why do we behave this way?

  • Is it too difficult?
  • Are we afraid of the truth?
  • Is the sunk cost too high?
  • Do we have too much of our self (our own identity) wrapped up in the service we think we deliver?
  • Do we want to avoid the consequences of discovering the real truth?

Stew Leonard was awarded 1992 Guinness Book of World Records for largest sales per square foot for a single grocery store: $115 million in sales, $3,470 per square foot.  Stew Leonard’s philosophy can be summarised as follows: “You will never ever need a consultant, all that you have to do is be on the floor and talk to your customers. Every day I am on the floor asking my customer what they want. If they say we like the flowers in this type of bouquet, then I say to Stew Junior when you go to the market tomorrow please see if you can get this type of flower…”

Now this sounds easy! But it is not. The reason being, you need to really listen to your customers and know them. You need to treat them as family. They are not a ‘demographic we need to satisfy. Customers are human beings and a lot smarter than we might credit them with. David Ogilvy famously quipped that the ‘consumer is not a moron, she is your wife’.

In the Disney movie Big Hero 6 the film Robotics prodigy Hiro lives in the city of San Fransokyo. Hiro's closest companion is Baymax, a robot whose sole purpose is to take care of people. Often our protagonist, Hiro, had to come up with plans to overcome evil and adversity, and his favourite tactic was hang upside down and look at the problem differently.

We also need to hang upside down when looking at customer service.

How can you ‘hang upside down’ and look at it differently? It is the oldest cliché in the business but great customer service I simply about this: find out what the customer wants and give it to them.



·         Pause the research and just ASK and LISTEN. Get on the floor and ask them what they like, or not like. It is your shop you are allowed to talk to them and I know that they want to talk to you.

·         Do you know the ‘persona’ of your customers? Are they the “smart adventurer” Not that they are 25-35 year old urban males earning…blah, blah….. And once you understand that, what does it mean in practice?

·         Shop your own store from the outside in: Let your staff walk in customer shoes on and buy from your store. Think, see and experience the touch points from a customer’s point of view. If your internal processes are not working for the customer at the touch points and moments of truth fix it, change it or throw it in the bin!



·         Make sure it is NOT about selling along. Develop a bigger purpose for your staff, not just selling to customers but inviting them into your place of fun, solutions and engagement. You might the only person that day that makes the customers’ day – and they will repay you handsomely for it, if not today, tomorrow.

·         When staff are not confident in themselves and their products, they struggle to focus on the customer. You need to be an authority in your field. You not only must know your products and services but you need to know your customers and most importantly why they buy from you. (Consumers use the internet to educate themselves about products, so it takes serious training and dedication to actually stay ahead of the curve.)

·         Customers buy from you because like you, like what you stand for, like you because you are similar and not only because they can get the product from you. 

·         You are not your customers. Don’t buy what you like, don’t sell the way you like. Do it for them, do it their way, not your way. If you want to make money, you can’t listen to Frank Sinatra because doing it my way is the wrong way.


Have Fun


GANADOR: Turning challenges into opportunities with smart people solutions

(PS: Thanks to Moonyeen for writing most of the post this week when time was at a premium)

On being biased

I know quotes are often lame, but at the same time sometimes it is distilled wisdom of such profound insight that it begs to be shared. The art of Facebook is knowing the difference.

This falls in the latter category:

“For us humans, everything is permanent - until it changes, as we are immortal until we die” 
 Malcolm Muggeridge

It casts a light on the human propensity to (over-value) our own views and opinions and in fact have a very tenuous, if not unrealistic, grasp on reality. Much of our failure to deal with reality is now increasingly being documented by Neuroscientists who are identifying our biases.

Here is a long list of biases that contaminate the human experience, and of course given a lifetime of study (and interest) in Consumer Behaviour, we keep a close eye on developments in this space. It is particularly relevant to our work in helping organisations adopt a more customer-centric culture, as we have to constantly work around people’s inability and unwillingness to change. Two powerful biases we come across often are:

Confirmation bias: The tendency to search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.

Dunning–Kruger effect: When incompetent people fail to realise they are incompetent because they lack the skill to distinguish between competence and incompetence.

How franchisors fail

Books have been written about the advantages and disadvantages of franchising. The government has even chimed in with their views. As always with these things, there is no definitive right/wrong answer.

One of the great attractions of a franchising system is the promise of a ‘proven system’, making the decision to invest less risky. Yet all businesses run the risk of failure and franchise businesses fail too. Some sources suggest the failure rate is the same or at least very similar. Of course there are widely divergent claims, but as noted here, these claims are often spurious. The claimed “95% of franchises succeed” even goes by the capitalised moniker of ‘The Stat’.

Despite some legitimate doubts about these claims, I would classify myself as a proponent of the format. And the market has spoken: Given the size of the industry, one would have to accept that there are probably more advantages than disadvantages.

But there is one fundamental issue that is never addressed, which in my view is crucial to the success of a franchise system. Whilst one can argue that the franchisee and the franchisor can share the blame in many instances (and they do) I want to focus on one aspect that is controlled by the franchisor.

The franchisor and the franchisee are NOT in the same business.

The franchisor is in the business of selling businesses and the franchisee is in the business of whatever the franchise system is (fast food, auto repairs or gardening etc.)

In essence this means that the direct objectives of the two stakeholders are different. The metrics of success or failure are different. The strategies for growth are different, the daily issues faced are different, the cash flows are different, and the capital requirements are different. Franchisors are in a B2B business in the Franchisees are usually in a B2C business – and even when they are in a B2B environment (like an Accounting franchise) the market is still very different.

These differences do not necessarily mean there is or should be conflict. The franchisor has a vested interest in maintaining a healthy franchise system because it makes it easier to sell franchises. But when there IS a fall-out in the relationship, I have discovered that the underlying cause usually relates to the fact that the franchisor has lost sight of the inherent risks of the divided interests, usually focusing on their business at the expense of the franchise system.  That is, a franchisor may focus so much on expanding the network (driving their own revenue growth) that it neglects maintaining the system effectively.

That is, the B2B interests of the franchisor are the primary consideration and the B2C nature of the franchise system becomes the secondary concern of the franchisor. I am not suggesting all franchisors are guilty of this, but in systems which are characterised by mass closures, franchisee revolt and court cases; this is often the case.

Sometimes franchisees are accused of being unco-operative, or not being proactive or of not following the system. All of these claims seemingly point to the franchisee being the guilty party, but in fact I would argue that it is the franchisee recruitment that is to blame.

It again points to the malaise identified above. The franchisor lowers standards and allow people into the system who were clearly not suitable (often against their better judgement) because they are chasing market growth.

The worst types of franchisees are:

(a) People who think franchising is easy (guaranteed) money are usually the ones who are passive/reactive and whinges constant about what the franchisor is not doing for them. Instead of understanding that they have a bought ‘a way of doing business’ and that they still have to actually DO the business, they expect the franchisor to deliver everything on a plate.

(b) People who are too entrepreneurial to work within the system. These folks will work the system, but they will also break the system. They want to change the menu and change the processes or whatever. They always argue that their location/store/customers are different and they deserve special consideration and exemption.

There is a fundamental shift that occurs when you move from being the operator of successful B2C business yourself to being a franchisor. The skills and knowledge you have in running your business pre-franchising become less relevant in some ways and you need to acquire new skills and adopt the right mindset.

It is sad when any business fails. It is particularly disappointing when a well-thought-out business system fails. But much of this can be influenced and controlled by the franchisor, and it is not very productive to blame the franchisee.


GANADOR: Changing organisations from the inside out to focus on the customer.

4 Pricing errors that will break your business

Retail pricing can make or break your business. Coming up with RRP is 50% science and 50% art. The following symptoms and common strategies is evidence of poor pricing practices:

Price-point proliferation

This happens usually in multi-category stores. Stand in front of any merchandise category, say the pen department in a newsagent, and observe how many price points there are. Often you find six to eight price points ranging from below $1 to $10.

Can a customer really tell the difference between a $2.95 pen and $3.95 pen? If not, why are you selling pens at $2.95?

Rationalising price points makes buying a pen a more pleasant experience, and if managed correctly, will improve your margins.

In most categories/sub-categories, three price points (value, mid, premium) will do and in larger categories with a wider range of prices no more than five price points.

Pricing to achieve a margin

Many retailers follow a standard approach to pricing to achieve a certain margin. A standard mark-up is applied to every item purchased. In time, as wholesale prices increase, it results in the proliferation mentioned above.

A further problem is that is that while costs may increase, the value of the item does not necessarily increase. Often costs go up because volume is declining and the worst thing you can do is to increase the price. Simply applying a standard mark-up is counter-productive and it is often better to either accept a reduced margin to maintain volume or to de-stock.

Your mark-up is irrelevant; the only thing that is relevant is what a customer is willing to pay.

Of course ultimately you must achieve a certain margin (your ‘maintained margin’ after markdowns, returns etc) but on a product by product basis, the price is determined by a range of qualitative factors (see below), and the financial outcome is considered afterwards.

If you under-achieve your margin, you can’t simply up the prices to do so without considering these other factors – you have to reconsider your range. Of course there is no such thing as over-achieving your margin.

Following Manufacturers advice

The laws that govern resale price maintenance allow a maximum RRP but no minimum. (For a quick rundown of what can and can’t be done, this page by the ACCC sums it up nicely.)

On the one hand larger manufacturers are likely to have arrived at their pricing recommendation based on some pricing analytics, but that still does not mean that it is right for your business. Make your decision on the range of qualitative (the art) and quantitative (the science) factors, where manufacturer’s recommendation is one consideration. (Of course if you are an agent for a manufacturer, it is different.)

Ignoring qualitative pricing factors

People use price as a heuristic. That is they use it as an indicator (mental shortcut) of something else, and our case usually it is used to indicate ‘value’. Generally one must be an expert to fairly judge value. Say you are buying a car, can you unequivocally tell the difference between a Mazda and a Lexus? Most people use the brand and the price associated with that brand as an indicator of what a good car and what they then expect from that car given the price. It is no different when thy buy shoes or anything else.

The following qualitative factors need to be considered:

  • Brand

As the retailer it is therefore your job to manage how your pricing strategies over time communicate an important aspect of your brand. By setting your price, you are creating (or breaking) your brand.

  • Consistency

You should apply your pricing consistently - if you are selling coffee for $5 and slice of cake for $10, you shouldn’t sell a Coke for $2.  And if you are selling $2 coffees, you shouldn’t sell $5 cokes.

  • Value

People don't buy stuff because it is cheap, but they never want to pay more than it is worth. (Price's Golden Rule of Pricing). This is possibly the most important consideration: what is a customer prepared to pay, given the economic-, social- and competitive context of your store and your product?

  • Strategy

What are you trying to achieve? Market share vs profitability? Growing a business or defending territory? USP or competitive advantage? What is happing online?

  • Timeframe

How important is the product in the long run?

  • Marketing & Operations

How does the product sit in your offer? Is it needed to stimulate sales for another category? Is it a loss-leader?

The key point I want to make, especially for smaller independents, is that the worst thing you can do is to have set and forget approach to pricing. I can’t tell you how often I come across a retailer who simply says they multiply by 2.2 (to achieve 100% mark-up plus GST) and that is how they price everything.

That may the easy approach, but it is also the easy way to go broke quickly.

How to negotiate price without mentioning price

Last week’s post highlighted a few common errors made when pricing for retail. This week the focus turns to how optimise profitability by negotiating smarter.

Many wholesalers/manufacturers will have different types of discounts – not all of which are widely communicated. Often it is a case of ‘don’t give if they don’t ask’. And why would a rep give away something if it is not important enough for you to ask for it?

Here are twenty things you can negotiate that will either improve gross- or net margins:

1. Trade discounts (% off list price)
2. Quantity discounts (based on volume bought)
3. Seasonal discounts (incentive to stock out-of-season merchandise)
4. Cash discounts (reduction based on when bill is paid based on dating of the invoice.)
5. Slotting allowances (paying for shelf-space)
6. Markdown guarantees
7. Promotional allowances
8. Rebates (refunds from vendor which does not impact markdowns)
9. Payment options
10. Payment periods
11. Credit terms
12. FOB Origin or FOB Shipping point (e.g. centralised warehouse)
13. FOB Destination (with or without charges reversed.)
14. Free/Additional POS material
15. Exclusivity (for an area or for a period of time)
16. Co-operative advertising
17. Pre-ticketing/ tagging/ labelling
18. Packaged for resale
19. Field Merchandising & stock rotation
20. Dating (when the discounts etc. come into effect.) For an example of how to calculate the benefits, check this out. This example shows how a seemingly insignificant 3% early settlement actually translates to >50% in actual fact.

You won’t get everything from everyone – but all the little bits help.

Ganador Blog is about #thinkdifferent. We cover topic of business- and personal development aimed at entrepreneurial marketers. (c)Applies. Posts authored by Dr Dennis Price.

About boxes, being inside or out

An elderly couple was asked what the secret to their long marriage was. The woman was quick to reply. It is all about who makes which decisions. I let my husband make all the big decisions like what should happen to the exchange rates and the how the Prime Minister should change our foreign policy, and which wars we should fight. I make all the little decisions like where we live, what school the kids go to and who our friends are.

We are often told to think outside the box. In fact, I pride myself on my abilities in this regard. But it is not all it is cracked up to be.

  • We live in boxes.
  • We drive in boxes.
  • We give gifts in boxes.
  • We work in boxes.
  • We retail in boxes.

One day we will be carried out of this world in a box.

Boxes are unavoidable. The box presents reality as much as it presents parameters and constraints and to deny them is to deny reality. We can’t perpetually want to live and work and ‘innovate’ our way outside the box. Boxes are there for a reason.

Does that mean we have to accept the constraints of the status quo? Does it mean we must be happy with our ‘lot’?

There are two strategic options: accepting the reality of being in a box or rejecting the constraints and living outside the box. Which is the right option?

The simple answer is that both are right.

When the edges of the box are defined by uncontrollable events and unchangeable circumstances, then living within the box, dealing with that reality and ‘making do’ is the smart approach. Becoming efficient within those constraints (despite those constraints) is the key.

When the edges of the boxes are arbitrary constraints; especially those that are deemed to have always been ‘like’ that’ then they should be challenged and pushed. Don’t let tradition or fear define the edges of your strategy, nor let that determine what you are capable of.

The place to live, work and find success is inside the box and outside the box. The real challenge is knowing when to focus on the inside and when to focus on the outside. In the context of running a retail business, there are certain times when working inside the box is required. The obvious ones are:

  • Minimum wage
  • GST on overseas purchases (lack of)
  • Interest rates
  • Competitor strategy (less obvious perhaps)

The areas where you can (and should) constantly innovate and push the boundaries are for instance:

  • Promotions
  • Displays
  • Channels
  • Customer service

The problem is not that people don’t know when to think inside or outside the box. The problem is that people believe ONE way is always the answer.

Whilst our focus (at Ganador) is the provision of solutions for creating teams/companies that are totally focussed on customer service, and everyone knows how important that is, we are the first to admit that great customer experiences are not the only thing that matters.

Sometimes you must think inside the box and sometimes outside. It is NEVER only one right way, sometimes it is both and sometimes it is neither.

Ganador Blog is about #thinkdifferent. We cover topic of business- and personal development aimed at entrepreneurial marketers. (c)Applies. Posts authored by Dr Dennis Price.


Last week I wrote that instead of responding to trends as drivers of the business, we should rather see trends as market responses to friction points in our business.

It follows, therefore, that we should see the trend as a symptom of a problem and not the cause of a change.

There is wide spread consensus that the following trends are manifesting right now, and that survival requires retailers today to master these trends and either future proof the business against their effects or to capitalise on the trends.

Typically, pundits will list a bunch of ‘things’ and label them trends:

  • Mobile
  • iBeacons/NFC
  • Gamification
  • Community engagement
  • QR codes
  • Multi-channel
  • Social Media
  • Internet of things
  • 3D printing
  • Fusion retail

The challenge with these lists is that the trends belong to different categories. Gamification is a strategy and QR codes are technology.

At the other end of town, Companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers will create conceptual frameworks, which are probably perfectly valid.

http://www.pwc.com.au/industry/retail-consumer/assets/Digital-Media-Paper-Jul12.pdf (Source)

In both cases it is hard to go from the diagram or the list to doing different things in your shop today and be confident that it is relevant to your business and that you are not simply addressing a fad. In accordance with my hypothesis, the trend is an indicator of an underlying issue.

What is the solution?

I suggest a simple process that can be used by large and small organisations alike:

  1. List each touch point of your customer journey (form initial web search to post transactional interaction)
  2. Identify potential areas of friction (e.g. website slow to load, long queue at the till) at each individual touch point.
  3. Fix each point of friction by asking the following three questions:

* How can I use current technology to reduce the friction?

* How can I systematise my operation to change it and to prevent it recurring?

* How can I use this change competitively?

  1. Ensure the changes are documented and communicated and trained into the business as required.
  2. Rinse and repeat as part of your annual business model review
Ganador Blog is about #thinkdifferent. We cover topic of business- and personal development aimed at entrepreneurial marketers. (c)Applies. Posts authored by Dr Dennis Price.



To make sense of a great many of the trends in retail is not easy. Experts abound and a simple google search will give you some comprehensive, free slide decks. But how do you make sense of these trends in practice? How do you take it from words on a page to specific actions?

 Understanding the notion of friction allows you to do just that, because one can use that framework to evaluate your retail business quite effectively.

In The Necessity of Friction (1993) Keith Griffin, writes about the traditional view of Economics and it can be summarised as follows:

The core of late twentieth century economics consists of a set of assumptions which, taken together and seen as a whole, constitutes an image or vision of a self-regulating system in which friction and inertia are largely absent. Friction in both senses of the word is generally ignored: there is neither dissention and conflict nor is there resistance to relative motion. The economic system adjusts smoothly to disturbances; markets clear instantaneously; competition ensures that resources are used efficiently.

But, as any practitioner would know, and Griffins acknowledges, friction is real and it is every consumer’s bugbear.

What causes friction in the retail interaction?

The answer to this simple question will make sense of all the retail trends coherently.

Customers want zero friction. Remove friction, and customers are happy.

Price/cost is a friction point, and customers always want the best price (i.e. least friction). That is an easy one. Identifying a comprehensive list of friction points, specifically to your business, and developing specific strategies for them is harder.

Some examples are captured in the image below. The way to use it practically is to evaluate every customer touch point and assess the level of friction at that touch point.

·         Duration

·         Availability/timing

·         Effort/Physical

·         Choice/Competition

·         Epistemic Friction (e.g. product knowledge)

·         Psychological

·         Fit for Purpose/Quality


See figure 1 for a simplified, partially completed example.


Like any relationship, it is better when the friction is removed.

Retailers fail when they don’t recognise the friction.

How does this relate to evaluating trends?

The growth in ecommerce and social marketing is directly proportionate to online sales as it effective removes the friction of poor face-to-face serves, removes the friction of sales staff that lack product knowledge. And it is also directly proportionate to the friction caused by over-priced offers.

The growth in mobile phone usage (to shop or supplement shopping activities) directly reduces the friction related to the effort/ duration of shopping activities. And so too is the trend of customers who increasingly argue about RRP.

My hypothesis is this: It is not the trend that drives/impact our business so much as that it is our inefficiencies (friction) that cause the trends to emerge in response to that friction.

Consequently, if we become proficient at identifying friction, we will be better able to (a) anticipate the trends and (b) proactively respond to trends in good time. In fact, if we reduce friction efficiently, we will be less impacted by the trends, whatever they may be.

Dennis Price

LESS failure, MORE success - GANADOR


Ganador Blog is about #thinkdifferent. We cover topic of business- and personal development aimed at entrepreneurial marketers. (c)Applies. Posts authored by Dr Dennis Price.
© 2014 Ganador Management Solutions (Pty) Ltd PO Box 243 Kiama, NSW, 2533 Australia Tel: (+61)2-4237 7168