Some business owners and managers contend they are victims of the prevailing market forces. Few readily acknowledge or recognise their own roles in this lamentable, no-win situation.
Companies, products and services which have long benefitted from favoured market positioning founded on quality, value, differentiation and innovation have, in recent times, been tempted to respond to the economic downturn and discounting-led competitor actions with advertising, merchandising, promotions and marketing which have focused on sales, prices and incentives. The decisions made and the underlying rationales are understandable, but not advisable.
Years of astute strategic development are being dismantled by broadbrush short term tactical initiatives. Consumer perceptions and value constructs are being discounted. The market positioning of companies, products, services and workforce teams are, or have been, compromised.
Few will counter the contention that many, if not an overwhelming majority of consumers and clients are currently driven by the pursuit of bargains. The relationship power pendulum has swung strongly in favour of customers.
Price has been rerated to be consistently the first or second most important criteria being applied in the initial contemplation of purchases and in the final purchase selection of a specific product on service.
However, consumers and clients still seek and gain reassurance and "peace-of-mind" from the implied promise of quality, value and consistency of a recognised, respected and valued brand, which is supported by a definitive and accurate positioning statement.
The dilemma confronting us all is to strike a balance between the two aspects.
WHAT HAPPENED TO...
The concept of "lost leaders" has waned in importance and effectiveness. Rightly so! Contemporary consumers and clients are too well informed, discerning and demanding to be tempted and to be totally influenced by the offer of conspicuous below-cost offers.
They value the need for businesses to make profits so that a continuity and consistency of services can be provided and enjoyed. Hence, the ready marketplace acceptance of the promise of "Everyday Lower Prices".
This stance reflects the new reality. Past profit margins, sales volumes, customer loyalty and repeat business percentages have little relevance and credence in the new and the future market structures. The important structural changes which have become evident in industry and sector compositions dictate a total, integrated and objective review and analysis of the market positioning of all entities, products and services. Stability is a virtue, an attribute which should be projected by a definitive ositioning statement.
Wide, wild and consistent oscillations between regular, discount and sales prices make it difficult for existing, prospective and past clients to establish datum points against which the measures of quality and value are determined.
A detailed audit of the presence of a company, products, services and people is commended for many entities at this time. Such review and refinements should, ideally, include:
A defined positioning statement projects the values and what customers and clients should expect, find and enjoy to their benefit and advantage when dealing with a company, group or network.
The brand names Sony and 3M have always been at the forefront of innovation, creativity and change. These are endearing qualities which are much valued by those who deal with, work for and invest in such entities.
The current positioning of Sony is both clever and concise, being:
From such brevity expectations arise and the promise needs to be delivered. A recommitment to an appropriate positioning statement is energising, for those internal and external to a company.
Premises, stationery, packaging and uniformed staff members who are considered to be "tired" are enormous impediments to market acceptance and preference.
Investments in and the updating of "the packaging" of all assets traditionally and consistently enhances the currency, relevance and distinctiveness of trading groups. Given the dynamic nature of contemporary life and business in general scheduled, periodic reviews, maintenance and update of presentations should be mandatory and be undertaken at least every three years.
Inventories and fleets need to be modern, attractive, appealing and compelling. It's all part of the need to be true to the positioning statement.
A dominant characteristic of modern technology is self-induced obsolescence. Within limited time spans miniaturization evolves, costs reduce and time spans are compacted.
Client and customer expectations are greatly influenced by such technological developments.
Aging, dated and obsolete systems are bad business and bad for business. They make a statement about an entity, often in conflict with the positioning statement.
Consistency and continuity between all aspects of an operation are important.
A MOMENT OF REFLECTION
"Getting on with the job" is a philosophy which often overlooks and contaminates the need for a moment of reflection.
Responding to aggressive competitor actions and volatile economies often necessitates immediate decisions. It is the longer term consequences that may not be recognised nor qualified.
All business owners, leaders and managers need to get themselves and their entities positioned so that all dimensions of their market presence and communications are consistent, positive and effective. It is a sound investment in the future.