Sunday, February 25, 2007

How to make more money - get customers to give it to you!

companies often make it difficult for customers to give them money. Any prospect want to buy. They are interested because they want to buy something. Companies make it difficult to get the information they need to justify the decision. Companies put barriers in the way by, for example, forcing prospects to "register" in order to get product information. Companies make it difficult to buy also. Many retailers make it difficult to find a payment point, and then make customers wait in line.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Chrysler should learn some lessons from the British Motor Corporation history

In the 1950, the British Motor Corporation was the third largest car company in the world. It suffered from a similar lack of dynamism to the old line Detroit companies now. However, it kept postponing the inevitable by merging with Triumph-Rover, and then sustained itself by licensing designs from Honda, then peeling off the more desirable brands such as Mini and Land-Rover, following its acquisition and divestment by BMW. Does this sound like Chrysler is heading this way? By then the only brand which had not been tainted was MG, so it relaunched all its cars under that name, and seemed to have a future. One day, it simply closed its doors, with unsold cars on dealers' lots, and no way of honoring warranties.

It is clear that this will one day be Chrysler's fate.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Does democracy end when the number of voters becomes too large to fit into the town square?

There are many systems of voting to get something close to "the people's will." However, none really get to the kind of democracy which is possible when all the citizens can gather in one meeting and come to a conclusion. In a "first past the post" system, so common in English speaking countries, there are frequently two main parties, as an third party, even getting 20% of the vote, will get far fewer than that as a % of elected representatives. Other proportional representation systems may do better, but tend to lead to coalition governments. Any democracy is better than the alternative, but sometimes the worst thing we can do is to oversell it.

Executive Recruiting is such an inefficient Process

We see a job market where at any point in time there are many people looking for jobs, and many employers looking for people. Job-seekers complain that they cannot find jobs, and employers that they cannot find people. The current system is not working well and creates huge impact on productivity. The online job listings and applications overwhelm all involved and executive recruiters end up relying on serendipity and subjective judgment. This is the same problem as dating sites and services. As software improves, each will improve, but we should recognize how inefficient today's system is.

The role of Marketing has diminished in Business

In the 1970s more CEOs came up the Marketing ranks than today. These days more CEOs have financial backgrounds. The latest issue of Business Weeks talks about the state of customer service and calls for a Chief Customer Officer. Now this should be the role of the Chief Marketing Officer. That it is not obvious speaks to the credibility of the discipline. Furthermore, too few CMOs can talk to the CEO and CFO in the language of business - finance. Marketing needs to re-invent itself to regain credibility, and then it can do what clearly still needs to be done.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Chaos at Jet Blue - no surprise

I have never been a great fan of Jet Blue compared to Southwest. I have flown them twice, and find that their terminal at JFK is a zoo devoted to selling overpriced food to passengers. Reliability is easily fractured in poor weather, or any other circumstance (both my flights, a year ago, were almost two hours late in taking off). I found the information to be late in coming (unlike Southwest), and the staff to be surly and poorly informed. I also was not impressed by the on board accommodations. I know they have done many innovative things to reduce costs, but I avoid them. I suspect this will happen again.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Is Dell in a state of panic?

It seems that each day there is another change at the top. This alone gives the impression of a company which has lost control and is panicking. Dell created a model which was a major breakthrough. While keeping inventory down, it also ensure that only the latest technology machines were sold. However, in the past few years other companies have shortened their supply chains so that they do not hold large inventory, but consumers do not have long waits for their machines. Also, the market moved from desk-tops to laptops, and Dell was weak in that category. Lastly, consumers want to see, touch and try out these laptops, so computer retailers, including Apple's stores, have taken share. Dell was resistant to change until the company was in serious trouble. While Michael Dell has come back, there is no reason to believe that he can change the system he created. We have seen a rapid departure of top executives and just as fast an influx of new ones. These situations tend to be self-perpetuating, and can even accelerate. I suspect that the problems as Dell are worse than they appear, and the worst is yet to come.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Rebate Rip-off

Apparently, a significant number of rebates are refused for bogus reasons. The use of rebates is based on dishonesty, so we should not be surprised. They are designed so that "slippage" occurs by putting in hurdles which discourage the consumer. Then to make matters worse, some are simply refused for fabricated reasons. This happened to me when I purchased a Fujitsu hard drive from Fry's electronics. Fry's gave me a print out of a rebate receipt, and I sent this in with the original UPC code. It was refused because, the reason given was, it was not purchased within the period of the rebate. Except that according to the Fry's receipt, it was. This happens a lot. Sadly, it hurts the company in the long-run. Sadly, most executives do not get compensated based on long-term customers, only on immediate ones. So executive compensation systems encourage unethical behavior which hurts the company.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

GSM3 started in Barcelona today

GSM3 is the world's leading mobile phone industry convention. It started today in Barcelona with the announcement of the Global Mobile Phone Industry Awards. Unnervingly, none of the products or services given awards, including a few from India and Bangladesh are available in the USA. The US mobile device market has been held back by a lack of true competition and embedded obsolete technology. This is one of those situations where the size of the country is a disadvantage. Steam locomotives in the 1930s were built to last 100 years. That resulted in the stagnation of technology, which prevented advances being made in steam engine technology (the steam cycle is the most efficient), and allowed the introduction of early and fairly inefficient diesel and electric locomotives.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Will conservatism hold us back?

The US likes to think of itself as a young country, yet it has one of the oldest constitutions on Earth. American consumers have resisted abandoning the dollar bill even though it is worth little by the standards of a century ago, and every other Western country has dropped equivalent value bills. People resist change in these ways even as they adopt new technology at a greedy pace. Why does the US have this dichotomy between conservatism in ideas and ways of life, yet eagerness to see new technology?

I suspect that in a world where technology moves at a bewildering pace, it is important to have a psychological anchor. People need something to hold on to. If we want consumers and citizens to adopt new activities and concepts we have to allow them a stanchion to hold on to.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The "new" Taurus - putting lipstick on a pig?

Ford announced today that it would rename the Ford 500, a poorly seling car, the Ford Taurus. Perhaps the company feels that consumers are idiots. If something as simple as changing the name can fix a failure, then we would have solutions to many business problems. It is sad that experienced executives know so little about marketing and the principles of branding that they believe that this is the answer to the company's decline.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

"Friendly fire"

This week, a coroner's court in England is looking into the "friendly fire" death of a British soldier in Iraq. It seems that the US military is withholding evidence. Whatever the truth of the matter, it is clear that hiding evidence suggests a cover-up in the minds of people. J&J showed us the way to deal with crisis - complete transparency! Government bodies, particularly the military do not seem to have learned this. It ends up hurting those who are holding back.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

When little things cause panic, have the terrorists won?

When a device with flashing lights, looks like a well known cartoon character, is hung in prominent places, and a city panics, have things become absurd? Is anything new or unexpected to become illegal? We always seem to be behind the terrorists, and the reactions are not proportional to the risks.