November 01, 2017

Three Major Problems In 2017

I've spent the better part of a decade telling you to push your business toward customer acquisition programs - away from Google + Facebook + Catalog Co-Ops and toward low-cost / no-cost programs. You're aware of the importance of these programs. By this time, you already have your plan in place for 2018, right?


I've spent the better part of the past five years telling you about the importance of new merchandise.

New Customers.

New Merchandise.

How about New Employees?

A hiring process that includes New Employees coupled with a valid business plan is good.

What I'm seeing these days (especially among catalog brands) is what I would call a "Chaotic Staffing Strategy". It's like the Phoenix Suns firing their head coach after three games ... the data to make that decision existed last April when a 24-58 season concluded.

Let's think about the NFL for a moment. When a new General Manager is hired, s/he hires a Head Coach. The Head Coach hires a staff that is led by an Offensive Coordinator and a Defensive Coordinator. The team then drafts players and picks up free agents and in 2-3 years the team builds to winning status. Or not. But there is a clear staffing strategy in place, and the staffing strategy leads to a business strategy that leads to wins.

Let's think about your business. What happens when a new CEO is hired? Do you get a new Marketing Leader and a new Merchandising Leader at the same time?
  • Your Merchandising Leader is like your Offensive Coordinator - dazzling the customer with great merchandise.
  • Your Marketing Leader is like your Defensive Coordinator - protecting the business. Without enough new customers, your Merchandising Team has to "outscore" the opposition (i.e. have a ton of great winning items) in order to win.
  • All other departments are like Special Teams. All are important ... like an NFL kicker making the game winner on the last play of the game.
But all of these jobs are managed as part of a coordinated effort to build a great team.

Yes, it's fine to get a new Offensive Coordinator (Merchant) if the person is not performing.

What I'm seeing, of course, is chaos. There's no plan, no strategy. Just performance that doesn't meet expectations and a lot of firing.

Chaos is bad for business.

You want your Marketing and Merchandising Leaders working in tandem. Accountability should be parsed appropriately, and then both sides work to implement a jointly-authored plan. What do I see?
  • Marketers and Merchandisers who seldom if ever speak with each other.
  • Marketers and Merchants who step all over each other's accountability.
  • Marketers and Merchants who stab each other in the back.
  • CEOs who fire Marketers because the Merchants are failing to develop good merchandise.
  • CEOs who fire Merchants because Marketers fail to acquire enough new customers.
  • CEOs who are fired because they prioritize shiny new objects over classic Marketing and Merchandising Strategy.
  • Vendors who take advantage of all of 'em.
At the end of an NFL season, coaches and GMs are fired, and teams start over. Our "season" ends at the end of the fiscal year. It's late in 2017 right now, and we already know how the year is going to end up. We know if our Marketing and Merchandising Leaders should stay/go. If they must go, why not start the rebuilding process, just like a sports team does? Get a Marketer/Merchant who work together in tandem, right? And then start using 2018 to build a foundation that pays back in 2019 and 2020. Right?

P.S.: Yesterday's PS was about a nasty strategy by Burger King. It was also the most-clicked link of the past month (click here). If I can influence you based on the content I share with you, could other (real) media outlets influence you, too?

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