Thursday, January 29, 2015

IBM Made Blood Cell Separators !!!

Yes they did, and here's the story
or copy and paste the link on a new tab

It's something of a high tech fairy tale!

I used the IBM 2991 >>

and 2997 when learning to be a blood bank technologist in the late 1970s - gives you some clue as to how OLD I am :)

Match-Up vs Mismatch

High ideals, the Vision Statement, our Mission... perhaps a company aims for the stars, but the reality just fails to match up. There's a mismatch between what marketing says and what the company does. It's all too common.

Making fine statements raises fine expectations and when there is no correspondence, the result is great disappointment. Disappointment is only the initial reaction. Once the bad feeling sets, that company will PERMANENTLY lose trust.
Trust is precious. Trust is the difference between winning and losing.
Trust has to be won, and never lost. Especially in this day and age of instant information sharing, when you lose trust:

  • Your channels will shun you or even shut you out
  • Your customers complaints will just ooze through the social net or perhaps even spread virally
  • Your products and services will lose value
  • Your market share will shrink

Trust is won through integrity, consistency, and honesty.

Push cannot withstand long without a corresponding pull. Marketing can only initiate, it's your match-up from your integrity and quality that has to carry the load. More importantly, if both (push and pull) do not grow together, the company will not be able to grow at all. Pull can be initiated by effective branding and sustained marketing, but alone it will not sustain if your products/services fail:

  • To meet needs to do what you have claimed
  • To provide value for spend
  • To be available/reach your customers cleanly on demand
  • To provide decent margins in distribution
  • To be reliable

 Identify the problem areas and deal with them. Be open and responsive to your  clients/customers/channels. Just maybe, you aren't getting the right feedback from your market, or your marketers are fudging things so you think it's all minor, all handleable. Keep cross checking.

Open loops have to be closed! Rather than promptly sorting the issue out, marketing too often task themselves with papering over the cracks. When there's a mismatch between the projection and the reality, it doesn't take long for the reality to win out, and you have become a creator of new pain, when what you had set out to do was to be a solution provider!

On a larger front too, Marketing is often misused to mask the reality by creating a finely crafted image. The public perception is strongest in fields like politics, but we can even observe this phenomenon in large industry groups like Big Pharma (+insurance+medical practice), where incredible amounts are spent to maintain the status quo through the projection of an image of solid science and trust BUT now the public has become (justifiably) sceptical.

Another startling recent example is the interaction of industry with environmental concerns and the high volume promotion of the concept of sustainability. A sub topic here is the denial of industry related phenomena like Global Warming/Climate Change. Relying on a big spend on marketing to stave off the inevitable can only produce a small delaying rear-end action. When such large groupings (de facto institutions) lay their foundations on myths, the consequences can be disastrous to nations and even to the world.

The older word for 'mismatch' is cheating.

Why then do we dupe people? Oftentimes it's the easy way out and perhaps there is a pressure to get started with what you've got, and iron out the kinks as one goes along. With industry groupings, they have invested 'too much' to consider backing out now. Unfortunately, there's a generic impression floating around out there (a marketing myth) that marketing alone can keep the issues at bay. We let ourselves dupe ourselves. We can be easily convinced that our pretty pictures, fine words, cute/emotive vids, fine packaging, etc. are enough. But, I assure you, if that's all you've got, it is NOT.
Instead let what you project coincide with the reality that you create AND make what you create match-up.

Be brave, be ethical, walk your talk

Originally posted on LinkedIn #Pulse as Match-Up vs Mismatch

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Marketing - Get The BEAT !

They say that marketing is more of an art than a science, and that's how marketing might look to an outsider, but marketers know that there has to be a scientifically solid foundation for the art part to work its magic.

One of those mysterious (artsy looking) phenomena, is the convergence that's needed in an organization to make any marketing strategy work wonders in the marketplace. The foundation for organizational convergence is laid first by forming effective teams and second by getting the whole organization to synchronize with that marketing focus.

Sound complicated? It's not... not really.

Think of a song. Think of a song that encourages dancing. As a broad generalization, if there's a driving rhythm, a beat, folks will feel like dancing. There may be plenty of art involved in finally creating your song, but you already know the level of engagement needed for potential dancers to start moving to your beat. And just think, a great song can inspire great dance, perhaps even new genre's of dance.

To create such music first requires a solid background in music. It requires practice. It requires skill in composition. You need to try out a lot of different melodies. It involves getting a band together that gel together, who enjoy doing what they do best together, and who believe in the music that they are creating. It helps if there's oodles of talent. And before everything finally comes together, there has to be practice, corrections, more practice and more...

Finally the music is in the bag. Then it has to get out of that bag and get into the ears of all those dancers out there. It needs a catchy name to go with the catchy tune.

Another small analogy – take a basketball team, give each player a ball, get them on court and get them to all try to bounce their balls in perfect synch. At first it will be a chaos of noise, then as they get the hang and start working together, it will sort itself out into, not just a rhythm, but a thunderous rhythm – and the possibilities become astounding.

Now, is that all art and no science? I don't think so.

First published on LinkedIn Pulse as Marketing? Get the BEAT!

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Recently, three very hesitant young people came for advice on job hunting. Very apologetic, and quite down hearted, they were facing a brick wall. The problem? No qualifications. Or that's what they said.

On digging just a bit deeper, I was not surprised to find that they each had very valuable experience. One had been running a tooling and machining unit for the last three years, another had just left a job of managing a manufacturing unit with two plants under his control, and the third had been doing a successful own retail business when the recent sudden down turn forced him to close it up. Yet HR after HR had been turning them away. They had rarely even got to the interviewing stage, and they were downcast.

Two of these promising young people had no college qualifications at all. The third had a degree, but in arts. All three got their starts because of recommendations from influential family/friend contacts, and now that they needed to hunt for jobs on their own, the lack of suitable qualifications was haunting them. Everywhere they had tried, almost the first question asked was 'what's your qualification?' Very often, the corollary remark – how were you heading that unit without any engineering or commercial background? In one case, because of a major fight with the management, any request for a reference was out of the question.

Were I hiring for a project, I would have snapped them up!

The reality is that the kind of experience that these three young people have is invaluable. It can't be taught in college. They've learned the practicalities of what makes any business run. So, I set out to find out why HR's don't seem to have the ability to see what they have been missing. There seem to be at least two factors at play.
1. Time – hundreds of applications to scan!
2. Filters – almost all jobs seem to begin with having some (ir)relevant qualification.

Rather than banging my head against that wall, I decided to see what could be done about the negativity and hopelessness that had set in. All three needed some serious counselling! Self belief is perhaps the biggest factor in successfully job hunting. We talked about what they had achieved and what they had learned, and we talked about what any employer is looking for – people who have the skills and knowledge that they had already accumulated in the real world of running their various businesses.

Then comes that other great necessary – the CV. Looking at what they had as CVs, I was hardly surprised that they had gotten nowhere so far. Please, look at your own CV from a HR's perspective. It should be clear what your core skills are, and it should also be very clear how your abilities and skills have been put to use in your previous work. Simply listing employers with dates and job titles does not get you very far. Remember that the HR has very limited time, and certainly cannot be expected to 'read between the lines'.

In going through the CVs, I found a couple of areas where each individual needed to put in some extra work, and suggested either reading material, or a short course (e.g. in personal presentation, etiquette or in body language). At this stage, in no case was going back to college going to be a useful option.

Finally, while the run of the mill process of job hunting may be good enough for the so called 'qualified' candidate, for those who have come up the harder way and who have the more valuable knowledge, one needs to try a more nuanced approach. I'd suggest getting yourself a consultant. Beyond that,  your own work contacts, especially business persons and unit heads with whom you had dealt in your previous avatar. As they already know you, getting an appointment might not be difficult, and believe me that's 50% of your battle won!

And Go for it !

First published on LinkedIn Pulse as UNQUALIFIED!

Friday, January 16, 2015

You Can Do Magic

Start-ups have gone from dime a dozen to becoming legion. That's both good and bad. Adjectives like exciting, enticing, and vibrant, describe our business environment, yet on the down side, the resulting competition for funds and for the market is simply awful.

Working as a consultant to start-ups is fun and very challenging. I've been through a longish string so far, and though the projects were diverse, as the start-ups scene has heated up, some common challenges and solutions have emerged. From my experience, here are just a few of the commonest failure scenarios.
Challenge 1 – The Dream Machine. A lovely product/service that addresses major pain points, is well designed, passionately believed in and yet won't fly. Very often the problem is over confidence. The start-up's mindset runs something like this: “My product is truly revolutionary and it's going places. The market needs me, potential customers are begging for me, so here we come!”
Taking this product or service on to the market usually ends in disaster. Typically, when all the attention has been on the development and there is an assumption of ready demand, the basic questions of timing, needing a 'fit' in the existing market space, developing channels, marketing costs etc. would not have been adequately thought through. If you then have to create a new niche for your revolution, that can be very costly – and just a bit too risky. Risky is a word that neither the Angels nor VCs relish, so when you go looking for funds...
Challenge 2 – The Me Too. 2 or 3 friends get together and look with longing at this busy and exciting start-ups dominated market. Everyone seems to be getting into the action, and perhaps some of their friends have already gotten through the 1st funding phase. Why not? It's simple enough, we have to just brainstorm, so let's put some ideas together and hash it out.
Luckily, most of such never get to Go. There never was the innovation and inventiveness present in the first place. More often than not, the resulting products/services will be copies, and unless they have a lot of luck and also can pool the funds to launch themselves and afford get some brilliant, market savvy folks on board, the results will be either a quiet fade out, or sometimes a spectacular flop. Again, it's unlikely that funding will come through, for copies just don't get much of a bite from funders. You also have a narrow time window, unless what you are copying itself goes big time.
Challenge 3 – Good But Unscalable. After lots of hard work getting all the bits and pieces to fit together, when the funding folks start asking questions on scalability, the big blind spot shows up and that's that.
A lack of market experience and not having good advisers early on very often results in unscalable start-ups. Not every good idea can be scaled up, and if it can't scale, it will not get funded!
Challenge 4 – Built To Offload. Here the idea is to hit the market running, demo the potential and then quickly get someone to buy you out. Sometimes, if the launch and initial publicity are done right, and if the market was receptive, it will work just as planned.
Unfortunately, sometimes not. If you assume that your buyers are out there waiting, and then can't identify them, you might have to go ahead and carry your baby through. Then, as you have already committed so much, it's to the funders that you will go. As the Angel/VC 's needs would not have been accounted for, you might just find that you have multiple problems and are stuck between the proverbial rock and a very hard place.

There are of course many more start-up types, but you get my point. I called each a challenge because, when us consultant types are called in and recognise a failure type, we have a real challenge getting our budding entrepreneurs to rethink their babies!

All start-ups must pay attention to The Market - while bold innovation and brilliant designs can go a very long way, scanty are the concepts/ideas that will 'just naturally' go viral and fly themselves into something much bigger. Do get good marketing advice early on, and keep that advice in mind when looking for funding and launching out.

Finally, supposing you have this great idea, and it is marketable, and even though you failed to get funded, you decide to launch anyway, remember that marketing can be done effectively even on a shoestring budget.The provisos are, IF and only if your service/product has a place to jump in in the market AND whether you will survive and sustain until you succeed.

Where is the point of no return? It's very important here to decide at the beginning when you will know that it's not panning out, and what your jumping off point is!

Study your market as deeply as you can. SWOT out your competition. Targeting is the first priority. Effective social media use with a well designed and promoted web presence (good SEO helps) will get you started, and neither demands a huge big budget. Go for good people (not just high priced!), interview in depth, and then train them as a team. Build commitment, efficiency, responsiveness, a marketing orientation, and give exceptional service (CRM helps) so that 'word of mouth' will also pitch in. If you need a distribution net, pick the small and medium players, work on loyalty, and give them the best returns in the market. Debug and keep debugging.
In short, you know you have a really great idea, think things through, get good market advice early on, be prepared to sweat, and go for it -
pitch and don't stop pitching.

Believe – you can do MAGIC!

This was originally posted in LinkedIn Pulse 


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