Positioning is fragile.
Al Ries first used the word “positioning” almost 30 years ago to mean the battle for wrung 1 and 2 on a prospect’s mental ladder. Coca-Cola, for instance, are #1 on most South Africans’ minds when it comes to soft-drinks. Pepsi is probably #2. How is it in your industry? Is your brand leading the pack, with you as a Thought Leader?
I find it interesting that advertising has continued its “same-old” pattern, whereas even Ries himself titled his latest offering, “The fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR”. The key to positioning these days is gaining good Public Relations. This implies someone else singing your praises in the media.
I propose three key ways to do this:
Retention, Exceptional Service and Corporate Social Investment (CSI).
Retention and Service:
Dr. Roger Shenkel and Dr. Cathy Gardner have 50 years combined medical practice experience. In a survey of their employees, four things were said to keep people in their practice:
- Positive, caring relationships
- Recognition of achievement
- Pride in the organisation
- Opportunities for growth and advancement
It is not in SME’s alone that this is true. J.M. Smucker, the 3000-strong chocloate spread and jam manufacturer, attribute their success (‘Best Company to Work For’ 2004 and top 10 thereafter; more than $1 billion in sales annually) to their guiding principles. These resonate with those mentioned previously: “Listen with your full attention, look for the good in others, have a sense of humour and say thank-you for a job well done.” Not exactly rocket-science, is it?
As Jim Goodnight, CEO of SAS -the billion-dollar software manufacturer- would say, “What’s wrong with treatin’ your people good?” He has often said that treating one’s people well leads to treating customers well, which ensures one’s bottom-line profitability.
Furthermore, a study conducted by research and advisory firm Computer Economics indicates that companies offering a wide range of education and training programmes have the lowest turnover rates.
Good training is preferable to an increase in pay. John Longwell, director of research for Computer Economics, said: “Managers often worry that investments in training will be reaped by other organisations…but this study indicates [it is] the best way to retain employees.”
What are the benefits of retaining staff? Besides the recognised increased CTC of 150% for the incumbent replacement, the loss of intellectual property and knowledge, and the delay inherent in integrating new people? Customer service. Service delivery always suffers when experienced and trusted people leave. We see it in sport all the time, where consistency of team selection leads to consistent results.
I find it interesting that in the current economic turmoil, investment in training and customer-centric approaches are at an all-time low.
As for CSI, there is no better PR. Impacting communities through win-win initiatives is a certain brand-builder. It far surpasses the credibility of an advertisement, yet costs half as much as a single flighting-run. Those impacted by a regular CSI development commitment are likely to be brand-loyal, and those employees engaged in this work are likely to have enhanced self-esteem and passion for the brand.
Isn’t it time we re-evaluated our focus? For the sake of our brand, and delivering on its promise.