Category Archives: business development

The Authentic Brand: A Precious Asset Developed Through Transparency, Customer Experience and Ultimately, Loyalty

By James D. Roumeliotis

We want transparency in your corporation, not your pants: Why 2013 ...

Trust is a hard thing to come by these days whether between people or between people and brands. When the founders of a start-up build a brand from the ground-up or the executives of an established one are in modus operandi mode, taking a cautious approach to their brand image, in both scenarios, ought to be part of growing and preserving the business with a constant eye on the future.

Sadly, nonsense, and plenty of it from ubiquitous brands, is probably the best noun to describe what consumers are offered by many companies selling their products and services to them. Whether it is advertising, package labeling or an overstated pitch by their sales staff, the information presented may be deliberately misleading. With some brands, it is the tiny print in disclosure statements which defeat what is promised in larger and bold advertising headings. The majority of consumers do not read small footnotes. Think of the worst offenders of this practice: the cellular phone/telecommunication providers, insurance companies, credit card providers, as well as the automobile manufacturer promotional offers and pharmaceutical advertisements – to name a few.

Deception concealed as sincerity: How to chip away at your brand

The key to a successful business growth, along with reputation, is truth in advertising, delivering on promises made, avoiding deceit – and marketing the brand, not the product. Contrary to popular belief, a brand is not a logo, label or product but rather a relationship with customers. It is a promise. Branding, when carefully executed, adds value to a company including brand equity. This is considered intangible brand value. By applying a short-term revenue and profit strategy at the expense of long-term negative consequences, a business’s brand reputation will ultimately lose its luster.

In the 2018 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient®, published the reputations of the 100 most visible companies among the U.S. general public. What appears on the top five, among other notable brands as consumers perceive them, are Wegmans Food Markets, Amazon, Samsung, Costco and Johnson & Johnson respectively.

Consumers have high and explicit expectations from brands, thus anticipate what the brand promises via its marketing material and/or what is stated on the product packaging. What a brand actually delivers and how it behaves in the process is what consumers get to feel.

A brand which utilizes short-term sales and marketing tactics for quick short-term gain fails financially in the long-term by acting in an ethical way. As marketing maven Seth Godin rightfully proclaims, “In virtually every industry, the most trusted brand is the most profitable.” As with our personal lives, trust with branding is based on what one does, not what one says.

Boosting sales and market share via misleading and deceptive tactics

According to a 2018 Harris Poll, regarding the most and least trusted industries, Banks represented 4 of the top 8 companies by trust rating this year, with Supermarkets adding in another two of the top 8. The remaining companies in the top 8 were in the Credit Cards and Insurance industry, such that Supermarkets and Financial Services companies took all of the top 8 spots.

By contrast, TV and Internet Service Providers occupied each of the bottom 4 positions in the rankings, and 7 of the bottom 11 overall.

The food processing domain is no more honest with labels that claim to be healthy but without support with any concrete scientific facts. Food companies tout their devious label claims of organic, nutritious etc. – although an absurd amount of sugar and/or sodium is present in the ingredients along with unnatural artificial ingredients). Kelloggs even went as far as having to be ordered, by the courts, to discontinue all Rice Krispies dubious advertising which claimed to boost a child’s immunity system.

Then there is the “premium” orange juice from popular brands such as Tropicana, Simply Orange and others which are highly processed, and usually stored for several months before reaching consumers at the supermarket fridge aisles. This processing method is used to retain the juice from spoiling. However, during that process, it also strips the flavour which is injected back into the product, once it finally gets packaged, to give the juice its original orange flavour. Not surprisingly, the orange juice producers do not make any reference to this anywhere.

Informative and authentic eye-opener documentaries such as Food Inc. and Tapped have upped the ante in terms of the exposure shared with the public to what is wrong with the food processing/food chain and water bottling sectors respectively. Moreover, the GMO debate with the exceptionally well-connected and deep pocketed Monsanto (the St. Louis-based biotech giant and world’s biggest seed seller) will not be going away any time soon.

Other industries notorious for deceit are banks and cellphone/telecommunication companies with their hidden fees. These blatant revenue generators are sales at any cost – short-term gains, of course. These companies guilty of gouging seem to be testing the limits with consumers – as if the latter are ignorant. Those absurd fees evidently enrage the culprits’ customers.

Employees reflect the brand

First and foremost, trust begins with company employees. If they are well trained and treated with respect and transparency, the employees will trust their employer and radiate their enthusiasm, as well as loyalty to their customers by going the extra mile.

Along with a brand being a valuable asset for any business, people also fit into the equation as an important asset. This is where hiring the right people, on-boarding them, training them adequately and empowering them all create a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

Many brands are myopic to the point that they unintentionally and unknowingly allow their dissatisfied customers to go away without a thought. Front-line staff is either not trained properly and/or lacks the proper attitude to handle clientele appropriately.

During the industrial era, consumers would simply purchase what was produced, shopping where that product was available and paying the price the retailer demanded. In essence, the manufacturer and the store were in position of strength. As products and consumers have changed over the years, the concept of ‘brand loyalty’ and ‘consumer insight’ came about. As we progressed into the new millennium, the transparency and unrestricted information available on the internet has changed all of that. Today consumers are not only better informed but they are also in control. They can make or break a brand through their actions. So what does this say about listening – and acting?

Consumers will no longer refrain from informing companies on what may have gone wrong ─ whether it’s a particular brand or a competitor’s. With the numerous platforms for consumers to make their voices heard online, brands have to be very reactive and not allow anything to chance. In an age when the consumer’s outcries and influences spread quickly, the results can signify lost sales and a deterioration of brand loyalty.

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When all is said and done

Building and nurturing a brand is what makes an enterprise gather wind under its wings. Common intelligence dictates that the way a customer is dealt with reflects on the integrity of the brand, and the image of the company in the mind of the consumer.

A “Brand” is a promise of something that will be delivered by a business. This promise comes in a form of quality, an experience and a certain expectation in the mind of the consumer. It includes the Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Marketing, on the other hand, is about spreading compelling messages to your target audience while branding is a combination of words and action. Marketing is extroverted and communicates quickly, while branding is introverted and a slow process if it’s to produce any real impact. Effective marketing activities are vital in developing a brand. When combined successfully, branding and marketing create and promote value, trust, loyalty and confidence in a company’s image, products and services.

According to an Edelman’s Trust Barometer, it was revealed that 77% of respondents refused to buy products from companies they distrusted. More disturbing is that 72% said they had criticized a distrusted company to a friend or colleague.

When customers are treated with honesty and delighted by a particular brand experience, they begin to bond emotionally with the brand. They become brand loyalists and advocates – buying the brand more often and recommending it to others. This behavior serves to build the brand’s reputation. This approach is priceless –even though it may take longer to take positive effect.

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What Products and Services Must Do to Flourish: Increasing the Odds at Profiting in a Competitive Market

By James D. Roumeliotis

Image result for increasing chances of product success

Following three decades of personal business experience in three countries, as well as through constant observation of successful businesses, for products or services to increase the rate of triumph, they should perform at least one of the following:

  • Solve a problem: Whether for the B2C or B2B market, focus should be on building a “must” have not a nice to have product. Consumers are overwhelmed with a plethora choice on daily basis. Attention spans are getting shorter and only few products are getting noticed. As a result, a product or service should be doing something different and better to succeed by being in demand.

Examples: Amazon simplified online buying and selling. Poo-Pourri solved the stinky bathroom problem, Spanx solved the comfort of leggings.

Also consider inventing any product in the health & wellness sector which diagnosis and prevents any potential diseases such as colon cancer etc., or in the privacy & security domain protecting consumer data on personal devices.

  • Make lives easier – offer convenience

Examples: The invention of the GPS (replace paper maps), wireless charging (did away with power cords), voice-command devices such as the TV command remote (eliminated having to use a plethora of buttons), smart wireless home (remotely control various factors of the home environment), Blue Apron (a meal experience that customers create with the original recipes and fresh, seasonal ingredients that are included in every box.)

Fintech: “Computer programs and other technology used to support or enable banking and financial services.” It is “one of the fastest-growing areas for venture capitalists.” According to Forbes,  examples of Fintech-related companies or products include: Payment infrastructure, processing and issuance such as services provided by Square and Stripe; Stock trading apps from TD Ameritrade and Schwab; Alternative lending marketplaces such as LendingClub, and OnDeck.

Also, urban farming — growing commercial ready fresh, sustainable and local vegetables with no pesticides. Examples are La Caverne in Paris, Badia Farms in Dubai or Lufa Farms in Montreal to name a few.

  • Disrupt an existing well-established business/product/service. Disruptors create a way of doing things which displaces the existing market leaders (a product or service), and eventually replace the original players in their sector.

Consider Uber (taxi industry), Airbnb (hotel space), iRobot (vacuum cleaning chores), Beyond the Meat (looks like and tastes like real meat though plant based).

  • Sell hope – after using these products and services, lives will be easier, better, and changed somehow.

Examples: Cosmetics, skin enhancement injection services and products such as Botox, financial planning products for a comfortable retirement.

  • Offer a lifestyle enhancement

Examples: Red Bull (“gives you wings”/vigor), Vans sneakers, Apple products, and recreational lifestyle pharmaceutical products such as Viagra and Cialis.

  • Provides a social status: Think (authentic) luxury products and services or green products.

Examples: American Express Platinum charge card, Business and First-Class on airlines etc.

Green status products may include the Prius hybrid automobile and the Tesla (ditching the ubiquitous internal combustion engine with its use of fossil fuel).

  • Offer a better version of an existing (generic) product or service (“Premium”) – upper mid-to high price range appealing to discerning/very demanding consumers. This business model seeks a higher profit margin on a lower sales volume. Services and subscription models are a much more sustainable than physical products.

Example: Nestlé has its Nescafé line (various types) of coffee but also offers its top of the line Nespresso line (a separate company division).

  • Sell niche, exclusive or viral products online:

-Reach an audience with a shared identity regardless of location.

-Exclusivity has its devotees and offers the illusion of scarcity.

-There are several factors that influence the virality of a product and they range from the emotional impact to the visibility that the product delivers.

Examples: Keto(genic) foods, vegan foods, Matcha tea, all natural pet food and/or accessories with a fashion statement, bamboo toothbrushes, yoga/health retreats, specific branded apparel and footwear are just a few good ideas mentioned.

In addition, if choosing to deal strictly with B2B, what is recommended as businesses are:

  • Act in a capacity of a Consultant or Broker (services, with no inventory to purchase, store and sell) but preferably with unique knowledge and exclusivity respectively;
  • Be a wholesale supplier of specialized raw materials, parts or ingredients rather than focus on the retail space (CPG or CE domain). Building a brand in the mind of a consumer is a lengthy and costly affair.

In the end…

…with any or several categories of the above recommendations, as an entrepreneur, your product or service  has a great shot at profiting in a competitive market. A contrarian with  innovation tendencies can make a difference. Never think short term and always consider adding value if you want to truly succeed in business.

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The Global Mindset: Entrepreneurship Beyond Borders

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By James D. Roumeliotis

With globalization prevalent at an unprecedented rate, we are witnessing a growing number of entrepreneurs entering foreign markets with products or outsourcing manufacturing. Taking their small- or medium-sized businesses globally with different and unfamiliar customs and regulations can hamper success. Overcoming these challenges requires a mind shift through a good command of foreign cultures, values, and a sound strategy by the entrepreneur. Moreover, the same knowledge can create diversity awareness by embracing and respecting multiple cultures within the organization.

Global Citizen

The capitalist as a global citizen

Along with knowledge of all fundamentals of running a business, the “global” entrepreneur systematically seeks out and conducts new and innovative business activities across national borders. Diversity of thought and culture is needed to handle global business matters most efficiently. Undoubtedly, those best prepared have an international background having lived abroad and/or studied international business. Given that not everyone has had this opportunity, there is no reason that an entrepreneur can’t get self educated and think, as well as act globally. Rather than just focus on local home issues, global horizons can be released by immersing oneself to foreign news sources (both political and business related), as well as carrying out research and obtaining information to guide toward the best decisions. Learning another language, culture, and physically exploring the countries of interest, can’t help but develop a global mindset, motivate to evaluate foreign strategy, and ultimately allow seeing things from a different perspective.

For global research purposes, resources and services at one’s knowledge base include:

1) Go online and investigate how the Internet functions in this country; key sites; key offerings; style; information dissemination

2) Examine local media; i.e. news sources online and off line, business publications. Some publications are in English. Many are not. Don’t hesitate to use Google’s “translate this page” application.

3) Multicultural training can’t hurt. Contact either educational institutions or management consultancies, who can help you prepare the necessary groundwork

4) Most countries have governmental export organizations, which provide support. In the USA contact: USCS; In Canada contact the EDC; in the United Kingdom contact the UKTI.

Most countries have “trade missions” – an overseas program for local businesses that want to explore and pursue export opportunities by meeting directly with potential clients in specified foreign markets.

In addition to cultural awareness aspect, it can be useful to find reliable local partners, who are already established and understand the country’s market you wish to target. Certain countries will not let you enter without a “local” partner. Do yourself a great favor and inform yourself on how this can work to your advantage.

Trying to contact local distributors, sales agents or licensees may not be possible without the proper introductions. Therefore, do your homework. Exploiting an existing customer base in a partnership arrangement can be very advantageous.

Payment terms and guarantees are another issue that can be dealt with through the guidance of various government export programs.

Guy Laliberte

From local and humble beginnings to the international stage

What most people don’t realize are the humble beginnings of most local firms before their recognition on the international stage.

Take for example the French-Canadian entrepreneur Guy Laliberte, and co-founder of the internationally acclaimed Cirque du Soleil. He had his humble beginnings as a street performer in Montreal where he used to entertain small audiences alfresco with his stilt-walking and fire-eating acts.

In 1984, despite his limited command of the English language and unfamiliarity with the global scene, Laliberte had a vision to create and eventually export an upscale alternative to the traditional circus. His original plan was intended to be just a one-year project.

Cirque du Soleil was scheduled to perform in eleven towns in the Canadian Francophone province of Quebec over the course of thirteen weeks. After its inaugural show across Canada with a cast of 70 to 100 performers, the Cirque unveiled its first show outside Canada in 1987. It took place in Los Angeles with great fanfare.

The stakes were high. As Laliberte recalls:

“I bet everything on one night. If we failed, there was no cash for gas to come home.”

Beyond his wildest dreams, the applause rumpled across the States like thunder.
Over the years, he continued to learn and adapt to various market conditions. With an astute understanding of branding his circus grew.

Its success is a manifestation of imagination and hard work. What differentiates Cirque from its predecessors are unique shows fueled by emotion. Today, there are 19 shows in over 271 cities on every continent except Antarctica. The shows employ approximately 4,000 people from over 40 countries and generate an estimated annual revenue exceeding $810m.

What I also admire about Guy is that he is more than just an entrepreneur. He is also a philanthropist, space tourist and professional poker player with an estimated net worth of $1.36bn according to Forbes World’s Richest (as of 9/2/17). In 2015 he sold a 90% stake to U.S. private equity firm TPG Capital and Chinese investment group Fosun, valuing the firm at $1.5bn.

The Global Mindset: Entrepreneurship Beyond Borders

My final take

Although international business is fraught with challenges, strategic planning coupled to measured risk taking pays big dividends. However, you cannot rest on your laurels. Political and economic trends shift with the wind. Sailing with the wind allows an entrepreneur to feel the pulse of trends while at the same time giving the individual a template for personal growth.

Secondly, unlike previous generations, the internet provides countless opportunities to reach out and broaden target audiences in a way that was not possible.

Governmental agencies, in most major developed countries, through collaboration with their foreign attaches, are prepared to help intrepid business people by providing entrepreneurs with technical support and resources.

If foreign expansion is on your agenda, study those firms who have made the leap successfully.

The example of the Cirque du Soleil brilliantly demonstrates how it
is possible to stake out your corner. Logistically, Cirque also understood that success needed to collaborate with locals and to deliver entertainment in a focused way which transcends culture and language.

I attribute this success as well as others to a keen appreciation of EQ rather than IQ. After all, having a global mindset implies cultural intelligence coupled to traditional business practices.

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The Art of Sparking Emotions: Building Desire for Your Brand

By James D. Roumeliotis

Couple in Love

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Whether offering products or services, a business is expected to create connections and engage in conversations with its prospective clients ─ but equally important, with its existing clienteles. While these connections might come in the form of attractive print ads, or utilizing social media/digital platforms, or even face-to-face interactions at various touch points, they should all be tailored to initiate meaningful conversations between brand and consumer. Conversations that can achieve sales targets along with obsessive fan followings which ultimately boost the popularity of the brand.

Customer engagement: the essentials

More than 20 years ago, a popular method for companies to obtain sales was to utilize a sales force and apply pressure tactics. Some companies used the telephone as their tool of choice for cold calling. This was a typical marketing and sales approach. Sales staff where trained in persuasion and closing techniques including answering the most popular objections. This is what is known as a “push” strategy. Today, customer engagement works in reverse. It is the customer, whether an end-user or a business, who decides if and when to communicate with a company. The typical contemporary consumer has the power of the internet and word of mouth in determining great deals and which brands they should be transacting with. Moreover, on the consumer side, there are countries with strict national regulations concerning telephone solicitation. This has had companies scrambling to stay relevant with the times and is considered a “pull” strategy. There is also a refined marketing method known as Permission Marketing” (opposite of interruption marketing) which was coined by marketing maven Seth Godin. As a result, marketers have been adjusting their strategies and integrating them with online and offline marketing activities, along with a laser focused approach with their specific audience. This has resulted in deep customer engagement.

Customer engagement is not a single outcome ─ it is an ongoing dialogue. They have come to expect more personalized interaction, customized solutions, timely results and most certainly a “bang for their buck.” This requires brands to be customer centric ─ with everyone in the organization on-board, in addition to being well versed in the digital age. This includes blogging, Twittering, Instagram posting and viral marketing among others. One other notable trend is towards widespread audio and video production and communication. From podcasting to mobile video, audio and video is predominating in our digital world.

Push vs. Pull marketing

Push marketing and pull marketing are different yet complementary marketing methods for promoting a business – most notably online.

Push marketing is more traditional methods of advertising – essentially, you are pushing your message to your audience, regardless of whether they want to receive your message or not. Push marketing focuses on product features and awaits the audience to respond. Examples of push marketing include email marketing, website advertising, and cold calling.

Pull marketing is more proactive, pulling the customers toward your brand/product with targeted messages they care about. Pull marketing is all about brand building. Examples of pull marketing include media interviews, public speaking, and word of mouth advertising.

The holistic approach

Consumers today are more brand conscience, better informed and with more options. Despite this, there are companies which continue to spend money advertising and selling product rather than brand. They place emphasis on price and quality as differentiators despite these two being overused by many copycats. Successful brands take a holistic approach to selling by exploiting the five human senses which now constitute the brand. This is accomplished by what I regard as “ambiance marketing” and “sensory/sensorial branding”, through a captivating designed setting, yet alluring. This adds character and invites clients to truly feel the brand experience.

The five senses, when applied toward the customer, are regarded as follows:

  • Visual – lighting, decor, colors, layout…you can get a real sense of movement using these elements.
  • Auditory – music, effects, volume, vibrations…you set the tone and the energy of the room with your sonic selections.
  • Tactile – textures, comfort, climate…this is all about how your guests interact with the environment.  This is a big thing to consider when you are designing the layout.
  • Olfactory – fragrance, emotion, ambiance…this sense is under-rated and powerful. Of all our senses, the sense of smell is most closely linked to emotion and memory. You can use something as simple as burning incense or candles to something far more complex like computer controlled scent machines to enhance your environment. This could just be the extra touch needed to set the mood.
  • Gustative – with food establishments, the challenge is in finding the perfect balance between sour, salty, sweet, and bitter during menu designs and beverage selections.  The presentation also makes an impact on the overall image.

Storytelling along with the total customer experience

Standard products and mundane user experiences don’t offer compelling reasons for consumers to do business with certain brands. If a business can’t articulate its USP (unique selling proposition) ‒ as to why anyone should do business with your brand, your product and/or service merely becomes a “commodity” whose price will be the sole determinant in any transaction.  Being formidable and considered top of mind in your B2C sector requires a philosophy – a certain culture which will develop a following by consumers who share your values.

Quality materials, assembly and final product look increase a company’s competitiveness. The quality of a product may be defined as “its ability to fulfil the customer’s needs and expectations”. If the characteristics and specifications of a brand’s product line are equal or superior to its competitors, along with a fair price-value equation, the brand will turn out to be a preferred choice.

Storytelling, on the other hand, builds relationships by the stories that are well told. Stories add personality and authenticity to products which customers can better relate to and feel affinity with. Luxury brands tend to boast their pedigree since their discerning clientele desire a deeper level of involvement and understanding of the history and heritage of the brand when it comes to their luxury purchase. This is referred to as “experiential luxury.”

It is essential that the sales professional be product proficient and adept at assisting and guiding the client to the purchase making use of flattery, romance and showmanship. To illustrate, when selling a niche automobile such as a Porsche, the sales consultant can talk about racetracks, describe road-holding capabilities, build-up a fascinating story – after which time he/she can bring-up reliability and the technical details which confirm to the discerning client what he/she is already aware of.

When consumers are delighted by a particular brand experience, they begin to bond emotionally with it. They become brand loyalists and advocates – purchasing the brand more often and recommending it to others. This behavior serves to build the brand’s reputation.

In the end

With a plethora of marketing noise, differentiation in the delivery of non-evasive communication, personalized service and focus in niche markets will be the determining core value equation for success in attracting and retaining clients.

When consumers are treated with honesty and delighted by a particular brand experience, they begin to bond emotionally with the brand. They become brand loyalists and advocates – buying the brand more often and recommending it to others. This behavior serves to build the brand’s reputation. This approach is priceless –even though it may take longer to take positive effect.

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The Top 10 Most Read Articles in this Blog for 2015

by James D. Roumeliotis

Top 10 Articles for 2015

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As in every year, I have once again rounded up the ten most read/popular articles — this time for  2015. The following ten captured the most attention by numbers and from 154 countries in all. See them all below in descending order.  Your views are always encouraged including subject matter you think I should be covering more of.

THANK YOU for your readership and I look forward to feeding your mind with much more business practical food for thought this year which can be applied for timely results.

1 Luxury vs. Premium vs. Fashion: Clarifying the Disparity

2 Perceived Quality: Why Brands Are Intangible

3 The Art of Selling Luxury Products: Brand Story Telling & Persuasion

4 Mass Customization & Personalization: The Pinnacle of Differentiation and Brand Loyalty

5 Exceeding the Hotel Guest Experience: Anticipating and Executing Desires Flawlessly

6 Brand Awareness: the influence in consumers’ purchasing decisions

7 The Ultra Luxury Purveyors: Lessons from brands catering to the richest 1 percent

8 Identifying and Catering to the Discerning Consumer: Quality and Service Above All

9 Start-up Essentials: A Universal Roadmap for Starting a Business — Infographic

10 Product Features vs Benefits: The Brand Differentiation

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The Business Model: Prelude to the Business Plan

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Viewpoint by James D. Roumeliotis

Traditionally, entrepreneurs know they need a road map we all call “The Business Plan.”  Some see this as a necessary evil and others welcome the concise texture of not launching a venture blind.

Average business plans describe the new venture’s offer to its target market. It also explains how the organization will reach its goals.

Such plans should include:
A) Brief bios on the key players
B) A section detailing the sales and marketing strategy section
C) The organizational structure of the project team or organization
D) Detailed operations description
E) Financial projections
F) Capital investment required to launch the product/organization

These days building a plan is simple enough. You can go to a bank or online and purchase a business plan template. You can even choose the option of hiring consultants who will set the plan up for you.

However, nobody can tell you what you want the business to be. No, I’m not referring to the ‘executive summary’, which is part and parcel of any coherent b-plan. It is my advice that prior to building your business plan, you need something else: call it a viable business model.

The Vision Thing

If the mantra in hospitality chants “location – location – location”, then an entrepreneur’s should be “vision – vision – vision”. Putting the vision on paper is crucial. It will help you secure financing, attract investors and even partners.

New Ventures need this to articulate how the new organization is going to achieve its operational, sales, marketing and financial goals.

Established Enterprises use this tool to depict their objectives in detail. There is a step-by-step engagement and procedure to move forward never forgetting the next level. I call this strategy the “Prelude to business planning”. You simply must have a model first. How can you test an hypothesis without a model? Simply put, you cannot.

Once this initial step has been accomplished, the business plan will be simpler to prepare as the foundation of the organizational structure can be produced. The idiom “putting the cart before the horse” clearly reminds us of this erroneous and common approach.

The business model also makes it easier to visualize and analyze a business from the customer’s perspective. A simple illustration of an apparel retailer’s business model is to make money by selling a specific line of clothing to consumers whose taste and budget are aligned with the store’s offering.

Anatomy of the Business Model

What is a clear definition of a “business model”?

What does it entail?

According to Investopedia.com it is regarded as:

The plan implemented by a company to generate revenue and make a profit from operations. The model includes the components and functions of the business, as well as the revenues it generates and the expenses it incurs.

Dr. Alex Osterwalder, a sought after speaker and advisor with a particular focus on business model innovation, strategic management and management innovation, as well as co-author of the business bestselling book “Business Model Generation”, produced a more succinct definition:

A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value (economic, social, cultural, or other forms of value). The process of business model construction is part of business strategy.

Developing a business model seems to be an overwhelming and a somber task. However, to alleviate those concerns, Dr. Osterwalder is further credited for creating an ingenious and popular visual version of the conventional business model.

His consists of nine building blocks which focus on the big picture as follows:

1) Customer Segments: Describing who a company offers value to
2) Value Proposition: Describing a company’s offer
3) Channels: Describing how a company reaches its customers
4) Customer Relationships: Describing the relationships a company builds
5) Revenue Streams: Describing how a company makes money
6) Key Resources: Describing what capabilities are required to make the operation function including your suppliers
7) Key Activities: Describing what activities are required to make the operation function
8) Key Partners: The partners that leverage the business model (if applicable)
9) Cost Structure: Describing the costs of a business model


The first 4 (right half of the model) are portrayed as the ‘front stage’ of the business where the client experiences transactions, whereas, numbers 5 to 9 (left half of the model) are the backstage where the action takes place to make the right half (‘front stage’) work seamlessly. The client doesn’t see this part. It’s analogous to a performance in a theater.

The above business model can be sketched on the wall on what is referred to as the “The Business Model Canvas” (see sample image below). A business can turn up with several business models but choose the most ideal for its circumstance after having tested each one through brainstorming, simulations and/or by approaching its intended market for feedback.

Nespresso, the Alluring Business Model

If there is a business success story worth noting and plotting on a business model canvas as an attractive case in point, it should be Nespresso. This brand of high-end single serving espresso coffee systems is a standalone operating unit of the Swiss food conglomerate Nestle SA and its fastest growing brands. Reportedly, Nespresso sales have been increasing by as much as 20% on average for the last several years and earns 4% of Nestle’s total annual revenues.

Nespresso has registered numerous patents for concept including its signature colored capsules containing the ground coffee. Initially, Nespresso wasn’t much of a success with its original business model as its sales channel, back in 1986, was based on the coffee machine partners’ own sales reps touting the distinctive looking apparatus and capsules in the office coffee sectors of Switzerland, Japan and Italy. In 1989, their coffee system is introduced to the consumer/household sector which became a sensation and opened up a new category altogether in the single serving market.

Nespresso’s strategy circumvents the wholesalers and dominant supermarkets. It’s positioned itself as an exclusive luxury good. Taking a branding page from genuine luxury houses, such as Hermes and Chanel, Nespresso too controls its own distribution channels. though its machines are sold in department and fine retail stores, Its capsules are sold solely via online, by phone orders or at its more than 300 boutiques in prime locations throughout the world. This is by far its most successful business model as the company controls pricing and has an intimate relationship with its customers – most notably with regards to the total customer experience and its proactive customer service. Recognize George Clooney in its ads? He’s been a strong connection to the brand which seems to work – at least for the female audience.

Business Reassessment: Strategic Planning Tool

Business models don’t merely apply to start-ups. They equally vital for growing and established businesses which should re-evaluate their business model when revenues are dropping or when working on strategic planning.

An organization should not be operated as a static entity but rather as a progressive and innovative type with foresight to changing economic, technological and market conditions. This includes at looking at new distribution channels and revenue streams.

A case in point are the companies that make up the recording industry. For decades, they had an attitude of arrogant superiority until the day the digital download era came upon them. This development caught them off guard despite the imminent warnings, Having been built on a brick-and- mortar distribution model, they were too complacent to adapt despite the threats and decline in revenues.

Rather than re-evaluate their business model, focus on innovation and ultimately transform by embracing an opportunity, Time Music Group, and several other members of the recording industry, chose a path of least resistance. They decided to hire an army of attorneys and began to aggressively hunt and sue the illegal downloaders, including minors.

Through legal means, they successfully shut down websites such as Napster, BitTorrent and others. Meantime, online music start-ups such as Ritmoteca.com came along and conceived a novel way to distribute and monetize digital downloads. As of April 2008, the largest online music store is Apple’s iTunes Store, with around 80% of the market (source: theregister.co.uk).

https://i0.wp.com/techli.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/business-plan1.jpeg

Closing Memo

Whether starting a new business or moving an existing one to a new direction, a business model is the first strategy to consider developing prior to the business plan. The former is a proprietary method used to acquire, service, and retain customers. It makes you think through your business plan, which in turn communicates the business model. Both should synchronize.

The business model need not be a chore to design. By utilizing a creative one page visual orientation named “Business Model Generation”, developed by Dr. Alex Osterwalder, one can view the business holistically.

Several business models should be considered, their hypothesis validated in the real world and finally the most ideal model chosen.

It took Nespresso almost 30 years, since its first patent, to refine its business model.

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Sales Management by Tactics (MBT) – in slides

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The Top 10 Most Popular Articles in this Blog for 2012

I am pleased to share with you the top 10 most read articles in my blog for 2012.  Thank you for your readership.

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#1 Brand Awareness: the influence in consumers’ purchasing decisions

#2 Sensorial Purveyors: Creating an Enticing Ambiance in the Hotel Domain

#3 Defining the Luxury Brand

#4 A Philosophy Named CUSTOMER SERVICE – How to Refine it and Maintain It

#5 THE SEVEN KEY PRINCIPLES FOR BUSINESS SUCCESS – A Personal   Belief Through Years of Practical Experience

#6 The Art of Selling Luxury Products: Brand Story Telling & Persuasion

#7 Branding Bottled Water: Differentiating a commodity through various tactics

#8 Branding by Design: The Impact of Fashion on the Automobile Industry

#9 Perceived Quality: Why Brands Are Intangible

#10 How to Run an Effective Political Campaign – a Synopsis for the Aspiring Candidate

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