Non Price Competition


In spite of the emphasis placed on price in microeconomic theory, marketers often compete on product attributes other than price. You may have noted that price differences between products such as gasoline, men’s haircuts, candy bars, and even major products such as compact cars and private colleges are often small, if there is any price difference at all. Very rarely will you see price used as a major promotional appeal on television. Instead, marketers tend to stress product images and consumer benefits such as comfort, style, convenience, and durability.

Many organizations promote the services that accompany basic products rather than price. The idea is to make a relatively homogeneous product better by offering more service. Quite often the reason marketers emphasize non-price is because prices are so easy to match. Few competitors can match the image of a friendly, responsive, consumer-oriented company.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Purchase Decision Process


The act of buying is a significant part of everyone’s life. It is such a routine activity that we rarely consider in detail the mental process involved in product purchases. Just what are the steps in the purchase decision? Buyers usually pass through five stage process when they buy a good or service:

  1. Stage 1: Problem Recognition. The buyer recognizes a need, desire, or problem. The marketer tries to determine which needs, desires, or problems stimulate the buyer to begin the purchase process.
  2. Stage 2: Information Search. The buyer collects information about purchase alternatives. The successful marketer knows the sources of buyer information and their relative importance to the buyer.
  3. Stage 3: Alternative Evaluation. The buyer evaluates purchase alternatives in light of various criteria. Since these criteria may differ in each purchase decision, the marketer determines which criteria are appropriate to that decision.
  4. Step 4: Purchase Decision. The buyer selects a product from among the purchase alternatives. Up to this point, the marketer has done as much as possible to influence the buyer to buy his or her product.
  5. Stage 5: Outcome. The buyer experiences some degree of satisfaction with the purchase decision. Knowledge of this satisfaction is crucial to the marketer.

Only when this decision process is understood can an effective marketing program developed. This analysis of the decision process in five distinct stages draws attention to the fact that the buying process begins before the purchase decision is made.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

 

Stumbling on Leadership


Using today’s methods of managing the technical development process, the most important decision top management makes on a new product is the selection of the group leader. The second most important decision is to stay out of the way and let the leader lead.

But who is a leader? Or, better, who will develop into a leader? The person has a non-authoritative position; that is, a leader has no line authority over such co-workers as peers, peers’ subordinates, temporary employees, vendors (subcontractors, suppliers), customers, and bosses. The leader leads in a milieu that can change from supportive to hostile overnight, with parameters that are almost completely unknown (e.g., competitive reactions), and with a new and even more inexperienced team of people.

Yet that person can overcome virtually every obstacle. That person alone can enthuse and motivate a group of people to do what seems impossible. Fortunately there is lots of this leadership around, managers with successful track records in this work and many managers who are as yet undiscovered. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to pick out the undiscovered.

Compounding all of this is the conviction of some firms that a new products project actually needs two leaders, a creative, inspiring type for early on, and a tough disciplinarian for the later stages. Very rarely do we find people who can do both.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Adding Frosting to the Cake


Smart people in all fields add some frosting to the cake they sell. Putting frosting on the cake means giving people more than they expect to receive, and it begins with simple things. A smart business manager never places negative people in upfront jobs, such as telephone operator, receptionist, check-out stand cashier, and ticket seller the customers and clients a business serves rarely, if ever,  see the firm president or a key manager. They judge the business rightly or wrongly by the way they are treated by the ‘unimportant’ people.

Experienced travelers stay at hotels where the reservations are polite and positive; people choose restaurants based on the attitudes of people who seat them, serve them, and take their money. How good the food tastes is always less important than the service in building repeat patronage. And the companies that deliver packages know courteous, friendly service is their best competitive weapon in beating the Postal Service where, generally, counter-personnel are negative in attitude.

Words and phrases as ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘you look good today’ are free frosting that make sales and build businesses. Call your business or office. If you don’t hear a wonderful, “I am really glad you called” voice, train or replace the person. Have a friend stop in at your business. If he doesn’t get great service, take corrective action.

Success-oriented people ask, “How can I give others more than they expect? What kind of frosting can I put on the cake I’m selling?”

A cake—the product or service you offer—is just baked dough. But when you put some frosting on it and give it a little post-sale service, you’ve made the dough delicious. Try it, and enjoy the rewards.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Simple Language, Smart Thinking


If you know the difference between skills, knowledge, and talents, you can use these terms to throw light on all the other words used to describe human behavior—words like “competencies,” “habits,” “attitude,” and “drive.” At present many of us assume that they all mean virtually the same thing. We use phrases like “inter-personal skills,” “skill set,” “work habits,” or “core competencies” so naturally that we rarely question their true meaning.

This isn’t just careless language. It’s careless thinking, it leads managers astray. It leads them to waste precious time, effort, and  money trying, with the best of intentions, to train characteristics that are fundamentally untrainable.

So let’s look more closely at competencies, habits, attitude, and drive. Which of these are skills, or knowledge, and therefore can be changed in a person? And which are talents and therefore cannot?

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Measuring Advertising Effectiveness


The business advertiser rarely expects orders to result immediately from advertising. Advertising is designed to create awareness, stimulate loyalty to the company, or create a favorable attitude toward a product. Even though advertising may not directly precipitate a purchase decision, advertising programs must be held accountable. Thus, the business advertiser must be able to measure the results of current advertising in order to improve future advertising and must be able to evaluate the effectiveness of advertising expenditures against expenditures on other elements of marketing strategy.

Measuring advertising effectiveness means assessing advertising’s impact on what “intervenes” between the stimulus (advertising) and the resulting behavior (purchase decision). The theory is that advertising can affect awareness, knowledge, and other dimensions that more readily lend themselves to measurement. In essence, the advertiser attempts to gauge advertising’s ability to move an individual through the purchase decision process. This approach assumes, correctly or not, that enhancement of any one phase of the decision process or movement from one step to the next increases the ultimate probability of purchase.

Business marketers should also measure the indirect communication effects of advertising. Advertising affects word-of-mouth communications (indirect effect), and such communications play an important role in buyer decision making. Similarly, advertising indirectly affects buyers on the basis of its impact on overall company reputation and on the sales force’s belief that advertising facilitates their selling tasks. Advertising effectiveness measurement include a procedure for tracking and measuring the impact of advertising on the indirect communication effects.

Advertising effectiveness will be evaluated against objectives formulated in terms of the elements of the buyer’s decision process as well as some of the indirect communication effects. Advertising efforts will also be judged, in the final analysis, on cost per level of achievement (for example, money spent to achieve a certain level of awareness or recognition).

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Is this Meeting Genuinely Necessary?


A “maybe” response indicates only limited need for the meeting and shows that further thought is required. Only a “yes” is a positive justification for calling a meeting.

 

The same question needs to be asked before attending a meeting. If the meeting is not necessary and you can avoid it, do so. If you have to attend, try to use the time to shorten your workload to compensate for the lost hours.

 

Many managers find it hard to judge if a meeting is needed or superfluous. There are some guidelines:

1.    Is the meeting being called to exchange information or viewpoints?

a.       If the meeting is to discuss viewpoints, it is probably a necessary conference. If the meeting is strictly to distribute information, the meeting is probably unnecessary. Meetings are most effective when used to find solutions or resolutions to conflicts. A meeting held for the sole purpose of imparting information had better have some pretty spectacular revelations. This in all likelihood should be classed as an inspirational conference, because important news is seldom passed along without editorializing or explanations. Inspirational meetings are difficult to conduct, because they are based on emotion, but there are times when the troops need boosting or, conversely, deflating.

b.      Training meetings appear to be an exception to the don’t-meet-to-exchange-information concept. They are not. Distributing information in advance allows the meeting to be used for developing concepts and testing individual understanding. This is a better use of everyone’s time. This is not to downplay the importance of instructional sessions. It is just to set this category of communications apart from other meetings.

c.       Information, facts, figures, sales data, market intelligence, production numbers, personnel reviews, and more, can be disseminated more effectively by memo than meeting. Chances are, the memo is going to be written anyway passed out at the meeting. Distributing a memo is okay if there is other business on hand, but calling a meeting solely as a means of handing paper to other managers is inappropriate.

d.      Meetings are at their best when used to generate expressions of viewpoints or concepts, or to develop a policy.

e.       Meetings are at their worst when used to check individual progress on various projects. There are few more mind-dulling experiences than to sit at a conference table and hear about the status of tasks that are not even remotely connected with yours. These sections often turn into excuse contests with rambling dissertations on the reasons behind delays or problems.

f.        Meetings are generally not an efficient way to dispense information. If this is the primary reason for the gathering, then rethink the need for convening.

2.    Can one-on-one conversations or even one-on-two conversations accomplish what needs to be done? Or is a larger group necessary?

a.       There’s a difference between a meeting and a conversation between two or three people. A conversation is relaxed, informal, and rarely has the time constraints posed by a meeting. Those present sense the difference.

b.      Decisions are rarely made in conversations. In fact, some managers and executives become agitated when two or three members of a committee converse and come to a consensus without the others present. This nervousness is not assuaged by a follow-up memo which details the conversation or even by the fact that the decision may be nothing more than a unified front, in no way binding upon the group.

c.       If conversation will suffice to avoid another meeting, then have the talk. Inform the other committee members or interested parties. Those smart enough to advance in management will welcome one less meeting on their schedule.

3.    Is this meeting being called because someone or some group doesn’t have enough to do? It happens all the time. Workloads in an organization can be unbalanced. This week, Production has more than it can handle, while Sales is costing. One way to fill the day for Sales is to call a meeting. This is more common than anyone dares admit.

4.    Is the agenda for the called-meeting vague? Or worse, is there no agenda at all?

a.       As a basic rule of meeting skill, do not go to a meeting where there is no agenda. If you have to attend, go prepared for the worst.

b.      If a manager cannot express on paper what the meeting is about, there probably shouldn’t be a meeting at all.

c.       If you are asked to a meeting and no agenda is given to you in advance, find the person who called the meeting and ask for one. If it is verbal, take notes.

d.      Many times, the person discovers he or she has vague ideas about why the meeting is needed. This experience can benefit both of you.

5.    Is there any reason to meet other than the fact that your group has a set, regular, once-a-week mandatory meeting? Top management often wants certain employees to get together each and every week, to discuss items of importance, or to match timing, balance workloads, and do ongoing, necessary house-keeping.

a.       After a few sessions, these meetings fall into a routine and small talk dominates.

b.      The day before, the manager should do a little checking. Is there actually a need to convene? Could a more limited gathering accomplish the same thing? Would a memo suffice? Could matters be handled by a phone call? If the answer is yes, skip the meeting.

 My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

All about Reactivity


Reactivity simply means changes that come about in the client/system or in the problem due to the act of measurement itself. Reactive measures are those of which the client/system is aware and to which the client/system reacts. When reactivity occurs, the observation or monitoring process leads to change in the problem without any other intervention taking place. Conversely, non-reactive measures are those which do not themselves bring about change in whatever it is you are measuring.

 

Reactivity in a sense really affects the accuracy of your information. If the problem changes simply because of the measurement, you obviously would have a difficult time evaluating the intervention process and separating out the effects of the recording from the effects of your intervention. Reactivity, in short, affects the accuracy of the information you are recording. In addition, if any changes do occur as a result of reactivity, they often are not mentioned over time, leading to even more difficulty in achieving success in the long run.

 

There are a number of types of reactivity as well as ways of overcoming or diminishing reactivity. Primary among these ways of overcoming reactivity is attempting to select a measure that is non-reactive or unobtrusive. Our primary guideline in selecting a measure is, when everything else is equal (which, of course, it rarely is), try to use the least obtrusive measure possible. That is, try to use non-reactive measures when you can, or if you are using more than one measure, try to include at least one non-reactive measure.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

Figuring out what to charge


The hardest part of developing a fee schedule is figuring out what to charge. The professional fees in all fields are rather idiosyncratic. Rarely can a freelance professional set an across the board price for services. Most professionals have sliding fees. Some old, favored clients are always charged less than newer, more affluent clients. Some clients are charged overtime and for rush jobs, while others never are. And in almost every field professionals charge different rates for corporate or commercial work as opposed to creative or literary work.

Then, too, there are various ways to structure a professional fee. In the course of one year a professional is likely to take on jobs that pay by the hour, the day, and by flat fee.

What does it all mean to someone starting out in freelancing who is unsure what to charge or even how to figure out a fee schedule? Basically, a freelancer should not get too caught up in working for one preset fee—for one hourly rate. Sometimes a client will pay you less per hour, but you can pad the bill so you end up earning as much as you would if you charged a higher hourly rate. Sometimes you take a consulting job that is not particularly interesting or challenging but which pays well, so you can later take on creative work that does not pay so well. The trick is to charge enough overall so that you earn what you need to earn. But even a sliding scale or a willingness to negotiate does not mean that you will not require a well-planned rate schedule. If you ever go into a meeting to settle a fee and are unsure what to charge or what you would like to earn, then you will probably walk away a loser. You must always be prepared to negotiate, and you should expect to earn what you are worth 90 percent of the time. To do this, you need to figure out in advance what the general fee ranges will be for your services. The only danger is in setting an hourly fee and measuring all your work by that one standard.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir - Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

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