I’LL JUST RUN THIS MARKETING IDEA BY MY ACCOUNTANT
“The leading American organisations were driven by a marketing philosophy rather than an accounting philosophy.”
We can all learn from top performers, be it in business or in sport, and many managers are now taking study tours of leading American companies. (The Japanese have been doing this for years… there might be a message there somewhere…)
One of the key findings of Chris Chandler and Jennifer Haywood (1), two Australian managers reporting on their study tour of American companies, was the market-driven philosophy followed by the leading American companies.
“For the leader who starts with the customer, the result is a quest for quality throughout the organisation.
For the CEO who starts with the profit motive, the all too common outcome is cost-cutting and price hikes.”
SHOULD YOUR ACCOUNTANT BE YOUR MARKETING CONSULTANT?
In the game of business, are accountants the main players or are they the scorekeepers?
I was meeting with a company the other day who needed to increase market share dramatically.
They needed a major shift in thinking and creativity not just at management level, but throughout their 200 staff.
Together we designed a training and development program to revitalise their organisation.
Just as we were about to sign the agreement to start the program, one of the managers said “Look, I’ll just run this proposal past my account…”
I was naïve (or silly) enough to think: “Well, the accountant will see the benefits of investing in people… improve service… improve quality…increase market share over the next six months or so…”
WRONG… the answer came back from their accountant:
“It costs money…you’re making a profit…there’s a recession on…cut back…don’t spend unless you really have to…spend just enough to meet your basic Training and HR commitments and not a cent more…”
And so…no training and development…project off…
Now of course, the accountant’s advice looking at the bottom line, is completely logical, particularly in the short term. But if my client was to grow, expand (or even stop the slide) he had to do something different with the way his people made decisions and delivered service to customers.
Spreadsheets, The Eagles and Panaceas
Your accountant is one of the tools in your business tool box – not the only tool.
The 1980s proved that management by spreadsheet alone does not work…it’s getting out there and serving customers that builds businesses. The spreadsheet is also a wonderful tool – but not a magic panacea…
Some people think business is all about shuffling figures around to please bankers, accountants and shareholders. As if the aim of the game is to please the scorekeeper. It really is taking the eye off the ball.
Imagine this: Subiaco Oval. Eagles versus Collingwood. Three-quarter time siren sounds.
Coach Mick Malthouse runs out onto the ground, up the steps to the scoreboard attendant’s booth and breathlessly pleads,
“Mate, tell me,…how am I going…what can I do…you’ve done the figures, how can the boys lift their game…?
Or…”Can’t you just shift a couple of those figures around to make it look a bit better…?”
Now Mick probably does ask his statistician for a detailed analysis of the day’s play.
He might even ask for his advice.
But at the end of the day, the statistics are only a reflection of how the game is played, not the game itself…
Many Australian managers have become infatuated with the game of scorekeeping and playing with the statistics instead of the game of business itself.
Keep Your Eye On The Marketing Ball
In football the basic idea is to get the ball and kick more goals than your opposition. In business the idea is to find customers’ needs and problems and make a profit by meeting and solving them.
Focus your energy on doing the basics well and you will succeed. Focus your energy on distractions (being the best at juggling the statistics) and you lose sight of the ball…
Keep good statistics. Use them as a valuable tool and a reflection of how you have played to date.
But remember, they are a reflection of all your strategies and game plans – the attitude of your team, the fitness of your team, the equipment you’re playing with, the leadership of your team and so on…
The statistics and the scoreboard is not the game.
Top Marketing Performers Get Into Bed With Their Customers
A top performing company’s criteria for success is:
“Is the customer ecstatic about our service? If they are, then we’ll be making a profit.”
As distinct from: “How can we flog this off at maximum price for minimum cost?”
(The Dodgy Brothers Inc. philosophy)
Top performers understand the concept of getting into bed with customers for the long haul…not just when you feel like it,
(or when you can make a good dollar out of it…)
Mark Twain wrote “If the only tool you have is a hammer, a lot of things start to look like nails.”
In Australia there are many businesses blinded by the accounting philosophy.
We’ve come to believe all decisions should be run past our accountant before we make any move at all.
Just imagine a footballer who keeps glancing nervously at the scoreboard every 30 seconds of the match…
Then he asks the runner to ask the statistician every two minutes what he should do next…
I’m sure you know managers who operate this way. It’s a matter of balance.
Eye on the Marketing ball, feedback on performance, eye on the ball, feedback on performance.
If your company is accountant-driven, what can you do to be more market-oriented?
At the end of the day you’ll kick far more goals by playing the ball – marketing your product or service to keep your customers DELIGHTED.
Then you too can be the top performer you and your customers want you to be.
Not only that, but you’ll probably keep the scorekeepers happy too!
- Reference: Chandler, J and Haywood, G: Service Excellence in the U.S: Implications for the Asia Pacific Region. Asian Pacific International Journal of Business Logistics. Vol 1: No 1.