Good to Great

I bought the “Good to Great” book two months back, but didn’t get enough time to read it. It was actually suggested by one of my friend along with “Blue Ocean Strategy”. Today I managed to read the first chapter of the book and found some very interesting thoughts and insights proven by researches. Still there are 8 more chapters to go, but the first chapter is the summary version of the book outlining the methods of analysis and data gathered for the research. I was amazed to see that this book was the outcome of a team of 21 people, including Jim Collins.

It’s obvious we never worry about becoming great, if we think we are good. Because good is the enemy of great. The reading of this first chapter had given me some great insights for my works and consultancy stuffs. But still eager to read the rest soon if the time permits. One interesting thing about this book is the companies which were considered for the analysis. These companies are quite unknown in the Sri Lankan context and the author had done a perfect study by collecting 50 years of articles (around 6,000), over 2000 pages of interview scripts, and 384 million bytes of computer data.

Study Summary 

So what is good to great? We know some companies perform well in the market, despite of unattractive industries. So what is the black box secret to become the great? I’m also interested to know the black box soon.

Generally if a company is well performing and well known its obvious the  CEO is also known. They give interviews, they talk about themselves, and their image will be used to strengthen the company since they act as the brand ambassadors. But in this good to great case the circumstance seems to be different. The great companies had a type of leadership totally different to well known personalities. They are self effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy and similar to Lincoln and Socrates and most importantly they had grown inside from the company and not recruited from outside. Please find the summary below

The strategy did not separate the great companies to good. Both set had well defined strategies, and these companies did not focus principally on what to do to become great, but instead focused equally on what not to do and what to stop doing. Seems they focused the indirect factor more and more. Even in terms of technology used, it didn’t become significant for these companies. They used it to accelerate the transformation but it s not a cause for transformation.

It is also common sometimes companies grow bigger and bigger and become great when the industry is performing well. But according to this book the companies considered for the study are exceptional. Their tremendous progress wasn’t because of the industry. All were not operated in healthy industries and some were operated in terrible industries too.

The total analysis of the book was depended on six phenomena, starting from

1-      Level 5 leadership

2-      First who, then what,

3-      Confront the brutal fact,

4-      Hedgehog concept

5-      A culture of discipline

6-      Technology accelerators

When looking at these points, it is obvious to see having great strategy, having personality leaders, having technology won’t make sense if the black box factors are not there. Let me read the remaining chapters and share the black box secret with you all :-).

Also mergers and acquisitions didn’t play a major role on these companies. In Sri Lankan context there are instances where companies merged together and did not reveal the expected output. While reading this book I thought to do the same analysis in the Sri Lankan context to see, whether these principles work in Sri Lanka as well or whether the findings are only relevant to the foreign context.

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Recapping My Facebook status updates during 2011 Jan to Dec

  1. Good is the Enemy of Great……& that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great…..
    • I got this when I read the “Good to Great “Book written by Jim Collins.  It is 100% true that people stop their process once they believe they are doing good. Then they fail to take the next step to be great.
  2. Not words win arguments… only action…..
    • It is obvious that everyday we spend our valuable time in arguing and justifying.  But it’s always simple to finish any arguments. If anyone argues with you, and if you don’t agree with them, keep quiet, save your time, show it in your action.
  3. A humble visionary, leader, teacher and inspiration. He will be sadly missed but his legacy will live on to inspire countless others as he has inspired me. Thank you Steve Jobs and rest in peace
    • Loss of my admired personality, Steve Job. I have used him as an example in several places, several training programmes. He is not in the world today, but his legendary marks will always remain until the death of this universe.
  4. “When You Are In The Light, Everything Follows You, But When You Enter Into The Dark, Even Your Own Shadow Doesn’t Follow You.
    • In life when you have money, you can see a lot of people around you. Though you have negatives they never speak about it when you have wealth. They do what you say, they agree what you say. But when you are alone without anything no one will be there for you, to care , to cry or even to help.
  5. Coin Always Makes Sound, But The Currency Notes Are Always Silent. So When Your Value Increases Keep Yourself Calm and Silent”
  6. You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.
    • Without taking risks you can’t lead a perfect live. If you want to realize the real rhythm of life take risks. Higher the risk bigger the return.
  7. There are no perfect fathers, but a father will always love perfectly. Remember to Care for those who care for you…………… Watch this video…..
    • An amazing video which made me cry.

  8. The best students are those who never quite believe their professors …..
    • Obviously.
  9. LEARNING TO LIVE WITHOUT RECOGNITION IS A SKILL!If anyone ever tells you that your work is unprofessional, remember:amateurs built the Ark and professionals built the Titanic.DON’T LOOK TO BECOME A PERSON OF SUCCESS, LOOK INSTEAD TO BECOME A
    PERSON OF VALUE!

10. Take the first step in faith, you don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step…….

  • Simply thousand miles of journey begins with the single step, if we actually worry about the 100 steps we won’t make the first step.

11. If you win, you need not have to explain…If you lose, you should not be there to explain..

12. In a day, when you don’t come across any problems, you can be sure that you are travelling in a wrong path…

  • If the life is so smooth the life won’t be interesting.  Simply a smooth sea won’t make good sailors. When you face problems only you will be polished up to face the future challenges.

13. When it rains, most birds head for shelter; the eagle is the only bird that, in order to avoid the rain, starts flying above the cloud. …
Winners win by pushing their limits until their limits become the norm.

  • One of my famous saying. Absolutely amazing. A story which impressed me. The story of an Eagle.

14. Strength is a matter of a made up mind

15. Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever- Lace Armstrong

  • Whenever you start something, if you fail giving up is not the solution for everything.  Take the pain, try your level best, win the war, be a mercenary.

Marketing strategies for firms in the garment industry

asos

Just i have finished reading “The Marketer” Hash Ladha profile article. This is a must read for marketers those who are in the garment industry. A very good read..

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Thriving despite the downturn, Asos.com seems to exist in a bubble of its own. Floating on top is marketing and operations director, Hash Ladha


Based in vast art deco offices in London, the setting for online fashion retailer Asos.com ( As a growing marketer i can see the UI guides are well used in the site, which suits the target audience best and the web is also well optimized for the search engines specially for Google) shouts big-scale business, with style. While peers are struggling, Asos more than doubled its sales over the Christmas period, with profits for the year to March on track to be greater than expected at £13.8m. Business buoyancy seems to ping off the walls – staff members strut the corridors dressed to the nines, while models pound the office catwalk at a punishing pace to be snapped in the hundreds of new product lines that are added to the site each week.

Customer focus

But beneath the glitz and buzz of business success, the surprising shabbiness of the reception area’s coffee-stained table and carpet betrays a practical, customer-centric philosophy at the heart of the company’s strategy (very impressive) – after all, it is the website, not the office, that is the real face of the organisation. “We honestly believe that if we act in the interests of our customers they will keep coming back,” says marketing and operations director, Hash Ladha. Asos has found a winning formula for its proposition – “choice, presentation and service for our customers” – Ladha believes, and he is adamant that all marketing initiatives adhere to it strictly: “I tell my staff that if they aren’t concentrating on one of those three things then they’re probably doing something quite irrelevant,” he says.

Online island

Established in June 2000 and admitted to AIM, the London Stock Exchange market for smaller companies, in October 2001, Asos was originally called As Seen On Screen, selling affordable reproductions of clothes spotted on TV celebrities. Since expanding its stock to include versions of catwalk fashion as well as other big label brands, Asos is now the UK’s largest independent online fashion retailer, offering 20,000 branded and own label product lines, from menswear to beauty.

From small beginnings, its staff headcount has almost doubled to more than 400 employees in the two years Ladha has worked there. The website boasts 4.5 million unique visitors a month, with nearly 2 million registered users and 1.2 million active customers (those who have bought within the past six months) – an increase of 112 per cent in the last year.( I think the traffic and the SEO gave them 6 Google PR currently).

So, with companies across all industries collapsing under hostile market conditions, what makes Asos so special? The effort invested into the visual merchandising of the site gives it a competitive advantage and, by necessity, makes it the company’s main and most effective marketing channel. Although label-branded clothing results in lower margins than Asos’s own clothes, that’s no excuse for sloppy presentation, says Ladha. The site’s “Outlet” section, which includes brands such as Alexander McQueen and Dolce & Gabbana at cut prices, displays every item of branded clothing in close-up photo stills and catwalk fashion shots, just as on the rest of the site.( The way they present the product is so amazing)

“We have good quality models, good quality design teams and take time to shoot every item – we take pride in what we do,” he says. With the site being the company’s selling ground, the marketing team’s main focus is to generate traffic. Through the use of search engine optimisation and pay per click advertising on women’s magazine sites such as Look and Grazia, it ensures that 25 per cent of its customers are new every week, which translates to 1.7 million unique visitors.( I think based on my initial search even they can stick only with organic search)

“Our number of unique visitors tends to be up 100 per cent each year, and the number of hits the site has from Look and Grazia is comparable to that of Topshop, which is obviously a much bigger business,” says Ladha.

Social networking has played its part in raising awareness – in six months Asos has become the second largest UK fan group for any fashion retailer on Facebook, overtaking Topshop and Urban Outfitters to come just behind H&M’s 90,000 fans. With this raised awareness and the wide array of products on offer from the site, Ladha admits the marketing team has reached a point where PR can almost run itself, so frequent are the press requests for product placements or features. “The magazines know they can give us a brief and we can send over what they need,” he says.

Not just celebrity rags

The single biggest investment made by the marketing department is Asos’s print magazine, which is sent to 500,000 active customers. Showcasing other brands’ products alongside its own, a team of seven is dedicated to layering photos of fashion icons with editorial to create content that competes with news-stand glossies. “We straddle being both a retailer and a media outlet, which makes us unique,” says Ladha.

From the company’s roots in celebrity culture, the magazine has always been of a higher content quality than the simple product-plus-description format of the average online retailer catalogue, he says. “Like it or not, our society is obsessed with celebrity culture, from lowbrow celebrities to Hollywood, Bollywood and everything in between,” says Ladha. “We will do a feature with celebrity-inspired clothes, but there is also a lot of stuff there without the celebrity focus.”

Ladha claims that the emotional loyalty the magazine drums up in its recipients make it a valuable as well as effective marketing tool. “We know that the customers who receive our magazine spend more time on the site, have a higher basket value, and take up the promotional incentives that we offer, which drives higher conversion rates and higher spend.” Nevertheless, it is an expensive investment. “With customer relationship management we’ve found that not all of the active customers who receive the magazine remain active because of it. Sending the print magazine to all of them is a high-cost strategy, so in the future we will be looking to send only to those customers who have a higher propensity to spend.” Ladha admits it is also not the most cost effective way to acquire new customers: “We reduce the cost of acquisition by putting a 24-page supplement in magazines such as Glamour and Cosmopolitan instead.”

The focus on content translates into the company e-newsletters, which Ladha sees as “weekly campaigns”. A team of 10 is dedicated to crafting the two weekly newsletters, ensuring they have relevance and pace in the manner of a weekly magazine, and four million e-mails are sent out each week to the website’s database of two million registered users.

Asos is careful that it does not bombard its customers and has a strategy for dealing with those who have lapsed, says Ladha. “We have three attempts over six weeks to try to reactivate them. If this fails, we might try a discount to entice them back. After that they would become a non-target, unless we ran a separate reactivation programme.”

With click-throughs straight to the site from the e-news, Ladha claims the accurately measured ROI this provides makes them far more effective than anything more nebulous to measure such as sponsorship. “Three years ago we sponsored Britain’s Next Top Model, but that is all just about brand awareness. We know that our e-mails work,” he says.

As a small business in a cluttered marketplace, with competitors in both offline and online retail, Asos is reluctant to reveal exact click-through rate figures for its e-newsletters. But Ladha says that it overtook its biggest rival in terms of website hits, fashion mogul Next, for the first time in February. It has since been neck-and-neck, according to rankings by website Hitwise.co.uk, which reports on the anonymous online usage and search behaviour of eight million UK internet users.

Bespoke marketing

Underpinning all of Asos’s marketing channels is a sophisticated CRM system from SmartFocus. Working with Asos’s rich pool of customer data, the software has produced some interesting insights into spending behaviour. “We found that men are more generous than women and are more likely to include items for their wives or girlfriends in their shopping baskets,” says Ladha.

With 20,000 products live on the site at any time, and 800 new product lines being added every week, it’s crucial that a customer’s marketing message is personalised to include the kind of items they are most likely to buy. The software has created five female and three male customer profiles that identify a customer’s propensity to spend, their trigger points and whether they tend to shop at the weekend or during the week.

With the varied spectrum of goods on sale, from a £5 bracelet to a £1,000 designer handbag, Asos also ensures that its communications only include items in the applicable spending bracket. He is proud that Asos is the only fashion retailer with the ability to use this kind of CRM software. “In other fashion stores there are people profiles, but it’s based on a little bit of data and the consumer’s opinion. I can tell you what a customer’s favourite colour is just by looking at his or her buying behaviour,” he says. First purchased eight months ago, Ladha says that Asos will be stepping up its tailored marketing using CRM with profile-specific communications in the coming months.

At your service

High-quality service for customers is the third prong to Ladha’s marketing mantra. The customer care team is now available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, closing only for one day at Christmas. “We found that our busiest period was after 5.30pm on a weekday – just as our customer care team were preparing to go home. There’s no point in having a care team that isn’t there when the customer is.” Team members are required to reply to customer enquiries within an hour and are judged by the speed and quality of their reply. “Last week all of our customers got a reply within half an hour. I want to get to the point where they’re getting immediate replies.”

Asos is working on stepping up its delivery options and on a returns service that collects an unwanted garment from the customer’s house. While the inevitable delivery delays of an online service could detract from a customer’s willingness to buy, Ladha says that its flexible online model means it can communicate with customers in advance of any inconvenience. When snow was imminent earlier this year Asos sent e-mails to customers warning them that it might delay their delivery. Once it did snow, an apology e-mail was sent offering a delivery refund and 10 per cent off next orders ( I can give 1000 thumps up for this marketing attitude)

“Things might go wrong, but our customers are happy as long as we communicate with them effectively,” explains Ladha. This is a strategy of engendering trust that he transfers into the promotional communications too. “I hate creating spin. We don’t hide things from our customers – if we are offering free delivery for a spend of £75 or more, I make sure my designers put both parts of the offer in equal font and with equal emphasis, so the customer isn’t led into something only to be let down.”

With the recent launch of the kidswear and new high-end designer ranges, Asos plans to continue expanding its products. “We see ourselves as the Amazon of fashion (Great)– we hope that the trust our brand has will mean we can sell just about anything,” says Ladha. With plans for a community section of the website, and a section for customers to trade between themselves, it is perhaps just a matter of time before this is the case.

While it is an exciting time for staff working at Asos, Ladha keeps morale pumped up with reward cards that ensure every staff member has their birthday off work and is treated to a lie-in or afternoon off after a period of particularly hard work. The close alignment between the company’s business strategy and its other departments is evident from the all-staff Monday morning summaries of the past week’s trade.

Ladha is positive about the future despite the shroud of recession: “Although online growth is slowing, it’s not slowing as much as everything else. We have to make sure that if a customer has one shopping trip a month we are that one shopping trip.”

After reading the above post published in “The Marketer” my mind started to Zoom the Sri Lankan market. According to my knowledge (sometime I might be outdated about the garment industry in Sri Lanka) the firms in Sri Lanka are not considering these type of marketing tactics and strategies. Sometimes you may argue that Sri Lanakan customers are more touch and feel oriented, but it times for a deep thinking about online world for Sri Lankan garments. Specially targeting Colombo  will give them a good success rate.

The Makings of Today’s Marketer

Today we operate in challenging world. The modern marketer’s big challenge is the rapidly changing customer needs and wants. As a marketer I came across these great points stated in an article in the Chartered Marketer Magazine written by my lecturer Mr.Prasanna Perera, a well known Sri Lankan Marketer and Marketing & Management Consultant. I think these points are fabulous for marketers. .

 Characteristics of the modern marketer

Today’s marketer needs to show the following traits and competencies

 1 – Creativity and innovativeness, specially the ability to challenge conventional methods of thinking and doing. Innovation is widely acclaimed as the single most important factor for corporate excellence. Marketers would do well to harness creative skills, by always challenging the “status quo”. For example, there are several innovative methods of distributing and marketing products and services.

 2 – Endurance is critical for the modern marketers, as markets today are characterized by phenomenal and perceptual change. In these challenging times, sheer grit and conviction become paramount. Marketers should remember the age-old cliché “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

 3- Absolute dedication and focus on customers at all times, striving to build relationships, by going that extra mile for the customer. Customers are not contented with marketers who merely satisfy their needs. They require modern marketers who will aspire to delight them.

 4 – Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to get along and get the best out of people. Marketing is after all, a team game and to play in the team marketers must be team players. Many well qualified marketers fail to produce results, as their leadership and team management skills are poor. It is worthwhile to reiterate that marketing is a practical discipline that requires execution skills. It is people that make it happen.

 5 – Strategic think is a must for the modern day marketer, contrary to the short-termism prevalent today. The modern marketer needs to be a visionary, with abilities to chart the future of their brands.

 6 – Supreme self-confidence and positive attitudes are vital characteristics. This only comes with a comprehensive knowledge of your products and brands, organization, markets and job. Technical knowledge if technical products are marketed is a must. This is an area where marketers have been found wanting.

 7 – Analytical skills: Modern marketers need to have an inquiring mind, supported by the willingness to analyze things. Perhaps the detective skills of a Sherlock Holmes and the analytical skills of a master strategist such as Ketan J Patel.

 8 – Dynamism and initiative are two other vital characteristics. Basically, the ability to make things happen and to act faster and smarter.  Present day marketers should be able to think and act their feet. Changing markets require swift decisions, to capitalize on evolving market opportunities.

 This list is by no means exhaustive. However, they are probably the most important characteristics. Some of these have to be developed consciously in order to do so, skill development training should be undertaken, both on- and off-the-job. 

One should do following things in 2009….

One of my friend posted a link in the facebook about the do’s and dont’s in year 2009. When i went through the points i was really impressed i would like to share this in my blog. Here the points

Health:

1. Drink plenty of water.
2. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.
3. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.
4. Live with the 3 E’s — Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.
5. Make time to practice meditation, yoga, and prayer.
6. Play more games.
7. Read more books than you did in 2008.
8. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.
9. Sleep for 7 hours.
10. Take a 10-30 minutes walk every day. And while you walk, smile.

Personality:

11. Don’t compare your life to others’. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
12. Don’t have negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
13. Don’t over do. Keep your limits.
14. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
15. Don’t waste your precious energy on gossip.
16. Dream more while you are awake.
17. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
18. Forget issues of the past. Don’t remind your partner with his/her mistakes of the past. That will ruin your present happiness.
19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. Don’t hate others.
20. Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.
21. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.
22. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.
23. Smile and laugh more.
24. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

Society:

25. Call your family often.
26. Each day give something good to others.
27. Forgive everyone for everything.
28. Spend time with people over the age of 70 & under the age of 6.
29. Try to make at least three people smile each day.
30. What other people think of you is none of your business.
31. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

Life:

32. Do the right thing!
33. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
34. GOD heals everything.
35. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
36. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
37. The best is yet to come.
38. When you awake alive in the morning, thank GOD for it.
39. Your Inner most is always happy. So, be happy.

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