By Dr. Dan Herman
Are you an MBA Clone? I challenge you to read my article titled: “Test Yourself: Are You an MBA Clone?“. Take the short test and find out if you are an MBA Clone. If you’ve been diagnosed as one, I strongly suggest that you consider de-cloning, ASAP. De-cloning is possible, painless and very lucrative.
Are you an MBA Clone? Was your business education more like “business programming”? If your answer is yes, you are probably not fully aware of the fact that you have been “produced”, together with many other executives, to think and act in a similar predictable manner, as many MBA programs around the world gravitate towards standard no-diversity sets of default concepts and tools. As a result, many executives have been turning into what I call, MBA Clones, thus undermining the competitiveness of the companies they lead.
I challenge you to read my article titled: “Test Yourself: Are You an MBA Clone?“. Take the short test and find out if you are an MBA Clone. If you’ve been diagnosed as one, I strongly suggest that you consider de-cloning, ASAP. De-cloning is possible, painless and very lucrative.
How can you de-clone yourself? The process entails realizing that typical MBA thinking is not an ultimate truth but just one way of interpreting business reality and operating in the marketplace. You will need to coach yourself in alternative concepts and tool up accordingly. Soon you will discover that your view has broadened and you managerial capabilities will have improved dramatically.
The following 10 tips are meant to be a first aid kit as well as a tasting from my alternative approach.
1. The long-term, it’s dead, caput, bygones. Deal with it.
In our accelerated and hypercompetitive world, there are no more long term strategies from which you may never digress. Most of the rules of strategy, marketing and branding that you learned are no longer relevant. They were created for the long term, but the long term has expired. The way to succeed over the long term is to succeed in the short term, time after time. For example: you do not “own” a market share, it is only an indication of your current situation.
2. Feel the fear of strategy and strategize anyway
Research has shown unequivocally that the secret of companies who succeed is well differentiated strategy and uncompromising implementation. Yet, like most of your colleagues and competitors, chances are that strategy gives you the shivers. It’s called “Strategephobia”. Strategy has two terrifying characteristics. First strategy is a choice, which is terrifying because you will have to let go of all the “could-have-been”s first: “We are going to target customers X, and leave out the rest” or “The major benefit we will offer consumers is Z and leave out the rest.” When you adopt a strategy, you have to “give up” stuff you don’t actually have in order to formulate something tangible, something you can sink your teeth into. The second characteristic of strategy is differentiation from competitors, which is terrifying because most of the managers feel more comfortable being similar to their competitors; therefore they busy themselves on trying to block competition’s attempts to create an advantage, rather than on striving to be different.
3. Goals are goals, strategy is strategy – do not confuse
MBA clones often refer to their goals (e.g. “achieve a large market share”) as “strategy”. The guiding principle is: What you want to achieve is your goal. What you are doing to reach that goal is your strategy. From my experience, it’s best to be very clear about the distinction between them.
4. Your company does not need a vision
Establishing a company’s vision is a very trendy process. But be aware that your vision is not remarkably similar to your competitors’. Personally, I don’t think you need a vision at all, but if you must have one, you should place two qualifications on the process to make it effective. First, your vision must be differentiated, not only in your eyes but most especially in the eyes of your consumer. Second, your vision must offer consumers some important benefit that they can’t get from the competitors. In other words, your vision has to be a differentiation-based competitive strategy.
5. A satisfied customer is not necessarily a loyal customers
Customer satisfaction does not assure customer loyalty. Customers will move on to new products when turned on by a new and exciting benefit. Therefore, we must move from satisfying, subservient marketing – that gives consumers what they want and expect — to what I call Electrifying Marketing: dazzling them with what they never thought they wanted – until you offered it to them.
6. Think of your strategy’s success as an occurrence of consumer behaviors
The most essential insight to strategic business thinking is the fact that customer behavior is the reason for strategies’ success or failure. Moreover, a deep understanding of consumer psychology is crucial to successful strategizing. I advise you, therefore, to think of your strategy’s success in terms of the specific consumer behaviors that will bring it about.
7. Market segmentation is a waste of time. Move on to Contextual
The traditional market segmentation doesn’t work with today’s consumer, who refuses almost completely to abide by segments that create homogeneous groups according to demographic, socio-economic variables, or even according to lifestyle. An alternative approach is “Contextual Segmentation”, i.e. segmenting according to contexts of purchasing or using/consuming, in which consumers can participate from time to time (e.g. the “We celebrate grandpa’s birthday” segment of the restaurant business).
8. Remember “The Marketing Approach”? Forget it!
The “marketing approach”, based on identification of unsatisfied needs and how to satisfy them, is no longer a key to success for two reasons: first, there are few unsatisfied needs left. Second, in a competitive market, it is undesirable that all marketers act in the same matter. The alternative “competitive approach”, is based on creating new ways to satisfy needs that are already satisfied.
9. Raise your prices – sell more
No market is price driven and neither are most consumers. It’s the marketers who are price-driven. In practically all categories most consumers never buy the cheapest brand. The same consumer who in relation with your product is “price-driven” has no trouble spending high prices for other products and services. In many formerly “price-driven markets”, a competitor came along who one day stopped talking about price and began offering an added value, the kind that turns consumers on.
10. Do not expect “Branding” to build brands
Managers often believe that a good name, a logo, a professional “corporate identity” design and some positive brand values, will suffice for winning competitive advantages, and that any effort required in order to create real differentiation or to develop a valid competitive edge should be spared. Wrong! Your differentiation creates the anticipation of a unique benefit that your brand provides. This anticipation is your brand.
Did any of the above open a new perspective for you? If it happened that means your de-cloning process is already underway. Now you must reinforce it. I would like to suggest to you reading my book: “Outsmart the MBA Clones: The Alternative Guide to Competitive Marketing, Strategy and Branding”. The book provides a set of new concepts and a toolkit unlike anything you learned during your MBA studies. The ambitious promise of this book is to help managers create business strategies that will be immensely successful and yet amazingly will not be copied by the competition, resulting in an “Unfair Advantage” that leads to a private monopoly. It has a far reaching de-cloning effect. Enjoy!
Dr. Dan Herman, a globally renowned strategy consultant, an author and a lecturer, is the author of “Outsmart the MBA Clones: The Alternative Guide to Competitive Strategy, Marketing and Branding” (http://www.outsmart-mba-clones.com).