Do You Truly Know Your Core Customer?

Do You Truly Know Your Core Customer?

Who is your Core Customer?

In working with many clients on improving their business and developing a growth model, we soon get into the issue of their “Core Customer.” I have realized that many have not given this much thought and cannot easily define their “Core Customer.” Your Core Customer is the customer you are targeting, the customer that is preferred, and the one that your marketing and sales efforts are focused on. A Core Customer has the following attributes:

  • A real person with wants, needs, and fears.
  • Will buy for optimal profit.
  • Has an unique online identity and behavior.
  • Pays on time, loyal, and refers others.
  • Exists today among your customers

Not knowing your Core Customer is not a terrible problem, as we can quickly work through a session to put a definition in place. However, a more complicated issue is knowing their Core Customer but unable to define their “Economic Engine,” or profitability per customer. Lack of good data is always a severe problem! If you can’t measure something, then your performance is purely an assumption, and down that road is chaos.

Profit per Customer

If you don’t know your profit per customer, the customer you consider your “Core Customer” may generate sub-par profits pulling down the company’s performance. During a recent conversation, a CEO told me their metric was revenue per employee. While that would generate top-line revenue, it does nothing for profit, efficient customer targeting and marketing, or market differentiation. The business adage, “We are losing money on each item, but will make it up on volume,” seems to be the driving force.

Many companies I have worked with cannot tell me the profitability per customer and so work on the assumption that they are performing well, but cannot understand why they cannot scale and have profit and cashflow issues. Also, often their data is corrupted by the “Flaw of Averages.” So to paraphrase the proverb, “First get your data.” Sometimes getting good data on project costs is difficult, but without there cannot be:

  • Knowledge of performance;
  • Plans for improvement;
  • Measurement of improvement.

And “Hope is not a strategy.”

Select the Right Core Customer

Once we have data showing your Core Customer’s profitability, we can determine if they generate optimal profit. Since a requirement of a Core Customer, as mentioned above, if your Core Customer is not generating optimal profit, then there are one of two choices:

  1. Change your economic model so that they do, or
  2. Change your Core Customer.

When examining the data, many companies have found that the companies they were targeting as their “Core Customers” were their less profitable customers and ones that everyone in the market was fighting over. Targeting a different segment of customers that generated optimal profit could increase its profitability and differentiate itself from its competition, a great “Blue Ocean” strategy.

Lake Truck Lines, a Gravitas client, was focused on large customers. However, when analyzing its data, Lake Truck Lines realized that everyone was targeting those customers so there was pricing pressure and low margins. By make mid-sized customers its Core Customer, the company was able to operate with less competition and generate the optimal profit per customer. Similarly with Build Direct, focusing on young women seeking to do DIY, it was able to realize a much higher margin and operate in “Blue Ocean” waters compared to when it was focused on supplying general contractors.

The time spent analyzing your clients, their profitability, and your Blue Ocean possibilities can result in you operating at higher margins with less competition.

Profit / X

I have discussed the “Economic Engine” before, but it is the concept of “Profit/X,” Profit/X is the crucial part of your strategy, and it must:

  • Tightly aligns with your BHAG®
  • Be the fundamental economic engine of your business
  • Be a single overarching KPI to scale your business
  • It must impact revenue while controlling cost.
  • More X must be desirable.
  • It must be unique within the industry – you have to differentiate yourself from your competition.

What is critical is finding a Profit/X that is unique within your industry. If you choose the same Profit/X as everyone else, you are all competing on the same drivers, and you cannot differentiate yourself from your competition. Having identified our Core Customer, the appropriate Profit/X can be identified. Picking the wrong Profit/X given your Core Customer again will lead to sub-optimal results. These two concepts are interconnected and for you to achieve the best results, you need to determine both and have them connected.

Having the Right Profit/X

If your Profit/X is defined as profit per employee, you have only three ways to achieve this: increase the price, improve employee performance or cut the product’s quality. Since price should be driven by value creation, not employee profitability, raising prices may be difficult. We do not want to cut value delivery, and driving employees harder is no recipe for success. Thus a better metric may be profit per customer.

With customer size, if you are servicing large customers it may require longer larger projects compared to mid-sized companies. If mid-sized companies have more set up and administrative costs then your Profit/X must be different between the two.

There are many examples of Profit/X from Southwest Airlines’ profit per plane to a dry cleaner who measured it by profit per delivery truck. The key is to find the one that drives your business and will also differentiate yourself.

Conclusion

Many CEOs and Business Owners are salespeople and are not interested in digging into the financials and getting to the data I have discussed above. However, the effort is well worth it, as once you have a clear understanding of where you are, you can:

  • Target marketing towards your Core Customer;
  • Differentiate yourself from your competition;
  • Ensure that all projects, services, or products meeting your Profit/X to ensure profitability; and 
  • Position yourself for growth and profitability. 

Get your CFO, your team, and a coach and spend a day or two to determine the ideal results. The payoff will be huge.

 

Copyright (c) 2021 Marc A. Borrelli

Does Your Financial Model Drive Growth?

Does Your Financial Model Drive Growth?

Working with many companies looking to grow, I am always surprised how many have not built a financial model that drives growth. I have mentioned before a financial model that drives growth? Here I am basing on Jim Collin’s Profit/X, which he laid out in Good to Great. So then we have to delve into what is Profit/X. This is the key financial metric that drives profitable growth by defining some profit number per some “X” that results in:

Passion. Your employees are passionate about the “X” and excited about increasing it.
Empowerment. Your employees are empowered to make decisions to ensure the baseline Profi/X is met.
Drive. It drives behavior to generate profit and growth.
Discipline. It provides the financial discipline to ensure that the organization remains profitable as it grows.

Thus is it is your Economic Engine that will enable profitable growth.

Many people look for a quick answer in determining Profit/X, but there is no quick answer. It is an iterative process that will get there, but no something you necessarily come up with on the first try.

Profit can be:

  • Gross Profit,
  • Operating Profit,
  • Net Profit,
  • Gross Margin,
  • Operating Margin, or
  • Net Margin,

to name a few.

“X” is very variable and can be:

  • “Product/Service,”
  • Customer,
  • Invoice,
  • lb,
  • pallet,
  • truckload, or
  • plane.

For a better understanding of Profit/X, my video below may help explain it better.

Profit/X

It is well worth your time to develop your Profit/X and get your employees to understand it and embrace it. The discipline it provides combined with the drive and empowerment it delivers makes a very strong economic engine and ensures continued profitability through your growth.

 

Copyright (c) 2021 Marc A. Borrelli

 

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Do You REALLY Know Your Business Model?

Do You REALLY Know Your Business Model?

Bringing clarity to your organization is a common theme on The Disruption! blog. Defining your business model is a worthwhile exercise for any leadership team. But how do you even begin to bring clarity into your operations? If you’re looking for a place to start, Josh Kaufman’s “Five Parts of Every Business” offers an excellent framework. Kaufman defines five parts of every business model that all flow into the next, breaking it down into Value Creation, Marketing, Sales, Value Delivery, and Finance.

Do You REALLY Know Your Business Model?

Do You REALLY Know Your Business Model?

Clarity is a repeated theme of mine and The Disruption!, whether in regards strategy or how you make money. Listening to Josh Kaufman discuss his “Five Parts of Every Business” and the need to define your business model while presenting this information clearly magnified the point.

 

What Are The “5 Parts of Every Business”?

Kaufman says in every business model there are “5 Parts of Every Business,” each of which flows into the next:

  1. Value Creation: A venture that doesn’t create value for others is a hobby.
  2. Marketing: A venture that doesn’t attract attention is a flop.
  3. Sales: A venture that doesn’t sell the value it creates is a non-profit.
  4. Value Delivery: A venture that doesn’t deliver what it promises is a scam.
  5. Finance: A venture that doesn’t bring in enough money to keep operating will inevitably close.

 

Value Creation

Kaufman defines Value Creation as “Discovering what people need or want, then creating it.”

Most customers don’t know what they need or want. As has been pointed out many times, people wanted a faster horse, not an automobile. However, whatever they want, in reality, they are just seeking a solution to a problem. Therefore, the critical issue is determining “What problem you are trying to solve?” Or, as Clayton Christensen said, “What is the job the customer is hiring you or your product to do?”

Defining this is often hard, as many companies don’t know what job their clients are seeking them or their products to provide. I have discussed this before. However, as the adage says, “people aren’t buying drills, they are buying holes.” This is a vital part of your business model.

So, working with your team to determine “the job to be done” and your “Core Customer” is well worth the effort because you can better describe what you do, and all your employees will better know what you do and how what they do impacts it.

 

Marketing

Kaufman’s definition is “Marketing is defined as attracting attention and building demand for what you have created.”

In today’s digital world, with Google, Facebook, Linked In, and Instagram, marketing separating yourself from the masses is hard, especially if people don’t understand the product and service. Therefore, by focusing on the job to be done or the problem you are solving, it easier to stand out among the crowd.

Also, as you identify what the “job to be done” is, you can better identify your Core Customer. Remember a Core Customer is:

  • An actual person with needs and wants. If you sell B2B your core customer is still a person because you have to convince a person to buy.
  • Who buys for the optimal profit.
  • Who pays on time, is loyal, and refers others.
  • Has a unique online identity and behavior; and
  • A customer who exists amongst your clients today.

Build Direct started as a company supplying contractors. However, it soon realized that while contractors were a key customer component, they were not the company’s Core Customer; instead, Build Direct’s core customers were young female DIYers interested in the products and education. Build Direct focused its marketing according to that recognition and started providing much educational content for young female DIYers. This specific marketing drove much better brand recognition and engagement.

Also, South Shore Furniture in Canada identified their core customer as “Sarah.” Sarah is so vital that there is a mannequin of Sarah in all meeting rooms, so no one forgets whom they are seeking to serve.

Besides, marketing to the correct demographic is easier and more fruitful if you know your Core Customer. Without this information, the marketing section of your business model is just hope, not a strategy!

 

Sales

Kaufman defines sales as “Turning prospective customers into paying customers.”

However, as Jeffrey Gitomer, put it “People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.” So the key is how do you move prospects into customers? Businesses have to earn their prospects’ trust and help them understand why it is worth paying for the offer. Another way of looking at this is, “What is your brand promise?”

Companies need to know what their brand promise is. For example, Starbucks is “Love your beverage or let us know and we will always make it right.” Some organizations may have supporting brand promises to prove more definition of the brand promise. Your brand promise must be measurable, because as Peter Drucker said, “What gets measured gets managed.” So if it is measurable and measured, the organization can ensure that it meets its brand promise, which provides more assurance to the prospect. Finally, with a clearly defined brand promise that is measurable, the organization ends up saying “No” more than “Yes” to opportunities and ideas since they will damage the brand promise.

Since no one wants to be taken advantage of, Sales is about educating the prospect to identify what is essential to convince them you can deliver on your promise. A clearly stated brand promise that is measured and quantified increases the ability to persuade the prospect to purchase from you. It amazes me how many business models don’t have a brand promise.

 

Value Delivery

Here Kaufman defines Value Delivery as “Giving your customers what you’ve promised and ensured that they’re satisfied.” With this, I have no issues. Anyone who doesn’t deliver what they promised is effectively a “scam artist.”

To ensure you that make the customer satisfied, you have to exceed the customers’ expectations. A popular way to determine customer satisfaction is through Net Promoter Score scores which we see more and more (if you are looking for help with NPS surveys of your customers, contact me). You want more promoters and detractors. However, the NPS score tells you what the customer thinks after experiencing the service or product. Companies need to develop systems that ensure the service or product is exceeding expectations.

A great example is the Ritz Carlton’s policy whereby any Ritz-Carlton employees can spend up to $2,000 per incident, not per year, to rescue a guest experience. This policy ensures that the customer is getting a great experience because it empowers employees to fix problems and provides the customers’ concerns are solved quickly. As David Marquet says, “Move the decision making to where the information is.” That is what Ritz is doing, and it is empowering employees and making customers happy.

Companies that have outsourced many functions to cut costs, so any customer has difficulty reaching the people they need or have to spend five minutes going through a phone tree to contact some is already failing at this.

Ensure your business model tracks customer satisfaction and you have ways to ensure that customers are happy.

 

Finance

Kaufman defines finance as “Bringing in enough money to keep going and make your effort worthwhile.”

As I have pointed out, this is key, and many people don’t realize the situation because of flawed analysis and lousy modeling. However, the key for any organization must be a well-defined “Profit/X.”

Many organizations don’t have a well-defined Profit/X, but there is a lack of discipline that ensures good financial performance without it. Profit/X is some unit of scale, and profit can be gross profit, net profit, EBTIDA, or EBIT. Examples that I have seen are:

  • profit per airplane
  • profit per job
  • profit per customer
  • gross margin per delivery
  • profit per employee

There is no correct Profit/X, just the one that works with your business. One organization that did deliveries chose Gross Margin/Delivery, which focused on reducing the cost of delivery to maximize profit. Once Profit/X is selected, the entire organization must seek to meet or exceed it; thus, everyone needs to understand it and how they drive it. With that focus and discipline, the organization is more likely to meet its financial goals and objectives.

 

Summary

In summary, the organization needs to be able to define its business model by the following:

  • Define the problem its products or services solve or, more precisely, what job they do.
  • Who their Core Customer is so they can market to them effectively?
  • What is their brand promise, and how is it measured?
  • That their customers are satisfied, returning and recommending.
  • That they have identified their Profit/X so that they are profitable.

Doing this work is an excellent exercise for any leadership team to help bring clarity to your organization. If you need assistance doing it, contact me. Good luck, and may your business grow.

 

 

Copyright (c) 2021, Marc A. Borrelli

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The “Flaw of Averages” Causes Havoc for Businesses

The “Flaw of Averages” Causes Havoc for Businesses

Right out of the gate, I will admit I stole the “Flaw of Averages” from Sam Savage, whose book by that name I cannot recommend highly enough if you find this topic of interest.

What is my issue with averages? They misstate what is happening in the business and cause misallocation of resources. Let’s take a hypothetical business, ABC Inc., with the following products, units sold, unit price, and gross profit per unit. Now while this examines Products, we could easily substitute Services.

Product

Units Sold

Price/Unit

Gross Profit/Unit

A

         30,000

 $          100.00

 $       12.50

B

           7,500

 $            90.00

 $       75.00

C

         20,000

 $            80.00

 $       37.50

D

         15,000

 $            70.00

 $       45.00

E

         10,000

 $            60.00

 $       25.00

F

         25,000

 $            50.00

 $       12.50

G

         20,000

 $            40.00

 $       20.00

H

         20,000

 $            30.00

 $       25.00

I am sure that everyone can see that ABC’s revenue is $9,575,000 and its gross profit is $3,825,000, giving it a gross margin of 39.9%. Let’s assume that this gross margin is in line with the industry to not get into the cost of goods sold issues.

If we look at products in terms of revenue and sort from largest to smallest, we get the following.

Product A is the largest seller accounting for about 40% of sales. While products B, G, H, and F together account for 35% of sales, obviously less than A. So, how should we consider this product portfolio?

Examining the product portfolio, we see that A accounts for only about 10% of gross profits. Products B, G, H, and F together account for 46% of gross profits, so they are far more critical to ABC’s profitability. Furthermore, products C, D, B, H, and G are more important than the revenue chart above would indicate. While they account for about 50% of revenue, they generate 75% of gross profit and have a gross profit margin of 61%.

If ABC were to stop selling product A, its revenue and gross profit would fall by $3MM and $300k, respectively, and its gross profit margin would increase from 40% to 52%. Increasing gross profit margin by over 10% would be fantastic! Furthermore, given product A’s high cost of goods sold, we can assume that it is consuming a large amount of raw materials and labor–in other words, working capital. If ABC were to stop selling A, its working capital situation would improve, thus improving its liquidity ratios.

Also, this simplistic assumption doesn’t provide details, but there are possibly additional costs that I have not included from the production of A, namely:

  • Factory space to produce A
  • Warehouse space to store the raw materials for A and completed inventory.
  • Staff to track orders and purchases related A
  • Shipping costs of A
  • Staff overseeing the production of A

If ABC were to stop producing A, it’s Selling, General, and Administrative Expenses could fall further, boosting profitability. Thus, by looking at average margins, we don’t see Product A’s full impact on the business. Now I realize that A might be essential to getting the other products’ sales, but undoubtedly, we can increase the price of A or put together a bundle for more effective pricing.

Many years ago, when I was working at Holiday Inn, now IHG, the company was delighted with Holiday Inn Express’s launch. Holiday Inn Express franchises were selling like proverbial “hotcakes,” compared to the sale of old Holiday Inn franchises (“Green Sign” as we referred to them then). The increase in franchises was boosting distribution dramatically. However, if we look further into this and add some data (the numbers below are indicative, not actuals, to show the effect), we see it is not as straightforward.

 

Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn Express

Avg No of Rooms

120

80

Average RevPAR*

$48

$35

Franchise Fee

7%

6%

Expected Hotel Revenue ($ 000’s)

2,102

1,022

Expected Franchise Income ($ 000’s)

147.2

61.3

Franchise Support Costs ($000’s)

20.0

50.0

Estimated Profit ($000’s)

127.2

11.3

RevPAR = Revenue per Available Room = Revenue / Rooms

So, while Express hotels were selling faster, IHG needed to sell two Express hotels for each Green Sign. Also, most Express hotels buyers were independent operators who had not owned franchised hotels before if they had even held a hotel. Owners of Green Sign hotels were typically experienced hotel owners who often owned multiple properties. Due to the clients’ difference, further analysis showed that each Express owner required 2.5x the Holiday Inns’ franchise service support. Thus, while Expresses were selling like hotcakes, the profitability was far lower, and it is easy to see how the adage, “We lose money on every sale but will make it up in volume,” happens.

If we add customers to the mix makes it gets more interesting. Let’s assume ABC has the following customers, who purchase the following amounts of product.

Now, if we examine the purchase and gross profits of each customer, we get:

Customer

Revenue

Gross Profit

S

1,899,890

        869,085

T

       1,725,700

          700,983

U

       1,598,430

          414,600

V

          951,540

          491,173

W

       1,273,760

          459,958

X

          563,430

          259,640

Y

          458,530

          176,880

Z

       1,103,720

          452,683

Total

9,575,000

     3,825,000

Sorting that into the order of gross margin, we can see the following:

,Now we can see that S is our most profitable customer by a large margin, and the gross margin from its purchases is above ABC’s average. Hopefully, every company has done this analysis and know that they all want customers like S.

However, if we look across the rest of the clients, X, while not generating a lot of profit, does so at a very high margin. Y generates slightly less profit but at a margin below 20%. So, ABC wants more customers like X and fewer like Y. Also, given that our average gross margin was 40%, nearly all customers except Y, W & U are buying combinations to generate gross margins above 40%.

Therefore, this analysis shows that while ABC’s gross margin is nearly 40% and its gross profit is $3.8MM, if it were to lose customer S, sales and gross profits would fall to $7,675,110 and $3,333,828 respectively, providing a gross margin of 38.5%. However, if ABC were to lose client U, sales and gross profits would fall to $7,976,570 and $3,410,400, respectively, while gross margin would increase to 42.8%. Increasing gross margin by even 300 basis points would be significant for many companies.

As with products, we don’t see which clients to seek or replace by looking at the average gross margin. If ABC were to extend the analysis to clients that were done product A by looking at the time taken to service each client, it might find more that are not worth having.

(An old client of mine had a business doing about $4MM in revenue and generating $200k in EBITDA. His original client, say XYZ, was his largest, accounting for 40% of his sales, and it was time for the contract renewal. As we looked at it, we noticed that XYZ was like Product A, generating meager gross profit. We then analyzed what would be the impact on the business if he were to lose XYZ. My client realized he could cut his workforce by 50%, reduce his vehicle fleet by 55%, and cut energy consumption and floor space. As a result, he held firm on his proposed price increase with XYZ during the contract renewal, and XYZ refused to renew the contract. So, he cut the expenses we had identified, and the following year, his revenue fell to about $2.4MM, but his EBITDA increased to $450k.)

Finally, for company ABC, when we determine that we want to make a gross profit of “X%”, focusing on each product to ensure it meets that criteria will help. By focusing on each customer to ensure that their purchases don’t drive gross profits down, we can raise ABC’s profitability.

I hope you do this work for all your products/services and clients regularly and focus on those that improve margin and profitability. Using data properly can really help your business.

As I mentioned above, if you are interested in this area, I would recommend the following books The Flaw of Averages: Why We Underestimate Risk in the Face of Uncertainty, by Sam Savage and Why Can’t You Just Give Me The Number?: An Executive’s Guide to Using Probabilistic Thinking to Manage Risk and to Make Better Decisions, by Patrick Leach.

 

Copyright (c) 2021, Marc A. Borrelli

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The European Super League collapsed within days of launch due to hubris and the founder forgetting the key parts of their business model, value creation, sales, and value delivery. The collapse might bring a high price.

Does Your Financial Model Drive Growth?

Does Your Financial Model Drive Growth?

Working with many companies looking to grow, I am always surprised how many have not built a financial model that drives growth. I have mentioned before a financial model that drives growth? Here I am basing on Jim Collin's Profit/X, which he laid out in Good to...

COVID = Caught Inside

COVID = Caught Inside

As we emerge from COVID, the current employment environment makes me think of a surfing concept: “Being Caught Inside When a Big Set Comes Through.” Basically, the phrase refers to when you paddle like crazy to escape the crash of one wave, only to find that the next wave in the set is even bigger—and you’re exhausted. 2020 was the first wave, leaving us tired and low. But looking forward, there are major challenges looming on the horizon as business picks up in 2021. You are already asking a lot of your employees, who are working flat out and dealing with stress until you are able to hire more. But everyone is looking for employees right now, and hiring and retention for your organization is growing more difficult.

Why is there not MORE common sense

Why is there not MORE common sense

“Why don’t they use common sense?!” You may have said this phrase yourself, or heard it with your managers, when discussing an employee’s actions. However, the frustrated appeal to “common sense” doesn’t actually make any meaningful change in your organization. We all make decisions based on the information we have and the guides we have to use. So if the wrong decisions are being made in your organization, it’s time to examine the tools you give decision-makers.

Do You Understand Your Costs to Ensure Profitability?

Do You Understand Your Costs to Ensure Profitability?

You can only determine profitability when you know your costs. I’ve discussed before that you should price according to value, not hours. However, you still need to know your costs to understand the minimum pricing and how it is performing. Do you consider each jobs’ profitability when you price new jobs? Do you know what you should be charging to ensure you hit your profit targets? These discussions about a company’s profitability, and what measure drives profit, are critical for your organization.

Sunk Costs Are Just That, Sunk!

Sunk Costs Are Just That, Sunk!

If you were starting your business today, what would you do differently? This thought-provoking question is a valuable exercise, especially when it brings up the idea of “sunk costs” and how they limit us. A sunk cost is a payment or investment that has already been made. Since it is unrecoverable no matter what, a sunk cost shouldn’t be factored into any future decisions. However, we’re all familiar with the sunk cost fallacy: behavior driven by a past expenditure that isn’t recoupable, regardless of future actions.

Do You REALLY Know Your Business Model?

Do You REALLY Know Your Business Model?

Bringing clarity to your organization is a common theme on The Disruption! blog. Defining your business model is a worthwhile exercise for any leadership team. But how do you even begin to bring clarity into your operations? If you’re looking for a place to start, Josh Kaufman’s “Five Parts of Every Business” offers an excellent framework. Kaufman defines five parts of every business model that all flow into the next, breaking it down into Value Creation, Marketing, Sales, Value Delivery, and Finance.

Do You Know Where Your Clients Are and What They Want?

Do You Know Where Your Clients Are and What They Want?

Working on an event with a not for profit that I recently joined, I posed two questions, “Who is our audience?” and “What do they want?” I figured that these were easy questions and should quickly have responses; however, I was shocked, because they couldn’t be answered. How can you put on a successful event when you don’t know who you are marketing it to and what they really want. It made me think about how COVID is dramatically changing who our customers are, what they buy, and where.

We all know that a large amount of business has moved online, but many companies have yet to fully pivot to the point they can provide both information and delivery of their products and services in an online format that meets or exceeds their customers’ expectations. During a recent conversation with an executive of a training company, he was discussing how they working to move all their training online, but dealing with the challenges of how to deliver it in a way that the attendees got its full and would enjoy the experience. In my own business, I know many clients are getting tired of Zoom calls and want to return to in-person meetings, but only when it is safe. The challenge is how to make it interesting and keep people engaged?

If we look across the economy, many industries are finding the delivery of, and demand for, their products are changing. We all experienced the toilet paper shortage when the lockdown started. Why? From my understanding, the toilet manufacturers had most of their production set up to service commercial clients, the biggest users. However, with the lockdown all that commercial demand transferred to residential demand, which the manufacturers were not set up to produce or deliver.  Likewise, with the liquor business were sales were transferred from restaurants to retail, again disrupting supply chains.

A recent article in Bloomberg noted that:

  • SK-II beauty brand produced by Procter & Gamble Co. has seen sales decline by double digits. The reason, most sales were done at airport duty-free shops. With travel effectively on hold, the airports are empty and no one is buying. Thus the delivery needs to change.
  • Mondelez International Inc. said that sales at its gum and candy division plunged 33% primarily due to falling sales of gum. Why? Gum consumption is very dependent on people being away from their homes. It is used to freshen breath for meetings or first dates – activities have been effectively halted for the moment. Thus, demand has evaporated.
  • Starbucks announced that U.S. traffic slumped 52% from a year earlier; however, the average total bill, rose 25% over the same period. The reason was that shops were closed and people are not out, but when they are they are bundling orders for everyone at home. While bundling of orders makes the economics of delivery orders more attractive, it requires skill to allocate labor and tailor operations to ensure big-batch orders are fresh and hot.
  • Molson Coors Beverage Co. reported revenue down 23% over last year. During the COVID period, party-friendly kegs sales disappeared; however, sales of 12-ounce cans exploded. The issue for Molson was getting enough aluminum for the cans to meet demand, which causes the fall in revenue. The company is working with suppliers to ensure the availability of the packaging materials needed to accommodate the stay-at-home lifestyle.
  • As we all know U.S. tourism has been hit badly with COVID, but this is taking a toll on many retailers that have tourist-centric locations, e.g. Tiffanies and Macys on Fifth Avenue. However, it is also affecting stores like Carter’s Inc., the baby, and kids’ clothing chain that has seen tourist-centric locations revenue fall by 20% while non-tourist centric locations saw a rise in revenue of 15%. The issue for Carter’s is that tourist-centric locations account for about 20% of revenue. Thus the company is facing issues with delivery and is working closely with retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, and Amazon.com to help offset the decline.

Therefore, if you are experiencing either an increase or fall in revenue, spend time to understand why? Is it that customer tastes/requirements or channel delivery has changed and plan accordingly. As I have said before, I expect us to be living with COVID for at least a year, so be prepared for the long haul and recognize that many customers’ behavior changes may not revert when it is all over.

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Do You Truly Know Your Core Customer?

Do You Truly Know Your Core Customer?

Knowing the profit of your core customers is key to building a growth model. Many companies have identified core customers that are generating a sub-optimal profit and so they cannot realize the profits they seek. Identifying the correct core customer allows you to generate profits and often operate in “Blue Ocean.”

The Greatest Own Goal or the Greatest Collapse

The Greatest Own Goal or the Greatest Collapse

The European Super League collapsed within days of launch due to hubris and the founder forgetting the key parts of their business model, value creation, sales, and value delivery. The collapse might bring a high price.

Does Your Financial Model Drive Growth?

Does Your Financial Model Drive Growth?

Working with many companies looking to grow, I am always surprised how many have not built a financial model that drives growth. I have mentioned before a financial model that drives growth? Here I am basing on Jim Collin's Profit/X, which he laid out in Good to...

COVID = Caught Inside

COVID = Caught Inside

As we emerge from COVID, the current employment environment makes me think of a surfing concept: “Being Caught Inside When a Big Set Comes Through.” Basically, the phrase refers to when you paddle like crazy to escape the crash of one wave, only to find that the next wave in the set is even bigger—and you’re exhausted. 2020 was the first wave, leaving us tired and low. But looking forward, there are major challenges looming on the horizon as business picks up in 2021. You are already asking a lot of your employees, who are working flat out and dealing with stress until you are able to hire more. But everyone is looking for employees right now, and hiring and retention for your organization is growing more difficult.

Why is there not MORE common sense

Why is there not MORE common sense

“Why don’t they use common sense?!” You may have said this phrase yourself, or heard it with your managers, when discussing an employee’s actions. However, the frustrated appeal to “common sense” doesn’t actually make any meaningful change in your organization. We all make decisions based on the information we have and the guides we have to use. So if the wrong decisions are being made in your organization, it’s time to examine the tools you give decision-makers.

Do You Understand Your Costs to Ensure Profitability?

Do You Understand Your Costs to Ensure Profitability?

You can only determine profitability when you know your costs. I’ve discussed before that you should price according to value, not hours. However, you still need to know your costs to understand the minimum pricing and how it is performing. Do you consider each jobs’ profitability when you price new jobs? Do you know what you should be charging to ensure you hit your profit targets? These discussions about a company’s profitability, and what measure drives profit, are critical for your organization.

Sunk Costs Are Just That, Sunk!

Sunk Costs Are Just That, Sunk!

If you were starting your business today, what would you do differently? This thought-provoking question is a valuable exercise, especially when it brings up the idea of “sunk costs” and how they limit us. A sunk cost is a payment or investment that has already been made. Since it is unrecoverable no matter what, a sunk cost shouldn’t be factored into any future decisions. However, we’re all familiar with the sunk cost fallacy: behavior driven by a past expenditure that isn’t recoupable, regardless of future actions.

Do You REALLY Know Your Business Model?

Do You REALLY Know Your Business Model?

Bringing clarity to your organization is a common theme on The Disruption! blog. Defining your business model is a worthwhile exercise for any leadership team. But how do you even begin to bring clarity into your operations? If you’re looking for a place to start, Josh Kaufman’s “Five Parts of Every Business” offers an excellent framework. Kaufman defines five parts of every business model that all flow into the next, breaking it down into Value Creation, Marketing, Sales, Value Delivery, and Finance.

B2B Selling During COVID

B2B Selling During COVID

An old colleague of mine recently posted on Facebook, “Life/business will not return to normal until we can get stuff done face to face.” While there is some truth to that, if we are going to live in our COVID world for another year, companies cannot wait for getting stuff done face to face, they need to sell now!

But selling during COVID is different, as a client recently said, “I am not sure our sales force have the skills or know-how to sell online.” Sales teams face two challenges selling during COVID, reduced budgets in an uncertain market, and selling when business is virtual. Already half of the B2B companies have reduced their budgets by over 40%. Overall, IT spend is predicted to drop 8% in 2020 – as enterprises spend roughly $300B less than they did in 2019.

A further complication for B2B companies selling internationally. How do U.S. companies sell in Europe where they are barred from traveling, while their European competitors can move around freely? This will pose problems and could result in a loss of market share unless companies develop new tactics to counter the lack of face to face interaction.

Andreesen Horwitz recently said that from their discussions with several CROs and founders they were seeing:

  • Cash is critical. Total Contract Values are lower, and there is a 30% drop in upfront cash, as actual payments are delayed or deferred.
  • Significant drops in the sales pipeline. Hardest hit are those with companies have sales-led prospecting and have direct multi-stage sales + implementation.
  • Increased involvement of execs, e.g., CFOs, in deals and procurement process
  • Channel is more critical. The proportion of deals coming from channel and renewal rates relative to bookings are both up.

Andreesen Horwitz provided six strategies for selling during COVID.

  1. Build pipeline through targeted virtual events. With everyone WFH and easier to schedule, including executives, figure out how to leverage your C-suite effectively. Don’t just rely on webinars with large numbers of attendees featuring execs, but use smaller events focused on specific topics of interest where you can get your CEO or CTO in front of essential buyers. The loss in quantity will be exceeded by what you gain in quality and higher intent. However, as much of this new, the pipeline from virtual events may progress differently from a traditional pipeline. Thus it is critical to understand and monitor the conversion rates of your virtual event funnel. 
  2. Get creative with your Business Development Representatives (“BDR”). If customers can self-serve initially, that will provide marketing qualified leads for BDRs to follow up on. However, to enable customers to self serve, you need to ensure that your website correctly explains and sells your product. If you have insufficient warm leads for your BDRs, consider switching BDRs to customer success managers (CSMs) focusing on adoption, retention, and renewal, since the two talent pools often overlap. Especially in a SaaS business, where the CSM is essential because customer success drives adoption, and adoption reduces churn and drives up renewal rates. Many SaaS companies used this tactic during the 2008-9 recession, and it often helps BDRs better understand customers.
  3. To renew customers, be flexible on all levers, except the price. It’s always easier to retain a customer and renew, or even expand, an existing account than to acquire a new customer, especially during a downturn. Extending flexibility to customers, when you can, will win customer loyalty and referrals in the long-term, assuming you can deliver successfully. Your current prices will determine your future prices, determining your total addressable market (TAM), so any reduction now has long term effects. Further, once you start negotiating on price, you have become a commodity. When renegotiating or changing contract terms, if possible, look to levers beyond price, such as flexible payment terms or additional professional services. 
  4. Implement a deal desk. If a salesperson gives something away to close a deal, that incentive can quickly become the new standard for all sales. Implement a deal desk, usually in the form of a mailing list or a chain of sign-off for deals over a certain threshold, to maintain deal structure around incentives and discounts. A deal desk will prevent reps from giving away too much.
  5. Manage the psychology of your salespeople, as well as your quotas. Set expectations that are achievable and realistic, not only because people need to get paid, but because great salespeople need to win. For great salespeople, much like for a top athlete or prizefighter, confidence is a big part of their game. The way they get confidence is they win and have the attitude, “I never miss a number. I usually blow it out. I never lose to a competitor.” Sales numbers feed that psychology, so what if you maintain your sales numbers based on life before COVID, and now, your top salespeople are not getting paid and are losing confidence. Eventually, their psychology will get to the point where they start making silly mistakes. “They don’t listen carefully.” “They’re not patient.” “They press too hard.” You need to support your sales team in keeping their confidence high, and that starts with a reasonable plan and then having an understanding of what’s going on in these cycles.
  6. Look for channel partners with strong customer relationships and pull from the field. Partners who don’t have to do prospecting but can pull you into existing relationships are the better partners right now. You have to shift your channel strategy from scrappier, more boutique channel partners to more established players who have the relationship and account control. Behavior follows business, so look for the pull from the field sales team to evaluate a partnership and know that it is strategic. Once you see that pull from the field, you can match up your sellers with their sellers, identify the accounts they’re in that want your functionality, and then do the integration that the salespeople want.

Of course, this is just the start. Other questions:

  • What metrics should you watch right now?
  • How do you qualify leads?
  • How do you evaluate the risk v. opportunity of channel partners?

See this Andreesen Horwitz article for a discussion on many of these questions.

Recent Posts

Do You Truly Know Your Core Customer?

Do You Truly Know Your Core Customer?

Knowing the profit of your core customers is key to building a growth model. Many companies have identified core customers that are generating a sub-optimal profit and so they cannot realize the profits they seek. Identifying the correct core customer allows you to generate profits and often operate in “Blue Ocean.”

The Greatest Own Goal or the Greatest Collapse

The Greatest Own Goal or the Greatest Collapse

The European Super League collapsed within days of launch due to hubris and the founder forgetting the key parts of their business model, value creation, sales, and value delivery. The collapse might bring a high price.

Does Your Financial Model Drive Growth?

Does Your Financial Model Drive Growth?

Working with many companies looking to grow, I am always surprised how many have not built a financial model that drives growth. I have mentioned before a financial model that drives growth? Here I am basing on Jim Collin's Profit/X, which he laid out in Good to...

COVID = Caught Inside

COVID = Caught Inside

As we emerge from COVID, the current employment environment makes me think of a surfing concept: “Being Caught Inside When a Big Set Comes Through.” Basically, the phrase refers to when you paddle like crazy to escape the crash of one wave, only to find that the next wave in the set is even bigger—and you’re exhausted. 2020 was the first wave, leaving us tired and low. But looking forward, there are major challenges looming on the horizon as business picks up in 2021. You are already asking a lot of your employees, who are working flat out and dealing with stress until you are able to hire more. But everyone is looking for employees right now, and hiring and retention for your organization is growing more difficult.

Why is there not MORE common sense

Why is there not MORE common sense

“Why don’t they use common sense?!” You may have said this phrase yourself, or heard it with your managers, when discussing an employee’s actions. However, the frustrated appeal to “common sense” doesn’t actually make any meaningful change in your organization. We all make decisions based on the information we have and the guides we have to use. So if the wrong decisions are being made in your organization, it’s time to examine the tools you give decision-makers.

Do You Understand Your Costs to Ensure Profitability?

Do You Understand Your Costs to Ensure Profitability?

You can only determine profitability when you know your costs. I’ve discussed before that you should price according to value, not hours. However, you still need to know your costs to understand the minimum pricing and how it is performing. Do you consider each jobs’ profitability when you price new jobs? Do you know what you should be charging to ensure you hit your profit targets? These discussions about a company’s profitability, and what measure drives profit, are critical for your organization.

Sunk Costs Are Just That, Sunk!

Sunk Costs Are Just That, Sunk!

If you were starting your business today, what would you do differently? This thought-provoking question is a valuable exercise, especially when it brings up the idea of “sunk costs” and how they limit us. A sunk cost is a payment or investment that has already been made. Since it is unrecoverable no matter what, a sunk cost shouldn’t be factored into any future decisions. However, we’re all familiar with the sunk cost fallacy: behavior driven by a past expenditure that isn’t recoupable, regardless of future actions.

Do You REALLY Know Your Business Model?

Do You REALLY Know Your Business Model?

Bringing clarity to your organization is a common theme on The Disruption! blog. Defining your business model is a worthwhile exercise for any leadership team. But how do you even begin to bring clarity into your operations? If you’re looking for a place to start, Josh Kaufman’s “Five Parts of Every Business” offers an excellent framework. Kaufman defines five parts of every business model that all flow into the next, breaking it down into Value Creation, Marketing, Sales, Value Delivery, and Finance.