HOW GOOGLE ATTACKED THE INDUSTRY LEADERS - TURNABOUT IS FAIR PLAY...

Interesting New York Times article about Silicon Valley start-ups gunning for Google:

When Lawrence Page and Sergey Brin first started tinkering with what would become Google, other search engines like AltaVista and Lycos and Excite were dominant. But the companies that owned them were distracted by efforts to diversify their businesses, and they took their eye off the ball of Internet search and stopped innovating. Some now say that search has not evolved much in years, and that Google is similarly distracted as it introduces new products like word processors, spreadsheets and online payment systems and expands into online video, social networking and other businesses. “The more Google starts to think about taking on Microsoft, the less it is a pure search play, and the more it opens the door for new innovations,” said Mr. Moldow, the Foundation Capital partner. “That’s great for us.”erly frame campai to vSente's Armory - Tools and Techniques for the Competitive Marketer. Click below for a free preview. No annoying forms to fill out, no email address required, just click and preview...

Learn how to wage and win battles for market share. Download the free PDF preview of the Art of Attack. Just click to get the PDF. There are no forms to fill out, you don’t need to leave your email address. No annoying questions to answer. Also click the links for information on our campaigns, workshops and to subscribe to the Armory - the online resource for competitive marketers.

 


MORE FROM HARDBALL AUTHOR GEORGE STALK

Received a quick note the other day from George Stalk about Curveball. We blogged Curveball a while back. I wish the publishers at HBR would figure out how to market George and Hardball. They keep getting it wrong. They keep thinking the audience for Hardball is the same audience that bought Blue Ocean. It's not. George has some great things to say - be nice if more got the word.

Download vSente's Free Campaign Planner to learn more about how we help marketing managers battle larger competitors.

MORE FROM GEORGE STALK ON PLAYING HARDBALL: DOES YOUR COMPANY HAVE THE STRATEGIC BACKBONE TO DOMINATE ITS MARKET?

George Stalk, Jr., and several others via Harvard Business Review are offering Hardball Strategies, 2nd Edition - a collection of articles based upon George Stalk's and Rob Lachenaur's original Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win. This is an example of a "curveball" strategy from George:

U.S. cleaning-chemical company Ecolab knew that small, independent customers--though willing to payhigher prices--were costlier to serve, and thus not profitable in the long term. But rival Diversey yearned for the healthy sales revenue promised by such customers. To help Diversey "win" these customers. Ecolab priced its bids to small independents high enough to lose to Diversey but low enough to keep downward pressure on Diversey's net margin. Meanwhile, Ecolab priced aggressively to win big chain accounts--cheap to serve and thus profitable. Diversey lost 15% on U.S. sales, while Ecolab enjoyed a 20% return.

This is a great case study. The collection of articles are $16 bucks and change but well worth it. Every CMO interested in competitive marketing should read this collection. We've blogged at length about George and Hardball - you can read our collection of posts here. And don't forget to read the Blue Ocean collection. Hardball and Blue Ocean are bookends. 

Download vSente's Free Campaign Planner to learn more about how we help marketing managers battle larger competitors.

CMO's AND THE WILL TO WIN

John Byrne the former editor of Fast Company, wrote a provocative letter from the editor last year titled Competing to Win. This was for the Fast Company issue that featured George Stalk and Hardball. John started his letter with:

Competition. In business, we live and die by it. It sharpens elbows and brightens brain cells. It brings accountability to what we do. And it can also get out of control.

I like this. It's reality. John continues:

For the longest time, conventional wisdom held that we or our companies could succeed only if others failed.

Ok, this makes me a little nervous - I smell a set-up coming. John continues:

We believed that in order to win in business, you had to outsmart and outdo your rival, to exploit his miscues and blunders, to steal market share -- to pound your competitor into the ground.

We believed???? Who exactly is we and why is it in the past tense? As if it is a relic of the past? I for one, and I would guess that some of the Fast Company readership, most of American business, and, George Stalk still believe this. Here's John setting up the punch line:

In the 1990s, some of these old assumptions about strategy and competition gave way to something kinder and gentler. Business, we came to think, wasn't like chess or poker where someone has to lose in order for you to win.

So John's punch line is that this mysterious collective of WE got together and decided that business IS NOT like a game with a winner and a loser. And instead it was possible to consider a kinder and gentler scenario where you team up with your rivals, not crush them.

Certainly, nobody will disagree with John that there may be times when you can partner with a competitor. But these partnering opportunities (that don't fall under the legal definition or perception of collusion) tend to be rare, tricky to execute, and require strict adult supervision to make sure that the players don't give away the company store.

I don't think John is advocating that businesses stop competing. But what the kinder gentler folks misunderstand is that they do not control  the transaction. Implementing their little epiphany requires the cooperation of your competition who might be hell bent on your destruction. And have no desire to partner. What do you do then? Predictably, most of the kinder gentler crowd head for the exits.

I am amused by the war of words initiated by the kinder gentler crowd. If you happen to believe in capitalism, competition and profit you immediately get tagged with words and phrases like, old school, neanderthal, knuckle-dragging, testosterone-fueled, blood-thirsty, immoral, unethical, etc. etc. etc. This from the Fast Company article on George Stalk:

"[Stalk and Lachenauer] are on a brutal, macho trip," wrote one reviewer for the Financial Times .

OK. SO WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS RANT?

The point is that since the early 90's, the kinder gentler crowd with their glut of squishy, culturally focused initiatives, have systematically gutted many sales and marketing organizations of competitive instincts. And in doing so have completely eliminated the will to win.

Selling is a competitive endeavor that requires a will to win. Every business, every day competes. Buyers make decisions that generate winners and losers. Whether you are buying a gallon of milk or a missile defense system your transaction results in a winner and loser(s). This is an inescapable, unavoidable result of a vibrant capitalistic system.

Selling at it's core is about asking for the order. About maximizing your profit (NOT YOUR CUSTOMERS!) About pushing through a price increase. Collecting deliquent accounts. Tough negotiations. Telling the customer NO. Most of the time selling is about selling marginal products and inferior service.

Most importantly selling is about winning and losing. Many folks dislike this game. Which is why they're attempting to replace it with something THEY do like. And in doing so, are rendering their organizations completely vulnerable and totally defenseless.

One of my mentors long ago claimed those who can't sell, market.

Learn how to wage and win battles for market share. Download the free PDF preview of the Art of Attack. Just click to get the PDF. There are no forms to fill out, you don’t need to leave your email address. No annoying questions to answer. Just click and get your PDF.

TOM PETERS, GEORGE STALK, FAST COMPANY AND HARDBALL

StalkFast Company a while back had a cover story on George Stalk and Hardball - the controversial book advocating competition. The Fast Company writer, Jennifer Reingold, did a nice job with the story, and Fast Company provides a platform for what will likely be a spirited debate. One of the reasons why I remain a fan of Fast Company is because of their willingness to take on topics like this. Jennifer frames the debate with the following which describes how the Boston Consulting Group fearing a political storm over the book altered some chapter titles:

"Some people have interpreted Hardball as a business version of America's "go it alone" political strategy in the world, or as a total rejection of the idea that a company's culture and people are an important part of its edge. Although neither is true, BCG, fearing a political storm, altered some of Hardball's chapter titles to make them sound less aggressive. But the changes didn't do much to soothe those who think business should be a kinder, gentler pursuit and that Stalk's testosterone-fueled emphasis on crushing your competitor is a Stone Age throwback. "[Stalk and Lachenauer] are on a brutal, macho trip," wrote one reviewer for the Financial Times.

Tom Peters was one of those who found the book not to his liking. He rips the book in his blog concluding it was not worth the paper it was printed upon. I don't know if it is jealousy or insecurity that causes him to lash out like this. It is unfortunate because rather than engaging in another one of his exclamation pointed rants, he should be presenting a well reasoned case for why he believes George to be wrong. Even better would be a civilized debate which George attempted with this letter sent to Tom Peters:

Dear Tom,

I'm disappointed you don't like my new book. I'm more disappointed you used it to say unkind things about The Boston Consulting Group. Hardball represents BCG no more than In Search of Excellence represented McKinsey. Some of my colleagues are warm to the ideas, some aren't. But I am allowed and even encouraged to publish because they recognize BCG's need to develop new thinking that will help our clients.

Do you really believe our book is not about ‘people’, ‘customers’ and ‘innovation’ or was that just a stunt by to draw attention to yourself? Our point is that competitive strategy is fundamental. You, and others, are dead wrong in saying that (1) Extraordinary People, (2) Innovative Products (3) Extraordinary Customer Experiences and (4) Rock-solid Infrastructure succeed without it. We’re saying that’s all wasted without excellent, ‘hardball’ strategy. We disagree that with your pillars, any ‘damn strategy’ works.

We, and this does include many of my us at BCG, believe that companies are ethically obligated to compete. The better they compete, the more they serve people (employees), satisfy customers and excel at innovation. We detail the strategies so they can be judged on their merits by anyone who reads the book. Our language, if that’s what’s hanging you up, is secondary to the truth or falsity of what we observed, learned and applied in real-life corporate competition.

There is a nice thought expressed on your blog about Hardball by one T. J. Jayakumar, who says, "The 180 degree opposite of every profound truth is also true. And which truth counts? Depends." Competition as we have defined it is the 180 degree opposite of your school of thinking and the lexicon you would cite as the only proper language of management.

Which truth counts? In a world of global markets and formidable competitors, we think ours has a place. Your old colleague Ken Ohmae did too when he wrote The Mind of the Strategist and described the "three C's: " company, consumer and competitor.” You have done a great job describing the special linkage that must exist between the first two. But we think the other dynamic is just as important – maybe more so. We want to remind our readers of its importance.

Strategy vs. "excellence": it's an old debate, isn't it? But given the kinds of challenges corporate executives face today, maybe it's time to renew it rather than hide from it.

Regards,

George Stalk

Tom Peters has yet to respond to George's letter. Please feel free to enter the conversation here with your comments pro or con. I will post all comments.

Learn how to wage and win battles for market share. Download the free PDF preview of the Art of Attack. Just click to get the PDF. There are no forms to fill out, you don’t need to leave your email address. No annoying questions to answer. Just click and get your PDF.

NEW BOOK FROM WHARTON: MUST WIN BATTLES - HOW TO WIN THEM AGAIN AND AGAIN

Interesting new book just popped up on the radar screen. I haven't read it - but it looks good in a George Stalk sort of way. This is the blurb:

Must Win Battles shows business leaders how to identify and agree on the key critical challenges that will make or break their business, and help them to mobilize their people and resources to achieve those goals.

The authors are PETER KILLING and TOM MALNIGHT of IMD. You can review the book here.

Learn how to wage and win battles for market share. Download the free PDF preview of the Art of Attack. Just click to get the PDF. There are no forms to fill out, you don’t need to leave your email address. No annoying questions to answer. Just click and get your PDF.

CMO's ACTIVELY SHUNNING TRADITIONAL FREE ENTERPRISE OBJECTIVES

The Art of Attack was created in an era of declining marketing competitiveness. Trade press is full of documented cases of disgruntled CEO’S demanding accountability and a return on marketing dollars invested. Widely heralded initiatives and theories like branding, CRM, word-of-mouth, open source marketing and a plethora of internet driven gimmicks and tricks have failed to live up to their advance billing.

Many reasons have contributed to the decline in marketing effectiveness. Agencies cling to dysfunctional media models. Enterprises focus on rigid, hierarchical command and control. Chief Marketing Officers emphasize creative awards over strategic competencies. Cultural differences between sales and marketing archetypes disrupt campaigning effectiveness. Assertive instincts have been replaced with nurturing skills leading to diminishing enterprise competitiveness.

Perhaps the most curious trend has been CMO’s actively shunning traditional free enterprise objectives of maximizing enterprise profitability in favor of customer advocacy theories placing the rights of consumers and community above the profitability of the enterprise. While few enterprises have adopted these decidely socialist tendancies the proponents of these theories have none-the-less dominated the conversation and bandwidth available to marketing practitioners and crowded out or shunned those advocating competitiveness. George Stalk of the Boston Consulting Group efforts publishing Hardball as described in Fast Company, is a good case in point. Bottom line for many enterprises is that their marketing efforts are out of control and rendering the enterprise vulnerable to competitive attack. Which can be good news for assertive agile enterprises seeking to increase market share. And bad news for the uncompetitive enterprise.

Download the free PDF preview of the Art of Attack. Just click to get the PDF. There are no forms to fill out, you don’t need to leave your email address. No annoying questions to answer. Just click and get your PDF.

RED OR BLUE? WHAT COLOR IS YOUR MARKETING DEPARTMENT?

The guys over at American Copywriter have taken on a topic that has been on our blog to-do list for awhile. So we figured it time to go ahead and explore the topic of political correctness and it's influence over marketing departments. More specifically what color is your marketing department? And is political correctness destroying enterprise competitiveness?

Politically correct behavior dominates the marketing ranks. Behavior that places the greater good above enterprise profitability, considers capitalism evil, competitiveness neanderthal, command and control bad, accountability unreasonable, and US flag-waving jingoistic. The essence of this behavior was captured recently in a cover story at Fast Company about George Stalk and his book HARDBALL: ARE YOU PLAYING TO PLAY OR PLAYING TO WIN?  which created controversy among the marketing intelligentsia because the authors had the audacity to suggest that enterprises should compete and compete hard. Fast Company frames the political correctness debate with the following which describes how the authors, fearing a political storm over the book altered some chapter titles:

"Some people have interpreted Hardball as a business version of America's "go it alone" political strategy in the world, or as a total rejection of the idea that a company's culture and people are an important part of its edge. Although neither is true, BCG, fearing a political storm, altered some of Hardball's chapter titles to make them sound less aggressive. But the changes didn't do much to soothe those who think business should be a kinder, gentler pursuit and that Stalk's testosterone-fueled emphasis on crushing your competitor is a Stone Age throwback. "[Stalk and Lachenauer] are on a brutal, macho trip," wrote one reviewer for the Financial Times.

At the same time a second book came out that was embraced by the marketing intelligentsia written by two academics from INSEAD the FRENCH graduate business school titled: BLUE OCEAN: HOW TO CREATE UNCONTESTED MARKET SPACE AND MAKE THE COMPETITION IRRELEVANT which advocates the operationally naive notion that competition can be made irrelevant in the 21st century. This from the book jacket:

"Since the dawn of the industrial age, companies have engaged in head-to-head competition in search of sustained, profitable growth. They have fought for competitive advantage, battled over market share, and struggled for differentiation. Yet, these hallmarks of competitive strategy are not the way to create profitable growth in the future. In a book that challenges everything you thought you knew about the requirements for strategic success, W. Chan Kim and Renee Aubergine argue that cutthroat competition results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool."

Interestingly, the cover of Blue Ocean is blue, Hardball red.

So we have a face-off. Hardball was pretty-well savaged by many in the main stream press. Tom Peters, just off of his women are better managers than men rant was downright boorish and rude. The current ranking of Hardball over at Amazon is 17,598. Blue Ocean on the other hand was accepted immediately  with almost universal praise and is currently ranked 122 on Amazon. Now some might suggest that the reason for this is the fact that Blue Ocean is simply a better book. But it's not. And it is no secret that many CEO's are ready to jettison their marketing departments. So the question is what color is your marketing department? And is political correctness impacting the competitiveness of your enterprise?

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SHARKS START ATTACKING YOUR BLUE OCEAN? Subscribe to vSente's Armory - Tools and Techniques to Fend Off The Sharks. Click for a free preview.

Blogtilearmory_6

GEORGE STALK: Winning Really Matters. Everything Else is a Distraction

George Stalk wrote a nice piece titled "Warm and Fuzzy Doesn't Cut It" for the 02.15.05 Wall Street Journal.  Read it here.

Learn how to wage and win battles for market share. Download the free PDF preview of the Art of Attack. Just click to get the PDF. There are no forms to fill out, you don’t need to leave your email address. No annoying questions to answer. Just click and get your PDF.

WHY TOM PETERS DOESN'T GET IT

Knucklehead_1Like many I count Tom Peters and Bob Watermans' In Search of Excellence as an influential book. Written in the late 70"s I found Search to be an inspirational read as I crossed over from corporate to entrepreneurial pursuits. His next book a Passion for Excellence was a nice follow-up. But I began to lose interest in Peters with his next book Thriving on Chaos. I began to read Thriving midway through a difficult turnaround. I along with a partner had purchased a struggling division of Johnson Controls. I was trying to rebuild a decimated customer base and was dealing with the typical list of problems faced by a troubled turnaround.

As I plowed my way through Thriving I was: negotiating a union contract with 400 pissed-off steel-toed-booted pipe fitters; begging my bank for another $100,000 of availability on my line of credit to make a payroll; trying to salvage a large bid we just lost to a competitor who used hookers and kick-backs to create customer loyalty; preparing for a trip to Japan to finalize a $60 million joint venture; and, fending off a group of class action attorney's trying to rope us into an asbestos class action lawsuit. So, as I am dealing with my very own form of chaos, a very lethal form that leads to bankruptcy and all kinds of other nasty consequences, I'm being advised by Mr. Peters to create more chaos and "if it ain't broke - break it".

It's not that Thriving and it's follow-up Liberation Management didn't have some interesting ideas. Because they did. The problem was that for most businesses accessing these ideas was (and is) out of reach. What Peter's didn't get back then, and is more out of touch with today, is the simple concept of what I call "getting there".  Most businesses do not have the time or cash flow to implement Peter's concepts. To get from a cash-strapped, reality-driven today to a better tomorrow requires an incremental, controlled approach to change. Not revolutionary. Not chaotic.  But controlled, methodical change. Two words that drive the legions of Peter's followers absolutely crazy. And who will in wild-eyed-frenzied-hysterical-exclamation-pointed rants tell you that if you don't do what Tom tells you, you'll become extinct.

I am mentioning Tom Peters because of an interesting debate that is shaping up. Seems as if Tom and his devotees had major heart burn with George Stalks book on Hardball. Fast Company in it's February 2005 issue, has a cover story on George, Hardball and a foreshadowing of the upcoming debate. Fast Company describes Hardball as:

"The book, a controversial reaction to the glut of squishy, culturally focused business books that have dominated the last decade, is about gaining an unassailable advantage over rivals."

Tom Peters leads the glut of squishy, culturally focused business books. George Stalk has finally put a face and voice to the other side. I'll be writing about this debate at length.

Learn how to wage and win battles for market share. Download the free PDF preview of the Art of Attack. Just click to get the PDF. There are no forms to fill out, you don’t need to leave your email address. No annoying questions to answer. Just click and get your PDF.

HARDBALL: ARE YOU PLAYING TO PLAY OR PLAYING TO WIN?

Hardball_2One of the best business books I've read is Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win? This politically incorrect tour de force is creating controversy among business intelligentsia because the authors have the audacity to suggest that enterprises should compete and compete hard. Published by the Harvard Business School Press and written by George Stalk, senior vice president of the Boston Consulting Group, and Rob Lachenauer a BCG alumnus, the authors present a clear vision of what it really takes to compete and win in the 21st century. Here is the text from the promotional brochure:

There are two extremes in business competition today. Companies can play softball, relying on weak tactics that look like strategies but that actually do little more than keep the company in the game for the short term. Or they can play hardball—employing tough strategies designed to rout, not simply beat, competitors. In their book Hardball: Are You Playing to Play or Playing to Win?, veteran strategists George Stalk, senior vice president of The Boston Consulting Group, and Rob Lachenauer, a former BCG director and now CEO of GEO2 Technologies, argue that business is about winning and losing, not about "playing nice." For too long, companies have focused on soft issues such as customer relations and corporate culture while ignoring the killer strategic instinct that has been the hallmark of winning since business competition began. Stalk and Lachenauer say that hardball winners practice the soft management skills, but always in the context of classic hardball play. They rally talent and build culture through a laserlike focus on the few "heart-of-the-matter" issues most critical to success. These companies play rough and they don't apologize for it—but they never break the rules, and they always keep their promises to customers and shareholders. Drawing on their forty years of combined experience in advising and observing a range of companies, Stalk and Lachenauer show how hardball companies move beyond mere competitive advantage to achieve decisive advantages that neutralize, marginalize, and even punish rivals. Through rich, engaging examples that take leaders deep inside the world of intense hardball competition, the book reveals a cache of classic moves designed to catapult companies far out of competitors' reach. From exploiting anomalies to threatening competitors' profit sanctuaries to breaking industry compromises, the book reveals who uses these strategies, under what circumstances and in which industries each strategy is most effective, and how to execute each move successfully. Today's global marketplace is the toughest and most unforgiving playing field business has ever seen. Hardball redefines and reinterprets the meaning of competition in this new era—and outlines the classic strategies today's companies must use if they're in the game to win.

You can buy the book at Amazon. Also, the authors are offering a free PDF introduction titled the Hardball Manifesto which can be downloaded here.

Bat10_1Subscribe ARMORY|Book MOBILIZATION|Engage CAMPAIGN