btripp_books (btripp_books) wrote,

Not just for marketers ...

This was a strange sourcing … I actually got queried by the folks at Wiley if I'd be interested in getting Ross Shafer's Grab More Market Share: How to Wrangle Business Away from Lazy Competitors (frequently books just arrive these days), and I almost said “no” … as you might surmise from the title/subtitle that this could well be a book for MBAs with iffy morals (“but I repeat myself”), which hardly fits in with the sort of business book I'd be interested in reading/reviewing, as much of that is targeted for my job-search blog, The Job Stalker, over on the Tribune's “ChicagoNow” site. I'm glad I said “yes”, however, as this was entertaining, informative, and applicable in its details to much more to “grabbing more market share”.

The book starts off very much in line with the title, talking about how McDonald's launched their McCafé a couple of years back, aiming to develop a billion dollars in new revenue. Putting the McCafé offerings in 11,000 of their 14,000 locations, McDonald's is already half way to their revenue goal, and in the same time Starbucks has closed several hundred locations. McDonald's didn't create a billion dollars in business, but saw where Starbucks was vulnerable and stole the traffic, initially with convenience, and then with dollar pricing … even in the midst of the current recession/depression.

One of the concepts that Shafer pushes is “culture” …
The public, the culture the collective thinking of a lot of people also decide whether the goods and services you sell will become popular. If what you sell is popular, it is in demand. It becomes relevant and important to them. Your company will grow when they rush out and tell their friends.
However, he also points out that “trends never sneak up on anybody” and goes through a list of one-time category kings that fell because they couldn't adapt to the wants of the culture, while others (here, specifically Apple) built new empires by selling to those wants. Interestingly many of the failed companies had developed the technology that eventually killed them (such as Kodak and the digital camera), but never had the vision, or internal systems, to successfully meet the consumers' wants.

There's a lot in the middle of Grab More Market Share about customer service, and “crowdsourcing”, which certainly dovetails with much of the social media material (and experience) I've absorbed over the past several years, with practical suggestions (each chapter also has a “homework” section) for how to at least conceptualize these elements for one's business (and, as I noted above, this even had applicability for the job search, piquing my interest). He does push the limits a bit, highlighting Fred Reichheld's suggestion (from his The Ultimate Question book) that out “of all the survey questions you can ask a customer, one one really matters: “How likely are you to recommend us to your friends?””.

Again, this is targeted to business owners, but it's not a stretch in any of these chapters to be able to take the examples and the homework questions, and generate some really interesting ideas of anybody's situation. Shafer talks about developing “Trusted Advisors” as advocates for your brand and business, of “Contrarian Thinkers” (and how not all of us are crazy) with examples of how an auto paint manufacturer pulled scheduling systems from wedding planners to make the shift from oil-based paints to water-based paints practicable for their hundreds of paint-shop customers, how shooting for the “ultra luxury” niche seems to be a good bet for a lot of companies, and how, in a range of scenarios, companies with vision (or maybe just luck) managed to swallow up their competition:
In Canada the lending laws still require home buyers to put a substantial amount of their own money down on a house – and to verify they have the income to afford the mortgage payment (Novel approach, isn't it?) Because of these controls, Toronto Dominion Bank sidestepped the toxic subprime mortgage market and has since gobbled up 1,000 bank branches from Maine to Florida.
Finally, the author takes a look an non-office working situations, and the hiring of the “older worker” (needless to say, from my perspective, this latter trend can't come on fast enough!). Having been blogging about job-search topics for the past two years, I'm surprised that I've not (as far as I can recall) run across the acronym ROWE – Results Only Work Environment … maybe this is some new “MBA speak” that hasn't filtered down to creatives/communications folks. This came initially from two Best Buy employees, and has been implemented by Gap Outlet, as well as IBM, AT&T, and Sun Microsystems. ROWE generally involves workers on the other end of an electronic connection, with no schedules, no mandatory, meetings, and no “busy work”. As long as the projects get done when they need to get done, the work can be done any time, and anywhere.

As far as hiring older workers, there are some interesting figures here … “with people over 55 almost twice as likely to launch successful companies than those between 20 and 34” … and thumbnails of successful recent start-ups by “more seasoned” folks, as well as companies that are pulling in the experienced workforce. If anybody out there is looking to jump on this trend … I'm looking for work!

I have some slight caveats about Grab More Market Share, however. The first one is actually something that drew me to reading this (as I'm way behind on my 72-book annual reading target), and that this is very short, with the main body of the book is under 100 pages, with another 10 at the end with assorted URLs. And, speaking of that section, it seems rather unhelpful … even as much as I've griped about books with QR codes in them heading off to web resources, having this mass of need-to-type links at the end seems so 2006. I'd have preferred them as footnotes or section end notes, so they'd be spread out across the book (and in context), but I guess this is one of those things that's always going to be an issue with dead-tree books interfacing with the Internet, and I fear that it will only be resolved on that sad day when books are things that you pull up on tablet devices. I was surprised that, after poking around on the web for a bit, there didn't seem to be a one-stop resource for these out there ... it would certainly be simple enough for the author to put these ten pages of links on a page on his web site, which would mean just typing the one URL and then clicking on the rest there!

Anyway, this was a good read, and I'm really glad that I told the folks at Wiley to send along a copy. While it is, as noted, very much “business owner” book (there's a section up front addressed to “Leaders” which rather blatantly pitches the author's speaking business!), it is structured in such a way that most of the material can be extrapolated to anybody's benefit. It's been out for only a month at this point, so the brick-and-mortar stores that carry business titles are likely to have it, but both of the big on-line guys have it at 27% off of retail (and, oddly, the used guys are already hawking copies), which makes it fairly reasonable (its cover price is a bit high for such a slim volume). As you can tell by the above, I found a lot of “new and interesting” material here, and you might like it too.


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