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A refresher course in the fundamentals of business

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Drayton Bird was speaking in Sydney. His last hurrah. The first and only time I would get to see him live. So off I went on a pilgrimage and joined 137 fellow marketers.

We all have our own industry experts. People that share their experiences, insights, successes and for the truly brave, their failures. Our wise elders. 

If we pay attention and listen we can, as an audience, learn a lot. In marketing Drayton Bird is such a person.

7 Crystal Clear Insights

Over the course of 1½ hours Drayton entertained and un-apologetically lectured us at the same time. He distilled 50 years’ experience of marketing work – always with a ruthless commercial focus – into these 7 gems.

1. Always be studying, learning, reading

Quoting Charles Munger (Warren Buffett’s right hand man), “In my whole life, I have known no wise person (over a broad subject matter area) that did not read all the time…. none, zero.”  

Drayton was scathing about marketers that did not understand their industry; that were not committed to learning and studying. As if somehow people arrive at work a fully-formed expert.

In my experience it is the same in many other professions.

2. It’s always about your customers

“There is only one profit centre, your customers.” Yet is remarkable how many businesses forget this and don’t make their customers the centre of everything.

One of my fellow pilgrims, Victoria Primrose, does just that, helping major blue chip organisations such as 7 West, TAB and Optus become more customer-centric. With a wry smile I said, “Important work but inertia in most businesses is high… they only change if they have strong leadership … or they’re in trouble.”

3. Find out what people want and give it to them

Research, ask, listen. They are the ones buying your services, recommending (or not) your services to others, trying to explain what it is you do.

The only caveat I would add to this is to design your offering so that you can deliver it profitably to them.

4. Make it easy for them to understand

The human attention span is shorter than a goldfish.

Make it simple and get your customers’ attention by appealing to their motivations. Which are always emotional and are what actually drive behaviour.

5. Position well – and don’t change

Also called your value proposition – this is a simple distillation of what makes you special, different.

It answers the fundamental question why would be interested in your business. Always as it must be framed so that it impacts the hearts and minds of your customers.

Without this you are a me-too, a commodity, and so can get lost in the noise. Worse it means that attracting new clients is both hard and expensive.

6. Get the best people, treat them well, train them, reward them

Your people are your business. They are the ones serving your customers, doing great work for them, making stuff happen. Support your people and take care of them.

7. Business is simple

Get more customers, get them to buy more, keep them longer. As a business owner this is paramount.

Customers will leave you. A fact of life you ignore at your peril.

There is always more money on the table, more that you could be offering them (see 3) and if you truly understand point 2, they will stay longer.

Posted on 23 Nov 2017


  • Noel
    3 years ago

    Thank you for sharing this Alex, a great read.

  • Jackie
    3 years ago

    Hi Alex
    Great insight.


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