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See The Elephant In Your Business

Leo Aspden on marketing trends
When you pursue business development and growth, and faced with the many challenges presented by today’s global and digital marketplace can you and your management team provide real leadership and see the elephant in your business?
The Blindmen and the Elephant: I was intrigued by a story recently told to me by my son, who is studying civil engineering.
It concerns an ancient Indian fable, later re-told by the American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) entitled ‘The Blindmen and the Elephant’.
In the story six blind men inclined to learning went to observe an elephant to satisfy their minds.
Each of them encounters the elephant by touching a part of it and describes their experience. The first stumbles against the side of elephant and claims it is just like a wall. One by one the others claim the elephant is like a spear, a snake, a tree, a fan and a rope.
Confused over the different answers each was convinced they were right and all simply because they had touched a different part of the animal, namely, the side, tusk, trunk, knee, ear and tail.
In the end, Saxe suggests, ‘and so these men of Indostan disputed loud and long, each in his own opinion, exceeding stiff and strong, though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong’!
n The bigger picture for business: Like the blind men in the story business leaders and management can often experience a narrow view rather than the bigger picture.
When each department or business stream continues to pursue individual targets performance is not optimised and overall business objectives can be in danger of being side tracked by those who argue best and loudest.
In my experience working with companies as a high growth business coach on business strategy, one of the key benefits is helping management to develop and commit to a critical action plan, which identifies the ‘Critical Success Factors (CSF)’.
Often there is so much to do in the business that it is difficult to see the wood for the trees (or the elephant in this case) and stay focused on the core objectives.
Critical Success Factors can be defined as ‘the few key areas in which a business must perform well on a continued basis to achieve its mission and goals’. It is crucial that CSFs are identified and receive on-going attention from management.
n The bigger picture for sales & marketing: Sales and marketing teams have long experienced the challenge of differing views as to which activities will deliver the greatest ROI. In the drive for sales sometimes the loudest argument may seem to be to run promotional activity or reduce prices with incentives to generate stock turnover in the short term.
Market or product managers may compete for the same company resources leading to bottlenecks and targets missed. From the financial aspect the argument may be to reduce spend on areas such as advertising or direct marketing.
For today’s new generation of marketers the cry may be heard of the need for digital marketing and social media.
Each in its own right is partly right, but without the clarity of the overall vision and strategy for the business as a whole, not only led from the top but understood and embraced by all, then all else is wrong and misses the bigger picture of opportunity!
Leo Aspden is a chartered marketer, high growth business coach and former North West ambassador for SMEs for the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

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