BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

From the Ferenginar exo-cultural archives ...

This was one of those occasional books that arrives from a publisher with no contact, and no specific info (like a press release, etc.), which puts the “why” of it in question. The obvious answer is, of course, that I ended up on some list for my The Job Stalker blog, and this was being sent out in the hopes of some coverage. Frankly, this is pushing the boundaries of what I find “useful” in my continuing education (let alone job search), and I was thinking of sorting it off to the wilderness of the “whenever” pile. However, I had recently seen it referenced in a couple of other “business” books that I'd been reading, so I figured “what the heck”, as I'd not had a book to feature in that blog for a while.

How Companies Win: Profiting from Demand-Driven Business Models No Matter What Business You're In by Rick Kash and David Calhoun is certainly not targeted to “the general reader”, as it is very much a book for those involved in business and looking to update the way that their businesses do business. Beyond this, at several times in the reading, I got the sense that I was in the midst of a very large promotion piece for The Cambridge Group and/or The Nielsen Company as not insignificant portions of the book are case studies of work one or the other of the authors had done (it was not particularly clear which author was involved in which case) in rather self-congratulatory tones, with the main take-away being that they had some “magic formula” for re-focusing businesses.

Again, it's been a long time since I was “a suit” up in the Executive offices, so a lot of this was lovely theory, but nothing that I was presently in any place to put into action. I suppose that I should have run this past my hot-shot MBA brother, but my sense is that he doesn't read much, yet he is in the sort of operation that is target for the material in How Companies Win.

The main thesis here is that the concentration on the “supply chain” of previous generations has, both through the progress it has made to providing a vast plethora of product choices across many niches, and via the technological innovations of the web and mobile communications, and the societal changes that these have brought about, now become unreliable, and that companies need to look at the “demand chain” on almost a customer-by-customer basis. Key to this turn-about are the tools (perhaps proprietary?) to define “demand profit pools” via “demand landscape” analysis and thereby ferret out customer groups that have either not been specifically recognized, or are candidates for premium pricing strategies. Various “new definitions” are sprinkled through the book, here's one: “Innovation is finding unsatisfied profitable demand and the fulfilling it.”

In another place they note that “the best and most competitive companies always feature some form of” what they call “mental modeling”, which they define as: “A mental model is the same picture in every employee's mind of how their company is going to compete and win – and their own role within that plan.”. Of course, as a “communications” guy, this looks pretty promising to me as it is no doubt going to involve constant and extensive programs of make sure that “every employee” is on the same page with management's “mental model”! Similarly, the following section caught my eye for obvious reasons:
Over the last few years, hundreds of millions of consumers around the world have used IMs, tweets, LinkedIn networks, fandom to popular blogs, and Facebook pages to organize themselves into brand-new social, political, and economic groups. These real and virtual communities and neighborhoods are remarkably sophisticated – and increasingly difficult for outsiders to enter. Do you understand the nature of all of the social groups to which your customers are now engaged? Do you have a strategy for reaching them in those locations – that is, gain entry? Do you have a way to assess your customers' need states while they are in those locations?
Ultimately you and your competitors are in a race, and the winner will be the one who better satisfies the demand, in all of its forms, of your high-profit consumers. Many of the answers will be found in those new communities of your newly organized consumers … if you know where to look and can gain entry.
That, as much as what Gary Vaynerchuk wrote in The Thank You Economy, opens the door to a rather bright future for “digital natives”, who will operate as Rangers making safe the way for the MBAs to get around to bleeding out the “high-profit consumers” that this book holds as the Holy Grail of the new business reality.

As How Companies Win has only been out for a few months at this point, the odds are good that you might be able to track down a copy at one of few remaining brick-and-mortar book vendors with a business section, however, the on-line guys have it at around a third off of cover, and the “aftermarket” vendors already have new copies of the hardcover for only about six bucks. Again, this is pretty much a “specialty” book for folks in companies that manufacture and market products, but I guess anybody might find the case studies of interest, if just to have a peek into the internal workings of companies such as McDonalds, Hershey's, Budweiser, Best Boy, Allstate, Apple, and others that the authors have either worked with or studied!

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Tags: book review
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