Globalization and technology have heightened the interconnection, interdependence and fragility of today's marketplace. In response, Philip Kotler and John Caslione, authors of "Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in the Age of Turbulence," provide a system for steering businesses through both the best and worst of times.
The authors point to a National Intelligence Council 2008 report that reinforces the point that, "For the foreseeable future, the world will be facing ongoing disruptions, turbulence, chaos and violence. These factors will impact business around the globe directly and indirectly, creating an environment that business leaders will have to deal with if their companies are to remain viable over the long term."
Undoubtedly, following the economic meltdown, companies are already proceeding more cautiously while adopting a "risk-oriented" mindset. Yet, a company's management often responds ineffectively to turbulence. The authors write that when businesses are unable to predict customers' expectations, they tend to abandon their core principles.
Rather, in tough times, business leaders should improve operational efficiency and reduce unproductive expenditure -- a good practice at any time. Yet, Kotler and Caslione argue that it's essential to avoid across-the-board cuts, instead focusing on measured cuts. "To do this," they write, "management need to ask the tough questions: How did we perform during the last recession? What is our liquidity situation? Do we have a roadmap that will take us into the future?"
Some of the mistakes that a company typically makes during a turbulent economy include firing talent; cutting back on technology; stopping product development; and reinforcing hierarchy over collaboration. Rather, business leaders need to identify inefficiencies in areas including finance, manufacturing, purchasing and human resources. During turbulent times, this "fat" can make companies particularly vulnerable.
The authors also believe that companies must increase their capacity for resiliency at all levels, and especially in marketing and sales. "Marketers need to master resiliency if they are to engage the marketplace forcefully, break through the chaos and connect with consumers," they write. "Resilient thinking by marketers transforms anxiety into action and difficulty into decisiveness." Based on current economic conditions, consumers will cut spending, so companies need to consider factors as they create their 'chaotics' marketing strategies, including:
- Secure your market share from core customer segments.
- Push aggressively for greater market share from competitors.
- Research customers more now because their needs and wants are in flux.
- Seek to increase -- or at least maintain -- your marketing budget.
- Focus on safe offerings and emphasize core values.
Overall, it's important to preserve customers, brand strength and long-term objectives during turbulent times.
Developing these long-term strategies is a key component of Chaotics and the authors highlight characteristics of companies that have endured a long life through good times and challenging ones. They highlight author Arie DeGues who studies such companies as Kodak (founded in 1888), W.R. Grace (1854) and Siemens (1847). DeGues found that such companies had four distinct traits: sensitivity to the world around them; awareness of their identity; tolerance of new ideas and conservatism in financing.
Chaotics is intended for the general business community, and not solely financial professionals. But given the turmoil surrounding the financial sector, the lessons in the book could help businesses in the financial sector to come through future turbulent times with increased success and grace.
Mary Scott is the co-author of Companies with a Conscience and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.