Are you an MBA Clone? Was your business education more like
"business programming"? If your answer is yes, you are probably not fully
aware of the fact that you have been "produced", together with many other
executives, to think and act in a similar predictable manner, as many MBA
programs around the world gravitate towards standard no-diversity sets of
default concepts and tools. As a result, many executives have been turning
into what I call, MBA Clones, thus undermining the competitiveness of the
companies they lead.
I challenge you to read my article titled: "Test
Yourself: Are You an MBA Clone?". Take the short test and find out if
you are an MBA Clone. If you've been diagnosed as one, I strongly suggest
that you consider de-cloning, ASAP. De-cloning is possible, painless and
How can you de-clone yourself? The process entails realizing
that typical MBA thinking is not an ultimate truth but just one way of interpreting
business reality and operating in the marketplace. You will need to coach
yourself in alternative concepts and tool up accordingly. Soon you will discover
that your view has broadened and you managerial capabilities will have improved
The following 10 tips are meant to be a first aid kit as well
as a tasting from my alternative approach.
The long-term, it's dead, caput, bygones.
Deal with it.
In our accelerated and hypercompetitive world, there are no more long term
strategies from which you may never digress. Most of the rules of strategy,
marketing and branding that you learned are no longer relevant. They were
created for the long term, but the long term has expired. The way to succeed
over the long term is to succeed in the short term, time after time. For
example: you do not "own" a market share, it is only an indication of your
Feel the fear of strategy and strategize
Research has shown unequivocally that the secret of companies who succeed
is well differentiated strategy and uncompromising implementation. Yet,
like most of your colleagues and competitors, chances are that strategy
gives you the shivers. It's called "Strategephobia". Strategy has two terrifying
characteristics. First strategy is a choice, which is terrifying because
you will have to let go of all the "could-have-been"s first: "We are going
to target customers X, and leave out the rest" or "The major benefit we
will offer consumers is Z and leave out the rest." When you adopt a strategy,
you have to "give up" stuff you don't actually have in order to formulate
something tangible, something you can sink your teeth into. The second characteristic
of strategy is differentiation from competitors, which is terrifying because
most of the managers feel more comfortable being similar to their competitors;
therefore they busy themselves on trying to block competition's attempts
to create an advantage, rather than on striving to be different.
Goals are goals, strategy is strategy
- do not confuse
MBA clones often refer to their goals (e.g. "achieve a large market share")
as "strategy". The guiding principle is: What you want to achieve is your
goal. What you are doing to reach that goal is your strategy. From my experience,
it's best to be very clear about the distinction between them.
Your company does not need a vision
Establishing a company's vision is a very trendy process. But be aware that
your vision is not remarkably similar to your competitors'. Personally,
I don't think you need a vision at all, but if you must have one, you should
place two qualifications on the process to make it effective. First, your
vision must be differentiated, not only in your eyes but most especially
in the eyes of your consumer. Second, your vision must offer consumers some
important benefit that they can't get from the competitors. In other words,
your vision has to be a differentiation-based competitive strategy.
A satisfied customer is not necessarily
a loyal customers
Customer satisfaction does not assure customer loyalty. Customers will move
on to new products when turned on by a new and exciting benefit. Therefore,
we must move from satisfying, subservient marketing - that gives consumers
what they want and expect - to what I call Electrifying Marketing:
dazzling them with what they never thought they wanted - until you offered
it to them.
Think of your strategy's success as
an occurrence of consumer behaviors
The most essential insight to strategic business thinking is the fact that
customer behavior is the reason for strategies' success or failure. Moreover,
a deep understanding of consumer psychology is crucial to successful strategizing.
I advise you, therefore, to think of your strategy's success in terms of
the specific consumer behaviors that will bring it about.
Market segmentation is a waste of time.
Move on to Contextual
The traditional market segmentation doesn't work with today's consumer,
who refuses almost completely to abide by segments that create homogeneous
groups according to demographic, socio-economic variables, or even according
to lifestyle. An alternative approach is "Contextual Segmentation", i.e.
segmenting according to contexts of purchasing or using/consuming, in which
consumers can participate from time to time (e.g. the "We celebrate grandpa's
birthday" segment of the restaurant business).
Remember "The Marketing Approach"? Forget
The "marketing approach", based on identification of unsatisfied needs and
how to satisfy them, is no longer a key to success for two reasons: first,
there are few unsatisfied needs left. Second, in a competitive market, it
is undesirable that all marketers act in the same matter. The alternative
"competitive approach", is based on creating new ways to satisfy needs that
are already satisfied.
Raise your prices - sell more
No market is price driven and neither are most consumers. It's the marketers
who are price-driven. In practically all categories most consumers never
buy the cheapest brand. The same consumer who in relation with your product
is "price-driven" has no trouble spending high prices for other products
and services. In many formerly "price-driven markets", a competitor came
along who one day stopped talking about price and began offering an added
value, the kind that turns consumers on.
Do not expect "Branding" to build brands
Managers often believe that a good name, a logo, a professional "corporate
identity" design and some positive brand values, will suffice for winning
competitive advantages, and that any effort required in order to create
real differentiation or to develop a valid competitive edge should be spared.
Wrong! Your differentiation creates the anticipation of a unique benefit
that your brand provides. This anticipation is your brand.
Did any of the above open a new perspective for you? If it
happened that means your de-cloning process is already underway. Now you
must reinforce it. I would like to suggest to you reading my book: "Outsmart
the MBA Clones: The Alternative Guide to Competitive Marketing, Strategy
and Branding". The book provides a set of new concepts and a toolkit
unlike anything you learned during your MBA studies. The ambitious promise
of this book is to help managers create business strategies that will be
immensely successful and yet amazingly will not be copied by the competition,
resulting in an "Unfair Advantage" that leads to a private monopoly. It has
a far reaching de-cloning effect. Enjoy!