Many business owners and leaders may well be experiencing some anxiety right now about how to ensure that their business doesn’t get left behind in the wake of the pandemic.

The quote from marketing guru Seth Godin is a message for all to take note of: “You can raise the bar or you can wait for others to raise it, but it’s getting raised regardless.” When almost all news bulletins and leading world economies are suggesting a global recession, which could last for some time, absolutely key for businesses is not to lower the bar.

Typically, in business, we tend to define quality in a producer-consumer context, for example, ISO 9000: “Degree to which a set of inherent characteristic fulfils requirements.” The standard defines requirement as need or expectation. To quote management guru Peter Drucker: “Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for.”

As defined by good old Wikipedia, in the vernacular, quality can mean a high degree of excellence (“a quality product”), a degree of excellence or the lack of it (“work of average quality”). That’s quite a range of possibilities from excellence through to downright nothing. For those old enough to remember, or those young enough to search on YouTube the song ‘Money for Nothing’ from Dire Straits comes to mind.

Money for nothing – (no match)
Whilst BS and EN standards may always drive us to ensure that our products comply with legislation and therefore meet the expected requirement, the temptation to introduce cheaper products with limited or no marketing support behind them should only be pursued with the greatest of care. Customers may be looking to make their pound stretch further than in previous years however, we should remember that no one has disengaged their selectivity and ability to discern between products and services that give them what they want and those that don’t. The success of marketing is not is persuading customers to buy what they don’t want, but in understanding what they want and providing an offering to match and communicating it.

Money for nothing – (no future)
Another temptation when business is tough is to drive through promotion after promotion to move that all-important stock out of the warehouse. The short term result may make for a healthy-looking monthly sales turnover figure, only to find that when the dust settles, and settle it will, the bad news is the dust will continue to mount as in subsequent months the products don’t move and distributors and retailers alike become less trusting and willing to commit to your products.

Money for nothing – (no investment)
In times of need, all areas of the business come under scrutiny for cost savings, not only marketing or sales support but often staffing resource. Departments may be downsized putting extra pressure on those that remain, with more responsibility on those with less experience. On paper, this may present a happier financial picture but in reality, as was the case with many of the sewer pipes in the UK which had no attention since Victorian times, these were under extreme pressure, ready to crack and more worryingly, the sh*t was ready to hit the fan.

We may have heard or even used the phrase, “ if you pay peanuts yet get monkeys” but important is not to underestimate the true value of your business and your staff. Invest in your team; motivate them through coaching to help them be successful. Your sales team are those who build customer relationships, which will lead to your success or failure. Use this time to enhance and improve the performance of your team and provide the support for teams working remotely.

Most professional bodies recognize the importance of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), not only for those with senior responsibility but also for all levels. As an employer would you allow someone to come into your business without the relevant qualifications or accreditation and manage your finances? Can we imagine commissioning an architect without the relevant accreditation to design a building? Yet when it comes to sales and marketing our business, perhaps one of the critical factors determining success and failure, particularly in challenging times we might neglect or reduce support for ongoing learning. It is any wonder then that businesses find themselves in Dire Straits, after all, no one will give Money for Nothing, will they?

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