PETER Draper, a well-respected business consultant and notably known as a former chief marketing officer at Manchester United Football Club, was in town this week to speak at the Malaysian Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) conference in Kuala Lumpur and he was happy to share with StarBizWeek his insights on local enterprises gearing for international business.
Such companies need to find a point of difference in spite of the increasing difficulty for many sectors, he says.
“From character to price and reality, this is how brands stand out all over the world,” Draper says, holding up his iPhone. “Can this be cheaper, lighter and better? Something like that could be taken into various environments.”
Over the decades, he noticed that most businesses don't exercise a healthy risk appetite in bringing the product to market and getting the right people and resources.
“It's a lot of hardcore planning that can be very boring, honestly,” he says. “Big outfits could very well start thinking like a small one. That'll help.”
Manchester United was constantly evolving, he points out. New players are always trained from the ground up.
“Imagine Proton taking someone from university and grooming him to become a head of department. If he isn't ready, guide him and have fall backs. Outsiders see the team. They don't necessarily need to see what happens behind the scenes,” illustrates Draper, who founded communications consulting firm Loose Lips Ltd.
In the reality of corporate life, talent management ideals don't always pan out.
Good people hit ceilings and the frustration is felt both ways. “There's always a way to facilitate their moving on and it is management's responsibility to see to it,” he says.
When he was European marketing director at Umbro, he had a gifted manager on the team who had started to run into walls at the organisation.
Draper remains supportive of the man who went on to work for a different company and eventually became a very successful marketing director in a retail chain.
“Many people didn't believe in him before that but I stood up for him,” he says.
Great managers make great business, and many have taken the liberty to provide facilities for officers and make allowance for working from home.
Draper disagrees with managers who doubt staffers' integrity in putting in a full day's work away from the office.
“The competition might get your good guys because they allow him the flexibility he needs. Organisations lose people when they stop being proactive in understanding their workers' needs,” he says.
To keep good people, managers need to understand their workers' motivation.
Draper used job satisfaction surveys as proof that most individuals value work environment support above salary.
“Job satisfaction is being affirmed of a task well done, timely remuneration, having a clear set of guidelines to work by and being able to work well with people,” he says. “Don't confuse these survey results with those of customer satisfaction questionnaires. Customers may say nice things but your people might not feel the same way about their work.”
He cautions business owners to tread thoughtfully when foraying overseas and to seek partnership, preferably with an entity with an established customer base.
These companies would have solid distribution capabilities and a good understanding of the market, which are critical areas to consider with respect to companies that would prefer to keep the returns for themselves.
Draper says that sports marketing is essentially advertising, and is increasingly tried and tested.
He points out that the industry has progressed quickly and when done well, sports marketing can, for a relatively known company, be a massive accelerator.
In this context, brand ambassadorship is plenty handy, even if it means paying personalities high salaries.
“There's no shame in putting out there an individual who is talented and marketable,” Draper says. “We've done that with David Beckham and he worked it.”
Draper was brought in to Malaysia by The London Speaker Bureau, the world's largest speaker bureau.