I sat last night watching the Apprentice wondering how I was going to put a blog piece together. As my sister-in-law described it on my Facebook page it was madness.
The grey cells have been working over night and I have thought through what we can learn from episode four of the 2011 Apprentice. I am going to take it back to marketing basics where both teams got it wrong and finish with a small comment on leadership.
Marketing basics when I did my marketing degree were the 4P’s which are:
- And for me the most important I add a C – the CUSTOMER
Looking at them each in turn. The product that this weeks Apprentice teams had to sell were beauty products. The winning team did get the tanning product which both teams wanted was it a winner for them? Not convinced and if I had been carrying out the project I would have wanted to consider the products alongside the location I was at and then think who the customer of that location would be. The losing team though did have the ridiculous hair pieces to sell which I would be hard placed to find any customer for other than as a kids play piece. The lesson here though is that product is important but needs to be thought through alongside your location and the customer who will go to that location. Plus of course the price they are likely to pay which then helps you consider are you going for a premium product or a treat product that you buy in bulk and sell at a competitive price?
So price is important again though you must have the customer at the centre of this. The Apprentice team did not have any pre booked customers where people booked an appointment in advance and were likely to also decide to treat themselves to extras while they were there. As the purpose of the visit to the shopping mall would be to have a beauty treatment. Instead the Apprentice teams in a difficult economy were competing against all the other shops in the shopping mall. Plus to make matters more difficult most if not all of the shoppers there would have come into the mall to shop not to have a beauty treatment. So how do you get some of their hard earned money? Well in this case price is really important but actually both teams should have done really well if they had low-cost items as women who maybe can’t afford or justify that new dress will treat themselves to a new lipstick or nail varnish. So I agreed with the Apprentice you got fired team who commented that both teams really failed as they should have made a great profit from this task. However to do so they needed to have price competitive products and they should have started cutting price to get rid of stock much sooner than they did. Though still not sure what or who would have shifted those hair pieces.
For me the most important lesson of the task was location, location,location. Or was it listen,listen,listen? Tom who I like in a goofy sort of way immediately realised that the losing team had made a mistake chosing the central location which meant only one beauty room which was located three floors up from the main selling area. He tried to point this out to Felicity and the rest of the team. Did they listen no? Did it cost them the task? Yes. As the beauty expert said afterwards on BBC2 location is crucial here you have to be visible to your customers and letting customers then get distracted by other retailers on their way to try to find you three floors up was madness . So location,location,location was key here but also listen, listen,listen.
This then takes us to promotion a point I don’t think was considered by either team. Again the beauty expert on the Apprentice you’ve been fired programme said that in the beauty industry marketing is key and that is especially true if your beauty salon is three floors up and your are only in that location for one day. Promotion is not too be confused with bad sales techniques such as those carried out by Susan who took the desperate approach of lets just grab any passer-by we can and hope for the best. Either team could have produced flyers and some of the team could have distributed them round the centre. Don’t think they are allowed to do this but they could have done a very targeted Twitter campaign for the day. Targeting customers for example who follow those shopping malls on Twitter. Linked to this they could have looked at special promotions a beauty treatment and you get 50% off a beauty product etc (excluding the hair piece of course). Finally like one of the teams last year they could have found out if there was marketing available in the centres themselves. Like screens , Radio or TV.
So for me both teams failed on all 4 elements of the 4P’s with perhaps the winning team getting a bronze star for their location as I’m not convinced they made the best of it. So how did they both do on the customer element? Well again a star should be given to the winning team for the way they handled their customers in the beauty room and especially for the way they handled the lady whose appointment was running late. They really looked as if they cared which is so so important in any business but particularly in the beauty industry customers want to feel pampered and special. But overall the customer was not central to any of the team’s thinking and they should be at the heart of any business. From the start of a project right through to completion.
Leadership for me in this series of the Apprentice has been an issue. To date all those who have been fired have taken on a leadership role and tried to act as a team member not a leader and this quite simply does not work in business. It’s quite simply in the name a leader is there to lead. Felicity was no exception she wanted everyone to be happy with her choices and to help her make decisions when a leader is there to make the decisions. Yes listen to the team which again she didn’t ignoring Tom’s advice on the location but at the end of the day to make decisions. For this reason I think Lord Sugar was right to fire her. Zoe on the other team was a better leader and certainly more decisive but she made for me a fundamental mistake too. As a leader you have to at times let your team members know that they have not handled a task well. What you don’t do is do this in public or while the task is till on going. So I did agree Susan was not up to par she talked a good game but delivered very little. During the task Zoe should have directed her more which she didn’t and then sat her down at the end of the task and gone through it with her. But a public telling off in front of other team members and customers not a good idea at all. So for me to date lack of leadership skills has let down the candidates. Will this be a winning factor for the successful candidate time will tell.
Jim also had a poor week this week he did not shine and for the first time ever his smile was wiped off in the board room when Lord Sugar pointed out that a contribution of £14 was not something to be proud of. I still am clueless as to why the prize is to go into business and we don’t know yet their business ideas. Lord Sugar keeps muttering to the fired candidates that he couldn’t go into business with them and I keep asking myself but what business do the candidates want to go into? Does it suit your skill set Lord Sugar and what are their plans to make it successful? I do think this is a flaw in this series of the Apprentice.
In conclusion episode four no one really shone for me. Both teams should have made healthy profits but didn’t and to make a loss was a disgrace. From my perspective yet again the customer was not at the heart of the project, their was failure to consider the 4p’s of marketing, their leadership skills are in adequate but quite simply this task was lost on location, location, location or was it listen, listen,listen? And as for the hair pieces as my daughter would say a fashion disaster.