I’m running a little behind this week as I catch up on business demands, but we’re getting into the home stretch on this Book Discussion about Victor Cook’s Competing for Customers and Capital. Best of all, we’re reaching the point in the book where there’s a significant payoff for the hard work of wrapping your brain around new concepts that involve numbers.
I’m going to launch a discussion now of Chapter 6 (you can find a supplemental narrated PowerPoint here), which is a fantastic case study for applying the Rule of Maximum Earnings to an analysis of one of the world’s most infamous corporate corrections–IBM’s dramatic loss of market share during the 90s, and the rise of Dell. There are many ways to retrospectively read that market’s evolution and IBM’s fall, but in the context of a theoretical Maximum Earnings threshold that IBM substantially overreached, it has substantial value in highlighting the strategic importance of Enterprise Marketing. It’s interesting to me that at the time, Gerstner and his financial team figured out that they were dramatically overpaying for market share and a made many controversial moves to correct it, but the conventional wisdom still suggests that the real problem was manifest during the fall from the pinnacle of market share, rather than any problem, like over-investment, during the climb to the top.
One thing that seems to be a challenge in the application of the Enterprise Marketing framework relates back to chapter 3, and the definition of a strategic competitive group. IBM’s competitive group changed substantially during the 1990s, from a significant focus on systems and components to a focus on software and professional services. Microsoft and HP are two other 800-pound gorillas with such a diversified portfolio of products, it’s hard to shoe-horn them into any single competitive group, where the Enterprise Marketing expenses can be assumed to be evenly distributed over their various product categories.
Given the value of the Enterprise Marketing framework, I wonder if there are any potential strategies to unwind some of the financial data in ways that could shed more light on the various Enterprise Marketing expenses within a single companies product portfolios? I know it’s not a perfect solution by any means, but could enterprise-wide SG&A expenditures be allocated proportionately to various product groups based on group revenues, so that some comparison to other pure-play businesses in the strategic group could be made? I know each product group would probably have different levels of product marketing efficiency, but how different would you expect the corporate marketing efficiency to be across product groups?