Some owners would like to summon more customers into their store, others would like to close more lucrative deals, still others hope that their web site would convert more visitors into buyers.
All of these wants are completely valid. The selfish motivation of these business owners is the energy that drives the gears of our economy. But what about the grease?
Earlier today a friend of mine mentioned the age-old adage “it is the squeaky wheel – that gets the grease”. While he was busily running past his analogy and on to another subject, in my mind I was constructing some thoughts that were entirely different. So what is this grease that you speak of? Well.. let’s check the Bash Foo Dictionary::
Grease: n [griːs] is the set of decisions, procedures and actions (or non-actions) that we take to make our business more available and more attractive in order to increase the volume or velocity of cash flow.
– from the Unabridged Dictionary of Bash Foo
While you might contend that this is not the true definition of the word, you probably are nodding that it makes sense. Often company owners are left clueless as to why their sales or marketing people take any of the actions they do as they all seem tangential to cash flow. So, why can’t marketing folks just work on projects that involve grease? If I knew that, I’d have to kill you. No really… I would have to kill you.
They have identified the action or combination of actions to take that increase the volume or velocity of cash flow. For instance, WalMart is successful thanks to being ever present, always having what you need in stock and ensuring that they receive the lowest price from their suppliers. WalMart’s financial statements bear out that WalMart does a terrible job of increasing the volume of their cash flow, however their velocity of cash flow (items of small margin but with large quantity) is unmatched. Nike on the other hand does a fantastic job of taking a shoe that costs maybe $8US to produce and selling it to us for $129US. They are masters of cash flow volume however they are not even sold where cash flow velocity (WalMart) is king.
Those businesses that have identified what the “grease” is for their product or service won’t ever share with you what the formula is for their success. They may hint at it or provide a shotgun description of their process but they will never reveal it. The great thing about grease, is that it is very simple to manufacture, is available from a variety of sources and only requires someone with a relentless desire to succeed to find it.
Back to the definition… The actionable items in the definition of grease is “making our business more available and more attractive”. Consider the first adjective.. Available. WalMart is a good example of a company that makes their goods readily available to consumers.. everywhere. If you recall, they are the masters of Velocity. Now.. Consider those businesses that make their products most attractive. Ethan Allen Furniture, Gucci Handbags, Diamond Jewelry. All of these items, while magnificent to look at, come at a high price (and large margin) and these companies all are kings of cash flow Volume.
What if your company is currently struggling with cash flow? While I cannot provide you with the formula for success of your business, I can suggest that you take steps to modify your cash flow Volume or Velocity through changes to how you market the Availability and Attractiveness of your products or services.
If your margins per sale are high, but your # of sales each day are low.. consider increasing the Availability of your products. Are they catalog-only sales? Do you have enough on hand to meet every request? Can you demonstrate that better to the consumer? If it is a catalog sale, can you deliver it in 7 days or does it have to take 14 days? (I love seeing a single handbag on a pedestal at Coach.. It may be the only one they have in the store!) The last change that I suggest would be to lower your prices to make your products and services more Available to a larger group of consumers. While it is one way to do it, it may be unsustainable in the long haul as it could cause your brand leadership to fail. If else all fails however… reductions in price will increase Availability.
If your products and services are flying off the shelf because you found a way to make them available to every possible consumer out there, you are raking the cash in.. one penny at a time. If you struggle with a situation like this, consider making the products and services you sell more Attractive. Watch how Proctor and Gamble deal with the hundreds of toothpastes on the market. They have saturated the market with brand after brand and have shot themselves in the foot by doing so. Now, their marketing tactic to combat the $1.75 tube of toothpaste that works just fine is to come out with an ELITE toothpaste, one that 11 out of 10 dentists recommend. One that will make your teeth whiter just by bringing the tube in close proximity to your mouth. For this.. they can charge $14.99 a tube. Now every $1.75 tube will have to compete with their new premium pasty elixir for the mouth. You too can help out your measly margins by making your product more attractive, strategically highlighting its advantages or demonstrating it in a unique way that makes people take pause. (a construction worker super-gluing his hardhat to a steel beam is one good example)
Good luck with it. And if you find your grease.. Drop me a line and share your story.