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In the age-old quality-versus-cost race, quality—slow and sure—sets the pace. Cost bursts ahead regularly with discounts, exclusive offers and promises to save time. Sometimes it's difficult to tell who will win.

Take a quality contender, the library, for example. At the library, people can use highly effective public databases and other resources not found on the Internet to gather information. But people want everything NOW and forget about these substantial offerings. They regularly turn to cheaper or less time-consuming alternatives with no quality in sight.

Even if quality happens to beat cost across the finish line, people often do not invest the time needed for the best results from a complex product or solution.

SWOT Team, we seek your valuable advice for this issue's dilemma. How do you pitch quality over products that smell like a rush job and look and act cheap? How do you promote the best use of quality when a cost-driven solution takes less time?

Thanks, also, for your valuable advice on working together in a decentralized world. Read below to see your peers' best advice about how to improve communication between offices in different locations.

If you don't want to race, or are communicating fine “as is,” write to us and ask our SWOT Team about your own dilemma. Tapping into our collective experience, strength and hope really works. You could win a copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing.

SWOT Team Unite! Here's How You Can Make a Difference:

• Give advice about this issue's dilemma.

• Read your peers' responses to the previous dilemma (below).

• Submit your own dilemma.

This Issue's Dilemma

SWOT Category: External Opportunity/Internal Strength

How do you promote high-quality products that require time and dollar investments?

Our culture seems geared to using whatever is easiest, taking the path of least resistance. Our higher-quality library databases require a small investment of time in order to learn how to maximize their use. It is very hard to convince people this time spent is a worthy investment.

For example, how do I get my students and faculty to use my library's high-quality resources instead of the junk they find on the Internet using Google and other search engines? How do you compete with a product that sells ease of use, convenience, and requires little thought or effort—and gives immediate gratification—even if what you are getting is poor quality?

Could you please ask the for-profit businesses out there how they promote high-quality products, when their competition offers low-cost solutions?

—Steven Bell, Director, Paul J. Gutman Library, Philadelphia University

Previous Dilemma

SWOT Category: Internal Weakness

How can separate locations work more closely together?

I work for a global consulting company that has marketing departments that are decentralized. Financially, we're successful. However, in terms of structured and formal business and marketing practices, we are significantly weak.

The biggest challenges we face are team linkages and communication. We have several offices around the world that operate as individual profit centers, which in effect creates a mentality of “I'm going to do what's best for me and my office.”

I am looking for advice and recommendations on how the marketing team can work through internal struggles and politics to help our people work more closely together even though we are different locations. Any suggestions?

—Anonymous Marketing Manager

Summary of Advice Received

Greetings to the one who presented this dilemma. (You know who you are .) The interesting thing about the responses we received is that they directly reflect the essence of your dilemma: communication. It was not much of a surprise to us, therefore, that we received a wide variety of answers reflecting people's various communication styles.

The advice we received fall into the following categories:

1. Identify communication gaps.

2. Build a case to establish partnerships with peers in different locations.

3. Use more effective communication tools/techniques.

4. Review the rewards structure.

1. Identify communication gaps

The first step in making a change is admitting that you have a problem. Once you do that, devise a plan for determining where communication gaps lie. As you begin to understand how these gaps affect working relationships between locations, you can begin to formulate a solution.

Nancy Chou, Principal for Nancy Chou Marketing Consultants, recommends doing an organizational development audit to discover your organization's functional weaknesses:

By way of sharing my advice… One of my current client engagements is with a 17-year old hi-tech service-based company that is experiencing similar problems. The way our consulting team is helping that client may help you as well. We are taking three main steps to improve their situation:

• First, get a strong internal acknowledgement that there's a problem and it needs to be solved. If you are the only one/only few who perceives that the emperor has no clothes, your efforts won't work.

• Do an organizational development (OD) audit to identify where people/communications/skills gaps are.

• Complete a marketing and sales effectiveness audit, which not only points out functional weaknesses as manifested in sales/revenue performance, but more importantly, shows the critical connection between people, processes and business results.

2. Build a case to establish partnerships with peers in different locations

After you've identified your communication gaps, remember that communication takes a minimum of two parties. Therefore, it makes sense to foster the relationships between communicators, and find ways to enrich these relationships. Establishing connections between individuals in different offices can bring about a larger “team” connection between locations.

Claire-Juliette Beale, International Business Development Consultant for BDI, recommends building a business case for better global communication, then establishing partnerships with peers in key offices:

First, I would recommend you assess the strategic interest and demonstrate the value of structured and formal business and marketing practices of global scope for your company. In other words, what is to be gained by the company? Why change?

I would look at specific examples where interoffice marketing cooperation has already benefited the company, both at global and local levels (if you can't show benefits at the local level, you will never get local support). I would also look at competitors and the ways in which they may be developing an advantage (increasing awareness, winning clients and projects, etc.) by taking a more global marketing approach.

Once you have built the case (and you may find that it is not as strong as you thought), I suggest you look for internal sponsors willing to back you up in what is likely to be a fairly tedious task to manage the change and the mentalities. If you have a very strong case and top management support, the best way to break the barriers might be through the launch of a new global marketing project. However, this is likely to be difficult in the environment you describe (consulting and financially successful). So your best bet might be to build momentum for a more global practice by establishing partnerships with likeminded peers in key offices and showing with quantifiable results how the company (globally and locally) wins.

Peter Byrne, Principal Consultant for P&B Partners, builds on this strategize-then-partner technique and suggests partnering with local offices to help them reach both local and global goals:

Your issues seem to break into two separate sections:

1. Is there a common global brand and brand strategy for your business and should there be a common communication of this? First you need to determine if this is a strategy that will help overall ROI for your global consulting company. If you have local success with local marketing and branding, then it might be better to have those local offices do what is best for them and the office. If you can convince leadership that global communication would be more appropriate for the organization, they will need to empower someone to lead this initiative. Local offices will need to be made aware of this strategy and a full effort made to implement the structured practices that you desire.

2. How can the marketing team work to help people work more closely together? This is a separate issue that requires your efforts in ensuring that your marketing team can add value to a local office's efforts. Take the consulting approach, determine their needs, send a proposal and gain agreement on how you will deliver this project. Work with them to help them succeed at the local level, while bringing the added value from your office.

3. Use more effective communication techniques/tools

After you agree there is a problem, build a business case and begin partnering with peers in different locations, using one or more of the following communication techniques and tools may improve your situation. This kind of advice provided by the SWOT Team includes common-sense communication techniques as well as new software tools and global conferencing, which can change your worldwide locations into virtual offices.

An anonymous team member advises the following three techniques for improving communication between locations:

  • An internal weekly e-update

  • Monthly brainstorming meetings

  • Encouragement of open dialogue

Paula Gaull, Marketing Communications Manager for Groove Networks, Inc., enlightens us about a software tool that can bring decentralized offices together:

There are actually tools out there made to help with just this sort of business challenge. The real, practical advice I am trying to give is based on a groundbreaking software tool. This software is designed to make people who are working on distributed teams feel as though they are working in the same office. It gives you a place to meet and share documents, discussion and information in context. What's important is that it becomes your virtual office. By creating a common place to meet and share ideas, you become one community or team, rather than lots of disjointed ones.

In a similar vein, Gary Rosensteel, COO of Vevolution, recommends developing a global team:

The first thing to do is actually create a global team, as it appears there now are a number of mostly autonomous teams. I would propose to the local marketing people that it would be a great idea to share success stories via an informal global marketing group. This would allow everyone to enter the process on a positive note and with the expectation they might be able to pick up some good ideas. This could be done via a Web or phone conference and would start establishing a feeling of “we're part of a bigger world” feeling.

Assuming that this session is successful, the next step should be consideration of what marketing efforts would be best handled on a group (corporate) basis and which should be addressed locally—the stated objective being to maximize the effectiveness of everyone's marketing. Approaching marketing coordination in this manner presents it in a very non-threatening and individually beneficial manner. It should be easy for all participants to realize that this will help them and the company.

4. Review the Rewards Structure

As you change your current communication structure keep in mind how people are being rewarded for their behavior. It may be in your company's best interest to find a way to reward people for working together, rather than competing against each other for most profit earned per location. Putting a rewards system in place will ensure your global communication efforts continue to improve.

Brian Ward, Principal for Affinity Consulting, offers this:

The behavior—“I'm going to do what's best for my office”—that has developed over the years came about because certain conditions caused this behavior to become habitual. Those same conditions will, if left in place, cause those habits to be reinforced and maintained. So the key question is, “What are those conditions?”

One such type of condition is consequences. The consequences that follow from “ding what's best for my office” obviously support that behavior, because if they didn', the behavior would be extinguished quickly. So examine the consequences that follow the behaviors, not just the behaviors. For example, how are people rewarded? If each location is its own profit center and is rewarded solely or predominantly on financial outcomes, you will get behaviors to match, which will typically support the development of a silo mentality.

Seek ways to change the reward structure. You may not be able to do a lot in this regard, but at least raising this issue will cause some awareness to surface, and maybe someone in a position to take action on the consequences will sit up and take notice!

Way to Come Together Swot Team!

We did our best to provide a thorough overview of your thoughtful responses, which can have a major impact on those affected by this situation. Thanks for your participation, and if you would like the complete text of all responses for your own analysis, please click here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.

Tamara is a writer at InternetVIZ and is available for freelance work.