Having seen countless waves of business fads, I am wary of gurus who champion a single 'winning' factor such as CRM, outsourcing this, just-in-time that, or dare I say 'the latest thing' in marketing. If a consultant is touting a business elixir, you can be sure he's selling the recipe.
One of my great privileges as a business journalist has been the opportunity to interview a large number of business leaders from a broad range of industries, from defence to DM. A common trait among the most successful ones is the ability to simultaneously implement a lot of little things well.
Of all the business people I have ever met, one man stands out. He has made a mint across businesses ranging from mail order, publishing, leisure and manufacturing. I admire him because a) he's the first to admit that he never came up with an original idea, only implemented other people's ideas well and b) he doesn't act like a business genius with the Midas Touch, but stresses that he has always been lucky. (He is so upfront about this that he named his son Lucky.)
The fact he's a serial entrepreneur makes me think his success is due to his skill in implementing lots of activities simultaneously rather than luck. Making separate things work well is reflected in our case studies this month.
Norwich Union, although it was selling insurance to young adults, didn't just focus on the web, but used newspaper ads and emails to drive traffic to a microsite where visitors could calculate how much money they'd save by taking out a life insurance policy at a younger age. Press and email drove traffic in equal amounts and, surprisingly, nearly 800 people who had seen the print ad but couldn't remember the URL several days later used an online search to track down the offer.
Likewise British Gas was nothing if not efficient in a campaign to promote energy efficiency. It used in-house sales data, previous questionnaires, modelled them, and mounted a major campaign using direct mail, door drops and outbound calls. It then tested the efficacy of each channel.
Success today is more about being an orchestra conductor and making everything work together rather than relying on a star soloist.