the way forward
New CCO Joanne Harris
outlines vision & strategy
Last week we visited Joanne Harris, Chief Commercial Officer of Staples Business Advantage who joined from consumer brand powerhouse P&G almost a year ago. We discussed the new vision, strategy & differentials the new team will bring to the busines supply market. Updated
We first met Joanne initially at the Worklife Live event in October with sales chief John Guerin (pic right on right) when she addressed 200 customers including key vendor; then arranged a face to face meeting:
Our Q&A session covered 7 points:
- The transition from top consumer brand to P&G to B2B reseller Staples. Key challenges/differentials?
P&G had recently announced impressive Q3 results and we discussed how its relentless 'consumer' focus translated to the challenges faced at Staples Business Advantage.
"The customer landscape is changing from C level dominated decisions to greater user decision maker involvement. Our challenge is to reach out to more business users".
• How will you approach this challenge given the difficulty of brand recognition with users? "We believe our retail stores are key to brand recognition and our sales and marketing reach with the new Worklife strategy"
- The Worklife strategic vision. Please explain?
"Our goal is to create a culture of inclusion and help wire customers to max employee retention and productivity. We're taking a long term overarching view to help clients drive a cost reduction strategy by increasing their reliance of Staples service" enthused Joanne.
We love the vision, but initially the perception of Staples will be about products supply not grand vision.
What is Staples doing about the basics?
- Is this strategy built on solid service ground?
Over recent years, since the #SPLODGE Office Depot takeover debacle started in 2015, Staples was diverted from its Reinvention/2020 strategy and started scaling back its customer service standards to max profits. As a result together with the Sycamore acquisition in 2017, and subsequent sales force cuts, Staples reputaion was at an all time low. How will you rebuild the basics in order have a springboard for Worklife?
"We have completely reviewed our customer service standards to get closer to customers, reviewed and restored or webstore experience, inc. mobile; and reorganised our sales force so that we can rebuild from a solid base. It's a work in progress" confirmed Joanne
- The sub brand aka Private Label strategy. Fighting history?
We have already expressed doubts about your private label strategy in business supply. Staples abandoned the same strategy in the 90's in favour of the Staples brand. Corporate Express tried and failed. Lyreco tried and failed. OfficeMax famously failed in 2009 because brand recognition on office supplies was with the original brand. How will you revise history?
"In conjunction with our brand designers we've created consumer driven brands that carry distinctive benefits and differentials. Our sales and marketing teams will max advertising, emarketing, social media to drive home the benefits"
But is this just a giant rebranding PR exercise to impress potential investors that a revolution is happening ahead of an IPO planned for next year? "CEO Sandy Duncan (pic right) is committed to real growth and has convinced Sycamore to back this strategy. We're fully committed!"
- Full business supply service. How deep and personal?
How broad will the Worklife strategy be in terms of broadline business supply range? "No details given"
- Salesforce cuts, training and development
Please confirm sales force cuts in recent weeks. "Polite No" We estimate sales force cut down by 1000 to an approx. 3000 including internal sales teams. We estimate sales are down 5% this year to approx $9.5Bn.
"We have emabarked on a sales traing programme to reinforce listening and consultative skills with specialist agency Miller Heiman. The objective is to inspire sales growth not just be informational transactional sales people."
- Organic growth or Acquisitions? MPS dealers via Dex platform?
"A combination of organic and acquisitions" Most probably using the managed print/tech platform of Dex and adding to that hub, we interpolated.
To be reviewed and supplemented shortly