What can Alfred Hitchcock teach marine dealers?

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When times are good, as they are for the marine industry these days, we tend to get so complacent that we forget these are also the best times to invest in new ideas and ventures that might lead to new successes. After all, when business goes south, it often takes everything we’ve got just to stay afloat, never mind explore or move in a new direction.

So the story of Alfred Hitchcock and his classic thriller Psycho may have a lesson for all, according to Gini Dietrich, CEO of the integrated marketing communications firm Arment Dietrich, writing in her the Spin Sucks blog. Hitchcock epitomizes the success enjoyed if one realizes it’s important to take some risks.

In the film Hitchcock, there’s a scene where Alfred is lamenting to his wife, Alma, about being roundly rejected by Paramount Pictures for his desire to make Psycho (who can forget the shower scene?!) because it was such a departure from his previous movies. Though the film industry was notably in a slump, and Hitchcock even proposed fast-filming on a low budget, Paramount rejected him, claiming its sound stages were booked.

So Dietrich refers to the story that says Alfred and Alma were sitting by the swimming pool discussing the pros and cons of making such a movie anyway, particularly without a studio behind them. He builds the case for going back to making movies the way they did when they were younger. He looks around their property and suggests they should make the movie themselves.

It would, of course, mean putting everything at risk. “Even the swimming pool?” asks Alma. Alfred and Alma not only didn’t have to give up their swimming pool, but we know Psycho was one of Hitchcock’s best movies, nominated for several awards and considered one of the greatest films of all time.

For our purposes, Psycho is a genuine entrepreneurial success story. Think about it: Alfred and Alma were fat and happy. They were accustomed to getting their way in Hollywood. Hitchcock had success, respect and reputation. Still, everyone told him no. Audiences weren’t ready for nudity (the shower scene) or masterful suspense or large, expensive sets. But he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He forged ahead, risking his family’s comfort because he believed it was time to pivot with something new. He was right.

Dietrich emphasizes the point that it can be time to make changes and not ignore external factors that could be changing the game. “Stay hungry and flexible,” she says. “As you go about your day and you think about the changes happening in the industry, how can you use that information to make informed decisions about your strategy? These principles apply to your communications or marketing plan, your customer service, any HR activity and to your sales.”

Dietrich points to Blockbuster as a vivid example of what not to do when change is afoot. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Redbox were coming on the scene. But Blockbuster never veered from its old strategy. By 2002, the video-renting giant had more than 8,000 retail stores. Rather than launching a video streaming service, it focused only on retail stores. That landed them in bankruptcy, and by the time the Dish Network acquired them out of Chapter 11, there were only 1,700 stores remaining. We know what happened: Those stores went under, too.

And here’s a real shocker. Blockbuster actually had an opportunity to buy Netflix in 2000, develop video kiosks before Redbox and even had the inventory to beat other streaming providers to the punch. They did nothing. They focused only on the investment they’d made in the stores, a decision that made them fat and happy but ultimately brought down the company, according to Dietrich. “They didn’t take a calculated risk that would allow them to pivot and stay in business,” she explains.

As a leader in your dealership, it’s a key part of your responsibilities to carefully watch industry trends, take time to imagine new products, revise your marketing strategy and look for opportunities to expand and grow. Sure it’s easier to just be comfortable, but it’s much more rewarding to step up and grab new ideas for success, kinda like Hitchcock.


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