Most organizations and brands don’t develop and communicate their full business and product value consistently. There's never time to do it all, or know it all. Business size varies, but the appetite for growth is ever present.
From my experience — 50 percent corporate (mostly global brands), 50 percent agency / consulting — 100 percent customer focus is hard to pull off in action. B2B and B2C have gaps in different places, even with the best of intentions.
The gaps are there because we're constantly negotiating trade-offs — what technology to buy and implement when, who should be on our team, and how we get work done. The closer we are to the problem, the more it impacts us. The more we focus on it and the ramifications for us.
If you work inside a large organization, your problem is likely breaking through silos to coordinate effort, getting on with many others to make the approval process smoother, and deliver on time. Everyone ultimately reports to the people who buy our products and services, but internal customers may create a certain distance from having a direct sense of what matters to the people who use our product.
Maybe a metaphor helps. While the speed of change is harder to feel standing on the deck of a large ship, aboard a small sailboat every new wave and wind direction keep us on our toes. The closer we are to the problem, the more we learn what works to stay afloat.
How businesses respond to trends
Every day, small business owners and entrepreneurs are close to more than one problem that could make or break them. This is true across the board — online and offline. Technology keeps changing how people research, learn, compare, and buy products. Changing expectations and trends affect everyone, but some people feel them the most.
Entrepreneurs and small businesses feel the trends with accelerated pace, yet every organization should be on the lookout for new market developments. Trends have the potential to influence a market long-term. They're the observable things that happen as a result of consistent actions over time. Easier to see them looking back then looking forward. Because it's hard to predict exactly what happens as a result.
In Megatrends, John Nasbitt says that each new technology, to be successful, must be coupled with a compensatory human response. Thirty years later, we can tell the trends because they endured in our culture. We can then safely assume that technology acceleration has impact on the human side — even when its effects may be delayed in some areas.
Today, customers drive the need for increased investment in the parts of marketing that are closer to the business — product, service, and company behavior
All trends signal a rise in expectations that companies will walk the talk and deliver on the glossy marketing promises, the offers, promotions, and all that jazz. This could mean improving product and how we work. But often it's about doing better at communicating what is already there.
Some trends that have been accelerating in the last couple of years:
- transparency — this doesn't just mean coming clean about business practices. Clarity about who we are and what we do creates value. Making a good product that people need is a more important part of marketing. Doing something newsworthy a better path to good PR.
Transparency makes the trust leap possible. It helps the people who have the problem, and it helps a brand stand out from the noise of shiny objects and clever positioning. In a sense, trust is the new transparency.
- personalized experience — where companies and customers co-create the elements in the relationship. Many established organizations had user groups and forums where people helped each other with answers and support.
In 2011, Amazon rolled out Ask and Owner feature in product pages. “From a product page, customers can ask any question related to the product. [...] We then route these questions to owners of the product,” says Bezos. “In addition, Amazon also emails owners - Email questions come from 'Amazon Answers' (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the subject line, '(First Name): Can you answer this question about (product)?'”
There's a case for customer communities. Customer communities work because they make a business smarter and the experience more valuable for everyone. In fact, reinventing the customer relationship drives growth.
- high-touch service — the more we're online, the more we want and need to get offline with people in real life. Evidence of this trend is the proliferation of in person events, which is why it's both difficult to know about them all, and near impossible to capture them in a system so people can discover them.
High tech calls for high touch as compensatory value. Instructions manuals, guides, playbooks are good tools, but they're still do-it-yourself and require energy to figure out how to apply them to very specific situations. They're often more useful as leave-behind and reminders or cheat sheets after a workshop. Customers are our heroes, and we are the guides.
- tailored services — the concept of concierge services is fairly established in the travel and entertainment industry. There's a place for it in digital environments in the form of ambient concierge to orient and reconnect business with people by addressing specific knowledge in hands-on formats.
There are other applications of this concept.
Rather than focusing on solutions in search of a problem, successful small businesses and consulting agencies form around a problem and help address it at every step. The ultimate do-it-for-me experience is one hand-crafted for a specific organization.
As technological development accelerates and permeates human cultures, the value of individually hand-crafted items rises. The interest in owning hand-made items, and in making things with one's own hands, increases in parallel.
Globalization and localization are in conversation with each other — each force pulling its weigh as the laws of physics would dictate. Why? Because where we live and what happens there matter to us as much as the possibilities of expanding our horizons and trading all over the world.
It's not an exhaustive list, but it can help us move in the right direction of realizing more value for customers and the business. We can benefit from a more inclusive culture and an open mindset. But beyond inclusion, we should seek opportunities to make an impact and influence outcomes.
If you need a hand with multi-cultural, multi-channel strategy and execution, product / service market alignment and communication, I wear many hats and can hit the ground running.
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