keeping your eye on key business issues (as I see it)
I get asked a lot about key issues facing businesses these days … some marketing people but mostly just business people wanting to talk about business <and being successful or the corollary … how to avoid doing stupid shit that will keep you from being successful>.
After having had this conversation several times I have narrowed it down to my big 5 <or little 5 depending on how valuable you may find this> when someone asks me the keys to having a successful business.
– lack of interest
Other people will have other things but these are mine. Why?
Well. I tend to believe if you pay attention to these 5 things your business will have a fighting chance of being successful. Not because these are brilliant insightful epiphany type business thoughts but rather these are the basics <with a twist> and they keep your head in the business game.
Let me explain them.
Meaningful differentiation is difficult if not impossible. It is more than features & benefits and it is absolutely more than sheer ‘puffery’ <the claim that we are unique and everyone will beat a path to our door>.
This is truly the challenge of what a really smart guy named Hugh McLeod calls ‘decommoditization.’ Most businesses simply begin from the wrong place. They either seek ‘white space’ in the competitive environment or they believe they are different and set out to tell the world about it.
That is good old school ideology.
But it is bad because it is old thinking.
In today’s more cynical world the mind’s perception map assumes everyone is equal until proven otherwise.
Every day a business is decommoditizing itself or it is slipping down the slippery slope to commodity.
Unless your business is lean hogs, rough rice, natural gas or soybeans <all commodity futures you can invest in> you better have your head focused on decommoditizing.
Business has always been about managing a bunch of moving pieces. Even small businesses.
The parts & pieces make up the whole. But managing the whole is unrealistic as well as shortsighted <as well as doesn’t really maximize the pieces & parts>.
All that said … keeping an eye on fragmentation is a nice simple business concept … well … with just about every aspect of a business.
<just some examples>
Fragmentation is bad. Why?
Because I can almost guarantee that 99% of the time fragmentation = unaligned.
And unaligned anything is bad in a business.
The easiest example is fragmented unaligned messaging. It is a common problem and it leads to fragmented brand <and lower brand value> and confused consumers <and lower sales>.
Heck. Fragmented messaging even confuses the organization <the employees>.
Brand messaging alignment leads to more efficient spend and increased sales <and a focused organization>.
The hardest example is a fragmented culture. A fragmented culture is ripe for structural corruption.
And by fragmented culture I mean “everyone articulates the company purpose or focus differently.” It may not be huge differences but this is like that stupid game you did when you were kids … lining up with Styrofoam cups linked by a string. The last kid will hear something through the Styrofoam cup but as they all throw the cups into the recycle bin they will all be discussing that they heard something slightly different.
<by the way … that is bad>
I tell most business that fragmentation management is an ongoing battle. Everyday a business will seek to break apart all on its own through inertia. Everywhere a leader goes he/she/it should be sniffing out fragmentation. Keep everything aligned and all will be good.
lack of interest:
People, in general, don’t care until they have to care.
I would like to point out that while we all say “the greatest thing since sliced bread” that sliced bread was not that great to people in the beginning … people just didn’t care about sliced bread … they liked what they had <unsliced>.
The corollary to that thought?
Everything is interesting at some point.
It’s all about uncovering the most relevant time to be relevant <and interesting>. Pick the wrong time and you waste $’s because the consumer just doesn’t care. Be interesting at the right time and the brand becomes relevant <and sales will increase>.
Whenever I bring this topic up … oddly <in general> … I find everyone gravitating to the ends of the spectrum … half believe whatever their widget is that everyone is interested in it … and the other half suggest the world has gone to hell in a hand basket and people don’t care about anything.
Assume people don’t care about what it is you want to tell them. And assume they don’t care about your product <until you do something wrong>. This is a good starting point for all businesses. It is also a great <overlooked> place for solid well known businesses to‘re-begin.’
Huh? Say what?!? You bet. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a well-known business have great awareness numbers <people know who they are> but those same people have very little to say in terms of details <this is often called empty awareness>.
And why does that happen?
Lack of interest. People just don’t care until they have to care.
Getting people to care <and how to decommoditize>.
So often we want to bludgeon people with our business … the ideas and why it is so good for you … and break through that ‘lack of interest’ barrier I just talked about.
It is tempting to do.
Loud noises show that you are making a big effort <not really … but it creates the perception of>.
Here is a truth … nudging is actually more effective.
– Can a Nudge Radically Change Shopping Behavior?
A professor at New Mexico State University ran a little ‘behavioral economics’ experiment at a local supermarket.
He placed a strip of tape across the middle of the grocery carts, and added a sign reading, “place fruits and vegetables in front of this sign, and other groceries behind it.”
This simple nudge doubled the amount of produce people bought — ten times more than any nutrition education did. Why? Because it established new social norms. People felt that it was now expected behavior that they’d buy that much produce.
This kind of nudge is brilliant and confounding: it’s remarkably effective.
Nudging is effective because it creates a behavioral shift without overt promotion, or bribes or any real loud noises.
Anyone can scream … ah … but those who can whisper? Worth every penny you can pay them. I don’t suggest that businesses solely rely on nudges … but I do suggest that building a business around the concept of nudging creates a behavioral pattern tied to whatever it is the business is offering. And that is a business foundation to build upon that can withstand the storms of competition and time.
By the way … nudging ain’t just for marketing … it is an excellent concept with regard to culture and business organizational behavior.
The truth is that not all people are created equal when it comes to building a successful business model. And that means within the organization as well as without.
Therefore it is not about how many friends you have but rather who your friends are.
This pertains to decommoditizing, creating interest, nudging, whatever.
And I hate to break the news to everyone … but this isn’t social <or being social> this is about connecting with people who matter and creating a connection <and a type of relationship>.
We hear a lot about the increasing importance of social media and being involved <or being left out> but the truth is that the idea of <social> connectivity is more important than discussing social media. Social media is simply a tool in your arsenal to connect with these important people <influencers>.
Businesses can thrive … as well as have a buffer for when they are being challenged … with a strong influencer base <internally & externally>.
I tell businesses to think quality versus quantity on this topic.
It is a boring old concept applied to a new idea.
Frankly it was good then … and is still good now.
These are not ‘one-offs’ but rather ongoing commitment checklist.
Great leaders, and the managers, in business almost have these imprinted on their brains as a filter for everything they see, hear, smell or just sense in general. I tend to believe businesses committed to these will probably end up in a pretty good place. They can certainly do other things <to have a ‘business success list’ would take pages I believe> but these 5 seem to work pretty well.