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The Responsive Vs. Reactive Business Conundrum

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

Every sustainable business was built in response to an unmet need. These responsive businesses endure because they evolve with the customer they intended to serve. The likes of fidget spinner manufacturers don’t count. You can rattle off a dozen responsive companies that have launched in the past two decades, particularly in the digital space. Brands like Airbnb, Alibaba, Amazon, Uber, Warby Parker and Zendesk have thrived because they solved real problems and built products and services people wanted and came to love.

As startups and disruptors, responsive businesses begin on a level playing field strategically, what happens next depends on the path they take to achieve growth and scale. The companies that lose ground following some success are the ones that become reactive to the marketplace. Now, instead of staying true to their original intention to meet the needs of a customer with a particular worldview, the focus shifts to the competition. And bit-by-bit their priorities change and the strategy subtly shifts. Their ethos gets watered down. They start thinking, then behaving like their competitors, and they lose the edge that made them authentic, exciting and innovative—those qualities that attracted customers to them in the first place.

The business failures we witness at both local and global levels from Billabong to Kodak, are a result of a responsive business becoming reactive. Ironically the growth and scale we seek (no matter what size of company we run), happens when we remain true to our intention to do work we’re proud of in the service of people whose needs and desires are not being fulfilled. We’re witnessing a shift where incumbents like the big banks and chain stores also realise whoever gets (and stays) closest to their customer wins. Now more than ever, remembering and acting on that has got to be the number one priority for every business.

Image by Alan Levine

Design Your Business For The Outcome You Want

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

Think about a delighted customer and the ten people she will interact with today.

What’s the story you want that customer to share with someone about you, your product or service?
How do you want them to describe the change you enabled?
What words do you want them to use?
How do you want them to feel?

Now think about all of the things you spent your time on today.

Are the things you’re working on helping you to get to the place you described above?
What needs to change for you to get to where you want to go?

Image by Andrey

A Simple Way To Think About The Value You Create

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

When it comes to communicating our value, we begin by describing the features and benefits of what we make, serve or sell. That’s why we often end up with a laundry list of claims that our competitors could make.

There is an alternative. Flip this thinking on its head and reflect on what would happen if your product or service didn’t exist. What would the customer’s world look like without you and your particular way of working or serving?

Try telling that story.

Image by Daniel Lee

The Exponential Value Of Being More Human

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

Everyone was surprised to hear the longer than usual customer service announcement as we were preparing to land in Los Angeles. Many people on board were catching connecting flights to different cities in Australia, and there’s always a little anxiety amongst passengers who are trying to make those connections. The typical announcement informs passengers to check the departures board or see the ground crew on arrival at the gate. This one was different.

The Qantas Customer Service Manager directed us to turn left at the top of the airbridge. He let us know that the aircraft for our connecting flights were in bays close by and told us exactly how far we’d have to walk. He gave us gate numbers and approximate time from our landing to the next flights departing.

The effect of his thoughtful service was magic. Passengers relaxed, their anxiety immediately dissipated. The atmosphere on board was happy and calm. Now instead of having to repeat the same message to different passengers twenty times over, the crew was free to prepare for landing. All because people were seen and understood and their unmet needs were anticipated and fulfilled.

We spent an estimated $600 billion on marketing and advertising in 2017. An Airbus A380 costs half a billion dollars. The cost of this announcement to Qantas is zero. The return on a five-minute investment in happy passengers who remain loyal to the airline is exponential.

Not all marketing investment has a price tag. There’s a lot we can do to help our businesses to be more successful that costs nothing but the willingness to be more human.

Image by Bernard Oh

The Two Questions At The Heart Of Great Marketing

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

The kind of marketing we practice is a result of what we’re most curious to know about our customers. Many marketing campaigns are created by asking the following questions:

A. What will they buy?
B. How can we get them to buy?

The resulting tactics become about near-term targets, buying more attention and competing on price. The brands that succeed in telling stories that resonate start by asking different questions:

A. Why do they buy?
B. How do they buy?

Successful brands like IKEA and ZARA started with the right questions. Their marketing strategy centres around long-term goals, creating loyalty and building brand equity. They care enough to do the hard work of anticipating the customer’s needs and fulfilling her sometimes unspoken desires.

We get to decide what questions are worth asking.

Image by Marcus Linder

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