There’s a problem with how performance is measured by both ourselves and in our organisations. Typically you have a budget and targets to achieve. The purpose of the budget is to make sales go up, or waiting times go down. Our systems are designed to judge and reward us on results. If the campaign you authorised sold more t-shirts last quarter then that’s a win. But if the only way you can get sales to go up is to spend money on a campaign to make sales go up, then you’re going to have to keep spending money on campaigns to make sales go up.
I’ve seen brand mangers ride the wave of fantastic public awareness campaigns that boosted their results in the short term, only to see sales come crashing back down a couple of months later as the awareness they had engineered evaporated along with their advertising budget. And so the cycle perpetuates. They spend more to get more. While it might keep some businesses and ad agencies afloat for a little while this is not a sustainable strategy. There is no shortcut to mattering to your customers.
It’s a lot harder to justify building little by little for the long term, because we are constantly measuring and measured by short term results. If you apply for a promotion or a new post your employer wants to see the sales figures, she needs metrics as proof that you’ve done your job. And so we work hardest of all to give others (and ourselves) something to measure. We look for quick wins and easy targets which reinforce the notion that we’re doing our job. Sometimes we just end up measuring the wrong things and in doing so we subconsciously demonstrate to the people we should be serving that we’re not in it for the long haul.
When Warby Parker released it’s first fun and quirky annual report it led to their three biggest sales days at the time. Something that was designed to delight customers became an accidental marketing tool.
“It very much fit into our philosophy of being transparent. We find the more information we share, the more vulnerable we are, and that sharing the positive and the warts—the deeper relationship we build with our customers.”
—Neil Blumenthal Co-Founder Warby Parker
What if we optimised our businesses, our organisations and our cultures for relationships first and results second? What is we focused less on creating awareness and more on generating trust. What if we traded quick wins for loyalty? What if we stopped trying to be seen and learned how to see instead?
What might the real gains be then?
Image by Stavos.