Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes

Acknowledging that the world is changing is a start. Many say to not innovate is to die, but the biggest threat to everyone is the fear itself to innovate.

Fear is the only thing that stops us from moving forward.

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According to Edward E. Lauder on Built For Change, over 49% of companies at the top of Fortune 500 in 2000 were no longer there in 2010. Similarly, it has been estimated that 70% of Fortune 1000 companies today will be replaced in the next few years. However, many people attribute this change solely to technology and the changes to our increasingly connected world and its apparent impact spreading across all aspects of our lives. Heard too many times around the water cooler…. how digital is changing the business model. Frankly, it’s a big Y-A-W-N.

SPOILER: Technology is not the answer, it’s only part of the answer.

If a business is consistently embracing new technology, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is creating meaningful experiences! To quote Brian Solis, “Fixation on technology isn’t the catalyst to bring about business transformation.”

So, why are so many companies ceasing to exist? Famous brands from the the likes of Compaq, Blockbuster, Kodak to Borders Bookstore who once held rich business heritages and statures in their own right, have seemingly disappeared from our high streets but more importantly they have lost their purpose in our lives.

It is in my belief that there is a new cost of doing business. There needs to be an investment in building relationships and creating relevance. These companies have simply lost their relevance (with consumers), and in the end… in themselves. All too often, by the time you realise that change is needed and you must shift to a new way of thinking, it is already too late.

It is no longer the survival of the fittest, but rather the survival of the fitting.

When a business is impersistent to break through resistance, it earns the failure it deserves. Why am I so harsh and unforgiving? It’s because fundamentally a business change can only come from senior leadership. They are the ones best positioned to address such a large-scale change, and we know, to change takes two things: the aspiration and the determination to change. If they are not brave enough to drive a real transformation, talking change is cheap.

(Wonders of a blog, I will certainly be remembering this if I find myself in the position to influence change…)

We now operate in a new era of consumerism, where the customer experience is paramount. For businesses working to shift behaviours and embed new habits, a new business model is needed to generate genuine market value – and this value has to be based on genuine appeal. Consumers are no longer expecting a better experience; they now believe they are entitled to it. For a business to truly get closer to consumers, it takes a culture of consumer-focus, empowerment, innovation and adaptation. Businesses must recognise that the voice of the empowered consumer is more powerful now than ever before, and they will inevitably find negative experiences which businesses need to prepare for.

Customer-Service-Cartoon1First and foremost, look inward. The brakes on any business are in the areas where we don’t want to discuss. Often problems are great blessings, they are also opportunities to change.

In Brian Solis’s latest book “What’s the future of business”, he explains 10 principles that serve as a framework for an adaptable business model. I, in turn have chosen to highlight four of these principles which I feel form the basis of any change a business should go through.

1. It starts with vision. The age-old outlook of a business direction needs a review. 

What’s your point? Effectively, this is your business’s story. The reason why the story counts, and not the execution or the channel, is the “what”, not the “how” that should be the starting point. Therefore, branding is now very important and not to be underestimated in my books. A brand today is defined as much by the people who don’t buy the product, as it is by its existing customers.

A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person – Jeff Bezos

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Because consumers are now more informed and discerning than ever before, there is a unique opportunity for brands to sell the “truth”. We have seen big brands try to understand this; from the early days of P&G and their theory of FMOT (first moment of truth), to SMOT (second moment of truth – really?) , and more recently Google’s ZMOT (zero moment of truth) to Brian Solis’s UMOT (ultimate moment of truth) in 2013.

This is where I have an issue. To me, there is no such thing as a single truth, especially when it is channel related. My truth is different from your truth, and your truth is different to your neighbour’s and so on. What is important is, the truth resides in faith. What mattes most is what people believe.

So as a brand, give them something to believe. People are loyal to promises.

In the words of BJ Cunningham, business speaker and branding expert, he says:

Be the highest expression of who you really are…And make that your Brand

Brands that fail to instil a level of confidence in their consumers run the risk of failing.

2. Develop a strategy that builds deep relationships with the consumer.

Align your business objectives with meaningful experiences. Creating a customer-focused culture of this nature is a business opportunity that should not be overlooked. If you want to win people over for life, care about them.

Always remember:

Love what you do                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Love where you do it                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Love who you do it with                                                                                                                                                                                                    

and more importantly, love who you do it for

Most businesses are failing when it comes to the consumer experience, not because these businesses do not value this relationship, rather it just takes too long to build. The old saying goes, time is money… right? Another reason why most businesses are afraid to embark on this journey is measurement. Can you really measure consumer experiences, and even if so, how effective will that be? We know any business going through a change is often bound by ROI measures.

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As a result this creates a paradigm shift, because consumers are perhaps a business’s most important asset. For any company to improve, the overall consumer experience is vital for continued success and survival. It’s about creating a sustainable competitive edge.

If a business cannot provide an experience that would bring value into the consumers’ lives, chances are they will not be interested in your brand.  What consumers want (if they consciously know it or not) is not more stuff, because the best things in life are not “things”, they are experiences, and how we feel about things. That’s where the value truly is.

So, when times are tough, find friends and establish deep meaningful relationships. These relationships will be ones that will carry you through the hard times. It holds true both in life…and in business.

3. Empower people to drive culture changes.

Values drive priorities and decisions, which are reflected in how a business spends its time and money. Comparatively young companies such as Google and Facebook to older companies such as GE, P&G and Apple reinvent themselves again and again because they spend generously on being entrepreneurial, promoting creativity and encouraging continuous learning. These values manifest themselves in how people behave, more than in how they speak. Hence, it is pivotal employees aspire to a higher purpose, and those who try are supported. This is what separates mediocrity from performance and relevance.

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4. Innovation is fundamental to the survival of tomorrow’s business, today. 

A one-dimensional strategy isn’t enough to truly stand out. It takes leadership and courage to do and see what others won’t or can’t. Or worse, competitors recognise this before you, and by default pushes you into a position where next steps are impulsive, reactive rather than strategic.

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Markets change over time, that is a fact. Disruptive market forces will alter existing paradigms and allow for the establishment of new ways of doing business while also opening up the potential for businesses to fail. It is when markets shift, you have choices. Sooner or later, your consumers will decide for you.

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