The Future Of Business – The Consumers New Found Power. It’s been said forever, the customer is always right. So why doesn’t business believe it, why don’t they practice it? Greed? Probably. I as a consumer, more than anything want accurate information, pure uninterrupted support, ease of access, and above all, the freedom to make a decision without being coerced, or sold.
It’s also been said, that a customers experience with a brand (product or service) is what determines the life span of a business. If it’s good, you get another day. If it’s bad, your days are numbered, it’s really that simple. It’s called Word Of Mouth, people talk, and now they talk to millions at the stroke of the keyboard.
The future of business is like the threat of an avalanche, a business can be wiped out as quickly, and it can grow equally as fast. Why? Word Of Mouth. The Consumer has new found power, many will abuse it, that’s human nature, but many will tell the truth. It’s the truth that’s the problem, it’s harder to deal with, it’s harder to make corrections when the truth is revealed. Those who abuse this new found power will be found out, and then will have to deal with the truth, it goes both ways doesn’t it.
Gerd Leonhard has said it, I have said, and many others have quoted it, we will have to learn how to trust the people formerly known as the consumer. Why? Because they have the new found power. Whether you believe it or not, that’s the truth in a nut shell, they can and will determine the future of your business. They don’t need to qualify, they don’t need permission, they only need an opinion. You and I have absolutely no control on how they will share that opinion. As a business owner, we have the opportunity to ensure it’s a positive opinion, there in lies the rub. We have to work hard for that positive opinion, and most of us don’t want to. We want to do just enough to reach our objectives, then get out before we have to work too hard.
I can only offer this, in order to build a legacy, to build a business that makes the world a better place, you have to plan and work hard to ensure that happens. If it’s just about making money, you’re looking at the wrong metric. Money is merely a means to an end, but the legacy, the world, it wants more from you than just handing over money. The new found power of consumers wants more, and will demand it, it will force you to be accountable, you will comply or pay the price of ignoring the new found power consumers have today. Their opinion matters, and you need to pay attention to it.
And that’s why telling the truth, honesty, sound products and services that deliver, and your integrity matter, it is the foundation that will help you build a legacy, a strong successful business. It sounds corny, and it sounds like hard work, that’s because it is. If it was easy, well you know the answer to that one.
The future of business will be built on this new found power of the consumer, they will determine whether you service or product is any good, they will determine if your recommendations actually solve their problems. Plan, work hard, and deliver. That’s how you will get on the good side of the consumers new found power.
Brands built without advertising, it sounds impossible right? I can’t imagine anyone saying you should never advertise, and when is not a good time to advertise? It’s a mystery for sure, but there are some huge brands out there that indeed did not advertise, and you know them very well. What a concept, that’s like saying, let’s give everything away and we will make money. Well, that is true also, competing with major companies by giving away core product and services is hard to walk away from, it’s even harder to compete against FREE.
But I’m not interested in talking about free, I want to talk about free from advertising, as in not advertising and still making billions. Imagine that, no advertising and creating a huge cash machine at the same time. How you ask, that’s the 64 million dollar question isn’t it? I mean, if you knew the answer, if we all knew the answer, we would have these mass fortunes ourselves. It’s not as simple as not advertising, but it’s close, it’s called Word Of Mouth, sound familiar? We practice it everyday on Social Networks.
Have you heard of Wayne Gould? He is the creator of Sudoku, the secret of Sudoku’s success was this, he offered the Times an endless supply of puzzles at no cost, there’s that FREE again. He offered the free puzzles with one request, that the times put a tiny credit on each puzzle, his website URL. Mr. Gould never purchased any advertising, it was a barter of sorts. The rest as you know it, is history.
Imagine this, you can’t just walk in a buy this car, you are selected. That’s right, no matter how much money you have or the position you hold will get you in the door. This brand has yet to purchase advertising, not one dime. Why? Because their customers are their marketing. They rely on word of mouth, special events and Social Media. The car? Ferrari.
With over 90 Billion in sales, this company has yet to purchase advertising, and you most likely are a card holder. COSTCO. Imagine gaining 66 million members that pay $55 or more for the privilege to shop, access to the COSTCO buying power is at your finger tips too.
This next one surprised me, The Body Shop. You’ve seen these stores everywhere, in every mall, and they don’t buy advertising. With no marketing department, they relied on one thing, a clearly stated purpose that the public could align their values to, not too mention word of mouth. With over 2,500 stores in over 60 markets worldwide, the business model seems to be working. I love this quote, I grabbed it off the Body Shop website:
“The business of business should not just be about money, it should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed.”
-Dame Anita Roddick. Human Rights Activist. Founder of The Body Shop.
As crazy as it sounds, using FREE and Word Of Mouth can build a massive brand, maybe even an incredible way of life for you and the many being served by your business. It’s all possible, it also comes with a price tag called work, lot’s of it. In building anything there is always some level of risk, but these are examples of how a simple idea can lead to something far bigger than you ever dreamed of.
You don’t have to build a business of this magnitude, but you can build a legacy that provides a modest living. What’s your dream dynasty, what does it stand for and against?
The conversation of Ubiquity makes the early adopters and experts cringe, it means quantity over quality. By that I mean, Social Media allows everyone to participate, be all things to everyone, build a niche, create a following and then brand. Part of the problem is Social Media attracts poor quality and mediocrity, not too mention the Spammers and unethical Internet Marketers. It will water down everything and make it harder to be found or heard because of all the noise.
Frankly, mediocrity is what we’ve had under the control model, big business, traditional marketing and so on. Social Media’s mass ubiquity model changes the control model, the control model deals with people formerly known as consumers. Today we all do things to get traction, to get attention and be heard. That traction is the result of engagement, exposure and attention. Whatever is good comes to the top. The key is to find the point of attention, being different and unique, that is not going to change.
It’s true the biggest challenge is the noise and staying on top of trends. Finding the point of attention helps solve that problem, there’s more to it of course but it’s a start. Filtering content these days is becoming more important than creating it, there is much to be done here, tools that make it easier and faster to filter content will help the best of the best rise to the top. One of the useful tools to rising to the top is being tagged & RT’d to be heard. RTs & Tags will play a huge role in identifying quality content and quality people.
So what does Mass Ubiquity mean? How does the cream rise to the top? It’s simple really, it’s based on Merit. I’m generalizing here but the masses will put you on Lists, RT your work, Tag you and Like you for the work you’ve done. These features will help you rise to the top. Measuring these indicators will be another interesting equation, but we have great people out there like Olivier Blanchard to make sure we focus on the right metrics.
RTs & Tags, these WOM (Word Of Mouth) tools and terms are becoming the secret sauce of Social Media Rock Star’s & Trust Agent’s we know today. But in the end, quality is good and crap is not. The RTs, Tags, Likes and Lists will work towards that end, manage your brand, do the right things and you will live long and prosper here on the Internet. Social Capital will be as important as real money. Why? Because we are in an extreme reputation economy, word of mouth matters more today than it ever has.
RTs & Tags – Will They Help You Rise To The Top?
What do you think?
Do you work for an organization that has multiple locations and or field staff, and do whatever HQ (the mother ship) tells you to do because that’s the way it is. You have to use their system, which tools to use, and they never ever ask you what you really need to get the job done right. If they do, nothing happens normally and the frustration continues. Are you continually fighting to be heard and have given up because HQ doesn’t seem to be listening?
There has always been a disconnect in most organizations with this kind of structure, mostly because they are out of sight and out of mind. It’s a long distance relationship, these relationships break down quickly and create a lack of trust for the reason’s I mentioned earlier. The key to solving this breakdown takes effort from all parties involved, but in the end, someone from Headquarters must take the time to truly care and put forward solutions for everyone not just HQ. Lip service is a short-term time buyer, but you will lose trust with remote locations and field staff if you don’t deliver, once again you will be part of the problem not the solution. CIO’s & I.T. Leaders must go to the distance, go to the remote offices and take inventory of the desired needs and the requested functionality. Sit down and truly listen so you can get a more accurate picture, this action alone can build trust just because you made the effort to invest in those that feel they’re not being heard.
This is an opportunity, not an opportunity to buy time, get votes or support, but to deliver or you are done. You are fighting politics, which means you must get the popular vote or life gets interesting.To do get the popular vote you must be a person of your word, that’s it! I didn’t say it was going to be easy, it’s the nature of people you are up against. Authoritative attitudes no longer have a place, organizations now are WOM (Word Of Mouth) driven and as you know, it can kill you just as fast as it helps you. As we get more and more connected Headquarters can no longer turn a blind I or just give lip service. Today’s Social Media Networks feed into instant gratification, we have made communication instant, meaning you don’t have the luxury of time anymore. Kill or be killed.
Businesses have a LifeStream and this stream is the tool of choice for the masses to share, to collaborate and make decisions. Beware the LifeStream, be aware that “we the people” are turning the tables, the power is no longer in the hierarchy of organizations…it’s at the ground level. The flattening is happening at a rapid pace all over the world, the Internet is the game changer and the people are not only watching, they are listening, and then they are acting. With this new found power, organizations must become more transparent, deliver on promises, and more importantly, treat staff the same as a valued customer.
So how do you get there, how do you make the shift? Each organization will figure it out in the traditional way before they get it right in a social way, they will deal with the squeaky wheel first before they sit down with the people and truly listen. I would recommend that CEO’s & Presidents instruct their CIO’s to go to the basement and find out what’s NOT working and what IS working, then present the findings to the Executives & Board if necessary. Don’t think in terms of a project or an ERP implementation, think of it as a way of getting your house in order, is the family happy and do they have what they need to ensure your success. The best way to do that is to go to them and ask, otherwise you will hear about it on Twitter, FaceBook and the like, the beginning of the end if your not careful.
The old lesson of STOP, LOOK & LISTEN comes to mind when dealing with your constituents throughout the organization, then add the word DELIVER when you have done the first three.