But to find and grow a market for anything — whether green products or new health delivery plans — means staying close to what users can adopt easily and then leading them to the next iteration.
— Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Find the 15-Minute Competitive Advantage, (Harvard Business Publishing, 9:26 AM Monday November 9, 2009)
This article just made its way through my Twittersphere. The steps to success approach is certainly valid. Quite honestly, I clicked through thinking the piece would discuss personal empowerment, branding, and leadership. (That had more to do with the day’s tweets than the author’s title.)
Instead, she coins a great process description for marketing and business enterprises overall: “revolution/evolution.” In short, introducing change (i.e., advantages) that customers can adopt naturally and with enthusiasm. What perfect sense. As marketers, that’s what we do. Sell…resell…expand selling…and so on. Empowering customers to pre-approve the enterprise’s growth makes absolute sense.
At first, I thought of the many product innovations Starbucks launched thanks to loyal customers. Something as simple as that green stopper that keeps your hot beverage from dribbling over your right-from-the-cleaner outerwear. But then, on reflection, that’s closer to open-source, crowdsourced enterprise building. No, instead, my takeaway is that Moss Kanter describes a model of:
All of which leads to consensus and greater loyalty. While customers may not be 100% behind the change, or all parts of it, they’ll be loyal to the company because they were listened to. Something on the order of closed-loop enterprise building. That’s quite understandable and admired.
Given my background in direct marketing and customer acquisition, Moss Kanter’s remarks are especially valid (pardon my modification of a terminal adjective, but this is a blog after all). Certainly not in the tactical sense or in the fully scientific model. Perhaps best described as cultural economics and the business model of win-win. The more you do for customers, the more they’ll do for you. And so on and so forth. It’s about sincerity, authenticity, and openness.
1. Walk alongside your customers
- Jim Kobs offered a wisdom. Remember that every ad, even if it doesn’t get a response today, improves the potential for response later on. He must have been on to something as he grew the agency that we now know as draftfcb.
- David Ogilvy also cautioned ad people to remember the customer. The content should ultimately be respectful, no matter how hard it may push a brand or conversation. “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.”
- Then there’s Lester Wunderman, of course (Making Advertising Pay, 2004). He delivered groceries in The Bronx growing up. The expressed need of two different customers (one who lived in an elevator building, the other in a walk-up) taught him building strategy that begins and ends with the customer.
2. Lead the way with a clear path to follow
Introduce one change at a time, measure the results, and then continue to build on positive change. There can always be a rollback to a previous version when the numbers or tweets level off or show a decline. Long ago, fashion designers dropped mini-skirts one season to launch “maxi” dressing the next (i.e., long, floor-length garments). In the first mad-dash of girl power, teens said no. Jean skirts were born.
Again, for me as a classically trained direct marketer, testing creative content and marketing approaches emphasizes (no demands) that I know exactly what’s working and what isn’t. In a traditional a/b split, one element of a campaign differs. That may be an offer or a headline, but not both in the same test.
That way I’ll never lose the engagement I’ve had (what we refer to as the control) and can further refine that engagement in any number of directions.
3. Listen and learn
In this way, you’re never not relevant, learning, or growing relationships with customers who are, after all, your best sales people.
Have you ever adopted a method like revolution/evolution, direct response, or wikinomics to grow your enterprise and surpass the competition? How did it work? How did your best customers respond?
P.S. My Urban Bellwether Quotebook provides a handy reference for weekly quotes on enhancing Web 2.0 relationships with engaged and empowered customers. Click back regularly or bookmark and share with colleagues.