How many business leaders plan on sacrificing so much of their life for a business that sticks around for a decade or two? Assuming the answer to this rhetorical question to be “few if any,” then another question is begged: Why is the shelf life of most companies so short?
The best place to look is on the opposite end of the spectrum, to those companies who have created a legacy. I’ve been fascinated by this topic especially since recently becoming an adoring fan of Fiskars, a company founded in 1649 and on the cutting edge today of customer evangelism marketing utilizing social media.
So maybe a better question to ask is, “Why are old companies are still around?” Starting with the extreme relics like Kongo Gumi, (the Japanese construction company who was in continual operation from the year 578 until January of 2006) there is a treasure of insight available that we can directly apply to the business environment today. I’m no business history expert, but I am smart enough to deduce that most of these companies are going to be found very strong in two important suits: 1)Exploiting environmental change, and 2)Exemplifying the marketing concept. Inversely we can deduce that most companies, the ones with short shelf lives, are probably vulnerable to environmental change and don’t adequately embrace the marketing concept.
Here’s what makes this topic so provocative today—as you may be aware we’ve just stepped into a period of radical revolution that will be destroying the status quo of how business interacts with society through social media and mobile devices.
So what’s the average business to do? Fight the trend? Stick to the old ways that have worked (or at least kept one’s head above water) and hope it all goes away? It all depends on how you answered the question of “How long do you want to be in business?” My brash prediction is that companies, large and small, who do not undergo an extreme
makeover and embrace the paradigm shifts of customer facing social media and mobile marketing platforms will cease to exist, sooner or later within the 21st century. For context to my position please see our perfect storm analogy.
As we continue to progress this new era, it’s a prudent tactic to take some time and study those organizations that have weathered and prospered from these storms of change time and time again—a truly fascinating and timely study. Here’s a list of the world’s oldest companies for those interested.
This article will change your life as a business person. It’s a radical departure from the “conventional wisdom” of advertising and promotion, but like many great movements, its strength lies its simplicity and focus on core values. Customer Evangelism is the pure essence of marketing again. Remember, the definition of marketing that that we read in the first week of marketing 101? Something to the effect that marketing is defined as discovering and meeting the needs of your customers? It seems to have been promptly forgotten or defiled by many executives, product managers, and advertising firms upon graduation from business school. Customer Evangelism is a popular uprising that has the potential to bring marketing back to reality.
“The Customer Evangelism Manifesto” by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba takes us to the core essence of marketing and beyond. It’s about providing the highest quality solution and then providing even more to a special class of customer: the encouragement and empowerment to become an active advocate, or evangelist, and a de facto member of your organization. It’s a charter to breed a special kind of super customer who not only purchases from you regularly, but feels compelled to tell others.
There is so much gold in this article, you’ve just got to read it, print it, share it, and forward it. If 50% of the businesses in the U.S. today were focused on creating customer evangelists our society would be radically changed for the better. (See how persuasive a customer evangelist appeal can be? How motivated would you be to read their article if you saw “Customer Evangelism Manifesto” advertised in a magazine?)
Here’s just a teaser to get you started: some clues to how a customer evangelist behaves:
They passionately recommend your company to friends, neighbors and colleagues.
They believe in the company and its people.
They purchase your product as gifts.
They provide unsolicited praise and suggestions.
They forgive occasional dips in performance or quality.
They do not want to be bought; they extol your virtues freely.
They feel part of something bigger than themselves.
This presentation from Colin Robertson at TED is one of the best demonstrations of concise and effective communication that I’ve ever seen. It has great object lessons that can be applied to Web design and marketing communication in general.
Here are the main takeaways I got from the presentation:
He uses very few words, but the words he does use are the key messages of his presentation. So much of Web and print design would be much more effective with fewer but better chosen words.
It’s out of the ordinary (way out of the ordinary) and creates a unique memorable experience. How long will you remember this presentation? How long would you have remembered it if he would of taken up the three minutes talking?
The nonverbal communication which comprised 99% of the message is “quality” in the sense that it’s professionally orchestrated. The effect would not of been nearly as powerful or long lasting if that level of effort wasn’t put into the production. It’s the cumulative effect of many small details being done correctly. Same applies to Web design, overall quality is achieved by paying attention to many details which result in the cumulative effect of providing credibility to the message.
I think this is a very important point–a significant portion of the content was provided with collaboration from the audience.
This provocative article about Facebook’s imminent steps in their strategy to take over the world is really no surprise given the magnitude that Facebook has grown over the last few years. It’s the nature of the beast. Anything that gets too big tends to develop an insatiable appetite for growth and eventually begins devouring the values upon which it became successful. Think Microsoft and Google.
So there are big changes coming to Facebook. Changes, according to Ben Parr on Mashable, that are going to “Change the world of social media” (Ben sounds like a Facebook shill in parts of this article). Here are some of the quotes from Ben Parr’s article, regarding the “mind-boggling things” Facebook will be launching in within a month or so:
“Facebook’s goal is to become the social layer that supports, powers and connects every single piece of the web, no matter who or what it is or where it lives.” (Shouldn’t Dr. Evil get a credit for this line?)
“These changes will make Facebook a place where nearly everything in your life is enhanced by your social graph. These changes will make it so you know your friends better than you ever thought you could.” (It’s about time . . . seeing and talking to people is such a hassle anyway.)
Has Facebook turned “evil”? It seems they are intent on creating their own de facto mandatory internet upon which users have very little direct control. That path will be the beginning of the end for them or any other company that thinks they can reign in the freedom garnered from the social media revolution.
One thing that especially alarms me is how Facebook has managed to have users create the value while Facebook collects huge sums of advertising revenue generated from that content. Now it’s expanded into the business realm. As of this year we can build a complete custom interactive web page on our company’s Facebook page but Facebook has complete control and gets advertising revenue. It seems bizarre to me that we’ve allowed ourselves to be suckered into this sort of proprietary network to build our online presences within. It’s like a successful version of AOL (without 10 billion DVD’s being mailed).
While Facebook and other social media platforms will be with us indefinitely, I’m looking forward to the day when the realm is stabilized and attempts by small groups of people to control and profit off the masses are thwarted.
Till then, we offer custom Facebook page design and optimization. 🙂