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.
A great example of the the principles of consistency and conformity is the email template we designed for Baker Tilly. Compare the email design with the graphic identity of their existing Website.
Seth Godin’s blog posts are always profound, but his most recent post Bypassing the Leap is especially relevant to the services we provide. The gist of his post is that most of the time creativity is the act of reinterpreting and reassembling elements that are already well accepted and proven to work.
Effective branding and design services are based from this same perspective. While it may sound contradictory, quality creative products are almost always intentionally designed to conform within well established boundaries.
No matter how unique of graphic identity a corporation has, you’ll find the logo almost always in the upper left and the main site navigation in one of two locations. This is staying within the proven boundaries of usability. When Fortune 500 corporations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop their branding and identity all marketing publications will almost always have identical colors, layout and typeface. This is adhering to the core principle of graphic design—consistency. Corporations conform to the principles of usability and consistency because they know they’re the most effective way to communicate a credible message and the most effective way to persuade their customers to action.
Embracing conformity to communicate uniqueness is really the secret of success when it comes to marketing communication and application design.
Many small and mid-sized companies don’t get this. Have you ever found a Website through Google that you thought might be a good solution for a need only to have second thoughts when their Website design looked dated, amateur or unclear? No matter how unique and appealing their solution may be, if their graphic design and usability do not establish unwavering credibility you’re likely to just head back to Google to search for an alternative.
Small and mid-sized companies have a great opportunity to level the playing field against even massive competitors by communicating their unique value message by conforming to already accepted and proven principles.
Does your marketing communication produce credibility or doubt? Ask ten people outside your organization that you can trust to give you honest opinions about their impressions of your Website, emails or other marketing material. If you need an objective professional opinion let us know. The one thing you’ll get is honesty and there’s no obligation. If you do decide for yourself that your identity needs a makeover we provide consulting as well as in-house development and design services. You can call us at 866.770.7967 or through our online form.