Values-based leadership is an effective model for creating a climate where individual and corporate values are aligned. The single greatest predictor of relational longevity is aligned values. It’s true in marriage and it’s true in business.
I believe values-based marketing can be equally important. I define the concept here.
In this post, I am not going to spend much time explaining the rationale for this approach. Marketers and business owners are feeling the necessity to continually innovate products, services, and processes in order to compete in the new hyper-connected landscape. Agility, innovation, and flexibility are rapidly becoming sources of competitive advantage for companies able to harness them.
I’d like to focus on three characteristics that drive agility and innovation. Don’t dismiss these characteristics because they aren’t novel. While they may seem obvious, they aren’t easy.
First, let’s define customer engagement. I like Paul Greenberg’s definition:
“The ongoing interactions between company and customer offered by the company and chosen by the customer. “
We are told that consumers often make rationale rational choices so we don’t need to be concerned with the softer side of marketing. Neuroscience debunks this myth; emotions are a significant component of decision making. Smart marketers recognize and address this characteristic.
By the way, satisfaction and engagement are not the same.
Engaged customers shop more, buy more, tell others, and are less price sensitive.
According to Gallup Business, fully engaged customers represent a 23% premium in share of wallet, revenue, profitability and revenue vs average customers.
How do you create, nurture and sustain engaged customers? First, you must be very clear about your target audience. What are their needs and expectations? Companies are recognizing they must become ever increasingly customer-centric. Customer-centricity isn’t a fad or trendy new term; it’s rapidly becoming a new way of life for many organizations.
These needs aren’t static; customers are constantly being exposed to new options and alternatives. Journey mapping is an effective tool that helps companies monitor customer engagement.
Many companies shape their business model to allow them to consistently deliver on the brand promise. Southwest, Amazon, and Trader Joe’s are a few more prominent examples.
Following are some questions to help you get started. Of course, you’ll want to tailor these to your competitive environment.
- Where and how are you connecting with your customers?
- What are their challenges?
- What would make their life better?
- What obstacles do they face?
- What are 5 things you could do within the next 3 months to make their life simpler?
My friend Raymond Morin offers suggestions for an effective process of creating influencers These same skills are useful in creating the engagement previously mentioned.
Here are 5 ways to create and engaging customer experience.
Lack of employee engagement results in turnover, absenteeism, and lack of safety; the numbers are dismal. Employees are the face of your company and each interaction with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders shape the way these stakeholders view your company.
Companies are recognizing that effective agility and customer-centricity strategies require a more decentralized decision-making organization. Many organizations are experimenting with cross-functional teams that are allowed to experiment with different ideas and approaches.
Daniel Pink in his book Drive identifies three important sources of intrinsic motivation: Meaning, Autonomy, and Purpose. Engaged employees understand how what they do makes a difference in the overall customer experience, even if their contribution is indirect.
Here are 5 ways to engage employees in order to build a better customer experience.
When values are aligned, communication is transparent and open, trust is high, then engagement goes way up and this often translates to more innovation, productivity and less absenteeism and turnover.
Employee engagement doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Leaders have to articulate a clear and compelling vision. Everyone has to understand why your company is in business. Once this is clear, employees need to know how they contribute to the ultimate purpose of the organization.
Agile, innovative organizations think differently; they behave differently. Mentioned previously are trust and transparency, autonomy, meaning, and purpose. These ingredients will only flourish in a culture that nurtures, protects and supports their development. With these in place a different mindset is fostered.
Creative problem solving is at the heart of agility and innovation; it’s based on creativity. Creativity isn’t the domain of a gifted few: creativity has many characteristics, most importantly, it can be taught.
Creativity thrives in an atmosphere of diversity. I would define diversity in the broadest possible sense, different skill sets, life and work experience, culture, etc. When you look at historic creative innovation whether it’s Einstein, Freud, or Edison, each had a diverse network that encouraged, provided feedback, and supported the experimentation and failure necessary to achieve significant breakthroughs.
Creativity requires patience. Often our notion of innovation or creativity is one of an aha moment. When I say creativity or innovation what picture comes to mind? A light bulb? A flash of lightening? Often we associate idea generation of any sort with momentary flashes, often for the gifted. Fortunately, this is a myth.
Of the three characteristics, this may be the most challenging.
Thanks to Carol Dweck I have been learning a great deal about the role mindset plays in the creative process. Here is her website if you are curious you can find out what type of mindset you have.
I discovered that I’ve been trying to change the mindsets of others when, in fact, mine is the only one that I can control. By addressing my mindset first, I’m able to more effectively contribute to the creative process.
Creativity, agility, and innovation require a curious and open mindset. Dweck calls it a growth mindset. The growth mindset is patient, probing and tolerant of experimentation. It’s easy to substitute failure for experimentation. Experimentation requires lots of learning attempts.
Innovative organizations have a high tolerance for learning and experimenting. Their goal is learning from failure; therefore, they want failure to occur quickly.
Initiation the Journey
At this point, you may be wondering how to get started. I am glad you asked. I suggest you start with yourself first. Identify your mindset. Decide how you might want to either change or improve your own mindset. There is a reason flight attendants tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first before you try to help others. Think about your mindset as the oxygen of the creative process.
Next start looking for opportunities to identify customer challenges. Observe, ask questions of your customers if at all possible. If not check with customer service, they will have frequently asked questions. Look for pain points, opportunities to try and improve the customer experience. Often small adjustments can make a significant difference.
Seek out like-minded partners from other functions or disciplines in the organizations. Diversity drives discovery and innovation. Look for low hanging fruit; small wins are usually the best fuel for larger initiatives.
By focusing on the above you are starting to create alignment around values. Aligned values is fertile soil for engagement and the resulting fruit is a differentiating experience that yields sustained profitability.
What do you think? Where do you see opportunities?