You know we are living in a rapidly changing world. You have probably read more than one article or post about our rapidly changing landscape. No doubt you are familiar with the gap, between what customers are expecting and what brands are providing.
I have written about the effects of the lack of employee engagement. Consumers deal with the consequences of an unmotivated workforce all the time.
Recently I was watching Simon Sinek’s now famous TED talk where he describes the impact of what he calls the Golden Circle. He posits that most companies sell what they do but don’t really know why they do it. Companies that know why they do what they do have an advantage over others that don’t.
Recently I was reading about the power of the customer experience in this new landscape. Why is it that some consumers will pay up to twice the price for a dozen eggs? Because stores like Whole Foods sell cage-free eggs. These are eggs provided by chickens in a natural habitat and this appeals to a core value of their customers.
There is probably little to no difference in the taste or texture of these eggs when they are consumed. Yet, a store is able to sell a commodity, like eggs, for a substantial premium by aligning values with their consumers.
And if all this isn’t enough, there is now a discussion about who should build the future car. Hint, it may not be one of the traditional car manufacturers. Several software empires have a market valuation that would allow them to purchase several current auto manufacturing companies.
With new innovations changing entire business models, managers today are often struggling to figure out what business they are really in.
Adaptability: The New Competitive Advantage
Five years ago a couple of authors wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review predicting adaptability would be a competitive advantage for brands that were able to:
- Read and react to signals
- Manage complex multi-company systems
Today, we have consumer packaged goods companies practicing agile marketing. We read books positing the marketers of today will have to be technology experts in order to be effective.
What is value-based marketing?
Value-based marketing recognizes the need to align values of all stakeholders around the unique value proposition of the organization. These organizations link all stakeholders through a common purpose.
These organizations realize that this connection is dynamic, continually evolving as the landscape progresses and offers new and different options. In some instances, organizations are transforming their business model in order to stay in step with the customer.
These new models promote cross-functional collaboration, experimentation, and close contact with customers. Organizations are also placing increasing value on creative problem-solving. Traditional structures required lengthy specification, development and deployment procedures. Often projects would have to be reengineered before being released because business needs have changed during the development process.
Now companies are recognizing the need for rapid prototyping, evaluating, testing and deploying. Companies now use techniques like Sprints, to constantly find ways to make the customer experience more compelling.
Values-based leadership – building on a solid foundation
Value-based marketing requires values-based leadership. This approach requires top management support because decision-making authority needs to be close to the customer in order to be effective.
The culture of the organization has to provide an environment that:
- invites open and rapid feedback
- embraces learning and development
- tolerates failure
- consistently models values at all levels
- builds trust
- promotes diversity
Organizational culture creates the climate for engaging employees. More than ever, engaged employees are the key to success. In his book Drive, Daniel Pink identifies three core motivational attributes:
Values-based leadership builds and nurtures an environment that combines all three attributes producing employees that are engaged and contributing to the success of others. Here are 7 questions that can help create healthy engagement.
Most important, leaders must set and clearly articulate the mission and purpose of the organization. Values-based organizations spend significant time and resources finding, hiring, and developing their employees.
Practicing Values-based marketing
Values-based marketing is increasingly everyone’s responsibility. As I stated earlier, entire business models are being disrupted. Consumers are increasingly part of a larger ecosystem of networked options that offer seamless or near-seamless experiences.
Organizations are now creating cross-functional teams tasked with identifying and designing customer solutions, often in near real time. The new model is to identify an opportunity or challenge, design a prototype, get feedback then continue to test the idea. If it is successful, roll it out, if not, shut it down quickly, analyze the learnings and move on to the next event.
These teams often have direct contact with customers. As a result of direct customer feedback and rapid prototyping, companies have dramatically reduced the innovation timeline. I should emphasize these changes don’t have to be extraordinary, often simply adjustments in the process can significantly improve the customer experience.
All stakeholders benefit from this process. Companies that innovate regularly tend to have more engaged employees because of the aligned values. When employees are engaged they are often more focused on serving the customer and each other. Feedback strengthens internal and external connections. Diverse teams learn how to communicate more effectively and this has definite benefits when these groups interact with partners and customers.
One other benefit is transparency. Cross-functional collaboration, constant feedback, and lots of failures can strain the best relationships. Organizations that provide a climate of innovation and creativity have to establish significant levels of trust. It turns out that customers appreciate transparency and will usually commit to a brand they trust.
In my next post, I’ll go into more detail. I’ll talk more about the attributes needed to take advantage of this approach. If your organization is not actively practicing values-based leadership and interested in learning more about it check out innerwill.org.
Start by identifying a challenge or opportunity that would make your customer’s experience a better one. Here’s a way to leverage a team to increase social selling. Recruit some volunteer help from other groups and come up with some solution ideas. Think about your customer’s values. Why do they do business with you? What is it your firm provides that others don’t? If possible, ask customers or prospects directly.
Based on the insights gathered, start to tailor content that appeals to the values and goals of your customer, so they are interacting with your brand for themselves. This is the ultimate alignment.
What are some other ideas?