Overcoming Impossible Challenges to Grow Your Company
Growing a company in a thriving economy is challenging. Growing one when economic issues are the hot topic for every news outlet borders the impossible. The terrorists elected to lead our country use the threat of catastrophic economic failure to make their case for their chosen positions. Their unilateral failure to lead stifles hope, creativity, and productivity.
There is a perfect storm brewing that threatens the future for businesses seeking growth and profitability. The type of business doesn’t matter. All companies are affected whether they are business to consumer, business to business, or professional services. The storm has two fronts. The first is the climate of fear provided by elected officials and perpetrated by news media. The second is the replacement of proven business fundamentals with magical thinking.
Social media is almost always associated with magical thinking. The channel is an easy target but it is not the biggest offender. The magical thinking associated with business as usual planning is much worse. There is nothing in today’s marketplace that suggests that running a business as usual strategy will work. The world is different. Adapt or die.
When speaking with management teams, I find that the words “business fundamentals” and “business as usual” are often considered interchangeable in the conversation. They do seem similar but are strikingly different. “Business as usual” is doing the same things that created success in the past. People continue to do this even though it isn’t delivering successful outcomes. Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing and expecting a different result. If that definition is correct, there is a lot of insanity in companies today.
“Business fundamentals” are the essential part of your business that doesn’t change over time. Relationships, productivity, management, quality, and value are all business fundamentals. Common sense is also a business fundamental that seems to be forgotten in the craziness that permeates our society today.
The way we communicate with others changes as technological advances make connecting with others easier and faster. History is filled with corporate downfalls that came after companies failed to adapt to changes in the marketplace. Future history will host even more sad stories because complacency has replaced the drive to excel. Being good enough may keep your company afloat for a few years but it won’t create the foundation required for long term success.
The companies that survive the perfect storm will replace magical thinking with innovation and focus on the business fundamentals that best serve customers, employees, shareholders, and corporate objectives. Concepts like big data, omnichannel, and viral messaging will be left to theorists and academia while developing the processes required to deliver on customer expectations.
The people who argue for big data, omnichannel, and viral messaging need to spend some time on the business front lines. Customers want problems solved. Period. The problems and solutions vary by company and industry but the concept is simple and straight forward. People don’t care how their problems are solved. They simply want it done quickly, efficiently, and effectively. It is the company’s responsibility to define the how.
The four top areas for magical thinking are:
Business as usual – The world is changing. Hunkering down won’t protect your business in these challenging times. Your company has to adapt or die. Innovation is even better than adaptation. Redefining your business to anticipate the needs of your customers leads to growth and profitability.
Big data – The idea that every business has a goldmine of information just waiting to be mined is appealing. Big data is the gold rush of this century. A few will convert data into sales, but most will have nothing to show for their investment. It’s hard to believe that people think companies unable to provide consistent service experiences can change the future with datasets.
Omnichannel – The omnichannel experience where all channels work together as one is an illusion that has no reality basis. There are too many third party participants to ever expect a seamless integration of channels and data. Even if it were possible, the return would never justify the investment. People have individual preferences that dictate the channels they shop. Only a few will cross all channels.
Viral messaging – Social media promised a future impossible to deliver. Expecting conversations to replace proven marketing tactics is unreasonable because people tend to discuss bad experiences more than good. Trying to create viral content uses resources that would be better allocated to serving customers.
The cure for magical thinking is:
Focusing on relationships – Customer loyalty motivates people to overlook minor issues like a less than seamless shopping experience between channels. Invest resources to discover what your customers want and how they want it delivered so you can meet their expectations.
Designing and implementing good processes – Every service breakdown is caused by a process failure. The right processes combined with good training keeps everything running well and efficiently. Start with problem areas and work through them until your business operates like a well-tuned machine.
Choosing channels and platforms wisely – How do you know which channels and platforms are best for your business? Your customers are already there. Follow their lead to the location and then create a great experience for them. When they move, follow.
Mastering active channels – Participating in a multitude of channels creates a jack of all trades but master of none environment. Every channel has nuances that make the experience better for your customers. Use them to differentiate your company from the competition.
Taking care of business – Your company has to have a solid foundation to grow. Neglecting business fundamentals to chase rainbows is dangerous. Conduct a corporate audit of your marketing and service activities to identify what works. Let go of everything that doesn’t provide benefits.
Controlling what you can and letting everything else go – Word of mouth has always been the best form of marketing. The reason it works so well is that it is not controllable. Instead of trying to generate viral content, deliver customer experiences worth sharing.
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