A lot of us tweet, blog, watch our websites and monitor facebook. But I know few who’ve actually processed the full impact of social media into their thinking about running their businesses. To the rest of us, social still feels a little disconnected. Like something that we’ve added to our wardrobe, but might not fit exactly right.
Stay with me for the next three and a half minutes, and we’ll begin to move forward through that fog together!
Seeing social media as something you’ve got to learn to do, because others, and particularly younger people do it, misses the point. The challenge for us in our jobs at the top isn’t one of learning how to do it.
Our challenge is understanding what it means for our businesses. How the new era of communication changes forever our relationships. Mainly with our customers. Changes how they think. And changes what they expect from us in order to continue to give us their business.
For as long as any of us can remember, the drivers of customer buying behavior have been: functions, features, quality, price, service and convenience. Win on these fronts, and you’ve gotten the business.
But that’s no longer a reliable prescription. And that’s the big point. … the mega message … that we need to accept.
Social media has leveled expectations across the traditional bases of competition — functions, features, quality, etc. With the click of a mouse customers connect with more sellers than ever before whose offerings are entirely substitutable in their estimations.
Concurrently, social has created communities of customer interests on nearly every imaginable topic. People who share opinions and experiences about one provider versus another. And who have huge impacts …. more than any advertising we can do …. on the opinions and choices of others.
So, the Cliff Notes are: Today, your customers have far more choices that are comparable according to traditional differentiators than ever before. Are able to confirm all the points of appeal on their own. And can add in the opinions of others’ who’ve had real life experiences with you and your rivals. With a tap on a tablet. Immediately.
So, what does this mean for you … in your job at the top? It means rethinking your business. Profoundly. From the elemental point of what you need to mean to your customers in order to remain relevant.
It also means embracing the truth that what made your business competitive in the past is no longer sufficient. And it means accepting that you’ve likely got to reconfigure some aspects of what you stand for in the eyes of your customers. To include new things that might never entered into your thinking before. So that your customers will continue to support you. And will encourage others to give you a try.
Social media exposes who you and your business are more fully and more publically than ever before. How well who you match up with who your customers, themselves, aspire to be, is edging out what you actually sell in determining their preferences. With ample comparable options for goods and services, customers are shifting their buying calculus to a higher plane of preference……
Who they like most and, therefore, want to “gift” and “endorse” with their business!
How do you win on these terms? First you have to maintain your competitiveness on all the other terms. But now that’s pretty much expected. Then you have to begin to present yourself to customers with an entirely different level of empathy. That shows that you care about what they care about. And that you’ll go to extremes to demonstrate it.
Extremes, that are beyond expectations and line up with what customers care about most spread epidemically through social media. Solidifying existing customers, and gathering new converts in their wakes.
So your job at the top now has a new dimension. It includes seeking out and acting on opportunities to distinguish yourself in extraordinary ways. That your customers care about. That may or may not have a lot to do with the actual functions, features, quality, price, service and convenience of what you sell.
And it’s your responsibility to make sure that word gets into the stream of social media. Frequently. In ways that asterisk the persona of your business powerfully. And that gather wide attentions.
Dick is the founder and Managing Principal of The Cross Partnership III, a twenty-year-old, Boston-based, “hands-on” consulting and turn-around firm focused on improving the operating and financial performance of businesses owned by financial sponsors. Over the past decade, Dick has served as an interim President/CEO, leading successful business transitions in eight companies over the past twelve years.
Join us for the podcast with 8X turnaround CEO tomorrow on the Lendio blog