reThinking Business in the Age of the Social Customer

Consumer Power

reThinking is about learning to deconstruct and reconstruct in a way that makes more sense.

Why is is helpful? Because we're in the value and demand creation phase of work. The headlines are everywhere, average won't cut it anymore — not for people, not for corporations.

Standing out is not about doing more of the things everyone else is doing, or doing them with more flair.

Activity does not equal results

"Clever" bumps against many filters — they were always there, except you didn't see them, or were easier to ignore. Now you can see them, if you're paying attention, after the fact, if you weren't.

These filters are:

  • expectations — the bar is rising all the time. And all you see is what other companies are doing, not the results they're actually getting. Think about it for a moment.
  • intentions — the saying goes "Hell is paved with good intentions", the gap between what people intend and their intent, what they actually do is a chasm they will cross only when they have confidence you will deliver
  • culture — is a complex, adaptive system, you join it, not "crack it". Also, a word on context, it's bordered and temporary. The moment you inject community in it, you have the wants, beliefs, attitudes of the people in it. How do you deal with them?
  • language — speaking clearly is not easy. Language is not objective, there needs to be agreement for you to have connection. Navigating meaning is complicated by saying one thing and doing another. Playwright George Bernard Shaw claimed that "England and America are two countries divided by a common language"
  • beliefs — this is a very powerful filter. Its roots are encoded all the way in the core of what makes people who they are. Their identity is in turn influenced by many factors
  • attitude — this is also shaped by access to and availability of choices. You cannot control that of others, just your own. Do you have an attitude of curiosity, interest, respect? Are you exploring opportunity or fearing risk?

According to the 2011 Shift Index by Deloitte Center for the Edge, consumers are gaining more power than firms because they are quicker to adapt to disruptive technologies. It is connected individuals, not companies, that are harnessing flows and have more power because of it.

Without true listening, without a mechanism in place to be human, in conversation, and in the moment to get the most out of opportunities in social and other technologies you are not reaching your goal: trade better. And you might just be "more noise".

The Shift Index addresses Brand Disloyalty:

Brand loyalty is on the decline. Consumers today are inundated with more brands than ever before. The average supermarket in 2010 carried 38,719 stock-keeping units (SKUs), a drastic increase over prior decades.

Consumers also now have access to information from more trusted sources to evaluate brands and their purchase choices no longer rely solely on advertising claims.

Brand Disloyalty is inversely related to age: Younger consumers are less loyal to brands than older consumers. Younger consumers, born in the Internet era, generally rely less on brand names as an indicator of product reliability, turning instead to the Internet for product and service information, user reviews and feedback, as well as substitutes.

Signal is not a Hail Mary shouted at the top of your lungs in all social channels — Twitter, check, Facebook, check, G+, check… it's not push. It's about being focused on delivering on promises made. The transparency of product information available empowers customers to make more informed decisions and compare alternatives more easily.

Will they choose you?

It's pull

As the authors of the Shift Index found, firms have untapped opportunities to reverse their declining performance by embracing pull. For more on pull, see my review of the book by John Hagel and John Seely Brown.

It's something you have control over.

Listening is something you do. Without an action attached to it, you are being filtered out. Doing needs to be selective and focused based upon your promises to be effective. Smart brands are already finding creative ways to do this.

Without visibility into preferences, feedback, knowledge, how can you make better decisions? Are you wasting precious resources? Energy, intellect, and knowledge/experience you could be putting to good use.

Our ability to grow depends upon our ability to shift from a fixed mindset — we are who we are and our wins are attached to that identity — to a growth mindset — tweaking the levers that make up our identity to stretch. This is true of organizations as well.

We become what we pay attention to — and so does business.

reThinking business is a call to action, it's a do verb. How nimble are you?


[The fixed and growth mindset concepts come from the work of psychologist Carol Dweck in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (affiliate link)]


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