As noted in an earlier post, the modern business world is results-oriented and as a result it is very common for some organizations to be overly focused on "Execution", sometimes at the expense of good strategy (and many other things).
I had the good fortune this week to facilitate a Business Leader Roundtable at the offices of our own local Puget Sound Business Journal here in Seattle (event details here). This is one of my favorite ways to hear about the challenges that businesses have today. This one reinforced a lot of what we already knew about what it takes to be "Customer-First". There are a few "Universal Truths" about this topic that always come up in these discussions:
This week we're taking the easy road to writing - by re-publishing a piece I provided as a guest blogger two weeks ago for Earl Bell of Island Crest Financial (with an original section added for today). Like me, Earl is a business strategist but with a great deal of experience in the financial side of things. You'll find Earl to be a great resource and someone I find very easy to work with. Now, for today's post, let's get back to planning:
As part of our series on what makes a "Customer-First" company, I recently spoke with Carla Archambault, General Manager for the Seattle Region for Zipcar, a Boston-based company that is shaking up the old rental car model with a new approach defined by it's urban self-service model and it's tagline of "Wheels When You Want Them".
How do you create a "Customer-First" business culture selling a product most customers don't know they want? And more importantly, how do you create demand by competing against the dream once held by every 16 year-old American? By now the "Zipcar" name and snappy green logo has become a familiar sight to most of us in many urban areas. They have, in a sense, revolutionized the car rental business by creating an entirely new "Blue Ocean" market that focuses NOT on travelers visiting other cities, but on the occasional driver who needs a car for short-term use in their own neighborhood or beyond.
From a marketing strategist's perspective, this would mean that Zipcar is banking on the trend towards higher-density dwellings and improved public transportation to convince more and more people that they can get by without owning a car. Zipcar places self-serve cars in urban neighborhoods that you can rent for a short time to make up for gaps in your local public transportation options. This means that Zipcar's main competitor is the concept of car ownership itself. Audacious? Perhaps. But when you stop to look at the trends referred to above, absolutely sensible. And by all accounts, a market that is set to grow and grow beyond any timeline a Wall Street analyst would care to think about. As one Zipcar customer commented, "Zipcar is the piece of the puzzle that makes living car-free work".
Inspired by a recent client question about the need for a new agency model, yesterday in Part I we delved into the changes going on in the world that have been responsible for driving new types of innovation in the agency business. Today, we'll look at some of the innovative things going on out there that impressed me during my recent visits with seven different agencies from Tokyo, Boston and Seattle.
Technology has evolved to not only allow the world to create, manage and observe billions of transactions online, but to provide unlimited new business metrics to track them all. With the mantra of "ROI" being the main driver of investment and decision making in many companies, there is a danger that comes with all forms of "management by buzzword" that the holistic perspective gets lost and the ball gets dropped on other things that matter more to your success.
"Be yourself, everyone else is already taken..."
This is a favorite quote (and book title by Mike Robbins) I have heard frequently in 2011 at one of the networking groups I belong to, quoted by our moderator at the start of most of our meetings. While I have always had a personal philosophy loosely organized along those lines, this quote sums it all up very neatly and reflects where I intend to dedicate more time and effort to in 2012.
How Will Your Business Be Remembered For the Holidays?
You may have provided many things to your clients and customers in 2011, but did you remember to provide "Peace of Mind"?
By now as you can guess, there is little time left to change a customer perception of your business before the holidays. While we can't take our eye off the ball in terms of being responsive and attentive to customers with last-minute needs, by now the vast majority of your customers, clients and prospects are going to end the year with a fixed perception of how they think about you and your business.
But the end of the year and the holidays are a great time to reflect, and if things are slowing down and you want to get mentally prepared for 2012, it makes sense to set aside some time to reflect. Are you going to be perceived as the "Good Santa" or the "Bad Santa" on Christmas morning?