The value of being in sync with the small business customer wants and needs.
Small business customers need to be engaged but in a 1989 interview for Inc. Magazine, Steve Jobs was quoted as saying, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them.
By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” Then, almost 10 years later at a World Wide Developers Conference he said, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”
Jobs moved Apple from a company focused on speed to market to one that used customer intuition to build momentum and growth.
No one can deny that he built a brand that customers are passionate about, “no make that obsessive” about it. He did this by knowing in an ever more complicated world of technology, customers desired simplicity overall. Apple grew revenue from $4.1 billion in 1988 to more than $100 billion by 2007.
Today is a top three global brand.
In creating relevant brand communications, the Apple example is one of many that illustrate the power of knowing your customer very well.
I wrote about the importance of listening to your customers and employees. I also wrote about how small businesses respond to customers and employees or to take action. In this article, we’ll consider integrated communications and ongoing evaluation to keep your strategy well understood by your clients and flexible.
Transformation Can Equal Confusion
Many companies lately have suffered from a lack of transparency. You have only to check the business blogs to see the latest news about brands undergoing transformation and the confusion their customers experience.
- Who is JC Penney today? Is it for a young hip generation or a loyal following of older adults?
- Who is Gap? Do they understand how their clients feel about their jeans and t-shirts?
- What about American Airlines? In the midst of bankruptcy challenges do their employees feel betrayed and unheard and are their customer services suffering?
And even Apple itself recently stumbled and apologized over the omission of Google Maps in the new iPhone.
Small business customer and flexibility in the face of competition
In today’s world companies need to be able to react rapidly to consumers and market changes. If they are unable to quickly adapt, sales can suffer:
- BlackBerry, once the mobile phone darling of the business world, has become a hidden device with users embarrassed by its lack of application prowess.
- Yahoo is struggling to compete with the likes of Google in search, email and data sharing.
- McDonald’s has honed in on Starbuck’s specialty coffee market to resounding success. Will their “fast food” experience delight customers who don’t like waiting in long lines for baristas to finish their drinks?
I am sure you can share many more examples like these.
The point is not that transformation and innovation is bad, nor not that competition is bad as it is that you need your employees and clients to stay with you through the ups and downs. If loyal customers are spending money on your products and services, they want you to know them and they want to know you.
- Changes in strategy need to be accompanied by clear communications.
- Telling Your Small Business Company’s Story To Customers
This table may assist how you think about all the ways to tell your story using integrated marketing and communications:
|Communication Type||Communication Goal|
|External advertising||Corporate image; industry/client credibility; awareness|
|Social media||Creating a dialogue with individuals|
|Employee communities||Developing brand ambassadors and subject matter experts|
|Global events||Thought leadership and collaboration|
|Media partnerships||Unpaid media opportunities; reputation and influence|
|Direct marketing||Lead generation, sales|
The six distinct communications vehicles in the table must all work together to tell a consistent story like a symphony does to play the same song.
Using this template to “cover your bases,” I encourage you to develop brand communications that communicate your brand strategy with harmony. And, stay flexible by committing to an ongoing dialogue with your customers and employees.