Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, organizations led by classically trained business people, had their world turned upside down. They woke up one day to realize that the people they sold their services to, the people they referred to as “consumers” suddenly had a voice. They called them consumers because that’s what they thought of them as, simply a buyer who would “consume” their products and services in exchange for a fee. Long gone were the 4P’s of marketing where the company talked and the customer listened. No, the customer was doing the talking now and many others were listening. They could be the strongest sales force or the most daunting critics. People cared about more than just the product and the price. They cared about the type of company they were buying from, and ultimately if they liked them.
To add to the challenge, the same change that gave the customer power also leveled the playing field providing small startups with the ability to compete with much larger firms. These smaller companies didn’t have the history, culture and structure of the big firms and they quickly learned that communicating with customers as people, was their advantage and the large company’s weakness. You see, it isn’t business to consumer or business to business, it’s people to people. A person has a voice and a personality that is very different from the cold voice of a business. A business does have a voice and that voice is provided by the employees as much as they like to think that their voice is in their press releases and CEO speeches. It’s how employees talk to customers that represent the real conversation. They often referred to them as “headcount”, a commodity that count easily be added to or reduced. You’d hear comments like “we can meet the budget by eliminating some headcount” without any consideration for the customer impact. If there are less customers then they need less headcount and so the downward spiral begins. How the company treats their people, cares for them and helps them to grow and develop ultimately will shape the company’s voice. If the employee is told that sales at any cost are all that matter or that minimizing the time and expense spent solving customer problems is most important then that is exactly what the customer will hear.
A large firm has resources and if they can combine those resources with a people to people approach to their business the results will be staggering. Those spreadsheets where they count units, revenue, headcount and expense will grow far faster when they have the momentum of people talking to people on both sides of the equation. This sort of transformation isn’t easy. A firm needs to understand their customers not in terms of products and prices, although these are important, but what emotional needs do these products support, what are their trigger points, what language do they use to describe the services and how might a person to person conversation go. Using the understanding gained through conversations with current customers and prospects the company now has to share this knowledge with their internal people (employees) transforming the culture from one where lip service is given to the customer experience to one that really cares about the person they are selling to and supporting. The people on the company’s team, that interact with the customer, know more than most companies give them credit for and want to do the right things to make the customer happy and make the business grow but they often are not empowered or don’t know how to change the conversation from business as usual to one of people to people.
Strong brands of the past advertised their way to success out spending others to get their voice heard. Today, with fragmented media, that approach just doesn’t work anymore. Combine a large volume of advertising spend with negative comments in social media and you just invested a large sum of money in a very negative brand. On the positive side, a solid people to people business will build a brand with minimal expense all with the help of the people that buy their products and the people that sell them.
To be successful means to:
- LISTEN: Understanding the desires of the people that buy services and the right language to use in the conversation.
- CARE: Using the customer understanding to build a people culture that cares about, and can carry on a conversation with, the person who is buying and using your services.
- CRAFT: Building the brand voice based upon people on both sides of the equation.
- COMMUNICATE: Building the infrastructure required to make the conversation easy to have, consistent and easy to share.
This is where we come in. We built our business around making yours successful by combining research, people and team development, communications strategies and systems, and brand voice management to drive exceptional results and create environments where people are excited to come to work every day. We build the strategy and plan and bring together the best and the brightest to deliver on each component in an integrated way. Our people would love to talk with your people and together, create a path to growth for your business and your people that will have your investors smiling.