“When You Change Yourself, You Change the World”*

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about “Why I Left Advertising”, which gained quite a lot of attention globally through Campaign Asia – perhaps specifically because I called out some problems with advertising, and what i believe is a more efficient way to achieve your goals. It can be summed up in one sentence; “Less talk, more action.” Instead of doing “advertising“, make sure your business model and service model is the best it can be. Deliver on your promises. Not exactly groundbreaking, I fully acknowledge that, but it seems that marketing departments and agencies are still insistent on doing things so people will “talk about it” – instead of just doing the right thing.  Bottom line is, if you want to change perceptions, you can’t just change your marketing – you have to change your business.

I am not saying marketing isn’t important or won’t make a difference – but it will only make a difference if the rest of the customer experience is flawless. If people don’t like your product/service, if they don’t feel you provide good value for money, if they don’t feel appreciated as customers – and if you don’t provide them with the easiest, most pain free offline and online interface for them, no marketing will help you fix your problems. But if you’re doing most things right, marketing can further increase your popularity and revenue.

Perception doesn’t come through talk – talk is cheap. Don’t tell people you’ve got the best products in the world – show them. Don’t talk about how sustainable your practices are – show them. Don’t discuss your customer service policies – prove them. Every single interaction point with a customer is an opportunity to win them, keep them – or lose them. A strong brand gives you a safety net, but the focus has to be on providing more optimal services for you customers. Even creating “story” that people will talk about is not changing real perception. yes, you may get a story that’s shared with a lot of people, but you have to ask yourself “whats’ the long term effect of this activity”. if we only create “stories” for people to talk about it, we’re doing it for all the wrong reasons.

Ok, so so far, everyone probably agrees. But what do we do about it? Do we train our staff better? Do we change our business model completely? What do we do, and how do we do it? Well first of all, we need to reassess our goals. What is it we want to achieve? I’m not just talking about financial goals, that goes without saying. Every business wants to make money. But what’s your goal for you customer relationship? What is it that you’re providing to the world? What do you want your purpose to be? Which leads us to developing a new strategy. An ongoing business model, that  allows you to create the best customer experience you can – and be adaptable to the changes that happen around us everyday – in society and culture, in technology, in global markets and of course within your industry.

This strategy needs to lead to new ideas and implementations that actually make a difference in people’s life – if not, the project has failed. What can you offer that really makes it easier to be a customer of yours? Or that makes the experience more engaging and compelling? The strategy cannot revolve around how to maximise ROI, only a strategy that follows a true purpose will succeed in the long run. The strategy also needs to open the business for ongoing innovation. innovation doesn’t happen in one instance, but rather as a continuous process. It actually requires quite dramatic cultural change to the organisation, in order to allow innovation to come from anyone within the company.

What’s going to drive the future of your company is a strong and relevant idea. Ideas that solve real problems for potential customers. If there is no problem to solve, there can’t be an idea to solve it. So strategy need to lead to an idea that customers will understand and use. These are the fundamentals of any new business project, yet when it comes to “digital” projects, many seem to forget that. They look at technology, at implementation, at funding etc. but none of that matters if people aren’t going to use the product or service — or if there is no potential revenue stream for you.

Implementing dramatic changes and true Digital Transformation cannot come at the expense of your current ongoing business. You have to work in parallel tracks in order to allow for failure without jeopardising the brand and alienating customers. Innovation requires rigorous testing and implementation that allows you to uncover potential risk within a safe framework. Obviously, the threshold for such risks vary from industry to industry, and in general people are more risk averse than they need to be. But to ensure board and internal stakeholder support, risk management is crucial.

Finally, at the end of the day, Digital Transformation comes through understanding how digital technologies are changing our culture – and how your company can leverage on that, for the good of your customers (and of course, through that, for the good of your revenue). The only question you need to ask yourself, is “are your ready to transform?” And the answer to that question is “if not now, when?”

*Headline is borrowed from the Gojira song “Silvera”

Erik_Default_2
Erik Ingvoldstad is the Founder and CEO of Acoustic Group.
Follow Erik on Twitter @ingvoldSTAR, follow Acoustic at @AcousticGroupSG
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 [Main photo by Robert Couse-Baker, under CC]

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