Dear [Insert Business Name], What's Your Promise?
You say you want to get closer to customers, but your actions are different than your words.
You say you want to "surprise and delight" customers, but your product development teams are too busy building against a roadmap without consideration of the 5th P of marketing: people.
Your employees are your number one asset, however the infrastructure of the organization has turned once optimistic and ambitious intrapreneurs into complacent cogs or worse, your greatest detractors.
You question the adoption of disruptive technology by your internal champions yet you've not tried to find the value for yourself. You're a change agent, and you truly wish to bring about change, but you've not invested time or resources to answer "why," in your endeavors to become a connected or social business.
If we are to truly change, we must find purpose. We must uncover the essence of our business and the value it delivers to traditional and connected consumers. We must rethink the spirit of today's embrace and clearly articulate how transformation is going to improve customer and employee experiences, and relationships now and over time. Without doing so, any attempts at evolution will be thwarted. In an era of Digital Darwinism, no business is too big to fail or too small to succeed.
These are undisciplined times which require alternative approaches to recognize and pursue new opportunities. But everything begins with acknowledging the 360 degree view of the world that you see today is actually a filtered view of managed and efficient convenience. Today, many organizations that were once inspired by innovation and engagement have fallen into a process of marketing, operationalizing, managing, and optimizing. That might have worked for the better part of the last century, but for the next 10 years and beyond, new vision, leadership, and supporting business models will be written to move businesses from rigid frameworks to adaptive and agile entities.
I believe that today's executives will undergo a great test; a test of character, vision, intention, and universal leadership. It starts with a simple, but essential question...what is your promise?
Notice, I didn't ask about your brand promise. Nor did I ask for you to cite your mission and vision statements. This is much more than value propositions or manufactured marketing language designed to hook audiences and stakeholders. I asked for your promise to me as your consumer, stakeholder, and partner. This isn't about B2B or B2C, but instead, people to people, person to person. It is this promise that will breathe new life into an organization that on the outside, could be misdiagnosed as catatonic by those who are disrupting your markets.
A promise, for example, is meant to inspire. It creates alignment. It serves as the foundation for your vision, mission, and all business strategies and it must come from the top to mean anything. For without it, we cannot genuinely voice what it is we stand for or stand behind. Think for a moment about the definition of community. It's easy to confuse a workplace or a market where everyone simply shares common characteristics. However, a community in this day and age is much more than belonging to something, it's about doing something together that makes belonging matter
The next few years will force a divide where companies are separated by intention as measured by actions and words. But, becoming a social business is not enough. Becoming more authentic and transparent doesn't serve as a mantra for a renaissance. A promise is the ink that inscribes the spirit of the relationship between you and me. A promise serves as the words that influence change from within and change beyond the halls of our business. It is the foundation for a renewed embrace, one that must then find its way to every aspect of the organization. It's the difference between a social business and an adaptive business.
While an adaptive business can also be social, it is the culture of the organization that strives to not just use technology to extend current philosophies or processes into new domains, but instead give rise to a new culture where striving for relevance is among its goals. The tools and networks simply become enablers of a greater mission
You are reading this because you believe in something more than what you're doing today. While you fight for change within your organization, remember to aim for a higher purpose. Organizations that strive for innovation, imagination, and relevance will outperform those that do not. Part of your job is to lead a missionary push that unites the groundswell with a top down cascade. Change will only happen because you and other internal champions see what others can't and will do what other won't. It takes resolve. It takes the ability to translate new opportunities into business value. And, it takes courage.
"This is a very noisy world, so we have to be very clear what we want them to know about us"
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]