Find New Whys to Do Business

by Stephan Vincent

What makes your organization different from the competition? What business are you REALLY in (your purpose, not what you sell)? Why aren’t more customers buying your products or services? How much does it cost you? Why should customers buy your products or services (don’t tell us they’re cheaper or better – that’s not the answer we’re looking for, neither are you)?

What do you want your legacy to be? Innovation and growth – or commoditization, stagnation, and irrelevance?

A business exists because the founder has identified an opportunity. Opportunity is the reason why a company chooses to innovate.

If you position your business just based on what your competition does, it often leads to disappointing results. Your ambition should be to transform your organization into a place where innovation and constant emulation are at the core of what you live for.

As an organization, you need a clear purpose to connect with your employees and customers on an emotional level, in an engaging, meaningful and compelling way.

Vision and purpose is what should drive your business, your strategy and your future. Find the opportunity to make a difference, and place it at the heart of your vision. It should provide you a direction, a roadmap of where you want to be and how you want to get there.

WHY – HOW – WHAT???

If your goal is only to gain a few market shares, grow by X% at the end of the year, reduce costs and increase profit margins, you clearly are missing the point. This does not excite anyone but you (OK – maybe your sales people and your banker too). Numbers are not sexy and appealing. Growth is a consequence of what you do, not a purpose.

A brand is the external reflection of a company’s inside culture and core values. In order for a brand to stay relevant, be different and unique, it must reinvent itself continuously. If a company’s products or services don’t change the game regularly, they suddenly become a commodity, as unique and innovative they could have been at some point. EVERY product and service becomes sooner than later a commodity. What’s critical is for the company to keep its brand relevant by innovating and bringing to life new game-changing products or services. You must keep delivering on your brand promise, day after day.

DON’T settle for being an er-brand. Your tactics are focused on being better at the same things that your competitors do. Red flags go up whenever I hear a pitch that explains how a new offering is just like another but is small-er, bigg-er, thinn-er, light-er, fast-er, sexi-er, whatev-er.
DO find a unique brand personality that translates into a unique customer experience, enabling your brand to rise above competitive comparison. Using brand personality in this way is not simply about developing creative communications; it’s about infusing every aspect of your operations with your unique character.
DO find a unique brand personality that translates into a unique customer experience, enabling your brand to rise above competitive comparison. Using brand personality in this way is not simply about developing creative communications; it’s about infusing every aspect of your operations with your unique character.

You have to switch your company’s focus from being transaction oriented to emotion oriented. A product is a transaction, an experience is an emotion. That’s your differentiator.

It is easy to create a brand and a “promise”. What is hard to achieve is to deliver on the brand promise over and over again. As innovative as the brand promise may be at some point, other brands will follow and suddenly your promise will become commoditized, again.

McDonaldization of Starbucks…

When Howard Schultz left Starbucks in 2000, his successor Jim Donald decided to automate and time the Starbucks service, from time required to grind coffee, to mix ingredients, to minimal interaction with customers. In other word, Jim Donald mcdonaldized Starbucks. When Schultz returned as CEO in 2008 appalled by the dilution of the Starbucks experience he had brought to life, he decided to revive the brand promise. He closed all stores worldwide to (re)train managers and employees on the true customer experience, leaving on the counter $7M that day. He brought the brand promise back to its origin, and has continued to deliver on the promise ever since.

A strong and inspiring vision should be framed around how the company works to change its customers’ world, for the better
.

For instance, Amazon’s mission is “Our [Amazon’s] vision is to be earth’s most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”This is a powerful statement as each single word is meaningful. Amazon’s goal is to be global and ubiquitous (earth’s), with a strong focus on the customer (customer centric). Although it is an online retailer,  Amazon wants to build a place (analogy to brick and mortar), where people can only find what they have in mind, abut also get suggestions and recommendations based on other buyers’ preferences or one’s past purchases.

Starbucks’ mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
Starbucks has revolutionized the way people interact socially. Nowadays, Starbucks is the place to meet friends, conduct business, get quiet time… Your morning coffee Joe is just the vessel for the company to create the experience. The experience is what customers make out of it. Starbucks nurtures the human spirit, little by little. Think about how your life was before Starbucks?

Lego’s mission is to “inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow”. Their purpose is to inspire & develop children to think creatively, reason systematically and release their potential to shape their own future – experiencing their endless human possibility. Lego is in perpetual beta mode: term used by software developers – a product is never finished, it is in constant iteration based on user feedback.
If you think about it, the Lego movie and the Lego theme parks are only devices to carry their mission. It is all about using your imagination and Lego sets to carry your imagination…

Culture

Smart business leaders shape the culture of their company to drive innovation. Success and constant positive results come from the implementation and execution of strategies, business models, structure, processes, technologies and incentive systems that encourage innovation.

“In today’s reputation economy, what you stand for matters more than what you produce and sell”, says Kasper Ulf Nielsen, Reputation Institute’s executive partner. “People’s willingness to buy, recommend, work for, and invest in a company is driven 60% by their perceptions of the company and only 40% by their perceptions of its products.” The study shows that in order to win support and recommendations, a company needs to tell its story in a way that connects with stakeholders on a global level. “This is a challenge that even the best companies struggle with”, Nielsen says. Building a strong reputation takes time. “You need to live up to your promises and be relevant in the local and global context”, he adds.

Looking for Apple’s mission statement (as you’d think they have a great mission statement given the number of game-changing products they have released), this is what I’ve found.According to Simon Sinek, “if Apple was like everyone else a marketing message might be: We make great computers. They’re user friendly. Want to buy one? …Here’s how Apple actually communicates: everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one? Although it is a bit simplistic, Sinek brings up the “why” a company chooses to do business, which should drive the how they going to accomplish their goals, and what they’re going to provide to the customers.

In an about.com article, it was widely reported that a famous quote from Steve Jobs in the 1980’s was the Apple company mission statement: “Man is the creator of change in this world. As such he should be above systems and structures, and not subordinate to them.”
The “official” mission statement on the Apple corporation website, however, is not really a mission statement at all, but rather a list of products and past accomplishments. As stated, Apple’s “mission” is…

“Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and has recently introduced iPad 2 which is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices.”

Apple ends its press releases with a statement that resembles what a traditional mission statement is expected to be…
“Apple is committed to bringing the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through its innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings.”

In my opinion, this latter statement, although it does not name specific products, still is very commoditizing, not inspiring. Maybe this explains why Apple has struggled so much the past few years to bring to market game-changing products and has focused more on improving existing products.

According to the Economist, Steve Jobs’ mission statement for Apple in 1980 was: “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.”
Now, this mission statement sounds more like what drove Jobs and Apple to change the world…

What do you think?

image credit: Stephan Vincent

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Stephan Vincent is the Indiana Editor for Innovation Excellence, covering innovation in the Hoosier state and beyond. He is the Innovation & Brand Catalyst at Think Unique, an innovation & branding consulting agency in Indianapolis, IN. He is also Founder and President of s.p.IN and Collide Summit Indiana, a first-of-its- kind un-conference unlike anything else. Connect with Stephan and gain more of his insights on his own blog.

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