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Put a Stake in the Ground for Your Brand and Fast Track Engagement you’re your Brand’s Target Consumers

Change in Modern Business with Tom Asacker

July 17, 2017

Listen to Episode 3 here!

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Between the ‘retail correction’ and the ever-increasing choice available to consumers today, which continues to re-shape their preferences, I’ll bet you might be starting to experience a bit of ‘change fatigue.’

First, know you’re not alone. Then, take a deep breath, shake it off, and acknowledge that you cannot allow yourself the luxury of indulging in fatigue around this constant state of change.

As a leader in business today, no matter if you’re in product, operations, sales or marketing, change must become your friend and trusted advisor.

That’s what we’re here to get started on today in this blog post. We’re going to get our heads wrapped around remodeling your business to be exceptional at serving a moving target – your target end consumer. There are a number of shifts that we cannot miss making right now as we attempt to take this on:

  • Shift your mindset
  • Shift the culture of your organization
  • Shift the design of your organization
  • Shift your focus from efficiency and margin, to owning the very reason your business exists in your branding

The information you’re about to read is intended to be the start of a journey and a conversation. It’s based on the interview that I had the privilege of doing with author, consultant and business change agent, Tom Asacker. Tom’s the author of five books, and I reached out to him because his book “The Business of Belief,” is a trusted point of reference for me in so much of what I do with Verde and Verde Strategy.

Things will never go back to the way they were. Ever.” That’s a quote from Tom in the podcast. You can listen to episode 3 here!

Change is all around us and it’s affecting every facet of our operations, our production, our marketing, our distribution, our fulfillment and our marketing and brand communications.

But we’re wired to not love change. We gravitate to our habitual processes and our workplace cultures. We love our systems and we love our org charts.

Our propensity to dig in our heels at the mere prospect of change is the biggest threat to our businesses and brands.

It’s a fact (according to industry experts like Matt Powell, of the NPD Group (you can listen to Powell’s episode here): the retail correction is just beginning. What’s more, the most widespread driver of change is the consumer.

Take a snapshot of the past 18 months. How people consume media has changed. How people communicate (texting, direct messaging) has changed. How people discover brands has changed. Where people discover brands has changed. Social circles have broadened exponentially.

Shift to today, in 2017, and we begin to focus not in months, but in days. Sometimes shorter. You know why? Because that’s what the consumer is doing.

As a leader within your business, the number-one way to drive your company forward in this tumultuous time is to model a behavior that may not come naturally.
You need to demonstrate that you genuinely LOVE change.

Even if this is a fake-it-till-you-make-it scenario; it is your new responsibility as a leader.

Change is riding in the sidecar with you all day long, day in and day out. And considering that within all that change lies a world of opportunity, I have a recommendation for changing your mindset from change-averse to charged! Question everything you do. It’s that simple. Question why you make the decision you make; question what your colleagues do; question what your company does.

Take your organizational structure. There’s a very good chance that the systems, process, protocols and organizational design are in place to improve margin or profit, or reduce headcount, or to offer your replicable, reliable service or product in a way that’s more consistent. They are very likely not built to be remarkable to your target end consumer.
Re-shape your company culture and design to serve your end consumer. This demands being nimble, and changing how you view success and how you accept failure among your team.

To be successful evolving your business today, you must make it okay for your entire team to try and to fail. Encourage calculated and well researched risks. Celebrate speed – it’s more important to go for it and to fail quickly and nimbly, than it is to stay safe, or try to ‘ride this out.’ This comes from your mindset as a leader within your company and it will be super important in successfully re-designing your company culture to be open to and embracing of change.

Things in our businesses are changing at a lightning pace, and the fastest way to ensure our demise is to maintain the status quo. The only way to ensure success is to be absolutely remarkable to our target end consumers.

If you’re like me, at this point, I would gravitate to Simon Sinek’s TedTalk, “Start with Why.”

And if you’re ready for some disruption, Tom Asacker basically told me that was exactly where I shouldn’t go.

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Tom Asacker and the Hard Questions

In my podcast interview with Tom Asacker, I realized quickly that what Asacker is to business leaders is what a loyal best friend is to people everywhere: he tells the hard truth as he sees it.

I found Tom through his book The Business of Belief. My copy of it has became a dog-eared domestique to me as a brand communications strategist over the years. As an author and a sought-after corporate consultant (to high-profile, legacy corporations like UPS, Procter & Gamble, Gillette, and GE), he’s fearless in voicing opinions that buck the mainstream.

Tom’s view is that our traditional engines of growth have run out of steam. Today’s world of complexity and change is a large-scale manifestation of many emergent events and behaviors that require a new, coherent point of view to guide our actions.

He believes that the most effective frame through which to consider and act on the changes in the marketplace is to consider how the world of our target end consumer is changing.

That requires asking questions that challenge the very way we do business, from top to bottom. To keep our businesses thriving through one of the most active and even volatile transitions in modern history, we need to ask how much we are willing to change to serve our target end consumers who are now sitting squarely in the driver’s seat.

The hard questions:

  • Is the design of your business delivering the results you desire? If not, are you ready and willing to change the design.
  • Do you have an internal culture where calculated risk-taking is encouraged?
  • Does this culture accept that failure to some degree is an inevitable byproduct of taking those risks? Do you value an analysis of learning from what went wrong as much as you value learning from what right?
  • How nimble are you? When those successes and failures come in, how effectively do you adapt to the strengths and weaknesses they’ve revealed?
  • Are your teams operating within the strict silos of job descriptions written when business was far different? Do your operations, sales and marketing teams act more like a soccer team – constantly interacting – or like a relay team, passing the baton as soon as their leg is done?
  • Are you willing to commit to what you stand for, even though it will mean turning off some potential customers? Spoiler alert: The answer needs be yes, because the bond you build with your actual end consumer will be all the stronger because of it.
  • Are you genuinely a consumer-centric operation? Are you committed to being nothing short of exceptional at every stage of the consumer experience? And are you building a culture and an operation that is agile enough to adapt when consumers change their expectations or preferences?

Where to Go Next

In the podcast, you’ll hear us disagree on two concepts: the power of why and the importance of building consumer profiles (or avatars). For me, both have been foundational for my own businesses and those of my clients.
Tom doesn’t deny that the concept of “why” and the importance of a consumer profile are critical components of developing a consumer-centric organization. His point is that they shouldn’t be the gatekeepers. They have a place in the consumer decision journey, just not at the first point of entry.

Often, the first point of entry is right where the emotional connection is formed.

In our industries the “what” and the “why” work together. People don’t buy for the “why.” People buy because the product and the brand improve a certain part of their life or enhance their identity.

The “why” serves as the tipping point to a successful sale. So yes, spend time on the why.

People are attracted to Subarus because of the why: they celebrate the outdoor culture; they stand for love and are driven by golden retrievers in the advertisements. These things pique interest and influence choice. A consumer recognizes that their choice to drive a Subaru reflects their values of friendliness, conservation and active living.

But that’s not enough for most people to pull the trigger and spend. The buying decision is still made on the “what”: reliability, gas mileage, affordability, peer reviews and reviews in general.

If the “what” was enough without the “why,” a lot more outdoorspeople would be driving Ford Fiestas. If the “why” was enough without the “what,” we’d see a lot more Hummers on the road.

To that end, understanding your target end consumer profile is critical. It has a place and that place is after you know exactly what your business and brand stand for.

Putting this stake in the ground for what your brand is all about – be it performance, affordability, luxury, versatility, social or environmental missions – is the way that consumers first relate to you. This is where they fall in love, or click away.

“You really have to understand who you are (as a business),” explains Tom. “That’s your persona; it’s you, not them. Really sit down and say, ‘Who are we? What do we believe? How are we expressing what we believe in a powerful and differentiated way?’”

Knowing this and being bold about it is what creates tight connections and beliefs with your end consumer. Every single person leading within your organization should be bound to the stance of your company. Each plays a strong role in providing the rest of the decision journey for the target consumer who resonates emotionally with your stance. Each architects the authentic experience for this target consumer in his or her preferred channel.

This is how you win on the veritable battlefield that capturing attention is today.

How does this blog post resonate with you? Can you share how you’re evolving your mindset, culture and organization of your business to thrive, instead of survive the amazing pace of change we’re adapting to today? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and thank you for being here. We’re in this together!

 

 

 

 

NOTE: Verde Strategy is the consulting arm of Verde Brand Communications. Our team of consultants can work with you to affect cultural change within your business, understand what it truly stands for, and to know precisely who it exists to serve. Our support is built for passion brands and combines qualitative and quantitative approaches. If you’re interested in learning more about this service, email me: kco@verdepr.com.