Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is Your Company a Phonebook?

A few weeks ago we talked about retaining relevancy.

For your person.
For your company brand.
For your organization as a whole.

IN SHORT: Don't be a phonebook.

Today our discussion continues with four more strategies for staying relevant:
1. Renew your relevance to adapt to your customer’s lifestyle. Did you know that McDonald’s offers free wifi? Yep. It’s pretty sweet. Hell, I’ve gone there with my laptop on several occasions to write in an alternative creative environment. It’s good for the brain. And it’s definitely a nice break from my living room.

But what’s interesting is that growing up in the eighties, the only technological advances at my McDonald’s were the motion activated toilet flushers. And even those didn’t always work.

Now, thirty years later, offering free wifi is the perfect strategy for McDonald’s to renew their relevancy. Especially considering the dramatic differences between their customer and their end user.

Think about it: Parents don’t care about the food. They just want is to check their email while their kids play on the Fun Land. Kids, on the other hand, just want to stuff their faces and hang out with their friends.

What’s your gameplan for responding to your customer’s lifestyle? How will you stay on top of changes in customer requirements?

My suggestion is simple: Just ask. Try your customers’ heads on. Or, try being a customer yourself. That’s how you find out what hassles and inconveniences surround the occasions when people do business with you. Uncover that and your organization will renew its relevance faster than you can say, “You want fries with that?” What customer lifestyle change do you need to adapt to?

2. Proficiency and passion aren’t enough. Yes, be excellent at what you do. And yes, do what you do with a white-hot fire in your belly. But make certain those aren’t the only two moves in your playbook.

In the current economic marketplace, competence is assumed and enthusiasm is expected. As such, proficiency and passion are merely the price of admission. The bunny slope. The cover charge for competing in the game of business. And unless you can connect those two things to a context that’s relevant for the people who matter most, you lose.

I’m reminded of Whole Foods Market. Not only is their product and service incredible. Not only are their employees walking brand ambassadors. But their ability to retain relevancy is amazing.

For example, each store has a Customer Comment Board. Which, if you’ve ever worked in retail, is nothing new. Except for the fact that each employee personally handwrites her answers to each comment. Even the negative ones. Especially the negative ones. This open feedback loop demonstrates an admirable level of askability.

What’s more, it reinforces Whole Foods’ question-friendly environment. And as a result, their organization is a living, breathing case study that proficiency and passion without practicality is waste. How will your organization do the same?

Remember: Be good, be on fire – but be practical. Otherwise you’re just winking in the dark. Are you passionately and skillfully irrelevant?

3. Contribute across the board. When you democratize intentionally, you monetize incidentally. That’s what good multidisciplinary and comprehensivists do: They stay relevant by delivering value across the board.

In a recent article on The Bulletin, Dave Bontempo wrote, “Figure out how you can integrate your work with that of other departments, sharing ideas on productivity, new technologies and marketing. Create a portrait of yourself as someone who goes beyond the boundaries of your cubicle to add to the bottom line. The added component of flexibility to your personal profile significantly ups your relevance factor.”

Take the manufacturing world, for example. I’ve read about companies implementing a system called parallel production. This is when all the departments produce and discuss together throughout the entire production process.

The cool part is, this strategy is eminently feasible inside most organizations. You don’t need a factory – you just need the faculty to get outside of your normal function. How will you add distinctive depth to your current role?

4. Velocity without relevance is valueless. When you stop moving, you stop mattering. That’s why bands stay on the road for months at a time: No tour, no touch people.

That’s why professional speakers love airports: No planes, no profits. And that’s why blogs and social media feeds trump traditional websites: Nobody wants to read something on the web that’s two years old.

As such, the key to retaining relevancy is as simple as staying in motion. Otherwise the powerful forces of inertia will obsolete you faster than you can say, “Where Are They Now?”

The only thing to be careful of is not to destroy everything for the sake of action. Some businesspeople are so action-oriented that they forget to stop and reflect on what’s happening. And their customers suffer a result.

The key is to balance velocity with value. Because in the end, you risk more by doing nothing. Make the necessary moves. Enable the active force. How are you assuming responsibility for keeping current?

In the end, what matters is: No relevance, no revenue.

Don't be a phonebook.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
How much profitability are you sacrificing by being irrelevant?

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* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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