I had three different people recommend a book to me last week. The book, Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose by Rajendra S. Sisodia, David B. Wolfe, and Jagdish N. Sheth is about a lot of things, especially the power of passion and purpose in business. But it is also about the seemingly ever-increasing changing world we now live in. And those changes keep coming, keep accelerating… Change will continue, and spread. This seems an absolute certainty.
As I read, this jumped out at me:
French Philosopher Pierre Levy, (who has devoted his professional life to studying the cultural and cognitive impacts of digital technologies) believes that the shift toward subjectivity may prove to be one of the most important considerations in business in this century. …feelings and intuition (will) rise in stature in the common mind.
The authors point to the search of many to find deeper meaning in work, and they point to companies trying to make the world a better place. For example: Timberland CEO Jeffrey Swartz unabashedly says his company’s primary mission is to “make the world a better place.” Swartz, and other leaders like him,
“are resolute and successful business professionals who augment their human-centered company visions with sound management skills and an unswerving commitment to do good buy all who are touched by their companies.”
But, back to the “shift toward subjectivity.” Consider — “Subjectivity/subjective: reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind; lacking in reality or substance.”
So, is this era the era of “perceived reality?” “Perceived value?” If it is, then people will increasingly go to the companies that give them what they perceive as valuable at this moment. And they will change companies as quickly as that perceived value dims. In other words, loyalty of the customer is a thing of the past. The customer’s loyalty is only loyalty to immediate perceived value. And once that perception disappears, that customer will start looking around for an alternative.
I realize that many people have written many times about the loss of customer loyalty. This “era of subjectivity” just helps me understand it a little better. And since subjectivity is the opposite of objectivity, then this helps me understand how demonstrating “objective value” is not all that effective against the now more powerful subjective perception of value.
In a more-and-more data driven world, maybe the data we most need is the data telling us how to build emotional connections and deeper subjective value. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it?
What a challenging age we live in…
The American Code for cars – IDENTITY
When people spoke about the moment when they were allowed to drive for the first time, they made it sound as though their lives began right then. Conversely, when elderly people spoke of the moment their car keys were taken away, they reported feeling as though their lives were over.
Clotaire Rapaille: The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way To Understand Why People Around The World Buy And Live As They Do
Have you see then the Chevy Runs Deep commercials? I have – and like them. Not only because I have always been partial to Chevy, but also because the very idea that a brand would run deep feels like just the right kind of nostalgia –a longing for the simpler, more certain days of yesteryear.
In watching the commercial, I tried to chronicle the actual cars that I have ridden in and then driven over the course of my lifetime. Starting with what I rode in as a boy, and then on to my driving years, here are the cars (I think I have remembered them all – I may have missed one or two), by maker (not by specific car):
A brand new, beautiful! 1959 Chevy
A Rambler (handed down from a relative – glad to have it!)
The latest is a now two-month old Chevy Cruze Eco. I almost feel like I’ve come home.
So, if Chevy runs deep, what else runs deep? Maybe not as much as we think. I’m going to confess something that I view with a touch of sadness. Except for Chevy, and Apple, I can’t think of any other brand loyalty that I have that runs anywhere close to deep. I buy the toothpaste that is on sale. I read lots of books, but could not even tell you the publisher of most of the books I read – and, don’t much care. I’ve always loved books, but I switched from the local/independent book-store to the big box store in the blink of an eye (even though I did bemoan the loss of the independent book store). Then, I switched from the big box store to the mouse-click-and-then-home-delivery of Amazon in another blink of an eye. And, unlike my blogging and First Friday Book Synopsis colleague Karl Krayer, I am just as happy to read a book on my iPad (I do prefer iBooks over Kindle, but I’ll take either) as I am to read a physical book. I made that switch in yet another blink of an eye.
In fact, if you ask me what I prefer, I think I want two things – assuming quality (bad quality is a deal killer!), I want price and convenience. And maybe the greatest of these, if it does not cost “too much more,” is convenience.
Convenience! This may be the magic bullet at the moment. I bank at the bank just off the freeway exit to my house. That is the only reason I chose that bank. My son: he banks where he can deposit checks through his iPhone. I suspect that is why I like the iBooks experience. I read a book review on our blog by Bob Morris. I open my iPad. I download the sample of the book. I read the sample, and then decide whether of not to go for the full book. Getting the sample, and then the book if I decide to purchase it, is all done in under a minute (well under a minute!). Amazing!
But… this is not about Chevy, or Apple, or ebooks vs. physical books. It is about brand and product loyalty. And I think such loyalty is simply part of that yesteryear we talk about. It is awfully shallow. And what we buy/use/prefer today may be gone in the blink of an eye. (Just remember MySpace!)
So, imagine the pressure that every business feels — how do you keep your customers when someone else can take them away in the blink of an eye? Now, that’s quite a challenge.
You know, at one time there must’ve been dozens of companies makin’ buggy whips. And I’ll bet the last company around was the one that made the best goddamn buggy whip you ever saw. Now how would you have liked to have been a stockholder in that company? You invested in a business and this business is dead. Let’s have the intelligence, let’s have the decency to sign the death certificate, collect the insurance, and invest in something with a future.
(Lawrence Garfield — “Larry the Liquidator” – played by Danny DeVito, in the movie, Other People’s Money)
news item: Blockbuster finally files for Chapter 11
Born, 1985: (The first Blockbuster store opened in Dallas, Texas on October 26, 1985 at the corner of Skillman and Northwest Highway. By the way, I used to rent videos at that specific store. I had no idea that it was the first).
Died, September 23, 2010: (though some smaller version might last a little longer).
The lessons are many. Like:
#1 Customer loyalty is dead. Really dead.
#2 Someone intends to go right past you — you’d better beat them to the punch.
#3 If the product you are selling is no longer the product that works best, you have no future.
#4 If these three are true, then you will go under – it’s just a matter of when, not if.
These are the thoughts that I have as I reflect on Blockbuster going into bankruptcy. Netflix, and redbox, and youtube, and iTunes, all simply passed them by. And Blockbuster simply was not nimble enough, not quick enough, not able to react and change fast enough, and now they are on the verge of gone.
Lots of thoughts, from plenty of books, come to mind, like:
Verne Harnish, in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, reminds us that all business starts with the functions of Making or Buying something. So, if people no longer want to buy what you offer, you’ve got real trouble…
In Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present (Using Foresight to Provoke Strategy and Innovation) by Bob Johansen (Institute for the Future), we learn about the VUCA world of (VUCA originated at the U. S. Army War College – the graduate school for Generals-to-be):
It’s the volatility that helped doom Blockbuster.
In The New Experts: Win Today’s Newly Empowered Customers At Their Decisive Moments by Robert (Bob) Bloom, Bob basically wrote Blockbuster’s obituary. Consider these quotes from his book:
Today’s buyers – empowered by the Internet, assured by the enormous choice in every segment of commerce, and capitalizing on the acute vulnerability of sellers struggling in this new selling climate – have taken control of the entire purchase progression.
Buyers no longer care who they buy from.
Today, buyers are in control.
This reversal of supremacy has placed every business around the globe in a perilous situation.
This confluence of technology and choice started customer loyalty down the slippery slope – ultimately, customer loyalty died.
It is a scary world out there. Somebody is out to beat you in tomorrow’s market.
I’ll end with a well-known quote from Gary Hamel (quoted by Tom Kelley in The Art of Innovation):
To those few companies sitting on the innovation fence, business writer Gary Hamel has a dire prediction: “Out there in some garage is an entrepreneur who’s forging a bullet with your company’s name on it. You’ve got one option now – to shoot first. You’ve got to out-innovate the innovators.”
Robert Bloom, marketing guru, has a new book about The New Experts. And who are those new experts? You are – the buyer. The buyer is now in control. And this is a genuine change in the way business is conducted.
The book is filled with quotes describing this no longer changing, but now-changed, environment.
Do you know what your customers want, and are you giving it to them?… Although most of us make a living selling something… When we do (act as buyers), we are as unfaithful and selfish as any buyer out there, looking for the best deal and walking away from our previous relationships with former sellers of choice. When we assume our role as a seller, however, we become obsessed with our selling task: We forget how we, as buyers, live, work, play, think, and act. Far too often, we, as sellers, think like a seller and act like a seller.
This problem – namely, the upheaval in the fundamental buyer-seller equation – was concealed by the recent boom years during which sellers could sell anything to buyers who were eager to buy everything they could, or as it turned out – could not – afford. The excesses of yesterday…obscured the emergence of the buyer’s newfound power and authority.
Today, buyers are in control.
This reversal of supremacy has placed every business around the globe in a perilous situation.
In this era, all of the “we can count on” factors are gone.
Customer loyalty – gone.
Familiarity – gone.
Even relationships – gone.
Recently, we bought a gift for our son’s girlfriend. It was exactly the same gift I had bought for my wife a while back (she had seen my wife’s, and liked it). What did I do? I googled the item, found the best price, and ordered it. It took 5 minutes – tops! I had no interest in going back to the same seller as before, and in fact, chose a different seller. Based totally on price. (The item was exactly the same – why would I care who sold it to me?)
This particular company delivered on time, and I was quite pleased. I suspect that I will never buy the same item again, but even if I do, I will not return to the same company – even with their excellent customer service. I will google the item again – and get the best price, again.
I am the new expert – the new buyer. Just like you are. And this is a tough selling environment.
Mr. Bloom has some really good ideas to survive in this environment in his book. But even with his good ideas, the truth is pretty clear, and pretty scary. It is going to be tough sledding out there for a long time to come.
(A note to our readers — I am traveling this week, speaking both in Las Vegas and Indianapolis. So I will be posting fewer times. My apology. And thanks to the other members of our team for making this a team-blog effort).
I heard Robert Bloom speak today to a group of highly inquisitive coaches, eager to give the best to their clients. Robert Bloom is the author of The Inside Advantage, which I have blogged about before, and the author of a new book soon to be released, The New Experts: Win Today’s Newly Empowered Customers At Their 4 Decisive Moments. His earlier book is simple, profounmd, and incredibly useful. He asks:
Who Is Your Core Customer
What is Your Uncommon Offering
How is the persuasive strategy that will convince your core cutomer to buy your uncommon offering versus all competitive offerings.
Own It! is the series of imaginative acts that will celebrate your uncommon offering and make it well known to your core customer.
His new book delves deeply into the mind of the new experts — the people who understand that information is always at their fingertips, and they know how to find it. A person with an iPhone is now able to know more than the salespeople and the customer service folks that are supposed to be experts. It truly is a different world.
One change is this — customer loyalty is dead. We already know this; it died long ago. But what we now have is “customer preference” that must be re-earned over and over again. He said:
“One customer at a time — you have to win the customer quickly.”
Yes, you do.