Every basket has a bad apple, regardless of where you bought them. The same concept applies to business. Every now and then, we are struck with a business that has an attitude leaving a bitter aftertaste. In our industry, those businesses are usually the ones who have been successful in the past with their current methods, and have now plateaued or worse, slowly declining.
You know the type: “we’ve done this like this for the last 30 years” or “we’ve been in business for over 20 years and never had to do this”. And yes, they are right, 20 or 30 odd years ago, you probably didn’t have to aggressively market your products and services. In fact, all they probably needed to do was open a new shop on a high street or in a town centre and they would have people flooding in just because they were a new shop.
Unfortunately, consumers don’t care in the same way anymore. Everyone is much busier with their lives, and focused on balancing work KPIs with social gatherings and meeting everyone’s expectations while updating their social media every five minutes. We are a “busy” society; lots of things to do but not a lot of productivity. So, businesses need to break through that noise, and it’s really hard.
Consumers are also now more savvy shoppers than 50 years ago. Many of them shop online, research before they buy and double check your competitors before coming to you to negotiate a price. Having a storefront isn’t enough anymore, and in some cases, can become more hindrance than help. Trying to cleverly deceive today’s consumer to make your product sound exclusive often ends in a negative Yelp review after they made a 3 second Google search. The power has shifted, and it’s in the consumer’s hands now, not the business’.
Many of the businesses like this are in desperate need of change, from their branding and marketing to their internal systems, but most of all, they need a change of mentality. Owning a business used to mean something 50 years ago, but now, anyone can open a business, and many people do as a secondary form of income. Then throw China into the mix with their immense production lines at low costs, destroying local manufacturing. Businesses rise and fall faster than ever before; here today, gone tomorrow. So, the business world has become saturated, competitive and turbulent.
So how can a business like this survive in today’s world?
These bad apple businesses need to start managing their expectations of consumers. You aren’t entitled to anything; get off your high horse. Owning a business doesn’t guarantee anything anymore, no power, no value, and no business. You have to prove yourself like everyone else until you’ve earned that network of value.
Accepting that consumers have choice, that they are not obligated to buy from you, is the first step. Consumers buy for different reasons. Some buy based on price, some for convenience, some for quality. As a business, you have to accommodate this sort of structure into your model if you want to succeed.
Managing your expectations is key, especially online. Look at this scenario: you’ve hired an agency to create amazing content for you, and you’ve put some money behind advertising it so it should reach a wider network. 200,000 people have seen it, and only a handful have liked it and no comments. What do you do? Scream at the agency? It’s not their fault, in fact, it’s a reality we face every day.
Consumers are not obligated to engage. It doesn’t mean they aren’t entirely interested, but not everyone clicks immediately… which is where the repetition comes into play. They might be busy, they might have seen it but not been in the mood to read it at that moment, or it might not have grabbed their attention in that split second. More than ever, people trust what other people are saying, so if their friends have shared something, they are more likely to engage with it. The power is not in the business’ hands, it’s down to the consumer.
Once a business is prepared to accept that change is necessary to progression and that the market approach has changed with this power reversal, advertising strategies would be much more effective. No one has to buy your product; in fact no one gives a toss. Every business has a competitor who can fill the void if they collapse. So, why should someone care about your business? Why should they choose you over someone else, and why would you be grateful for their business? If you start there, you’ll be in a much stronger position when someone does care, and cares enough to share it with their inner circles.