Provide Value to Get Value

Happy Customers. Visual Courtesy:
Happy Customers.
Visual Courtesy:

Social media has made the world a highly inter-connected place today. A place where consumers, in matter of minutes, can build or destroy a brand simply by sharing their brand experience online on their personal social media networks. This referral has become a key influencer for CEO’s and CMO’s  concerned with their brands’ reputation.

This, social media based consumer world, has a very important lesson for us. A lesson in developing value in a relationship. A lesson that highlights one simple fact—Provide value in order to get value.Yet, many a brand out there still communicates with the sole intention of the short-term sale and not the  long-term relationship!

Strategic business processes, in organisations, are geared towards profitability. Profitability, primarily, in financial value. There was a time when this focus was helpful and it worked. Today, after the global financial crisis, consumers world-over have changed in their buying behaviour and in their engagement process with their brands.

A rising need for transparency, interaction and creating trust has come about.

In turn, this has impacted on leadership practices, organisational management, talent development. Coupled with rising numbers of millenials coming into the work-force, which has impacted on organisational culture, organisations have been forced to re-think their value proposition and their engagement strategies with their stakeholders.  The need to deliver a clear value-benefit is now the reality on-ground if any brand is to ensure sustainability.

Developing a well articulated value proposition has its roots in the brand vision and the organisations’ culture. It begins with a “what am I getting” query at both ends i.e. the stakeholder & the organisation.

Whilst (as a consumer) I’ve seen consumers try the brand — give it the opportunity to provide the expected experience—as a CMO I’ve come across the (all famous) need to simply have the “sale” and move on! Both aspects of this scenario answer the what am I getting query. But for the CMO focussing on just getting the sale this is a very, very short-term and myopic answer!

The proliferation of social media and its usage  has changed the way consumers are now clustered or grouped. It’s also changed behaviour resulting in very differing habits in terms of social media usage. The online consumer is found in  communities that are   ” interest”  based. Such communities  cut across age, income, religion and geographic locations. Friends, family, colleagues and associates form various but specific networks for a single individual depending on his/her interest area. Each of these interest based communities is extremely powerful and need to be taken into account whilst developing a brand’s strategic progress within a consumer segment.

The question that’s oft asked is how is it possible to take into account the huge number of interest groups of the consumer segment?

Well, just as we used to identify key consumer segments using research in the past, we need research our stakeholders to understand their online and social media behaviour. Based on this we then need to see if there are enough numbers for the brand to take a business decision to engage with that segment.

FMCG’s or Fast Moving Consumer Goods have already done this very well.

Non-FMCG businesses that are directly consumer oriented, such as those in service categories for e.g.–retail finance, hospitality, telecommunication– would benefit from taking the learnings from the FMCG’s practice and utilising the same among their identified stakeholder groups. Understanding, through research, the key needs, wants and interests of these groups. Then taking those insights to develop their brand direction whilst ensuring that the brand vision and values remain constant.

Entrepreneurs and medium-sized business owners need to keep in mind, that whilst generating revenue is important, ultimately having a sustainable business strategy that has a clear value-proposition for its stakeholders, is what’s going to bring about growth and profitability.

In the next post we’ll look at how businesses can actually undertake this simply.