A few years ago I was lamenting to a good friend the fact that a lot of nice-sized client business that seemed to fit Spring to a tee were going to other agencies that weren’t (as I saw) as innovative or new media savvy or even as good as Spring. I stated that we were perfect for everybody. He reminded me that as much as I loved my own brand, my potential customers likely saw Spring in an altogether different way. Too new, too small, too wacky and more to the point, too career-risky for a VP Marketing when compared to more established agencies with longer track records and a reassuring stable of nice conservative clients. I disagreed of course. I liked the view from where my head was at.
We’re older now, have a pretty good track record, nice stack of awards, case studies etc…oh crap here I go again.
Fact is, almost every organization suffers from a superiority complex. We all come by it honestly. We work at morale by creating cultures that contain ingredients like pride, fighting spirit, personal bonds and really good staff parties. We sell our products by pointing out their superior features. We find ourselves interesting. We feel great. We like the view.
Before long our organizations, our brands, are like the guy at the party who only talks about himself. We stop seeing what our customers see – our faults and our lack of difference – the root of indifference.
Customers experience head-up-assers through the self-congratulatory bullshit spouted about how great the ointments, toilet paper,
forklifts or services are that they sell. They don’t care. If you’re not entertaining them, telling them something that they find somewhat fascinating, making them laugh or in short, paying your way for their time, you’re wasting it. Do you like your time wasted? Didn’t think so.
Your consumers want what they want and that’s it. Your level of affection for your own brand is often the opposite of their point of view. So remove your head – here’s a few pointers on how:
- Find someone who will tell you the truth and listen to them. Stop saying “yeah but” to outside critics, consumer feedback and research and do something constructive with it.
- Stop saying “yeah right” to the professional aggree-ers sycophants and cheerleaders around you and take a customers viewpoint.
- Are you different? Or better? If you don’t have a real point of difference or crystal clear consumer benefit in your product you aren’t different of better. I’ve heard this one many times, “we have great people.” Good for you, unless that sets you clearly apart in the experience of your customer, your head is, well you get it. Nice view though huh?
- Are we saying different? If a (truthful and meaningful in the customer experience) point of difference or consumer benefit isn’t clearly exploited in your communication you aren’t communicating anything. Clean up your act.
- This is perhaps unexpected here but get someone (us) to rewrite your mission statement so it isn’t a head swallowing self congratulatory unmemorable paragraph with the words “excellence” “strive” “consistently” “partners” or “people” in it. Then go use it as a real signpost to your business. Ours is one word. It’s easy to remember that way.
- Try this exercise. How would I put me out of business? A nice exercise on looking at yourself objectively from the outside and seeing your weaknesses in your customers as reflected in the mirror of a competitor.
- Park your ego. No really. Park it. The truth won’t set you free; it’ll save your life.
Now that you can see the real view you can set the right course. You’re welcome.