Tribes, and conquering ‘BIG’ business malaise

Sadly it seems rare to find big business brands that care, beyond providing dividends to those with shares. This provides exciting opportunity for eager smaller business, entrepreneurs and innovators.

Throughout history opportunity has existed for entrepreneurs to correct category wrongs. Apple, Google and Virgin all started smaller to fill a market gap and grew. On a smaller scale, Haigh’s are offering an attractive alternative for chocolate lovers to mass production chocolate brands, and Vino Mofo an alternative to large soulless wine groups such as Dan Muphies.

As a business gets bigger, corporate structures become more complex, and the challenge in balancing ‘showing care’ with ‘pleasing those with shares’ grows exponentially. Showing too much care can be a financial risk.

It is complicated. Businesses seek to return profits to investors. So, even with the greatest intentions, the desire to care is guzumped by the reality of survival, growth and financial performance.

The emotion often gets pulled from big business. The strategy turns to ‘if we advertise a mediocre product to a large number of people a lot, and make it easily available, we will sell enough to be profitable.’

Mediocre is viewed as realitively low risk. Products are offered that are not too different from competitors. This likely fits with the category norm. And, keeping the path to purchase as simple as possible minimises costs, and thereby maximises sales, profits and returns to shareholders.

Trust levels are low towards big business. Banks are typically viewed as necessary bastards, utilities untrustworthy profitees, big media seem to struggle to sustain viable revenue models and large retailers offer little reason to go in-store. Leaders of big business can fail to build trust and confidence through endlessly breaking promises and disappointing.

As the 2017 Edelman Global Trust Barometer notes …

“The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals that trust is in crisis around the world. The general population’s trust in all four key institutions — business, government, NGOs, and media—has declined broadly.” (More here)

In the search for more revenue and profit and with this happier shareholders, big business create more and more products, and make choices even more complex and anxious. This further increases the distrust.

This is a picture of opportunity, amongst one of neglect and despair.

The MONSTERS of the corporate world seem to have brains far smaller than their size and strength would suggest. While the individuals within are likely highly intelligent, cognitive impediments such as confirmation bias and non-customer priorities and distractions paralyse them and their leaders.

“Too often leaders are crippled with confirmation bias, the tendency to seek information that confirms existing views. Businesses and government can get lost, replicating old rules and industry norms. Confirmation bias skews thinking towards affirming perceptions, rather than critiquing hypothesis or looking for alternatives.” (More here)

There is opportunity for dynamic smaller entrepreneurs and innovators to elevate themselves beyond larger competitors by building caring relationships through being a bigger part of the lives of their core target market. Businesses that are transparent as as to what they stand for, and build trust as to what makes them distinctive. They likely do not talk to all potential customers but the like-minded right potential customers.

And they use unique systems, people, processes and technology to improve perceived risk and choice anxiety of the target customers to make the right choice. They empower the customer to find the best product, smoothly, efficiently and with little delay and maximum trust. (More here)

Targeting customers with aligned values is critical. The right customers are more likely to be satisfied with the experience, be promoters and share positive word-of-mouth (via social media and mouth to ear) to attract more of the right customers. The right customers stay, and the wrong customers go — which is just fine. This can be a scary proposition for a BIG business. (More here)

To create a tribe of the right customers, willing to wave the flag, to advocate and attract more customers away from uncaring big business. The opportunity to conquering uncaring ‘BIG’ business comes from not fearing their size and scale, but rather to see this as more so a vulnerability.

Triumph is sure to come from replacing distrust with transparency as to the business’ core values and distinctiveness. Rather than targeting everyone with a wide range of mediocre products, focus on building a narrow suite of superior products. Go forth to reimagine unmet needs, beyond being crippled by the lofty profit projections and closed minds of BIG business.

Building a tribe to conquer ‘BIG’ business malaise starts with finding an itch that needs to be scratched — lack of choice, too much choice, poor choice etc. Finding a gap or pain-point to conquer big business is likely actually small, and seemingly too simple, solving an inherent problem or just making the complex easier, and showing a bit of care beyond those with shares.


Also posted on LinkedIn here

Related very interesting TED talks …

David Logan talks about the five kinds of tribes that humans naturally form

Seth Godin argues the Internet has ended mass marketing and revived a human social unit from the distant past: Tribes

It’s a classic underdog tale: David, a young shepherd armed only with a sling, beats Goliath, the mighty warrior. The story has transcended its biblical origins to become a common shorthand for unlikely victory. But, asks Malcolm Gladwell, is that really what the David and Goliath story is about? 

Also published on LinkedIn here

This post is inspired by my 22+ years working with businesses and brands BIG, small, local, global, privately owned and publicly listed to provide consumer research, insight and strategic advice. I have been blessed to work with many, many great not so big businesses targeting the right customers and obtaining strong market share and revenue growth. From chocolate to beer, to retail and banking, pharmaceutical, internet service providers, utilities, cheese, wine, pasta, tourism operators, tech groups and many more. Often these are family owned or otherwise independently owned, away from the Stock Exchange and big investor groups. Some are long established and others with shorter lives. For many of these there has been very much a David and Goliath situation, in which focusing on building the highest quality product and service and building a tribe of followers through getting the basics right and caring about their customers, has allowed them to pull significant market share from the ‘Goliath’ category lead. While some have exited and successfully sold for a good return, most continue to grow and build, and build. These are our favourite types of businesses.

Thanks for reading to the end! 🙂

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