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Companies That Thrive During Tough Times Share These Traits

Ernan Roman | Aug 8, 2017 81 views No Comments

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Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CMO.com

In the same economy and same consumer market in which thousands of retailers and brands are struggling, others are thriving and growing. Why? What drives the outcome of “something went wrong” versus “things are going great”?

Their “secrets” become apparent by understanding who they are, who they serve, and how they connect with customers in a value-driven, sustainable way. It all starts at the very top.

“CEOs must create a culture where the key measure of success is the success of your customers,” said Serge Saxonov, CEO of biotechnology company 10x Genomics. “To achieve that, the company must constantly seek unbiased, unadulterated, and blunt feedback from customers and prospects. That will keep the company from creating its own version of ‘marketplace reality.'”



Employees also factor into the equation. “CEOs must ensure that every employee cares passionately about the success of customers and make decisions based on ensuring that customers succeed,” Saxonov told me. “This will drive the sustainable success and growth of the company.”

Here’s a look at three success traits traits driving success at a trio of top brands.

Success Factor #1: Meet A Clearly Defined Need
According to the Accenture study “Technology Trends 2017” (PDF), relationships are no longer about keeping customers happy as the company guides them toward a goal. Relationships will be about walking with people on a path they define.

In the very competitive fitness sector, Orangetheory Fitness has received the workout world’s attention with 600 studios across the country and $450 million in revenue. To differentiate itself from competitors, Orangetheory Fitness aimed to satisfy the needs of high-tech, fitness-oriented consumers with a technology-driven solution that participants monitor to pinpoint the effectiveness of each workout.

“Technology enables the consumer to … work out better. … I think the lack of technology made it very hard for people to hit their fitness goals,” said CEO David Long.

Findings from 16,000-plus hours of VoC research interviews conducted by our firm, ERDM, make it evident that success depends, in large measure, on understanding what it takes to earn the customer relationship. Consider these representative quotes from the research:

  • “It’s not just what we buy from you; it is the total experience that determines whether we buy from you again … or go to the many other choices in your category.”
  • “If you want to keep me as a customer, I expect what you market to me to reflect my individual interests and preferences.”

Success Factor #2: Abandon The Ego Of ‘That’s How We Do It’
According to John Rand, senior vice president of retail insights for Kantar Retail, “As a response to the many obvious challenges to the traditional business … seek to differentiate, adopt new practices, and reconsider the brand and shopper focus.”

A few years ago, Lego’s CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp told colleagues, “We are on a burning platform … [and] likely won’t survive.” Recently, however, the company announced the highest revenues in its 85-year history. What made the difference? Perhaps Julia Goldin, Lego’s chief marketing officer, has the answer: “Every year [we] recruit every child again and make the brand exciting for them.”

Two key strategies that keep Lego ahead of the game are:

  • It cut its losses and outsourced ventures that were outside of its core expertise: According to Simon Cotterrell of analytics firm Interbrand, what has made Lego successful comes from knowing what it is good at. “That’s a very brave thing to do, and it’s where a lot of companies go wrong,” he said. “They don’t understand that sometimes it’s better to let go than to hang on.”
  • The company found new ways to listen to its customers: Anne Flemmert Jensen, senior director of Lego’s Global Insights group, noted, “My team spends all our time travelling around the world, talking to kids and their families, and participating in their daily lives.” The company also rolled out Lego Life, a social network for kids.

Success Factor #3: Don’t Just Market–Understand And Communicate
Urban Outfitters has experienced an 146% increase in revenue and 75% gain in conversions through the use of new, personalized marketing opportunities and innovative use of tools, such as very targeted location data.

Our goal is to provide better experiences for our audience in this competitive landscape,” said Andrew Rauch, senior director of global digital marketing at Urban Outfitters. Additionally, Trish Donnelly, CEO of Urban Outfitters Group, commented on the brand’s use of social to connect: “This channel has given us yet another relevant way to connect with our customers and engage in two-way conversations.”

In summary, a combination of clarity of vision and focus, agility, and strategies that stress connections and relationships that evolve over time with customers is what separates companies that still thrive in a landscape of tough times versus those that don’t. This final quote from the VoC research says it all: “The brands that earn my loyalty are those that make the effort to understand me and help me over time. The brands that sell and disappear haven’t done anything to earn my loyalty and dollars.”

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