Formula for Long-term Success

vision for long-term success

What makes a thriving business, a business with long-term success, a business you can pass down to your kids?

Even many businesses that are successful at first tend to lose that success as time goes on. In 1920, the average life span of a business was 67 years. This dropped to 15 in 2015 and is now down to 4 years. Top experts in major brands, ad agencies, business schools academia, technology and consultancies were asked what goes into long-term success and here’s what they said.

The Most Important Characteristic of a Successful Business

Nearly all of the experts surveyed said that speed and agility are the most important characteristic of a business that will be successful in the next 15 years. However, one outlier made a seemingly contradictory point.

Risk aversion and short-termism rule in the world’s board rooms. This attitude is entirely understandable. And entirely wrong.

Sir Martin Sorrell, S4 Capital

Although they look like opposites, the most successful companies are able to be both agile and focused on the long-term. How can this be?

It All Starts with a Purpose

You, the business owner, need to sit down and think about the purpose of your business. It should go beyond the idea of making money, and beyond being the biggest or best in your industry. It may help if you think about why you started the business in the first place. Here are some examples from well-known companies to get you started.

  • Patagonia – “We’re in business to save our home planet.”
  • Amazon – “Our vision is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company.”
  • Pedigree – “Everything we do is for the love of dogs.”
  • Nike – “To experience the emotion of competition, winning and crushing competitors.”
  • Wal-Mart – “To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people.”
  • Disney – “To make people happy.”

The main job of the founder, owner and top executives is to infuse this purpose into everything that the company does strategically and into its people. The purpose gives the company a direction to go in to achieve long-term success.

What About Agility?

The agility is achieved by the people in the organization. Research shows that companies that are organized in a very hierarchical way are slow to react to market forces and therefore tend to fall behind their more nimble competitors. A flat organizational structure gives individual employees the agency to notice changes in the market, come up with solutions and confidently present those solutions to the executives.

A Word of Caution

Just to be clear, being agile is not the same as being distracted or panicked by every shiny new social network or trend. Being agile means being tuned into underlying customer needs and market forces. This includes new competitors or products, technology and economic issues. The company needs to ready to respond strategically, then tactically.

The two aspects, long-term vision and on-the-ground agility come together when senior management consistently reinforces its vision and then gives employees free rein to react as needed within that vision. This combination leads to the company’s long-term success as well as short-term gains. For marketing, this means that the ratio between brand building and short-term initiatives should be somewhere around 70/30.

Be sure to communicate your vision through both word and action to your employees but also through your marketing communication. Your vision is not only a motivator for your staff but also should be universal and compelling enough to motivate potential customers to do business with you.

Pro Creative can help you formulate and communicate a compelling vision or purpose both internally and externally. In times of upheaval, this shift may be what puts your company on the road to long-term success.

Customer Motivations Since COVID-19

identify customer motivations

In normal times, marketers try to discern customer motivations in order to create marketing that will position their product as a way to fulfill those needs. Products and services have both a functional and a socio-emotional component. The functional component relates to the immediate use of the product. For example, if I am hungry, I need food.

The socio-emotional component relates to how the product makes me feel internally or appear to others. In the food example, I may choose to eat a salad when dining with friends because I want them to think I make healthy choices. Or I may decide to eat mac and cheese because I am feeling stressed about COVID-19 and want some comfort food to feel secure.

Today, this marketing process remains the same, but customer motivations have shifted significantly. What motivated customers in the past may not work now.

Identify the Gap

Customer motivations exist in the gap between what I have/feel now and what I ideally want to have/feel. In early April of this year, German researchers asked people about what they wished for in order to uncover this gap. Going back to the food example, I am hungry now and I want to feel full. In regard to the socio-emotional aspect, I am feeling insecure now and want the approval of friends for my healthy choices.

What People Crave Now

The researchers found that the primary motivational themes in the age of COVID-19 are:

  1. Safety (remaining uninfected, financial security, etc.)
  2. Sociability (feeling of community, connecting with friends and family)
  3. Optimism (feeling at ease, planning for a positive future)
  4. Joy (zest for life, appreciation)
  5. Independence (freedom of movement, ability to go my own way)
customer motivations covid-19
WARC: “Beyond the Obvious: How to Make Your Brand More Relevant During COVID-19”

Differences by Age

Most age groups shared these broad categories, with the exception of the youngest, Gen Z. This group, age 16-22 are primarily looking for adventure, thrill and innovation and less concerned with security and being at ease compared to other generations.

Here are the driving motivations and least compelling motivations by generation:

Gen Z (16-22)Adventure, thrillCaring, protection
Millennials (23-38 ) Inspiration, structureProtection, feeling carefree
Gen X (39-49)Sense of community, discoveryDiscipline, giving my best
Boomers (50-69 )Be unconcerned, be at easeThrill, adventure

Pro Creative can help you decide how to use these customer motivations to enhance your brand through creative marketing communication.

Emotions and Super-Customers

creating super-customers

Sure, you want your customers to be satisfied, but is it enough? New research from Harvard Business School says that satisfied customers are not sufficient to make a business truly successful. What is needed is to really connect with customers on an emotional level, especially loyal frequent buyers.

By discovering how your best customers feel in regard to your business and reinforcing those emotions, you can turn good customers into super-customers. Super-customers visit more often, spend on average twice as much and love to give you great reviews and recommendations.

Identifying Potential Super-customers

Go through your customer database or CRM and sift out one-time and occasional customers, leaving only those customers who buy regularly, make larger purchases and whom you can be confident are satisfied by checking complaints, refunds and reviews associated with that record.

Discover Their Motivating Emotions

Send them a little survey, asking about their attitudes and values in general. Don’t connect the questions to your specific brand because that could invalidate the results.

If you don’t already have data on their shopping behavior, ask questions about that too. For example, do they browse the website before coming into the store, do they tend to come in during sales, etc.

Look at the results and sort into emotional categories. For example, a majority of your best customers may be motivated by a desire to stand out from the crowd, feel a sense of belonging or feel secure.

Use the Information to Strengthen Your Connection

Let’s say a subset of your potential super-customers want to feel a sense of belonging. Your marketing strategy should incorporate community building. You could do this by coming up with a name for your customer community, and then encouraging customers to take selfies using your product and upload them to your website. Layer in customer loyalty rewards that are not just monetary but also experiential like exclusive events.

By featuring this user-generated content, you enrich your marketing and create a stronger bond with these customers. They are more likely to become super-customers, or brand ambassadors, trumpeting their love of your company to all of their social networks.

Pro Creative can help you put together super-customer strategies that will make a huge difference in your bottom line and new customer acquisition. Contact us today to get started.