There is a major shift in business focus that is under way.
Digital media has forced businesses to change. Dramatically. This is nothing new. What's interesting is that we're seeing two, distinct, breeds of business being born:
The Internet exposes all.
It used to be difficult to see and understand the differences between the two. While there are a handful of organizations today that may be blurring the lines, you can think of some of the most common brands and ask yourself: Are they product-focused or customer-focused? It's obvious that the majority of online darlings are -- for the most part -- product focused, while your favorite soda is probably a more customer focused endeavour. The reason this is becoming an increasingly relevant issue is because the more brands that embrace social media, build better websites and try to figure out a substantive mobile strategy to integrate with their business model, show that most major brands simply don't understand the power and importance of digital media in relation to telling a credible brand narrative.
What we're really seeing.
What we're really seeing is a world where most brands are trying to design and market their way out of a flawed business model. To be kinder: They're trying to use social media to put lipstick on the proverbial pig. But because digital media is open to all, this strategy backfires. Great design and a cohesive marketing message is, clearly, not enough. Brands can try as they wish to get better at creating content or trying to engage with consumers on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, but at the end of the day, it's just marketing blather and not truly relevant, and all is lost... including the marketing investment, time and resources. See, if you want to be a brand that is both product-focused and customer-focused (and yes, in this day and age, that is the ultimate goal), it can't be by leveraging marketing as thin veneer to the business.
Facing yourself in the mirror.
If you haven't had a chance to read Jeffrey Hayzlett's first business book, The Mirror Test, now would be the perfect time. Brands need to wake up, roll out of bed, rub their eyes, lean over the sink and take a long, cold, hard look in the mirror and ask themselves those same questions that keep the rest of us up at night:
A focused world.
There is no doubt: You can't have one without the other moving forward. As important as product focused organizations are, so too are customer-focused organizations as well, and this is where our business world could, potentially, get very exciting: when the best of brands become the perfect balance of both. We've already started to see some nascent signs of this (companies like Fab and Kickstarter), where a hybrid of constantly iterative and head-down product focused organizations have an equally compelling customer focused drive as well (be it driven top-down by the corporation or enhanced via peer to peer engagement). It seems to make perfect sense, but we have to remember that social media isn't just about brands being able to talk to consumers and provide platitudes that serve customer service as the prime driver. The digital platform and channels have enhanced how we feel about brands and how brands can express (or react) to that in much more powerful and profound ways. It has switched from a traditional, linear approach to a much more circular and organic one.
Your exercise of the day: Is your business more product-focused or customer-focused? What are you going to do to bridge the gap?
Follow Mitch Joel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mitchjoel