by Andy Cunningham, author of “Get to Aha!: Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition“
Customer experience isn’t for everyone. Really. If it’s not part of your corporate DNA, you shouldn’t make it the focal point of your business. That should be an expression of your DNA. If you’re truly a customer-oriented company, or a “Mother” (in the parlance of my new book, “Get to Aha!: Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition“), customer service should be paramount. But if you happen to be a product-oriented company, or a “Mechanic,” product features and value need to take center stage. And if you’re the bearer of a world-changing concept, or a “Missionary,” your Next Big Thing or Cult of Personality should reign supreme.
DNA is at the root of everything — in people as well as companies — when it comes to competitive advantage. Just think about professional athletes and how their DNA influences their performance. Businesses should reflect the substance of a company, not an image dreamed up by the marketing department.
Yes, companies need to attract customers and keep them. But not every company succeeds with that because of the customer experience they’ve crafted. There’s a belief out there — a misplaced philosophy — that all companies must be customer-centric, what I call the Customer-Centric Conundrum. Customer-centricity is a popular trend that causes companies to work outside their corporate DNA; it’s a fad that’s gotten out of control. It’s easy to see how that happened. It sounds so warm and fuzzy to delight the customer, to be customer-centric, to listen to the customer, and so forth. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
But winning in business is about understanding what makes your product or service better than the competition and then leveraging that in your quest to conquer markets and keep customers.
If you discover that you are, in fact, a Mother, and you choose to differentiate and win because of the experience you offer your customers, you’ll need to nourish your company’s propensity to nurture customer connections. How you hire people, how you compensate those hires, how you measure individual and group success, what you talk about in meetings, your choice of language and tone of voice, your corporate structure—everything must be geared toward maintaining those precious customer relationships.
Here’s what Mothers like Disney, Lyft, Nordstrom, and Zappos do every day. They focus on customers in management discussions, measure success in terms of relationships—not just sales, initiate tracking studies and market research to get to know their customers, create a customer experience that transcends product offerings, measure profits against customer segments, drive marketing through brand and customer loyalty, motivate employees to excel at customer service and work tirelessly to ensure that their value proposition delights customers.
Is your company a Mother? If so, make sure every single thing your company does is geared to support Mother DNA. Otherwise, you’ll be expending energy on the wrong things. Knowing what you’re made of helps you make something of it.
*Originally published on the McGraw-Hill Professional Business Blog
Andy Cunningham is the founder and president of Cunningham Collective, a marketing, brand and communication strategy firm dedicated to bringing innovation to market. She is also the author of “Get to Aha!: Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition“.