Without a strategic focus on the customer experience, its unlikely your startup business will gain the traction and momentum to scale against the headwinds of a cluttered and noisy marketplace.
Influence in the marketplace is the white-hot center of inspired business and life success for startup entrepreneurs seeking to thrive beyond the early struggle phase of their startup business.
In an era of shrinking attention spans and resistance to marketing and advertising claims, influence in the marketplace for any business is a high bar indeed. I call this challenge “the scalability factor”– a challenge every startup organization will face as they focus on who they are, what they stand for, whom they serve, and how their desired reputation shapes their business goals and creates customers and clients who represent a bigger future.
To be the one and only choice customers can’t live without requires a single-mindedness to make a remarkable impact and difference in your customer’s lives. Focus your creativity, innovation and resources on your customer, not your marketing.
Over time, your focus and mastery of these five strategies will create the lift to take a quantum leap to higher levels of success.
Strategy I: Focus on the right customer – not every customer.
Building an influential business is about exclusion, not inclusion. Forget the conventional wisdom of casting as wide a net as possible. Founders at the early struggle phase of their business easily fall into the trap of selling their stuff to as many people as they can. At best, most just claw their way to the middle of the slush pile. Traction and momentum comes from serving the right customers.
Your value proposition must be highly relevant to a specific target customer segment that shares in your purpose/mission/cause as if it were their own. In the minds of these customers, your business must stand for something meaningful and valuable. The power of influence begins with a deep and narrow focus on a small segment of fervent users who love what you’re up to and eagerly share it with others.
Strategy II: Focus on staying true to your core values.
It’s easy for leaders and their teams to get distracted. Outside influences, market trends and competitive pressure are a constant distraction. Every great business stays true to their core values at every level of growth. Core values represent the uncompromising true north of your purpose/passion/cause– attracting the right people, building your influence in the marketplace, and attracting higher value customers who can’t live without you.
Your business must stand for something that is cherished right from the beginning. There’s no competitive advantage in copying the success of others and selling at a cheaper price. Greatness requires focus and discipline on one thing that matters.
Avoid the temptation to follow the conventional wisdom of the industry, even if it appears as common sense. Grow your value to the world by holding true to your core values and serves the growth and success of higher value customers.
Strategy III: Focus on innovation. Create new value in your market rather than competing for the value created by others at a cheaper price.
Enlightened business leaders innovate around life experiences and propose new meanings rather than functional product features and benefits. The process of innovation in these enterprises is anchored in a deep desire to serve the well being of people–to make life a little better.
Enlightened business leaders view the process of innovation as something sacred and transcendent of the physics of their organizations. Innovation is hard-wired into their culture.
The greatest assets for innovation come from the non-physical, the formless. Focus your creativity to harness the power of radical ideas, intuition, inspiration, imagination, and insight that present new proposals to customers–which shows up in product forms that are unexpected, uniquely useful, loved, and are perceived as being of greater value.
Influential startups focus their innovations on the needs of customers in ways that are unexpected, and once realized by customers, turns out to be the very thing they were waiting for, just not asking for. Innovation is a consciousness, not an event or action step. Rather than counting transactions in three-month increments, influential companies that lead markets focus on scintillating, dramatic, novel, relevant, transformative experiences that really matter to people.
Strategy IV: Focus on embedding a clear and compelling vision for the future that everyone in your organization is committed to achieving.
Every leader of a startup business has a strategic vision for growth. The trouble is most of the time it’s all in their head and not a driving force within their organization.
A strategic vision is more than a mirage in the Founder’s head. Your strategic vision is an organizing principle that gets everyone in your organization on the same page with where you’re going and how you plan to get there. How aligned is your leadership team and the entire organization around your vision? Are all the oars of your business rowing in the same direction?
Growth is a journey of plateaus. At each new level, your strategic vision must continue to be shared by everyone in your organization if you are to make quantum leaps in your growth and profitability. Strengthening your strategic vision requires your leadership team have absolute clarity, consensus and accountability to deliver on its promise.
Strategy V: Focus on building a customer-driven culture where every employee in your business always gives a little more than is expected.
Serving customers in highly relevant ways requires you to know their desires and behaviors essentially on one-to-one level. Your competitive advantage is not about selling product features and functions at ever-cheaper prices. Rather it will be based in serving customers in ways that are unexpected and highly valued. This must be the first priority of every member of your organization.
The customer is the center of the universe. Your value must be organized around them rather than they being organized around your products and services.
In customer-driven organizations, the focus is always on customer profitability rather than product profitability. Current sales are less important than the lifetime value of the customer. The value (equity) of your startup is less important than the value of well-served customers. And finally, your market share (which only measures current competitive sales) is less important than customer equity–which is a measure of your long-term competitive advantage.
Making quantum leaps.
Quantum leaps, rather than incremental growth, will require a sustained focus and consistent application of these five strategies. You’ll need to adopt a different ideology, mindset and methodology–thinking in a certain way, above and beyond what is known and expected.
Create a “magnificent obsession” within your organization to serve customers that goes beyond the reasonable. Begin with what’s at hand. Make your move before you’re ready. You don’t prepare for a quantum leap; you create it and fine tune as you go.
Finally, quit trying harder – trying harder produces unnecessary force and a negative energy that permeates your organization. A quantum leap is an elegant solution requiring far less effort. Embrace simplicity and do everything in an easy and relaxed way without stress and anxiety.
As your focus sharpens, your influence grows. You and your team will experience more joy, fulfillment and satisfaction in your business far beyond moneymaking.
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