The Four Pillars of an Influential Startup Business and Brand.
It takes more than a pot of investor’s money and splashy marketing to build an influential business and brand.
Juicero Inc. was one of the most talked about startups in Silicon Valley. It makes a juice machine– an internet-connected device that squeezes single-serving packets of chopped fruits and vegetables into a convenient juice beverage.
Using your smart phone to tell a machine to squeeze your juice sounded like a great idea. The product had everything going for it – beautifully designed, world-class branding and all supported by a robust investment in slick marketing. The founder’s self-proclaimed comparison to being the Steve Jobs of juicing perfection was a part of the pitch. Investors lined up in droves and poured millions of dollars into the startup venture.
As it turned out, customers quickly discovered they could yield as much juice from the packets by squeezing them with their bare hands as from the $400 juice press machine.
Juicero went the way of other great innovations like New Coke and the Ford Edsel.
Many startup entrepreneurs believe in the conventional wisdom that investment capital and robust marketing is the source code for creating an influential company and brand. As Juicero illustrates, many startup entrepreneurs quickly find their way to the bone yard adhering to this belief.
It takes more than a pot of investor’s money and splashy marketing to build an influential business and brand. Beyond money and marketing, your proposition must represent a compelling idea of value that elevates the condition of the customer for the better. This idea must be simple and distinctive, and form the basis of all business decisions.
In a marketplace full of clutter and noise, your success as an influential leader, organization and brand can be strengthened when you embrace the discipline of four guiding pillars:
VISION. LEADERSHIP. VALUE CREATION. IMPACT.
These four pillars, when aligned with purpose, discipline, and transformative innovation will form the antidote that could have saved a startup like Juicero from its fate.
STRENGTHEN YOUR CLARITY OF VISION
A strategic vision must be more than a foggy mirage in your head. A strategic vision is powered by a purpose.
Joe Bruzesse was a middle school teacher turned startup entrepreneur. In educational circles, Joe was a known authority and expert on the social development of early teen kids, and he recognized that bullying in middle schools had reached epidemic levels.
Joe was driven to help parents and kids thrive in the middle school years, which lead to his vision to create an online tool that would enable kids to anonymously report bullying to their school principal in real time.
As a result, Joe founded Sprigeo. A subscription-based mobile app that helps school administrators more effectively respond to incidents of bullying in their schools in real time. Within its first two years, Sprigeo became an influential brand with over 500 school system subscribers using it in thousands of schools across the US.
When you leverage your organization’s unique capability to serve customers everybody wins. Embracing a clear purposed-based vision to serve people moves you and your team to a sense of fulfillment far beyond moneymaking
STRENGTHEN YOUR INFLUENTIAL LEADERSHIP
You can’t be influential in your marketplace by clawing your way to the middle of the slush pile. You have to lead. Influential leadership is defined by the quality of your presence in the marketplace. The quality of your presence is determined by your guiding values.
Kevita Probiotic Drinks is a great example of values-based leadership that built an influential brand. KeVita grew from a small startup in Southern California to successful national brand in just a few years. KeVita’s core values stemmed from the beliefs of its enlightened founders. The company thrived with a simple call to action “to make delicious drinks that are better for you”.
KeVita’s core values of “natural, entrepreneurial, responsible and generous” became a battle cry for attracting talented people whose own personal values were naturally aligned to KeVita’s reason for being. These core values lead the disciplined actions of every member within the company creating an influential customer-focused culture. Delighted by their experience, the brand enjoyed loyal customers who eagerly shared the love.
The stronger and more visible your core values, the more they will shape your behavior in the marketplace. Your values lead your team to move not only in the same direction, but also in the right direction–continuously improving and expanding your contributions to your customers through experiences they love and can’t live without.
STRENGTHEN YOUR VALUE CREATION
Rather than compete in a crowded market, focus your energies on creating new value in a category all your own.
Back in the early 80s, Seiko and Casio were driving technological innovation in quartz watches–believing most people wanted technical precision. However, a small Swiss watchmaker recognized a fashion trend in the culture at large that people cared more about self-expression than geeky technical precision. From this insight, the Swatch watch was born and proved to be a radical innovation of meaning that created radical business success.
No one was asking for a Swatch, iPhone, Uber or Amazon. Yet once these innovations were revealed, customers eagerly embraced the unexpected.
Bring products to market that transform a known concept into something remarkable. You won’t scale a me-too product into an influential business and brand no matter how much money you spend on marketing.
STRENGTHEN YOUR IMPACT IN THE MARKETPLACE
Influential companies and brands are different and make a difference. They disrupt the status quo in ways worthy of the attention advertising money can’t buy.
Yvon Chouinard founder of Patagonia says, “we follow our beliefs, customers follow us.” Patagonia is but one of dozens of outdoor apparel brands. It’s not the biggest, nor the sales leader in its category, but to customers, it stands head and shoulders above them all.
Why? Because Patagonia represents core values that are shared by both employees and customers. It’s not about making and selling jackets it’s about a shared sacred ideal. For customers who value environmental stewardship, the Patagonia brand is their one and only choice.
Every decision and action they undertake has direct and lasting impact on the sustainability of our natural environment–an impact that matters. Patagonia has never depended on paid media to grow their influence with customers. Their marketing is baked in to their very existence.
MAKE A QUANTUM LEAP
Authenticity is the mother of impact, influence and competitive advantage in the marketplace. When your business makes an impact that truly matters, your influence grows exponentially. Your business becomes the “one and only” choice in the minds of loyal customers–making your price and your competitors irrelevant.
In order to grow your business from early struggle phase to higher levels of success, the strength of these four pillars will form the structural integrity of your promise to higher value customers. Instead of incremental baby steps, you’ll make a quantum leap in your progress. As your influence in the marketplace grows, the fun, creative spark, vitality, financial health and well being of your business becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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