by Tony Fannin, president, BE Branded
This idea is a truth and is a part of nature. You either are relevant to the world or you become extinct. This is very true in business. Most already know that a company must evolve their products and services to compete in the marketplace. And most already know that they must change the way they do things or otherwise they are left in the dust by those who adapt better techniques or just a better way of doing business. Being relevant isn’t about new technology or new media. Being relevant is about being meaningful to your customers and communicating to them in a meaningful way.
Brands can fall out of relevance because what they stand for is too narrow. They base their image on a piece of technology or a specific process. This is the quickest way to become extinct. True brands have a larger mission, a bigger cause they provide to the marketplace. For example, when iomega zip drives came out, they were the best thing that ever happened to digital storage. They made the floppy discs look floppy. iomega built their brand on this newfangled piece of hardware. In a matter of a few short years, they became irrelevant because of the invention of cheap CDs. The company is now shallow shell of itself. Instead the iomega should have built their brand on the larger vision of convenient, digital storage. This would allowed the company to evolve without abandoning their core brand.
New technologies are not immune to this cycle. Right now, there are many companies, mostly small, that are building their brand around a specific piece of technology. They are Twitter based, SEO based, facebook based, etc. What happens to these companies when the “next big thing” comes along and supplants these new platforms? What happens is the companies who proclaim themselves as “Twitter-enabler, Inc.” become as irrelevant as iomega did. And it only takes a few short years to reach that point. Processes are no different. Just because you do things in a unique way, there will be others who can replicate it, improve upon it, and sell it cheaper because they have less R&D into the development of the process.
Being relevant also applies to marketing strategies and tactics. Yes, it’s tempting to jump on the newest bandwagon (i.e. social media), but are these forms of communication relevant to your customer’s lives? That’s the bigger question. I had a discussion a few days ago with a client. They were venting to me the challenges of trying to keep up with “all that new stuff”. “We know it’s important, but don’t know how to use it or even why it’s important.” they would say. When I asked them about how do their customers liked to be communicated to, my client responded that the vast majority still got their information through print, trade shows, and at industry conferences. I told them that they needed to still communicate to them in those arenas because that’s where they “hang out”. Include social media after developing a strategic plan on desired outcomes, integration with current marketing efforts, and what makes sense to their prospect base. Just because it’s new, doesn’t mean you have to use it. Being relevant means communicating in a way that is meaningful to your customers, not because the tactic or vehicle is new or cool.
Being relevant has less to do with you and more to do with them. If they don’t get you, they don’t buy from you. And if they don’t buy, you become an irrelevant company with a bunch of cool apps.