15 transformations successful companies will put to work in 2008

2007 has been a year of insights. 2008 will be a year of putting them to work. I suggest that the following fifteen points, born out in countless business and marketplace scenarios that we have all been observing and living through this past year, will bring success to the companies that capitalize on them. The dramatic changing power of several key trends comes from new technologies as well as customer Tribal behaviors. To capitalize on the opportunities, creative marketers will become highly interactive with their customer tribes in order to stay in relevant and valuable.

Computer repair company Geek Squad, built with no advertising. When Best Buy purchased the $3mm company, it had 60 employees. Today, it employs 12,000 men and women.

  1. Successful companies recognize that the marketplace is changing at an accelerating rate. Change is affecting supply chains, value chains and distribution chains. Change is blurring the lines between competitors, partners and customers. The rate of change is affecting the length of time between plan revisions, often reducing cycles from years to weeks.
  2. Successful companies recognize that people, cultures and special interest segments are rapidly emerging and evolving. Culture is greatly enabled by Internet communities, which thrive on abundant free information and which generates increased expectations about products, prices, service and access.
  3. Successful companies recognize that the use and effectiveness of media is changing. In the old world of mass media, print, broadcast and outdoor advertising media sent messages in one direction, from corporations down to individual consumers. In the new market dominated by the Internet, Tribal markets talk to each other and to companies. Savvy companies are talking directly to customer tribes through a variety of newly repurposed vehicles, from news releases to web video.
  4. Successful companies are creating change within themselves, adapting and leveraging changes in the new marketplace. These companies are incorporating customer feedback into the R&D process, accelerating development time, empowering employees to make autonomous decisions on behalf of customers, focusing product lines, and outsourcing non-core functions. In short, many companies are actually doing what was only talked about just a few years ago…and in some cases, doing what was not even then imagined.
  5. Successful companies recognize that Tribal Intelligence is emerging as the preeminent skill to navigate the new marketplace. They are finding that Tribal Intelligence, the deep understanding of needs, interests and behaviors of customer tribes, helps them identify what products to offer, as well as where and how to connect.
  6. Successful companies are developing Tribal Intelligence by listening to their customer tribes. They recognize that studying and interacting with their customer tribes is the most important aspect of creating more new customers and keeping them longer. It’s true for business customers and consumers.
  7. Successful companies are continuously engaged in conversations with their customer tribes, listening for and telling compelling stories. The heart of a brand promise is a story. To tribes, stories are more important than facts—they are remembered more vitally, they have an emotional hook, and they can be transferred among people. Stories are archetypal human and part of the Tribal narrative.
  8. Successful companies are using media to listen as much as to tell, to foster community and to provide rich information in useful ways and formats. Brand stories need to flow in all directions in media used for fostering conversations leading to the formation of brand communities. Unlike mass media, micro media of new marketing takes on a life of its own, with users sharing information among themselves. With the powerful capacity for rich content, the Internet is activating information and opinions about products in ways that efficiently attract passionate new customers in waves. Only the biggest marketing budgets can afford the inefficiencies of mass media awareness advertising—and the return on such campaigns has become questionable.
  9. Successful companies are learning the vocabulary rules of tribal language: transparency, authenticity and consistency. Every week news comes to light about companies who haven’t been consistent in their intent, message and action, and are exposed and ridiculed in large online forums. Think of Comcast’s customer service woes and Unilever’s Dove’s Real (natural) Beauty campaign caught in a compromising contrast with their sexist advertising for their Axe brand deodorant for men. For marketers, the first rule of the Internet is integrity—there are no secrets in a medium of limitless reach and access.
  10. Successful companies are exercising Tribal Intelligence in business planning as well as marketing, to create relevant, sustainable and valuable interactions with customers. Companies are blurring the lines between businesses and marketing planning, integrating deep customer insight into their business models. Corporate silos are collapsing and business is reorganizing around the customer. Savvy companies realize that their brand is expressed in daily operations, customer service, HR, R&D— all in addition to media and marketing.
  11. Successful companies are collaborating with their customer tribes to co-create products and service relationships. As savvy companies center their businesses on the nucleus of their customer, they are defining product, distribution and service features around the customer’s needs. Successful companies are leaving behind the era of generic mass production of products, mass distribution and inefficient mass media.
  12. Successful companies are thinking in newly creative ways about collaborating with partners, value chains and customers. Savvy companies are taking advantage of cheap outsourcing, abundant distribution options, flexible collaboration and innovative ways to meet customers’ needs. Vertical integration is gone, and successful companies are the ones who know precisely what business they are in. They are ruthlessly outsourcing all non-core functions, seeing that specialization is king.
  13. Successful companies are leveraging change, technology, and tribal values to better serve and delight smart customers. Savvy companies realize that a “satisfied” customer is easily wooed away by the next new product or the next great deal. They realize that customers are not loyal, but will become evangelical about great products and services.
  14. Smart companies are blurring the lines between market tribes and internal tribes. Smart companies recognize that their own workers are intimately familiar with their customers, and often are their customers. They realize that the workplace is fluid, and that employees move between competing companies. Savvy companies understand how important their people are, and redefining how they use them as their “biggest asset” as way to delight customers.
  15. Successful companies are organizing new markets around customer tribes’ priorities, rather than their own priorities. They are asking: “how can we better serve our customers,” and not; “how do we find customers to buy what we sell?” Savvy companies of all sizes are studying the success of leading companies, and finding ways to experiment and incorporate these new practices into their own firms.