Amazon are doing ok, aren't they? Apparently, despite Covid, Amazon doubled its net profit year over year from $2.6 billion at this time in 2019 to $5.2 billion to date.
Apart from the obvious market conditions - how have they become so successful? Well, they have a "Leadership Principle" called "Customer Obsession". According to the e-commerce giant "Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers."
This principle is not simply a mantra on a wall. It is embedded in how the brand operates and customers know it. They feel it. They experience it. It's no accident. It's designed into the Amazon organisation from top to bottom and its a lesson to anyone thinking about creating their brand strategies and looking to grow their business.
Put simply, brands need to focus on who they are serving. Not simply what they are selling & who they are competing against in regards to selling that thing. We need to be customer-focused - not competition focused. This is especially the case as we ride the storm of the COVID Pandemic.
Why? Let me give you some reasons:
Reasons to focus on customers
1. Customers always want more
If you build a culture obsessed with beating some form of "competition" you will find yourself in a bit of a pickle if and when you actually do beat them. Instead of chasing your brand will need to lead. But if its culture is one of chasing it won't know how to. Your customers will always want more. There will always be ways to add value to them. There will always be new goals and challenges you can help them with. Competitors do not give you that.
2. Competition concepts can be fake
Businesses often fall foul of thinking they understand their competition from a category or market segmentation exercise. However often they do this from an entrenched business or industry perspective. However, if you are looking at things through the eyes of your customers you may find that your real competition in terms of customer choice is very different. You might be competing for attention with other brands not in your "market segment". You might be competing with DIY solutions. You might be competing with other ways of solving the problem. Customers do not think in business "categories".
3. Customers help you innovate
If we listen to our tribe they can help us to see where we need to go next. They can help us to understand where pain can be healed. They can give us clues as to what to create next. Serving the tribe, making them stronger, is the only real innovation strategy that works.
4. Customers get your team obsessed
If you hire people who are passionate about helping your customers then you are onto a winner. What gets those people out of bed in the morning is the feeling of successfully making the customer stronger. Of putting a smile on their face. This lends itself to great customer experiences. Employees who obsess over the customer will be more engaged, more innovative and more willing to go over and above to ensure your customers tell their friends about how great you are.
5. Customers help the long term
If we are focus on 'beating the competition' what does that really mean? Usually what is meant by this is a mental construct consisting of numbers which we mainly define. Market share, turnover, profits. However if this is our organisation's focus, if this is how we measure success then the focus on numbers and sales in order to 'beat the competition' can lead to cultures of short term gains being used to sacrifice long term reputation. Instead, focus on customer success - make that your success. Weirdly the other numbers will typically look after themselves. Customer loyalty will increase.
So, as we all seek to navigate these Corona seas I suggest we stop worrying about the competition - and focus on our audience. What are their pains right now? How can we help them achieve their goals? Start there and you'll find your brand will add value, grow its reputation and improve its long term standing in the world. Its a mindset - but it is an essential one for brand building today.