When did you last test the value of the relationship between your clients, your staff and you?

The sands of time constantly change so repeatedly engaging and trusting the instincts of a handful of senior people is perilous and unsustainable. For a business to retain talent and grow and reach new audiences, you need to hear different voices and challenging opinions.

When you launch a start-up, you are told to have one clear value proposition that communicates the essence of what your product or service offers potential customers and differentiates it from the competition. This is a great starting point and something that established companies should come back to as a way of testing what has made them successful and to position themselves for the future.

Your value proposition brings together both your brand and business strategy and sales will indicate whether it has found an audience, whether that audience understands your offer, and values it. You also now have an audience against which you can test different values – segmentation – and find the sweet spots that make you the most profit.

For large companies with good margins and money to spend on brand development, they can use agencies to mine the data, fine-tune their messages, and test in key markets. Search your pockets and shopping lists to find out which the successful ones are. This is the heart of product marketing.

For SMEs, especially in service-based sectors, with small budgets and lower margins, you are probably already doing these kinds of things informally. If you are successful, that means you are busy and spending time and money on refining your messages when you already have an audience can seem a waste of resources as you battle to service your existing customers.

But an audience is like sand on the beach. It can appear to be a cohesive mass, but look more closely and you will see the individual grains move independently. One storm and the whole beach can disappear.

Discover what is great and what needs improving

Investing in understanding your customers’ relationship with your business and taking the time to ask them why they chose you against your competitors is a great first step in engaging with them on understanding how you solved their issues. Collecting and studying their responses can help you discover what elements of your business they love – and those they feel could be improved.

Shaping your company’s collective reaction to the S and W of your SWOT can help shape the future of your brand and create sustainable growth which means finding new audiences. You might be surprised by the messages you receive and facing these can be a challenge internally. But by undergoing this process it also allows different voices to be heard and their opinions judged against the data and experiences of others.

Value everyone’s opinion

Our approach at Talent Lab is to collect and hear from as many different people (clients, management and staff in all departments) as possible – people are always more honest and open with third-parties promising confidentiality – and then use these to shape a project to deliver a strategy that everyone can buy into because they have helped create it!

Continuing to trust the instincts of a few senior people can make others feel undervalued and talented individuals will be tempted to find a new place to test their abilities. The challenge is to create a process that involves and engages, where conflicting opinions are debated objectively with getting personal and focused on one outcome: creating a sustainable brand and company.

The alternative is to wake up one day to find that your audience, like the sand on a beach, has started shifting away and it is too late to stop it.

Mark Herring

Mark Herring

Co-Director of Talent Lab. I trained as a Theatre Director and use the disciplines of staging a performance in my work. I call this 'audience thinking'.
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