Why I Believe in Building a Business that Values People Over Profit
I was fortunate enough to be a speaker at the inaugural Creatives Meet Business Experience (CMBXP) last week, and it confirmed for me something that I now know I had only tangentially accepted before.
In business, people will always matter more than profit.
I say this emphatically, and with a bit of an explanation to start. Part of my job as a marketing consultant is to help people look at their stats and see patterns in behavior. I love numbers, and I do think it's important to keep track of what's working and what's not. And ultimately, my hope is that through the work I do with my clients that they are ultimately on the road to making more money. However, singling out a number is never where we start.
Reaching your profit goals is a result that happens when you surrender to the fact that your best work is produced when you have your customers in mind.
The basic definition of business is to serve others. Somewhere along the way of designing our website, scheduling our social media, making plans for how to grow, and actually doing the work, we forget that this all must be in service to others. If what we offer isn't resonating with a specific group of people, or if our product or service isn't filling an unmet need, then it will always fall flat.
I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in multiple sessions throughout the weekend at CMBXP, and it was remarkable how many of them came back to the same central question: Who is it for?
I attended a pricing session, and we discussed three approaches to pricing: Cost-based, Market-based, and Customer-based. Although Cost-based (add up all of your costs and then tack on a markup to those costs) and Market-based (see what your competitors are doing and price yourself somewhere along that range) are typically the ways we approach our own pricing, the speaker argued that the most effective approach is through a value-based conversation with your customers. Practically you can gather this information through customer interviews or surveys. Cool, I gotta talk to my customers. Duly noted.
In the content strategy session, the very first step to creating an overall plan was to know who you are creating it for. The speaker mentioned getting clear on your audience's activities, motivations, and pain points first, and then allowing your audience to inform your content. We went in depth here to understand that every good piece of content should have three components: utility, relatability, and entertainment.
- Utility - This is content that your audience can use. Maybe it improves their lives or informs them on something.
- Relatability - Present content that serves your audience, and to which they can relate.
- Entertainment - Make your audience feel something, whether that's inspiration, joy, confidence, you get the idea.
But here again, it was all about what does my audience want to see, and what would be helpful for them. OK, so this is inevitable, I've gotta make sure I'm in touch with my customers to give them what they want.
Over and over again throughout the sessions, I was reminded of just how important it is to connect with your customers in order to yield the greatest business insights. And how can you gather those great insights when you're head down behind your screen too focused on follower counts and CTRs to take notice of the valuable nuances that are a part of the human experience?
It goes back to what I was exploring in this blog post about having real conversations versus putting on the hard sale. If you're feeling frustrated with plateauing follower counts, decreasing engagement, or stagnant traffic to your site, instead of continuing to pump out content that doesn't seem to be working, take some time to step back and reevaluate.
And if you're still not convinced that putting people first should be a core tenet for your business...
- Get out of "work mode" on a regular basis and meet people. Whether in person or online; social media is a really great way to BE social! Instead of only thinking about it as a way to get your message out to the world, how can you think about it as a connector to other real-life humans?
- When you're meeting someone new, challenge yourself to not ask the typical, "So, what do you do?" Instead, come up with a creative new question to ask people, such as, "What are you passionate about?" or "What do you like to do in your free time?" When conversations aren't pressure-filled and transactional, you allow for a deeper connection, and you open up the possibility that maybe there is a greater potential connection with this person that what you might have garnered from a surface-level conversation.
- Outside of the pricing and content strategy examples I mentioned above, think of your customers when it comes to your process, and ask them for feedback. For example, the hubs and I went to a sensory depravation tank earlier this year, and we totally fell for the buy a 3-pack offer upon checkout. That offer had a 6-month expiration that we completely forgot about, and we got a reminder only one week before the expiration date. At that point we couldn't fit in two more sessions each, and they weren't able to extend our offer when I called. I know we knew the expiration upon registering, but only giving one week's notice before we lost those two sessions felt like a slight, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.
- You never know who might be your next customer - or the partner/sister/cousin/friend of your next potential customer, so it's important to be kind. Word-of-mouth referrals continue to be the most trusted source of recommendations, so even if you are an expert in your field, have the best product out there, it will be hard to win that work when your reputation starts to spread that you are unpleasant to work with or generally just a disagreeable person.
So whether it's for gathering pricing data, better understanding what content to produce, or perfecting your process, your customers will always be the golden ticket. Serve them well, and you will be successful.