- How well do we understand the people who are most important to our future?
- What do we and our brand stand for?
- What do we want to stand for?
- How are we bringing the answers to these questions to life?
These questions go to the heart of how the customer relationship is evolving over time and thus what its growth potential is. They bring your heritage and organizational DNA into sharp relief. They show you how far you’ve come from your start and how far you have to go to achieve your current and future goals. They provide the best possible way to do a gap analysis, and they furnish critical tools for centering a business around an ideal.
It takes guts, discipline, and honesty to ask these questions and act on the answers. Doing so enables you to define and develop a compelling difference from the competition in the eyes of customers — and back it up! Great businesses and great business leaders welcome these questions. They know it is folly to ignore them, or to try to answer them with mere wishes. Your answers have to connect your people’s core beliefs and your customers’ fundamental values in a genuine, significant way.
Those with the most trouble answering these four questions often have leaders who pride themselves on running “realistic,” numbers-driven organizations. Ironically, these leaders simply aren’t realistic enough to recognize the highly profitable top-and bottom-line growth that cascades from serving an ideal of improving people’s lives.
Numbers alone can’t be your North Star. It’s too easy to game them, consciously or unconsciously. As nineteenth century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli and American author Mark Twain are both famous for saying, there are “lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Set your sights on an ideal, however, and you can follow it to highly profitable top-and bottom-line growth.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey stands out as one of the strongest examples of discovering an ideal and keeping it relevant and growth-inspiring. The ideal behind Jack Daniel’s is virtually unchanged since its origin: Jack Daniel’s exists to celebrate and evoke pride in personal authenticity, independence, and integrity. In so doing, it embodies the maverick personality of its founder and evokes the aspirational pride of its loyal consumers.
Through seven generations of management, as the business has expanded to 135 countries and grown to be the largest whiskey brand in the world with 10 million cases in sales, it has remained true to its founding ideal, while continuing to find creative new ways to express that ideal.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Jim Stengel, excerpted from his book, Grow © 2011 Jim Stengel. Shared by permission of Crown Business, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group.
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