Does your company put the needs of employees ahead of self-preservation? Is employee engagement or customer satisfaction measured and rewarded? Do you pay your vendors in 90+ days? Have you defined a purpose for your organization that is greater than selling stuff? If not, your company probably sucks. And your customers know it!

According to Fortune magazine, the average life expectancy of a company in 1955 was 75 years. Today, that number is down to 15 years of average life. If your company is over 15 years old, congratulations. Hopefully you don’t feel old or are just a dead company walking.

However, that same Fortune data tells us that 190 of the Fortune 500 experienced “negative growth.” Which sounds an awful lot like a decline, likely from lost revenue, lost customers, lost market share and talent walking out the door.

Disruption from Emerging Technologies

If you’re asking why the life expectancy for companies has shrunk, look at the cell phone in your pocket. Think about the last time you checked Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. It’s no mystery that emerging digital, social and mobile technologies, and the changes they have brought into the world, are the source of this disruption.

The statistics are staggering. As of 2017, Fortune reported that 700 million smartphones were in use worldwide. Facebook has now reached upwards of 2 billion active users. Nearly half of the world’s population uses the Internet. In a matter of seconds, we can learn the capital of Qatar, find the number of calories in a green pepper, and figure out the time it takes to drive to Albuquerque.

As someone once said, everything is awesome and no one is happy. Or as I said, everyone is miserable, nobody cares, and that really sucks for your company.

Why your company probably sucks

The good news is companies now have multiple platforms to reach customers. The bad news is, so does everyone else. Not only are they competing with other companies for attention, but they’re also competing with updates from our friends and family about the walk they took or the dinner they cooked.

Companies face a challenge with gaining new customers: Attention is the new currency.  But the harder we try to get that attention, the more we see the opposite when audiences eventually tune out. According to a leading market research firm, 70% of consumers wouldn’t care if the brands they use completely disappeared. Not brands overall, the brands they use!

So what’s a business to do? Spray ads (that no one wants) all over the place and pray that someone is listening.By trying to talk to everyone, companies end up talking to no one. All those pop-ups, banner ads, and “buy now” buttons are simply interrupting the way we view content.

Understandably, many people think marketing is nothing more than advertising, interruption, and promotion. I’ll go so far as to say that the video autoplay pop-up ad is the evilest creation in the history of humankind.  Not only are we bored with advertising content, but most of us find it incredibly annoying.

And this is just the company perspective. We’re not even talking about how many employees have disengaged.

Most Marketing Sucks

According to a recent article in Ad Age Magazine, Procter & Gamble, one of the largest advertisers in the world and one of the Fortune 500, decided to reduce their spend on advertising. In 2018, it saw its most significant growth in five years, but the kicker is that it wasn’t because of the advertising they were doing. No, they grew ONLY because they stopped advertising.

The Advertising Research Foundation research found that sales begin to decline after an ad reaches the same person 40 times in a month. In other words, if a company promotes itself twice to the same person on the same day, its sales will go down. So much for Tony the Tiger, right?

The data is clear: heavy-handed, generic, self-promotional content from brands no longer works like it used to. We have become tired of blatant self-promotion from companies. And we do not want to be reminded relentlessly of how great a product is; we would rather have information that is useful and interesting or fun.

If businesses considered what does and doesn’t make consumers happy when brainstorming marketing strategies, they might change the content they put out into the world.

Empathy is the key to growth

Empathy wins every time. I’ve already talked about how empathy for employees drive more sales from our customers. This is true for customers as well. The new digital customer journey requires businesses and organizations to develop empathy. And, according to Jim Stengel in his book Grow, those who do, see massive increases (300-400%) in revenue, profit, and stock prices.

A small portion of brands have mastered the art of the empathetic customer journey. Known as what Jim calls “meaningful brands,” they bring their internal culture of empathy full circle. The focus on empathy allows them to focus on customers, better serve their employees, and create goals that make a real impact.

Become a meaningful brand

While all meaningful brands stand for something and promote the values that their customers connect with, what sets great brands apart is the fact that it taps into people’s emotions, whether those people are customers or not.

The brand doesn’t reach just the people who buy the product, it also leaves an impression on those who don’t. Getting to that point requires asking three very important questions:

  • How can we accomplish a deeper connection with consumers through our own branding?
  • How can we reach new audiences more effectively by connecting to their values?
  • What does it mean to create a meaningful brand experience for our customers?

The answers to these three questions will jumpstart your company’s journey to becoming a meaningful brand. After all, brands that promote their values and beliefs will naturally attract customers with similar goals and values—for better or worse—because that is what consumers look for in businesses. After all, no one wants a company that sucks.

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