BrainTrust Query: Have the Courage to Be Bold

Discussion
Aug 09, 2011
Bill Hanifin

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Hanifin Loyalty blog.

Is your company bold? Does your company have the courage to be bold? At the recent Customer Relationship Management Conference, Shaun Smith, author and partner, Smith & Co., spent an energizing morning talking to attendees about what defines a bold organization and how its boldness manifests itself in how it relates to customers, prospects and employees alike.

Bold firms share the following characteristics. They…

  • Stand Up – They know what it is they believe in;
  • Stand Out – They are remarkable and different;
  • Stand Firm – They build communities for employees and customers to create sustainability around their brand.

Why is it so important to be bold in any one of these three ways? It’s because “Purpose” is to be considered the fifth ‘P’ of marketing. Now more than ever, companies need a raison d’etre to stand out and be compelling for their customers and prospects.

Mr. Smith shared an example to illustrate each point:

Stand Up:
The main value of the Six Senses resort in Maldives is concern for the environment and for an exquisite customer experience. When guests arrive by seaplane, they are given a bag for their shoes in keeping with the “no news and no shoes” policy. There is no television or any sort of outside access because the purpose of this resort is luxurious relaxation. In respecting the environment, they are vigorously devoted to a recycling and reuse program. Fifty percent of profits they’ve made from their own purified water go directly to parts of the world where there is no access to fresh water. All this reinforces the brand message of “intelligent luxury.”

Stand Out:
Burberry stands out because it engages in infectious communication. They create “wow” in as many ways as possible in their customer experience. Their artofthetrench.com has 400,000 loyal customers who uploaded pictures of themselves onto the site. Also, they brought the masses to the runway by having 3D fashion show screening events, showing these same fashion shows real time on the internet and added the ability to order Burberry product from an iPad app.

Stand Firm:
Zappos “stands firm” in that they walk their talk. They are committed to their culture, not only with how they interact with their customers, but also how they engage with each other inside the company. Culture is so important to Zappos that if it appears during training that a new hire will not be a good cultural fit, they will give that person $2,000 and terminate the relationship. From real time engagement with customers on social platforms to quirky office meetings and recognition activities within headquarters, Zappos is able to continually reaffirm its corporate identity and stand firm as it recommits to its values.

Discussion Questions: What defines a ’bold’ organization? Is the treatment of existing customers, prospective customers or employees most critical in building a ’bold’ enterprise?

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17 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Have the Courage to Be Bold"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

I believe in the importance of being strategic, consistent, responsive and relevant as an organization. There are some parallels to the discussion of what makes a company “bold.” In particular, a company needs to have a long-term strategic plan that doesn’t waver in its tactical execution, and it needs to communicate its point of view to its constituencies — customers, suppliers and shareholders.

A word of caution: To my point about “responsiveness”; it’s easy to have a bold point of view, but if you don’t execute well, it doesn’t matter.

Max Goldberg
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

All three are important to a bold organization. A bold organization walks its talk at every level and will not settle for less. Its customers and vendors understand this core story and respond accordingly. They also become advocates for the brand, spreading the core story and reinforcing the company’s bold image. Unfortunately, few companies are truly bold, but it is something to strive for.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
9 years 9 months ago

When you put on a Yankee uniform you are expected to be bold, have great pride in that uniform and raise your performance to the championship level.

Every bold organization focuses on that goal and thereby makes employees critical to a successful bold organization. In turn, involved prideful employees will serve their customers better than anyone else could serve them.

Dave Wendland
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Interestingly, our firm actually measures actions and strategic direction across a continuum that considers boldness. Here are the seven levels we evaluate when taking action or reacting to market trends: 1) passive; 2) timid; 3) assertive; 4) confident; 5) bold; 6) visionary; and 7) reckless. Our goal is push beyond “boldness” toward “visionary” whenever possible. As a company, we desire to Stand Up, Stand Out, Stand Firm … and Lead!

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 9 months ago
Someone moving beyond the common framework is the only way the world has evolved since the beginning of time. And everyone and every organization is capable of doing it. Most won’t. The Universe simply has no patience for mere change, nor for incremental baby steps typical of our bureaucracies. As my friend technology futurist Dan Burrus says, “The greatest danger facing organizations today is that they’ll change but not transform.” On a global economic scale we’re seeing what happens when boldness and courage is missing. Physicists call it a ‘morphic field’, thoughts and patterns repeated to such a degree that they become the norm — like not wearing white after labor day. Totally without reason, it’s just the established norm. Another example would be the ‘lowest price’ strategy in retail. In the speaking and consulting world where I live, it is one sea of vanilla. We don’t want to get too ‘out there’ because it will frighten the clients — who meanwhile are desperately looking for someone to escape the morphic trap they’re in. Since… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

I hate to say this but this is repackaged basic brand theory.

As far as the most critical factor, I’d say it’s building an effective, authentic, sustainable, interactive corporate culture — but that would also be basic brand theory!

Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

I am consulting to a retail organization that is about to go big on a technology that can supercharge its sales. The financials are eye-popping. No guts, no glory, people.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

“BOLD” defined: 1) Dare to be different (Are you listening, traditional supermarkets?!); 2) Strive to be better than the status quo (Are you listening, department stores?!); 3) Practice what you preach (Actions speak louder than TV commercial messaging).

“Bold” is a culture, more than it is a statement. Almost worshiping existing, loyal customers should take precedence over luring in new customers with “new customers only” offers that discourage existing customers. Prospective customers should get attracted by long-term benefits of their potential loyalty — and not by mass, untargeted discounts at the POS simply because they joined the frequent shopper club so they don’t get ripped off with full retail pricing. And finally, employees need to exhibit that bold culture with every shopper they see. Can you imagine being asked if you want to taste that fish in the seafood case that you’re looking at? Having it cooked while you continue your shopping? It’s so simple, however, it must not be easy, since so few retailers are bold enough to do it.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

In my opinion, a bold enterprise is one that delivers on its promises to current and prospective customers as well as its employees. Staying focused and consistently exceeding expectations is a simple approach to success in the short and long run.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

I agree with Ryan and Richard. How is this different? Identify your most valuable consumers and understand them well. Know your company’s core competency and mission. Create plans that use your strengths to create programs, products, and services that give consumers what they need at a profit — then implement well.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

Just look at the poll results and take an in-depth look at each of the companies mentioned in this article and all other articles written about BOLD outstanding companies and you will find one thing in common: they take the employee recruiting, selection, retention, and engagement very, very seriously.

These companies treat their employees the way they want these employees to treat their customers and the environment — with respect and dignity.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
9 years 9 months ago

The bold organization is one that has come to realize that its only reason for being is to satisfy a need and has developed the expertise to do this in different ways at different times. Need is defined by both the company and the customer. The company/organization’s need is to make a profit (achieve a goal) and this may not satisfy a customer as the customer’s need may be (usually is) different from the company. The key is to find ways of satisfying the customers need that also meets the companies need.

This has been the cornerstone for defining business success for about 1000 years. I can tell you this: I cannot do without current customers and prospective customers but I can do without employees with bad attitudes who think I owe them anything. As the variable here seems to be the employee, I would suspect that the hiring process is much more critical than most imagine!

Bill Hanifin
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

It is interesting that the majority of poll votes are for employees. I do agree that bringing employees into the fold and rewarding them for positive customer interactions will help to deliver on brand promise, improve in-store customer experience, and generally buoy business fortunes.

Repackaged brand marketing or not, the concept of taking an aggressive stance in the market and standing up for what you believe as an organization is too seldom seen in practice.

Organizations are continually distracted and challenged by short term goals and default to promotional and price driven marketing approaches. Part of being bold is having the courage to adopt a longer term view of the market.

Warren Thayer
Guest
9 years 9 months ago

I’m with Ryan 1,000% on this. Basic brand theory is available in an endless number of books, college courses, webcasts, etc., and it never hurts to keep sharpening your saw. So while I don’t condemn anybody who wants to add to the pile, there’s not much sense in treating this as something new. Useful, interesting and entertaining, yes. New, no.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 8 months ago

This appears to be information we have discussed often in the past. None the less, it is worth repeating and critical to note companies who stand tall in their customer relations are the same companies that empower their employees to take the extra step to insure customer satisfaction. Zappos stands out. So does The Container Store. This is another company that has gone the extra mile to insure and assure they have the right person during the hiring and training process. It pays off when they are empowered to satisfy the needs of their customers. Satisfied customers tell their friends who also become satisfied customers. That’s what it is about, isn’t it?

Mark Burr
Guest
9 years 8 months ago
Isn’t amazing that today, just getting it ‘right’ is considered ‘bold’? True, I have not been inside the walls of Zappos but I do buy shoes and other items from them because they just plain get it ‘right’. There’s no real magic in it, is there? I mean, ordering a pair of shoes today at 3:00 PM and they’re on my doorstep at 10:00 AM the next day may be a little bit of magic. Nevertheless, isn’t that just delivering on ‘doing what they said they would do’? It’s really quite amazing what we consider “Wow” and “Bold” today. So few are capable of just plain execution today it’s nearly ridiculous. There is no secret in what it takes. The reality, is that knowing what it takes, so few do it because its actually, well, work. The broad term of ‘culture’ seems about as misused today as ‘customer service’. But does culture really define commitment? Does it define a mission? Does it define skilled execution? Does it describe the fact that its never over? Does… Read more »
Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
9 years 8 months ago

The reason this subject keeps repeating itself is due to the fact that most retail leaders continue to ignore the painfully obvious: bold approaches to service start with leaders with a bold commitment to exceptional employees. Paraphrasing the brilliant approach at a bold (though non-retail) purveyor of extraordinary service, Ritz-Carlton:

1. Have leaders who believe the vision in their hearts and model that belief with everything they say and do.
2. Select the best employees and support them in every way
3. Consistency and repetition of the core beliefs and values

You could also call this courageous leadership. Courage to have, know and continuously strengthen your organization’s values and reason for being. Courage to understand what it takes to be exceptional in your business — leaders and staff alike — and consistently hire and train for this. Courage to never waver from either, despite any and all obstacles. Stand up, stand out, and stand firm indeed! So simple and yet so elusive.

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