By Frank J. Rich
The opportunity in enterprise rests in the exchange between buyer and seller. It is the essential math of the marketplace. Every enterprise carries the hope in great expectations, perhaps, even the excitement that word of their unique brand will go viral while they’re sleeping. And why not, in every life and livelihood there ought be a little light. And were it not for the painful circumstances of a protracted recession that has shut down the real estate market, nearly chased the auto business from U.S. shores, and crippled the economic engine that creates jobs, I might be talking about how to take fuller advantage of the surge and not hovering just above the fray hoping to escape it. But “uncommon sense” provides a unique perspective that offers hope for small business if not revolutionary growth.
Most would quickly subscribe to any plan that guarantees growth. Faced with such certainty, few would deny the opportunity to invest in growth; so compelling is the promise in such expectations, so clear the ROI, that subscription is a logical next step. If you’re sensing irony in this preamble, you are either prescient or used to my wending ways. The sad reality is that too many organizations and individuals will not invest in themselves, expecting a living from their companies and the market without it.
Good consultants and neighbors have something in common; they give of themselves and what they have to serve a common goal – healthy growth… of organizations and communities. The model of enterprise always asked that people reveal their offers in tangible ways, securing the results by it. Good consultants will tell prospective clients how to achieve the results that come by the application of the consultant’s unique skills. The model is more apparent when resources are squeezed tightly by economic strife. Consultants with this quality ought do well under such conditions for at least this reason.
But when willing to explain the path to achievement, they are always in demand. Efficiency requires the application of the best resources to accomplish things, not merely the resources in place. Giving it away reveals the opportunity in unique skills and more quickly grows the trust necessary to the application of them.
The model applies to all organizations. If you believe that yours has unique value to offer its customers or subscribers, as in not-for-profits, how will you give them a taste that encourages investment in it? The question finds its answer in a free market system that expands and contracts according to demand. Weak demand, as is the case today, requires that we work harder at clearly communicating the unique value of our offerings.
Communications, at its root, is really guiding another’s thoughts, but to guide another, we must hear his voice. In the marketplace that requires we accurately assess what is valuable to customers and subscribers. Once accomplished, we gain access to a sacred place in the mind of the customer – the cingulate cortex, where trust is formed. The “social agency,” as neuropsychologists refer to it, or the process of building trust, involves “constructing a model of another person during an exchange, and using it as a foundation for decision-making. This is especially the case because social decisions are the most important for humans. The rest of the story follows online.
“A degree of credit is something your brain has to assign before it ever starts assigning social agency. Your self-image, the degree to which you can carve yourself off from the rest of the world, is critical before you ever become a social creature,” according to neuroimaging research conducted by the Brown Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at Baylor University. Simply, we must gain the trust of others before they will respond in kind, and that happens quickest when we exhibit caring and helpfulness. Sales people, take note!
If we agree with the above conclusions on some level, how we turn it into practical reality may be the critical next step. America is coupon crazy. Everywhere we go, we see them. Once the exclusive domain of supermarkets, we now find them encouraging virtually every element of life – entertainment, travel, transportation, style, and even shoe repair; and, across all mediums.
The conclusion: we are “giving it away” for the opportunity to engage the customer in a “value exchange.” Notwithstanding, most will miss the point. And, it is most apparent on Main Street. Lulled into believing the Internet is taking over, restaurants and shop owners have allowed search engines and apps alike to cannibalize their sales and future, forgetting that local is the Holy Grail of all enterprise.
Why would a retailer risk his customers to a coupon app that discounts his products 25-50% while refusing to make the same offer in local display and classified advertising, direct mail, broadcast, and billboard promotions, especially when the opportunity to go directly to his customers through email and SMS mobile text systems are available so inexpensively, as well as local advertising that is less ignored by consumers by a factor of 3 to 1 versus internet ads and apps? Why indeed.
There are countless examples of shop owners who, after giving it away, find a pot-of-gold at the other end. Wine and food tastings are common examples, gadget shops such as Brookstone, soft drink companies, promotional merchandise manufacturers; commercial printers, and nurseries are more examples.
One in our midst is Captain Lawrence Brewery in Pleasantville. Started by local resident Scott Vacarro just a few years ago, the brewery invites guests to taste its beer and join with other beer aficionados whose tastes match his craft brewery. By all accounts, the award-wining brewery is doing well, but on any Friday night or Saturday afternoon you can sample all the beer you like – without cost – tour the brewery, and leave home with a half gallon of your favorite brew, at bargain prices. Why give it away, and with such fun and fanfare, because it’s the best way to grow adherents to a great beer and a great company culture. Any questions?