Imagine this: Ancient man had to constantly improve his hunting skills, quell his fears when facing the wild, and do all that he could to care for his family, and protect himself and his community from enemies.
He had to move from place to place or stake his flag in a claimed corner to nurture his rice fields or crops.
Every single day, he’d wake up and hustle. If he didn’t, the mouths he had to feed won’t get food to feed on.
He had to hunt, fish or farm to try and survive. The harsh winters, the relentless downpours, ever-changing weather conditions, and the unknown wilderness around were some of the few problems he had to face.
The ancient man also had to keep other men away to protect himself, family, and community.
Life was simple then.
Later, trade started with the humble barter system and then currency was introduced. From self-employed specialists (doctors, teachers, blacksmiths, artists, painters, and authors) to traders, everyone did what they had to.
Trade also occurred between countries through land and water through complicated trade routes, Maritime trade, inter-continental trade, and more.
Remember the Incense route, The Trans-saharan, the Silk route, the Spice road, the Amber route, and more?
Then came the free markets and the Industrial revolution. So, we figured out ways to mass produce and sell in humongous quantities and began trading with other countries. This slowly led to a global consumerism movement as more countries broke down the walls of trade.
Thanks to the technological revolution today, that exact same trade between various individuals, companies, governments, and nations is now a global phenomena while “trade” itself manifested itself into many other formats than one could imagine.
Here’s the thing that was true during the Industrial revolution: Produce goods and people will buy. Consumers rarely had choices.
Today, trying to run a business — or, would you rather call it “trade”? — is no longer simple.
It seems easy, but it isn’t.
It looks appealing but it’s not easy to put in the hard work, dedication, commitment, and passion you need to keep doing what you ought to do.
Why? What changed?
Old business. New business
Marketing & advertising, as we know it, changed drastically.
What worked just a few years ago won’t work now.
Starting & promoting a business is no longer the same as succeeding with your business.
Using traditional modes of marketing and advertising is not only expensive but will only prove to be “salesy” and put you in the “push” mode largely not getting you the kind of response you were told that you’d get.
Let’s say you understand that. You then cut the chase and embrace digital media. Even then, it’s not as easy as it was purported to be.
Showing up with a fancy logo and a website won’t get you leads or sales. Throwing money at paid advertising will ensure a mass drain of your cash surplus but still won’t fetch what you seek.
Your entrepreneurial endeavors need more than just an idea, a product, or a service. The age we live in, everything you do is put to a litmus test even before you get started with your business.
The moment you launch, you are eased into an arena dominated by fierce competition.
Business success is no longer about the demand for products and services or the quality with which you produce (or deliver) — all that is already taken for granted by your customers. You are expected to produce high-quality products or deliver impeccable service, and that’s only the beginning. Not the end.
Technology changes everything
You can’t say “Oh, I am not tech-savvy so I’ll push flyers on the street” anymore. It just won’t cut it.
Technology drives everything — from an individual level all the way to how a nation governs its citizens. Industries, processes, nations, tools, currencies, trading, computing has all led to what we call as The Fourth Industrial revolution.
Using technology for business is not an option; it’s a mandate.
Technology the backbone for your products, services, customer service, marketing, human resources, communication, logistics, shipping, and everything else in-between
In short, technology is the only thing that can keep your business alive and to thrive, everything else being equal.
When it comes to running a business today, the “human hustle quotient” didn’t change much; only the circumstances you find yourself did.
You can start a business with as little as $50 but it won’t be as easy to become successful. Entrepreneurship today demands a little of everything including (but not limited to):
- Fast changing consumer behavior, including the multiple touch points consumers take before transactions happen
- The rise of global and borderless transactions, the advances in financial and banking tools
- The overall increase in technological prowess
- Regular team management, with each person being “connected” to the Internet in a gazillion different ways.
- Cross-border and remote management capability
- Eye for design with the ability to conceptualize and create content
- Strong marketing chops, and an ability to bring it all together.
Consumer behavior has evolved
“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.”
Consumers, thanks to the Internet and the availability of information at their fingertips (and also on wrists?), are smart, well-informed, can lookup competitors in the time it takes for them to make a phone call, and can make decisions on their own (compared to a sales person pushing products onto their faces).
More than 70% of a consumer’s decision to buy is made before they even speak to someone at your company, including B2B. This includes everything about your products or services, prices, reviews your previous customers left for you on various marketplaces or on the web in general, the feedback on how good (or bad) your customer service really is (as against what you claim).
Consumer behavior affects the industry — on the supply side as well as on the demand side. While shifting the tide of the industry, it forces you to rethink your own business strategy.
We’ll, however, refrain ourselves from getting into Economics 101.
Instead, we’ll look at it this way:
- What’s your brand about? [Hint: Apart from what you sell, what do you stand for? How will you make a dent in the universe?]
- What do you sell and why should I buy from you? [Hint: Unique Selling Proposition]
- How good are you at keeping your word? [Hint: do your brand promises and consumer reviews align?]
- Why should I trust you? [Hint: Social Proof]
Regardless of how the consumer behavior has been changing, we know for a fact that a few things will hold the test of time from now:
- Your customers know about you long before they make first contact. They are informed, they did the comparisons, and they can see through you.
- Mediocrity shall pass. If you are a “me-too” business, you won’t last. Your customers now need you to innovate, think different, and be bold.
- Your customers don’t want “just another business”; they want you to help them relate to you, to connect with you, and to march along with you on a common cause.
- You sell products or services, and this everyone knows. Your customers want you to build a community that they can be a part of.
Where do you stand?
Beware of the worldwide industrial shuffle
The free markets levelled the global marketplace and every business can go global at the drop of a hat, consumer behavior just got that much more complicated.
It’s no longer the perceived behavior of a few local town dwellers that your business will have to worry about, right?
As consumers change, Industries are forced to change. If you don’t change accordingly — overdo it or ignore change — you’ll get into trouble.
According to Anita M. McGahan of Harvard Business Review, industries must change in four distinct categories in response to conditions.
“Industries evolve along four distinct trajectories—radical, progressive, creative, and intermediating—that set boundaries on what will generate profits in a business.”
Of the four trajectories, it’s the “progressive” one that’s most common. In the U.S alone, for the last 20 years, more than 43% of companies evolved along the progressive category in industries such as long-haul trucking, commercial airlines, consumer electronics, retail in general, and others.
Source: Harvard Business Review
Your business might be on one of those trajectories. So, look out.
This worldwide industrial shuffle is vulnerable, and you are more at risk than you think.
If you think about it, this also distills down towards the individual level thereby affecting consumer behavior as well.
Regular stockbrokers gave way to Internet-based brokerages. Travel agents gave way to online travel portals; typical auctioneers found their businesses at risk eBay came about.
You never know what’s coming for you.
Content marketing is the future of marketing
There was a time when a company like Ford would announce that it’s launching a new line of cars and people would line up to buy. For one, they had no choice. Second, the trust was implicit since everything (including Ford) was new.
Today, there are over 14 major automobile companies controlling at least 60 different automotive brands. Just how do you think a customer is going to make a choice among these?
The answer: She is going to educate herself. She is going to take to the Wild Wild West of Internet.
Now, let’s discuss this new trend with respect to your business.
A potential customer has a problem.
Your business exists to solve your problem (like your competitors also do).
So, Emma — your potential customer — has a problem and she needs a solution. What do you think she’d do today?
- She’s likely to look for your blog because she wants to know if you really have the chops, or that there’s a real person (or team) behind the brand.
- Her search for ________________[Insert your business] is going to be one of the several 40,000 searches that Google processes per second, 3.5 billion searches per day, or 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide.
- She might just pop a question on Facebook which has more than 2.27 billion users of whom 1.15 are active mobile users. Or maybe she’ll check you on Instagram.
- Or, she’ll just Tweet out in fashion to a potential audience of 336 million users on Twitter. Likewise, there are 250 million Pinterest users, and about 500+ million LinkedIn users.
- Almost on an impulse, she hit up Youtube — as many as 1.8 billion people do worldwide — and start searching for videos that might divulge information about your business. If she doesn’t find any, she’ll be happy with the numerous cat videos there.
- Like most people do, she’ll review your product against your competition. She’ll sit, read, analyze, and compare. She’ll take her own time trying to decide which business to go with.
That’s just one of the many things your potential customer is likely to do. What does this mean for your business?
- Start with a website that loads super fast (speed matters today), looks good, is easy to navigate, and that can get you results. The fact is: Most websites suck today .
- Your business will need a sound content strategy — including blogging, content curation, content marketing, slide decks, presentations, web pages, and more.
- You’d have to show up on search results.
- You’ll need an engaging presence on social media (including networks that your potential audience is likely to hang out on such as Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Snapchat)
- You’d have to engage in conversations around your business interest on social communities such as forums and large Q & A sites like Quora.
- You’d have to incorporate video as another format for content production and get busy on Youtube. Or generally use video across various stages of your marketing funnel.
- On top of all of the above, depending on your business, you’d even have to spend on paid ads on platforms like Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter.
- Because not everyone will land on your website or landing pages and take action, you’d have to plan out retargeting campaigns (using paid traffic platforms) to get those interested visitors back.
- To manage all of the marketing work, you’ll need anywhere from simple to sophisticated marketing stack (a set of marketing tools) to manage your modern approach to marketing.
Thanks to CloudTweaks. here’s a simplified representation of how your marketing mix is going to be:
That’s just how complicated marketing has become. Are you ready for it?
Be bold & make an impact
Entrepreneurship today isn’t about starting and going with it.
Again, we are back to the survival of the fittest — the Darwinian theory is already back to haunt you.
Business success isn’t when you have 800 employees crunching numbers or answering phone calls (although all of those are critical).
The only thing that makes or breaks your company is marketing (see above).
On top of smart marketing, there’s that thing about being “radically innovative and different”.
According to Marcus Sheridan and Krista Kotrla, authors of They Ask, You Answer: A Revolutionary Approach to Inbound Sales, Content Marketing, & Today’s Digital Customer, successful businesses are the ones that have bold ideas, those that break the rules, and those that shape the future.
Care for examples?
- SpaceX and Tesla plan to introduce SpaceX Package — rocket thrusters into their road-bound automobiles.
- Apple is already a trillion dollar company with no signs to stop. It already has over 60 self-driving cars in California. Will it change the way you commute forever?
- That next Amazon order will be drone-dropped right into your lap. Amazon already uses the best in inventory management, warehousing, and logistics. Now, its new project Amazon Prime Air will use Drone for delivery.
- Google already uses a sophisticated array of algorithms, machine learning, big data, analytics, and artificial intelligence to anticipate your search queries.
You don’t have to a multi-billion dollar business giant to do anything radical, imaginative, or bold.
You just have to think about how you can make a difference to your own customers — regardless of the size of your business — and then do something about it.
After you decide, prepare to let the world know. On a consistent basis using the best of the Internet has to offer.
Your customer now wants the “unabashedly ridiculous”, “previously unthinkable”, “weird but too good to pass”, and “that’s crazy, but it sounds good”.
As we think, innovate, and push ourselves and our collective intelligence into the realm of “awesomeness”, extraordinary things begin to happen for your business (and the society at large).
That explains the great industrial revolution. And now, the digital revolution.
This will also shape the future you, as an entrepreneur.
Depending on where you are in the world, you are already experiencing “awesomeness”.
As for your own business, are you going to make an impact or not? Are you going to be bold or stay mediocre?