A few years ago, I read a good book called It's Not the Big That Eat the Small...It's the Fast That Eat the Slow: How to Use Speed as a Competitive Tool by Jason Jennings. He and his co-authors give us 26 strategies and tactics for how companies big and small use speed as a winning tactic. If you examine these business strategies, they no doubt hold merit. But in this day of incredibly high consumer expectations, I argue it's not the fast eating the slow, it's the slow that eat the fast.
In 2013, powerful brands are employing a new set of tactics. These new-age guiding principles focus on lengthier customer interactions to not only enhance satisfaction but increase lifetime value.
Speed is something we desire as consumers. We want the line to speed up. We want our packages shipped to us within 2 days, such as with Amazon's Prime membership. However, we also desire when a brand values us by not rushing us off the phone or by patiently shipping several pairs of shoes for free until we get the pair that fits (Zappos.com).
Look at Google. Even though we get 5.4 million search results within .2 seconds, they didn't rush their service to market. They slowly built their launch product and intentionally simplified their interface to make our experience better. Yes, they are built on speed but are rooted in "slow" principles. Have you seen the webinars they churn out within a week (Google routinely puts out 2-5 webinars per week on new products or product enhancements that focus on customer understanding). Who has that much time? They do. They make time to take their customers deep into their products and thus build better retention.
The advent of the internet made it trendy to go faster. People got rich during the internet bubble by going fast. The question we should all ask though: how many of those companies are still around? Not that many. Speed without focusing on customer satisfaction is not a sustainable winning formula. Brands that spend time building deeper, meaningful relationships and making their customers feel special or valued, are the brands who are prospering today.
I work at a big entertainment brand, and social media has absolutely changed the game on us. Let me preface this section by saying, that's not a bad thing. Social media forces brands to take a hard look in the mirror. Social media not only gives brands a great chance to market and engage, but it also helps us to understand what the heck our consumers want or what pains they may feel.
Many a business these days are built from consumer pain. What pain can you remedy for a consumer? Social media has brought those pains up close and personal and made companies get to work on satisfying those customer needs.
Nike is a great example of a company getting it right. The Nike we know today officially became "Nike" in 1978 (prior to that it was known as Blue Ribbon Sports). Nike dominated the 80's, 90's and 2000's by launching revolutionary new products, making sports stars into Gods and creating amazing brand campaigns that were stirring and everlasting. But the company that built "Just do it" and the iconic swoosh didn't rest on the fact that they were popular and profitable. No, they continue to dominate the sports equipment and apparel markets because they routinely achieve extremely high marks in customer satisfaction and service responsiveness. They make customer service and social media high priorities and always have.
In 2012, Nike raked in $24 Billion in revenue but also ranked fourth in Top brands on Twitter in responding to their customers. The Nike.com feed alone (766,000 followers) responds to more than 100 tweets per day regarding order queries, stock information, and product details.
Do a Google Search for Nike. The #2 search result (non-paid) is Nike customer service. That is unheard of. Their customer service is so good that it is Nike's highest ranking page on Google. Amazing. What's noteworthy here is that Nike is synonymous with speed and athleticism, but they get to these Google rankings and revenues by slowing down and focusing on their customer needs.
Nike and other smart brands are prospering today because they are focusing not only on innovation but also on going deeper and strengthening customer relationships. It isn't all about speed. Speed is and always will be important. However, to build a truly everlasting brand, it is critical to slow down and build deep rooted relationships with your customers that shows the one thing that matters above all else: that you care.