For a long time I have marveled at the visible differences in the rate of success of some businesses: restaurants, cafes and even shops. They seem to be offering similar products or services; they may even be next door to each other; yet one will appear empty while the other is bursting at the seams at the same time.
The same applies to professional service businesses: consultants, accountants, web designers, architects and lawyers.
I used to refer to it as ‘charisma’, that intangible, magic ingredient that makes all the difference, and makes all physical and comparable features, irrelevant. Today, this term remains my informal, mental note. But I know it is far from being intangible.
I am talking about Business Culture. And, it still does magic to business performance!
Business Culture or Corporate Culture is fast becoming the competitive differentiator of the 21st century businesses, where competition as it has never been before; and it’s going to get tougher.
Are you familiar with marketing terms of ‘push’ and ‘pull’? Push is about all the hard and money guzzling activities: advertising, promotion and personal selling. Pull, on the other hand is what happens where the brand, or business has ‘charisma’, a clear brand culture, that emanates from within the business and pulls people in. It attracts.
Let’s go back to eating out!
Push – You don’t want to be there
Have you ever been for a stroll on a Thursday or Friday night during warmer months in Lygon Street, Carlton, in Melbourne? This is what you would have seen: dozens of restaurants with guests spilling out freely on the footpath. But while some would have just a few guests, some are virtually bursting and have people huddling around waiting to get a table.
This difference is further emphasized when you see that those less popular places often have a ‘town crier’ planted in front, desperately accosting passers-by to enter their establishment. In our culture it’s a cringe. You try to avoid eye contact, turning stroll into a busy, purposeful step. On my last trip to Italy I noticed it for the first time, but there it is somehow ‘permissible’, part of a natural interaction between people.
I am sure you have your own version of a Lygon Street. That hard sell, ‘push’, happens when a business is not competitive or differentiating.
What may be the signs of “push” in your organisation?
Are your sales people in a position where they have to sell commoditised, un-differentiated products and services, which they themselves don’t believe in? Or, are your Marketing or R&D budgets blowing up because they have to push ideas that are not naturally flowing from inside and from real interaction with customers?
Or, are you trying employees to thoughtfully apply the great processes you, perhaps, with the help of some consultants came up with, but employees are giving it a lip service?
Now, the Pull – hey somebody else is helping pull the cart!
Back to food – basic in the hierarchy of human needs; or, maybe not so basic! Consider the really busy restaurants in our Lygon Street or French restaurants and cafes – Paris or Melbourne alike: no ‘town criers’. Just the opposite: an almost arrogant self-confidence that “We have something special. You are welcome to come. We know we have what you want”.
In Lygon Street, there is one restaurant that stand out as always being busy and often full in the midst of empty places around them: Notturno. I will not say they are great at all. Yet they pull in customers. What’s the difference? Note that these are just anthropological observations, but…
You can often spot the owner chatting to people, sipping an espresso with friends. Service is prompt and staff have a certain air of confidence and ownership about them. They also seem to hang around a little longer as employees. And, if you have visited the place more than a few times, they are likely to remember your coffee preferences or whip out a table when a place is already full. They are part of the ‘pull’. This is worth more than a lot of advertising and marketing dollars and a lot cheaper!
Would you go again? I bet! Even to feel recognised. Do they have superior product? Not in a long mile. But it is acceptable. And, if not, they don’t give you hard time amending a mistake. I’ve sent back coffee at Notturno many times for not being hot enough, not strong enough or being too much or not enough froth on top of my latte. OK, I am difficult, but bad customer feedback is never bad if it is direct. It is fantastic.
Business success and the power of pull or attraction, is all about differentiation. Remember “opposites attract”. And, the biggest opportunity for differentiation in the 21st century is Business Culture and the part your people play in it, but the leader must set expectations and tone.
If you would like to know how to build a kick-ass business culture, let me know. AND, CHECK THIS OUT![button text=”Executive Briefing: Blueprint for Productivity” title=”Cool Button” url=”http://www.innofuture.com.au/dojo/blueprint-free-executive-briefing/” align=”center”]
InnoFuture provides innovative business culture transformation services to progressive, Small-Medium organisations. You can contact Margaret Manson on 0407 661 130 to find out how we can help your organisation be more focused, more differentiating and more competitive.