Trying to persuade your target audiences to choose your brand in today’s cultural, political, and economic climate is tough. Skepticism is rampant; the truth is elusive; and despite technology that purports to “connect”, people seem more isolated than ever before.
How a business approaches a consumer base that’s simultaneously super-informed and hyper-skeptical — and perhaps even deeply cynical —will play a large role in its success and growth.
The technology exists for companies to reach more people faster than ever before. Contact databases are stuffed with information. Automation and AI can save an enterprise time and money. There’s a lot of good stuff going on.
What the business world is wrestling with is how to piece it all together.
How does technology empower personalization and true connection? How do ethics and morality impact the use and capture of data? How can a brand be seen as genuine and transparent in an age of sensory overload and partisan truth-telling?
Being authentic, balanced, and able to integrate functions are critical to business development success in 2019. Here’s why …
Everyone Is Skeptical
People are hungry for the truth and authenticity. They turn on their TVs or browse the web and encounter scandals in sports, politics, academia, and a host of other industries and social contexts.
Nothing seems to be true and nothing seems to be false — it all just depends on who's doing the looking and the telling.
To win brand loyalty and develop new business, all of your efforts must be transparent and genuine. Authenticity is a key trend for business development in 2019. People are desperate for anything they can trust, brands included.
Think about the recent college admissions scandal. University paragons like the University of Southern California and Yale have been implicated in a pay-for-admission scandal that rocked academia and betrayed countless students and families along the way. This is brand-crushing behavior in addition to being reprehensible. That’s just one example of the toxic cultural environment business development leaders are operating within.
Being real, honest, trustworthy, and transparent is the new business development currency. It’s an absolute imperative for companies looking to grow.
People Feel Isolated
Despite technology that would have been incomprehensible even 10 years ago, people generally feel more isolated than ever before. Nearly half of Americans say they are lonely. Yes, that’s right: Half (The Week). That’s with Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat and everything else out there purporting to bring folks together.
For business development, this means using technology to create the space for providing more human touch points and community building.
People really do want to feel connected, and if your brand can deliver this experience — even in small doses — it can go a long way to building rock-solid brand loyalty. People crave real connectivity.
First, business development teams need to understand one thing: Deploying technology doesn’t create connection inherently. It’s a tool that, when used in balance with other approaches, can facilitate more opportunities for genuine connection. Tech can save you time and empower your business development team to invest in community- and connectivity-building initiatives. Here are some examples of what we’re talking about:
- Focus on the customer experience. This is a holistic approach that blends technology and personalization to build a genuine customer experience that solves their issues while making them feel connected to a real brand culture.
- Focus on sharing relevant content. Releasing a flood of generic content on your customer base creates disconnection and skepticism. Instead, carefully build your content for your buyers in a way that’s helpful to them — even if they choose not to engage your brand.
- Focus on creating happy employees. Creating a great workplace environment; a vibrant culture; and an ecosystem that attracts, retains, and develops talent is a huge factor in growing your company. Happy sales representatives and business development leaders produce, because they want to feel valued and connected, too — just like your customers.
- Smash down the walls between functions and internal/external. Customer marketing and employer branding and culture building are sides of the same coin. All functions must work together, and cross-functional teamwork is the only path to delivering an authentic, unified brand.
- Return to brick-and-mortar (sometimes). Instead of hosting only webinars, use the time efficiencies created by tech to carve out space to host in-person events. There’s a reason large, successful companies are turning to in-store experiences more and more. People desire that connectivity.
Facebook. Enough said.
Today, consumers assume that their data is being shared or sold to the highest bidder — their privacy violated. For brands and business development teams trying to sell, emphasizing a moral and ethical stand on privacy could be an enormous differentiator and highly persuasive.
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation speaks to the need for greater data privacy regulation. The U.S. has not adapted the same regulatory posture, but some businesses have turned to privacy messaging as a brand differentiator and selling point.
Take Apple, for example. Other smartphone companies are catching up to the iPhone (recent releases of new iPhone models have been received tepidly) and there’s even talk of Apple becoming a services company. That said, it is interesting that Apple’s latest commercial is all about privacy, moving what’s been a less-promoted brand differentiator to center stage.
Business development approaches that emphasize trust and privacy work to alleviate several key consumer pain points: Skepticism, isolation, and insecurity.
The Age of the Polymath
Taking a holistic, cross-functional approach to business and business development requires talent that’s dynamic. A polymath is defined as someone with wide-ranging skills and knowledge.
Competition for talent is fierce due to historically low unemployment. But the type of talent needed today and for future success is, quite simply, different.
A customer service rep can’t just read from a script. They need to have people skills, sales skills, and marketing acumen. Business development leaders need to be able to persuade but they also need to do so in a way that’s authentic and that taps into a variety of business functions. Big data requires critical thinkers that can make sense of information and translate it into action that’s ethical and effective.
Yes, these staff members seem like pink unicorns right now. But as automation and AI and robotics change the very nature of business, workforce development will need to adjust to create employees with the critical thinking and cross-disciplinary skills to manage an integrated approach to the employee and consumer experience.
Business development is no exception. Hiring and developing dynamic people that might not fit the traditional business development mold could make all the difference in the world.
Culture and business are intertwined. Business development leaders and teams that recognize cultural and social needs and deliver with these factors top-of-mind will succeed. Those that don’t, won't.
Agencies like ours can help you achieve an integrated, customer- and employee-focused approach to business development. Just reach out and we’ll get back to you quickly. We’d love to hear more about your business and where you’d like to take it.