I believe the highest objective of a successful organization is the building of a vital community.
Profitable companies everywhere have come to understand the power of community, even reaching far beyond the purchase of goods and services.
A vibrant community today plays a role product development, problem solving, culture, branding and even finance.I’ve written in the past about how I believe this kind of multifunctional community forms around an organization and its purpose, but I think this idea also has profound implications for anyone that wants to join or sell to another organization.
I believe that you can understand more than most about a company by studying how its community is formed or not formed. I further believe that any consultant or sales person that attempts to work with an organization, regardless of size, can greatly increase the value they bring to an engagement by helping a customer or prospect deconstruct their own community.
Let me first briefly give you my thoughts on how community is formed.
Vibrant community comes about through the convergence of several essential channels.
- Clarity – This is an organization’s “one true thing” – the why they do what they do and single greatest reason people are attracted to the brand. Usually their customers know what this is, even if they don’t yet.
- Method – This is an organization’s “point of view” or unique way of doing things. Most often it possesses branded names and processes and enables a common language to form in the community.
- Culture – I often refer to culture as clarity amplified. This is the one true thing formed as a set of core beliefs and actions that are in alignment with why an organization does what it does. This isn’t always articulated, but it’s there. In organizations with a healthy culture this comes off as shared purpose.
- Content – Content isn’t just a channel for words and pictures. In this context it’s the voice of clarity. Clarity brings focus to all things and with clarity comes stories that illustrate what the brand stands for. With stories community members have something to build a long-term narrative around.
- Presence – This may be the closest thing to what most think of as a channel, because at some point we do have to put the stories in places where potential community members can consume them, share them and build on them.
- Touchpoints – The final channel adds intentionality to the community building effort and shepherds potential community members down a logical path that leads to deeper and deeper participation.
Using the framework of channel confluence outlined above I would like to suggest that you now turn it upside down in an effort to better understand or dissect any organization you would like to engage or sell.
Follow this 6 step path to creating more value through healthy deconstruction
- Start by researching every touchpoint an organization uses to interact with and move its prospects and customers. (I recommend my Marketing Hourglass model as a way to audit and organize the nature of touchpoints.) – What do they do to create awareness, build trust, convert, serve and follow-up?
- Move on to audit the elements of their online and offline presence. Include things like advertising, events, social networks, public relations, sales and sales promotion, email marketing, and SEO.
- Put together a grid of content types – awareness, nurturing, education and conversion. Do they blog, create eBooks, newsletters or webinars? Do they have gaps and inconsistencies?
- What can you learn about their culture? Do they publicly display their beliefs, can you interview an employee or two, can you research and monitor what’s being said about them online?
- Do they have a set methodology for conducting business, working with clients, creating value? Have they named it, are there terms, phrases and processes that dictate a shared language internally and externally?
- What do that stand for? What’s their one true thing – even if they don’t know what it is. What does the market really value about them, say about them? Why are employees drawn to work there?
The steps above represent a form of community anthropology and a process that will lead you to truly understanding the inner mechanics of a prospective client. You can make this research as simple or complex as the situation dictates but having this framework to apply will make your research more valuable and consistent.
But, it’s what you do with this information that makes the magic happens.
You’ll possess two things having done this process. 1) The keys to engaging a prospect in ways that your competitors will not even consider and 2) a road map for how to educate your customer or prospect on their own reality.
So, let me ask you this – how many other salespeople are approaching companies with this level of insight?