Q: I work for a bank that has just moved into internet banking. Our offering is great: we have invested a lot of time and money in getting it right, the technology works and is easy to use, the advertising campaign is persuasive. My nagging concern is that all this will get lost in the face of competition. how can we stand out from the crowd?
A: Too late. Cancel the campaign and start from the beginning again. And the starting point must be a neat niche, a funky few, a global tribe.
You need to understand your particular tribe better than anyone else.
You must know what makes them tick, what scares them, what gets them out of bed in the morning, what turns them on. The tribe is the basic unit of business. If you don't know who your tribe are, you are not going to stand out from the crowd.
The good news is that there are a lot of tribes out there - and some are enormous. It's just a question of identifying them, understanding them and meeting their needs better than anyone else. A great example of this is in the financial sector: American Steve Dunlap established the G&L Internet Bank as the first US bank for homosexuals. The basic idea is to target the 21 million or so American gays and lesbians - a group with a combined annual budget of some dollars 800 billion.
If you focus your energy on creating and then exploiting an extremely narrow niche, you can make a lot of money. If you manage to capture these customers globally, you will find that there are riches in niches You had better start looking.
Q: Much though i love the technology now available, i am put off by how impersonal the results can be. Is it possible to make it more personal and human?
A: Forget e for electronic; e stands for emotion. The companies that will succeed today and in the future will be those that stir emotions in consumers.
You are right to worry, because you have to make every interaction with consumers personal and highly human. Think emotional capital.
To do so, you must focus on the extended experience. Try to look and think beyond the atoms or bits involved. As someone remarked, sushi is really cold, dead fish, but that is not what the customer buys or how it should be marketed. The trouble is that many companies still persist in selling cold, dead fish to consumers who are much more interested in sushi.
The moral: what companies sell and what their customers buy are two different things. Therefore, every once in a while it is wise to place yourself in the shoes of your customers and ask the question: what are they really buying? The answer, 99 times out of 100, is not what you think you are selling. Then put yourself in their shoes once more and examine their interaction with you and your company. How does it strike their emotions?
If it doesn't, think again.
Emotions exist in extremes. It is better to piss off 90% of your customers, while capturing the attention of the other 10%, than to be merely OK to all of them. So, in order to funk up your business, visit museums, art galleries, amusement parks, go to church or read the Koran. Amaze us, dazzle us and seduce us. If you want to entertain people - involve them.
Q: The thing that concerns me about e-commerce is that it may be just a bubble, liable to burst at any moment. Is the e-commerce revolution truly revolutionary?
A: Share prices are the only bubble; they may or may not burst. Even if they do, we will be left with an entirely new business landscape. Technology is a tool to do business in imaginative new ways; it is not the cure to all known corporate ills. People who board the technology bandwagon because they want to get closer to customers or manage their businesses more imaginatively are going to reap dividends. Management matters more than ever.