Business survival: the battle for relevance

Business survival: the battle for relevance

Business survival: the battle for relevance Recent years have seen scores of iconic businesses and brands fall by the wayside. The demise of Kodak, SAAB, Borders and Blockbuster leaves us with little doubt – a shift is happening and no organization or brand is immune to extinction.
 
As once-lucrative revenue models increasingly come under siege and distribution channels that have been stable for decades crumble before our eyes, it is becoming apparent that the rules of business have changed; the goalposts have been moved.
 
In the financial services sector, a raft of shifts are disrupting the status quo in profound and fundamental ways. These include:
 
Technological shifts
As consumers have greater power and access to information than ever before, the role of the gatekeeper is more threatened. Simply providing a transaction interface as an adviser is no longer enough.
 
Demographic shifts
As a new generation of consumers and clients known as Gen Y make their presence known, it is critical that businesses and brands take steps to understand and engage this group. After all, they are a massive cohort who are buying different things in different ways and for different reasons than older generations.
 
Below are 10 keys to winning the battle for relevance in the years ahead:
 
Change before you are forced to
Most businesses wait to innovate until their hand is forced. As Steve Jobs once observed, if you are not willing to cannibalise your own business, someone will do it for you.
 
Become clear about the business
Many businesses fall into the trap of defining themselves by the products they sell or the markets they are operating in – all the while losing sight of who they are and why they exist.
 
Prune dead wood
Any gardener knows that restoring vitality to a garden requires pruning away the old in order to make way for the new. It is the same in business.
 
Question everything
The moment any business or leader thinks they have made it, they have passed it. Never fall into the trap of feeling that you are too big to fail or that what has worked in the past will work in the future. Question everything and spare no sacred cows.
 
Re-engineer outdated systems and processes
There is a big difference between being in a groove and being in a rut. Many businesses need to evaluate their internal systems and processes honestly. Which of them is outdated, inefficient or simply the ‘way things have always been done around here’?
 
Beware of biting off more than you can chew While adopting new products and services is a key way of regaining relevance in a flagging business, beware of trying to change too much too quickly.
 
Become ruthlessly customer-centric
It is critical that you stay focused on how the needs, desires and preferences of consumers are changing. Your strategy can never be a ‘set and forget’ one.
 
Look to ‘imovate’
The term coined by leading business thinker Oded Shenkar highlights the values of innovating through imitation. He suggests that others may be doing things you can learn from.
 
What practices and ideas are competitors using that you could incorporate and do differently or better?
 
Encourage dissension within the team/organization
The most valuable source of innovation in any time is the individual who has fresh eyes or a dissenting view. Are you allowing and encouraging those views to be heard?
 
Seek a point of difference
The old marketing adage is true: it is better to be different than better. Rather than trying to outdo the competition in your market, how can you pursue a new market in a new way?
 
Eyes on the horizon
Setting up a brand or organization for enduring relevance involves a principle every experienced surfer understands well. In order to catch the perfect wave, a good surfer knows the importance of keeping their eyes firmly on the horizon.
 
While a wave is still forming a long way off in the distance, surfers know that this is the time to move – to paddle out and get in position. Move too late or not at all and you’ll simply get washed up as the wave crashes over you.
 
In much the same way, winning the battle for relevance is about anticipating, preparing for and embracing change, no matter how uncomfortable or confronting it may be.
 


This is a slightly amended version of an article written by Michael McQueen, author of the book, Winning the Battle for Relevance. It has been shortened to make it suitable for web publishing.