Marketers have an oft-times irrational opinion of their own powers. Many are led to believe, or have convinced themselves, that their work alone can make a company incredible. Certainly marketing, which in my mind is inclusive of customer experience and has impact on product but isn’t often directly responsible for product, has a lot to do with a company’s success. But it alone is simply the fluff, spin and buzz that consumers tend to find off-putting.
But if it’s not just marketing, then what is it that makes an incredible company?
Here are my thoughts. I’m interested in yours as well.
In order to be truly insatiable for consumers, your product (or service) has to be exceptional. Few consider Kia an incredible car company. They have a fine product, but not an outstanding one. The same can be said for any product in any category that typically ranks 3-4 or worse in the completive set. They have a viable product, but none that makes customers say, “This is awesome!” Product is a key ingredient.
While there have been select moments in time when one company or another with a great product could be dinged for having crappy service, the companies that truly stand out as incredible, have both. Southwest Airlines has an incredible product (for a certain type of traveller) and incredible service. It’s the combination of the two, and perhaps other factors, that make SWA LUV-able. Without one or the other, it would just be another airline most people complain about.
Certainly, customer service falls into the realm of communications, but separating out the marketing, advertising, customer experience and social connections a company offers is important because it’s the proactive side of the aisle. This is how the company represents itself to the world, how it engages its stakeholders, whether they are prospects, customers or otherwise. By delivering a promise, then delivering on that promise through the product and service lines, truly great companies connect their strengths with customer needs. Companies with outstanding communications are ones that help customers buy (active engagement) or help customers choose (passive engagement.)
Take the greatest product with outstanding customer service and perfect communications and put it in a marketplace where it’s either too early or too late and you’re sunk. A great example would be the company I currently serve — CafePress. In 1999, we invented the print-on-demand industry, making it possible for one-off printing of personalized or customized shirts, mugs and mouse pads. Start a company that does that today, in a print-on-demand industry with dozens of viable competitors and more accessible technology for every quick print or screen print T-shirt shop to offer one-off printing and that business would die quickly. Timing is everything.
When you think of the incredible companies in the world today, or even yesterday, check them through those four items. Did they have a great product, customer service, communications and timing? If you answered yes to three of the four, I would argue you have yourself an incredible company. If you hit on less than three, they’re missing a little something.
But Wait! There’s More!
That’s not all, however. I believe there to be other factors that go into the DNA of an incredible company. These four can’t be it. But how many are there? That’s where you come in.
Give some thought to the incredible companies you’ve experienced in your time. What is it you think makes them incredible? Does that fit into one of the four categories above? If not, where does it fit and what is it? Please share in the comments. Perhaps we can come up with a blueprint for success in being incredible.
Image: Design by a user at CafePress, available on products here.