I’ve encountered many clients over the years who were very passionate about their brands, and rightfully so. It’s the sign of a great company when its employees believe fully in its mission and its core value propositions.
But working in such close contact with other like-minded believers can sometimes have a hidden downside: hive mind. Hive mind is defined as a “collective consciousness, in which a group becomes aware of their commonality and thinks and acts as a community when sharing knowledge, thoughts and resources.”
Shared vision and belief in the brand is important. But to truly connect with customers, you need to actively and consistently question the how’s and why’s of what you do and say. The best way to accomplish this is to ensure you employ “outside-in” thinking—where you start with your audience and their needs in mind and map that back to what you offer.
Below are a few quick ways to practice “outside-in” thinking, and avoid the downsides of hive mind:
- Ask the fundamentals before beginning an initiative. It’s easy to skip this step, assuming it’s a “rinse and repeat” of past initiatives, but don’t.Make sure you confirm:
- Who is the target audience? Is it a specific subset of prospects or customers? Is the buyer different than the end user and if so, who’s the better door-opener/champion? Do you need to get on the radar with key influencers such as tastemakers, industry experts, analysts or others?
- What are their biggest priorities/needs? (Not “What do we want to sell them”, but, “What do they need? ”) Do they even know they have a need or understand what’s driving it?
- How do you uniquely help address those priorities or needs?
- Where does the audience they get their information/how do they research?
- Frequently talk to customers, prospects and other key groups. Not just about your products or services but about their environments, experiences and needs in general. While you may not have the time or resources to do a full-scale, formal study, understand the value of a few informal conversations. This may open up new ideas/areas of opportunity to further explore.
- Challenge the conventional wisdom of your organization. It’s easy to accept your value props at face value when you hear them enough from your peers. But they don’t always pass the customer’s sniff test if they don’t truly differentiate you. Or, if you can’t prove your differentiators. The outside world doesn’t have your insider knowledge. If you and your competitor both say you have the fastest time to market, how do you expect a customer to know who to believe? Can you prove your position? If you claim to have fast delivery times but customers expect this as a condition of purchase (and can get this everywhere), it is no longer a true differentiator It is simply the cost of entry.
Every once in a while, take a step back and look at your value propositions. Compare them against market expectations and competitor positioning. Make sure you (executives and especially sales people) can clearly articulate what makes you special and valuable to the customer. If your value propositions no longer resonate, challenge yourself and your team to determine what does. If you aren’t constantly challenging your brand to be better, and to know why that matters, you give your competitors the opportunity to race ahead.
Avoiding the hive mind may seem like a basic thing. But it takes discipline to ensure it hasn’t taken hold of your brand and your environment.
It’s easy to lose sight of when you’re in the middle of the daily grind. Remember to step back and look at what’s going on outside your company’s wall, and bring that perspective back inside. Assign responsibility for this to yourself and other key contributors in your organization.
Once bringing the outside in becomes second nature, it becomes far easier, and more exciting to evolve, and springboard new ideas.
Looking for ways you can help challenge the norms and smartly evolve your value propositions? Check out these articles:
How to Understand Customer Needs (Inc.com)
5 Ways to Build Jumpstarting Innovation into Your Business (Entrepreneur.com)