There has never been a better time to be looking for business growth – rising expectations provide new consumer opportunities; new channels provide more occasions to engage and sell; new data provides more actionable and targeted insight. In an ever-changing environment, consumer relevance is the key competitive advantage.
A need for constant evolution
That a new path to growth is needed will not be news to the majority of the C-suite. Recent research conducted by Accenture found that 95% of UK and Ireland CEOs felt yesterday’s growth agenda was obsolete. Little wonder they’re in such agreement; the cost of revenue at stake for businesses in the UK and Ireland (UKI) which fail to stay relevant is £119 billion.
Indeed, more than half of the instances when a consumer changes brands is due to a lack of relevance, and 28% of UKI consumers said they’d stop interacting with a business altogether if it failed to stay relevant to them. Interestingly, our research found that UKI CEOs are comparatively better informed about the urgency of the problem than their international counterparts. Just 72% of CEOs globally felt that yesterday’s growth agenda was obsolete.
Despite their recognition of the need for change, however, just 67% of UKI CEOs surveyed agreed that the pressure is on to find new approaches. This suggests that there is a disconnect between acknowledgement of the problem, and identifying the practical steps that need to be taken to solve it.
Finding your north star
This is perhaps unsurprising, given the scale of the task at hand. To achieve sustainable growth in a world where market turbulence is the norm, businesses need more than just the best technology, the highest-quality data, or cutting-edge capabilities and skills. Nor do they have the luxury of standing still. They need to embrace a customer-centric mindset that enables them to move nimbly and adapt to customers’ ever-evolving needs and circumstances. More than relevant, they need to be hyper-relevant. And to keep them true to this purpose, they need to have a strong personality – a North Star – which underpins organisational behaviours and guides them as they evolve.
Pathways to becoming a living business
What sets the small percentage of hyper-relevant businesses apart from the rest is their ability to put the consumer at the heart of their growth agenda. To do so, they have had to become fast and agile, transforming themselves into "Living Businesses" that are able to deliver human, hyper-relevant experiences that adapt around customer and employee needs as they emerge. To do so, they must create flexible business models and identify new value propositions that respond to changing marketing opportunities.
As a result, they encourage and enable new ways of working and new operating models using the latest platforms and technology. Indeed, the rise of game-changers such as craft ale, streaming video services and ride-sharing platforms demonstrate that hyper-growth is possible for consumer propositions that are truly relevant. Globally, our research found that these Living Businesses had five key characteristics in common, making them three times more likely than their peers to achieve sustainable growth.
In order to bridge the gap between comprehension and action, and transform their organisation into a Living Business, CEOs will need to:
• Target new opportunities: Companies that have a deep understanding of customers’ changing digital needs and preferences are better able to identify areas ripe for disruption and growth. These new plays can be funded by optimising costs elsewhere.
• Design for customers: Organisations that create products and services which generate real-time customer data are well positioned to develop compelling new experiences that adapt to customers’ evolving needs.
• Build engagement: Using agile technologies and prototyping, companies are able to bring design to marketing in a variety of ways, enhancing customers’ experiences and enabling continuous feedback.
• Scale with partners: Collaborating with a diverse array of partners enables companies to quickly create a new type of customer experience and value.
• Rewire culture: Companies that cultivate a customer-centric mindset do so by using the latest technologies to mobilise the right people at the right time. As a result, they foster a culture that breaks down siloes, and continually seeks to better customer relevance.
So, where does the CMO fit into all this? The CMO is the natural conduit between the board and the consumer, with 90% of decision makers agreeing the CMO should be the internal advocate for their customers. They are already the custodian of both the desired perception of the organisation (the brand) and the customer’s actual perception of the organisation (the experience), putting them in the ideal position to drive growth and own the growth agenda as a whole. Ultimately, they are customer obsessed – and that stands them in perfect stead to lead the charge towards being a customer-centric, hyper-relevant Living Business.
Those looking to galvanise Living Business transformation from the marketing suite must expand beyond their natural remit of ‘building engagement’ (one of the five capabilities). Instead, they must become a ‘CMO collaborator’, working with their counterparts across the business to drive the other four as well, including seeking new partnerships that challenge thinking and encourage them to be bold.
Turning theory into action
One thing we can all be sure of, is that there is more disruption ahead, but a tremendous opportunity exists for those CEOs ready to take control by creating a Living Business. Our research found that the majority of UKI C-suite executives already see the value in becoming a Living Business, even if they are a little anxious about making it a reality. By turning theory into action, businesses can evolve and achieve solid, strategic and sustainable growth.