Help others in a meaningful manner and you will be able to compete—and win—in any marketplace. That’s the fundamental principle behind my latest book, Co-Create: How Your Business Will Profit from Innovative and Strategic Collaboration.
Notice I didn’t just say help “customers”. No, you need to think in much broader terms than that.
A customer isn’t necessarily a purchaser. When you think of “customers,” think about everyone who experiences your organization’s value: employees, supply chain partners, investors, the media, and, yes, the literal customers who purchase and consume your offerings.
For example, if you have difficulty retaining employees or vendors or subcontractors or investors, you will expend a tremendous amount of resources just on repopulating those roles. That will drain your company of energy and capital.
It is much easier to invite your stakeholders into a collaborative process and Co-Create your future together.
In the Co-Create economy, it’s not about you: it’s about them. Therefore, you must be able to capture reverse perspectives. You must look at the world through the eyes of your stakeholders, rather than through the eyes of your company.
For decades in the business world we’ve talked about “products and services” and “features and functions”, especially in marketing and sales.
Notice how that conversation is all about you. This is a fundamental flaw in the push economy. Ideally, in a truly collaborative relationship, people enter and stay in a relationship with your organization because of the unique value you create together.
If you believe that it’s not about you: it’s about them, then it should be apparent that your unique value can come into play at several different stages of a “customer’s” journey.
First, that journey has nothing to do with your organization or its offerings. A person doesn’t have to be looking for coffee to buy a mug. She may be thinking about drinking a cup tomorrow morning, but she might just as easily be shopping for a gift, or picking up a souvenir. Think how radically different those customer journeys are.
Likewise, an organization doesn’t have to be distributing a communications request for proposal (RFP) to learn about a new ad agency. An individual doesn’t have to be looking for a job to join your firm. Customers very likely already have products and services that address what you bring to the table. They choose to engage with you because you somehow have a more compelling proposition or relationship.
In 2015, Mark Hoplamazian, CEO of Hyatt Hotels, spoke at the Skift Global Forum about bringing a new perspective to the hospitality industry. He described an insight triggered by a stay in a friend’s century-old house in Connecticut. As the two of them ascended the old wooden staircase and walked down a long hallway past the master bedroom, he couldn’t help noticing how loud the creaking of the old plank floor was.
He recalled, “By the time I get to this guestroom, I am seriously anxiety ridden because all I can think about is how much noise I’m going to be making while I’m in this person’s house!” he told the audience.
He continued, “At dinner I ask, ‘So, what time do you usually get up? Do you go out for a run in the morning? Is someone coming down to make coffee?’” He described his efforts to best minimize his impact on his friends’ routine.
“In this instance I’m the guest, they’re the host, and I’m the one sweating what impact I’ll have on them,” he exclaimed. For Hoplamazian, the experience triggered a profound shift in his perspective. For more than a century, the hotel industry has referred to its customers as “guests.” It measures “guest satisfaction” and “guest metrics.” It refers to its own role as purveyor of that guest experience with the term “host.” But when your perspective on hospitality is reversed, Hoplamazian points out, “You realize that those of you staying in our hotels are not guests at all. The hotels are the guests in your lives. Lives that don’t start or stop when you come through the front doors of our hotels.”
That is reversing your perspective: seeing the world through the eyes of others, walking in their shoes, experiencing the journey as they do, so you can anticipate a need and fill it before it becomes a pain… or foresee a desire and fulfill it before a competitor has a chance.
Remember, it’s less about you and more about them, as seen from their perspective.
You can apply this exercise to better understand any vital stakeholder, and in doing so you set the stage for far more meaningful and mutually-beneficial relationships.
This article was adapted from David Nour’s latest book, Co-Create: How Your Business Will Profit from Innovative and Strategic Collaboration. David is the author of ten books including the bestselling Relationship Economics, which makes the case that relationships are the greatest off-balance sheet asset any organization can possess. He is a popular speaker and a trusted advisor to many leading companies.