How do we hunt down our target customers?
What market niches can we seriously exploit with our solutions?
What’s our plan of attack to capture these business partners?
Several med device clients asked me these kinds of questions over the last couple weeks as we were strategizing their business development plans and marketing efforts.
Exploiting, attacking, hunting down… I’ve been feeling disturbed for awhile at the predatory nature of the metaphors commonly used in business development. Not just because our clients posing these questions are in the humanitarian business of serving the healthcare industry and improving care. It’s mostly because this language promotes an adversarial relationship dynamic in which the business aims to overpower, dominate, and subdue its customers. The business “wins” when the customer submits.
I don’t mean to discount the value or need for warlike thinking – it has its place. I appreciate the wisdom in Sun Tzu’s classic treatise The Art of War and have applied it in our work. However, even in in war it is not all about aggression or attacking, as evidenced by this seminal Sun Tzu quote: “The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”
Bottom line for business development, a violence-based paradigm is self-defeating. It perpetuates a negative mindset and wears people down. And mostly, it doesn’t genuinely meet customer needs or sustain customer relationships. I believe it also greatly reduces profitability over the long haul.
The alternative is what I am hereby dubbing “Compassionate Nonviolent Marketing” – greatly inspired by Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication process (more below). It starts with righting our language, because our words reflect our thoughts and shape our actions.
Let’s try it by reframing the business development questions above into the Compassionate Nonviolent Marketing paradigm.
This: How do we hunt down our target customers?
Becomes: How do we find and make welcome our target customers?
This: What market niches can we seriously exploit with our solutions?
Becomes: What market niches can we seriously benefit with our solutions?
This: What’s our plan of attack to capture these business partners?
Becomes: What’s our plan of action to meet the needs of these business partners?
Do you feel different when you read the new versions — more optimistic, connected, energized? I do. Might the new way you feel change the decisions you make, actions you take and the way you interact with customers? Might you get better results? I hope so!
This is just the very beginning. Much work is needed to expand and apply this thinking. The good news we stand on tall shoulders – Marshall, MLK, Ghandi, to name a few – and we have a rich history of nonviolence to draw upon and apply to business, especially to marketing. We also can apply the work of leading business minds who promote infusing love (yes, love!) into business as the way to be more successful and profitable. I’m thinking of the practice of my friend and banking executive Neville Billimoria whose email signature is simply “Love Neville” as well as leadership guru Steve Farber’s Radical Leap books (FYI, the “L” in Leap is for Love). If you know of other work in this space, please let me know. This will be an ongoing collaborative effort.
May Nonviolent Marketing become an influential and positive paradigm shift in business. May it serve you, your company, and your customers well.
Note: Marshall Rosenberg created the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) process in the 1960s. It’s also referred to as Compassionate Communication because the core premise is about understanding, valuing, and meeting people’s basic human needs. NVC is far from a touchy-feely philosophy divorced from reality. Check out this video (showcased here on Upworthy) where Marshall is demonstrating how to apply NVC to very hostile situations including terrorism. I first learned about and applied NVC when dealing with communication and respect within my own family. I try to apply it at home and in my consulting work everyday.