I’ve gotten interesting feedback on a recent post in which I challenged med device and other health tech companies to love their customers. The word “love” in business triggers strong reactions. Some are put off by the whole topic – it’s too touchy-feely and way outside their comfort zone. A few say that the culture of business is far too cutthroat for companies to risk making love a core value. Others insist that it would never work, that love is at odds with maximizing profits.
So here’s another way of approaching it. No one will argue against the value of establishing long-term relationships with customers, right? It’s proven to be far more profitable in the long haul.
And what’s at the core of meaningful long-term relationships Emotional connection. As my colleague and brand guru Denise Lee Yohn wrote in Forbes magazine: “People decide which brands to buy and which ones to stick with based on how they make them feel. That’s why brands aren’t in the business of selling products—they’re in the business of forging close emotional ties with their customers.”
Emotional connection start with a deep understanding of the problems your customers face, their unmet needs, and the way they want to feel and be. This means suspending your ego and observing customers and really listening to them, with open minds and open hearts. Not easy, but very doable.
There are huge opportunities in the B2B health space for manufacturers to win big by being a partner, not just a vendor. And that requires investing in developing emotional bonds with customers that will keep them coming back year after year. Emotional connection.
How does your company forge emotional ties with customers and creating lasting relationships?
John Lennon famously said, “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.”
Some of our consulting engagements are with med tech and health IT companies that have created a culture of fear. They don’t say so. But it’s evident in how employees are treated, how customers are viewed, and most clearly in how decisions are made.
We try to help them move away from fear and toward love- even if we usually don’t say so (my fear??). The main way we do this is by putting the customer first. This enables people to let go of the need to magically know what products to make and how to market them effectively and instead co-create the necessary understanding together with their customers. The process, when done well, is as humbling as it is empowering.
Do you work from fear or love? Can you imagine loving your customers? What would change if you did?
More posts on how compassion is good business:
The Painful Cost of Disruptive Innovation: Uber & Cancer?
Introducing Compassionate Nonviolent Marketing: A New Paradigm
I was presenting a case study of our new product launch work today and highlighting the critical importance of first getting the positioning strategy right, well before getting into any messaging or creative development. One participant reacted strongly that his global med device company was not good at that, often jumping from a general 40,000 foot product positioning strategy to a detailed and tactical listing of features and benefits. And suffering the consequences. He rightly pointed out that ineffective internal behaviors contribute to this dynamic and asked how we would intervene.
I answered that we have several ways to carefully set the stage for people to have necessary and positive “Oh Shit” moments (OSMs) that generate the sudden insight often needed to change longstanding internal behaviors. These are the moments when you get unexpected clarity and realize what you had been thinking or doing was way off. You feel it deep in your core.
Examples: 1) A med device product manager suddenly realizes the product he’s been overseeing for three years isn’t really solving the problem customers care about. 2) A health IT engineer wakes up to the fact that she’s created all kinds of functionality no one wants and that obscures the basic usability of the platform in the process. 3) A marcom director has the epiphany that he has no idea why hospitals should care about the next gen product they’re spending millions on to launch next quarter.
When you have a “Oh Shit” moment, you know it’s a truth you cannot debate or doubt. But you can choose to act on it or ignore it.
I invite you to think of “Oh Shit” moments as a miniature crisis, and then think of crisis from this perspective: The Chinese symbol for “crisis” is made up of two characters. One means danger. The other means opportunity. Every “Oh Shit” moment you have is an incredibly powerful opportunity to let go of an old habit or way of thinking that is no longer healthy, and to adopt a new habit or way of thinking that is healthy. And at your best, you can do so with grace and gratitude.
May you have many enlightening and productive OSMs. We all need ’em!
Most business leaders I know are most comfortable in the world of facts and figures. From this rational foundation, they allow themselves an illusion of certainty, which quells their fears of failure. This makes sense, to an extent. We should consider probable outcomes of various options to mitigate unnecessary risk and inform our decision-making. But like any strength, when overused, rationality becomes a weakness.
In our consulting work, we see time and again where the demand for facts and figures disallows dreaming (dreaming, as in imaginative thought not grounded in rationality). This is bad. Dreaming is a critical element of creativity. Continue reading In Business, Is Dreaming Rational?