Why Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple – not disruptor brands – are your biggest threat

Trying to prepare for disruptors is a fool’s errand, says Jarther Taylor. Concentrate on understanding your customer more intimately to avoid being beaten out by the visible threat – big data giants.

Preparing for the next Uber to minimise the risk of disruption is a fool’s errand, because real disruption – by definition – is unknown and unexpected. Disruptors aren’t your biggest threat anyway – it’s the big data companies you should be worried about. The only way to protect your business from any competitor – known or unknown – is to connect with your customers more deeply.

Every business in every age has had to deal with disruptors that threaten their territory, although major revolutions that shook up societies and caused entire industries or ways of life to disappear used to take ages.

Our ancient ancestors took their sweet time adopting Agrarian Age practices; the first big Industrial Revolution (powered by steam) took 60-80 years; the second Industrial Revolution (powered by electricity) ran 50 or so years from the late 1860s to WWI; and the Computing Age has been dragging on since at least the 1960s.

The winners in each age aren’t necessarily the first people to think of a new thing, or the first to build a new business model around an innovation: they’re simply the best at persuading people to adopt a new way.

So, if we want to succeed in any age, we need to win at marketing and customer relationships.

At the Dreamforce conference in San Francisco last week, we explored the opportunities and risks of the current revolution: The Intelligence Age.

The host company for this event, Salesforce, is clearly committed to seeing businesses adapt Intelligence Age thinking and methods, including smart ways to collect and organise information (or data), and analyse it (with AI) to gain competitive insights.

 

Can Artificial Intelligence offer real intelligence?

The powerful AI component at the heart of it all makes knowledge plus thinking (processing) plus insight happen at lightspeed – so we can give our customers the answers they want as soon as they’re ready for us to help them.

It’s genius intelligence, if we get it right. It’s not just about having lots of customer data: you also need to know which patterns matter so you can correctly anticipate your customers’ needs.

Clients I am here with at Dreamforce see AI as a significant advantage in making their customer communications richer. And, oddly, more human.

A few years ago, when content marketing was the hot topic, we talked about the emergence of H2H communication (human-to-human versus B2C, B2B, or the various combinations those symbols provide), and really, what it showed, was that we just want to communicate with each other.

When I previously wrote about the value of content marketing I suggested that smaller servings of ideas taste better. While maybe not a trending topic any more, it still holds true: it’s all about the customer, because it is about real goods and services that we – humans – need.

In 2017, AI is one of the hottest topics for marketers, but again, it’s about what humans need, more than other perceived challenges such as robots taking marketing managers’ jobs (only a 1.4% chance, according to Will Robots Take my Job? so don’t worry about it).

 

Who will you lose sleep over?

As with previous revolutions, the winners in the Intelligence Age will be those who know the people they’re selling to best. So, I propose it’s not worth worrying about the next upstart disruptor in your industry.

Worry about Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple instead. Why?

Because these tech giants control massive amounts of the world’s most valuable resource: people’s data. It’s worth more than gold.

That precious data gives them such an incredible customer intimacy, which, when combined with attractive CX, means they can sell just about anything. So that’s the simple answer: focus on the customer to secure your future.

Know your customers’ ‘jobs to be done’. It’s my current favourite model for building a genuine understanding of what a customer wants, because it explores what they are trying to do and helping them do it in a way that is seamless and invisible.

 

Everybody talks about knowing the customer better, so how do you do it?

The answer is a combination of:

  • strategy: what to do, what not to do with the business,
  • marketing: knowing your customers, finding out what each segment wants to do and ways you can deliver the service better than others, and
  • technology: the means to deliver great strategy and marketing at scale.

 

How you shape and evolve that combination is up to you. Much like my experience at Dreamforce, where there are thousands of options to learn, you can’t do it all. Figure out which customer experience you can easily improve first.

Nail it, then scale it.

You don’t need to deploy every new shiny technology – your customers don’t care about what technologies you use unless they get in the way – but you do need to focus a lot more on each customer’s jobs to be done. If you’re not losing sleep over your CX you’re not doing it right.

No pressure.

 

Jarther Taylor is CEO of Datarati.

 

Further reading