PRINCIPLE I: Embrace The Conditions
“There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles.”
– Stephen Covey, Author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
SURFERS EMBRACE THE CONDITIONS
1. THE CONDITIONS
IMPORTANCE OF CONDITIONS
After becoming more familiar with the three principles and learning some of the background around surfing, let’s take a closer look at how each of the principles can serve as a guide for what we need to do differently in the new conditions. The first principle is to Embrace the Conditions. The conditions are important for surfers because they can dictate the level of success that a surfer can have. Surfers are always evaluating the conditions, trying to figure out whether or not there will be surf. Good conditions can bring exhilaration, but poor conditions can bring frustration and disappointment and also leave surfers feeling dissatisfied. Surfers put themselves in a position to surf regardless of the conditions. They train, prepare, and wait for hours for the opportunity to catch a single wave, but their patience is rewarded when they do catch one and experience that moment of exhilaration because they have embraced it.
SURFERS AND CONDITIONS
For the surfer, part of embracing the conditions is about having patience. They know that waves will come, but also that waiting for the right opportunity is part of the process. Surfers watch the horizon for the next approaching wave and put themselves in a position to catch it. The surfer will need to manage conditions that include rogue waves, rip currents, plant life, and sea life like sharks and jellyfish. Surfers are constantly scanning for opportunities to catch waves but also balancing the risks against the changing conditions in the ocean. Surfers are focused on catching waves for themselves, but still work cooperatively to help identify waves that might cause harm to others—or even threats from the occasional “kook” who is new to surfing and could injure another surfer with a stray board or an overly aggressive attempt on a tough wave. Managing the ever-changing conditions is the first thing that surfers need to do and the first principle to achieving success in their sport.
EMBRACE THE CONDITIONS
The idea of embracing the conditions is important to surfing because more often than not, the conditions will not be ideal. There might not be waves, there might be too many surfers, or the weather might make a session more challenging than it needs to be. Surfers embrace what’s happening in the water and accept the conditions they are given. Surfers who embrace the conditions know that eventually the conditions will improve. A wave will come in, the sun will come out, and the crowds will die down. When surfers embrace the conditions, it’s important for them to have the right mindset. They stay patient and hungry, keeping their minds calm but aware. They have an inner focus about what is happening around them, using the information presented and evaluating the challenges as well as the opportunities.
2. SURFERS AND CONDITIONS
Just like in business, surfing has been disrupted by new technology, and surfers use new platforms to analyze information about the conditions. Now, more than ever before, surfers are using technology to manage the conditions and find the best opportunities to catch waves. Even with satellites and weather reports to monitor the conditions, surfers can’t predict the exact moment a wave will break. Surfers can track weather patterns and know when the swell might come their way. Just like in business, however, predicting the exact moment a sale might happen is virtually impossible to do. Surfers use the new technology in reporting to identify opportunities and embrace the conditions by being out there and being ready for them. There is no guarantee that a wave will break, but reports provide enough information to surfers and point them to the right conditions to catch a wave.
Because of this new technology and hyper-accurate surf reports, surfers can find information online via websites such as surfline.com to determine where waves will be breaking. There are also oceanographers that track surf activity and report on what is taking place at the best surf spots around the world. This technology creates opportunities for the surfer to monitor conditions and determine where the surf will be next. Instead of spending days and hours waiting at surf spots that may never produce a wave, surfers can now travel around the world to surf breaks where waves are being predicted. Surfers can easily travel to these spots, cut out the downtime between surf sessions, and experience a fresh set of waves anywhere around the world.
Surfers are now able to travel from surf break to surf break and create more opportunities to surf, which decreases the downtime between catching waves. A professional surfer can be in California one day and then in Australia the next after predicting the conditions through real-time reporting. Instead of being tied to a specific surf spot and forced to wait for the next set of waves, surfers can anticipate where the surf might be next and be there when it breaks. Like snowboarders looking for fresh powder, surfers can use a combination of weather reporting and ocean technology to manage the conditions, evaluate their opportunities, and be in a position to catch guaranteed waves. As surfers continue to use technology to evaluate the conditions, they increase the likelihood of finding success and catching waves.
3. MICK FANNING
MICK AND CONDITIONS
Part of embracing the conditions is using the latest in technology and information-sharing platforms to identify opportunities to surf waves. Another part of embracing the conditions is simply getting out there and being in the ocean. For beginners, this can be the hardest and most challenging part of surfing. Of all the challenging conditions a surfer can encounter, dealing with ocean predators is the most publicized aspect of the sport. It’s also the one obstacle in surfing that brings out the most fear in people because of the movie Jaws and the media firestorm every time there’s an attack. Sharks are the most feared predator in the ocean, and based on the attention they receive, you would think that shark attacks happen on a regular basis. But the truth is that they happen very rarely, and you actually have a better chance of a lot of other things happening to you before a shark decides to come after you. That fear of sharks has never fazed surfer Mick Fanning, and if anyone would have an excuse not to embrace the conditions, it would be him.
In August of 2015, Mick was participating in a surf contest in South Africa. Jeffrey’s Bay is east of Port Elizabeth, and the J-Bay Open is a regular stop on the world surf tour. The event is televised on live TV and attended by some of the biggest names in surfing. At the time, Fanning was ranked number four in the world, was a previous triple-crown winner, and was competing against Julian Wilson in the finals of the contest. Mick was waiting for a wave when the cameras captured a large fin in the water behind him. A shark made a large splash behind Fanning. Mick turned to defend himself from the predator, and with cameras still on him, a large wave blocked the view of what was happening. The TV announcers thought Mick had been taken under. Contest organizers sent in rescue boats and jet skis to pull Fanning from the water. Mick escaped unharmed, but the contest was called off because of the incident. When reliving the incident safely onshore, Fanning said, “I’m happy to not even compete ever again. Seriously, to walk away from that, I’m just so stoked.”
The next year, Fanning returned to J-Bay to compete in the same contest where he had escaped the shark attack. For the twelve months leading up to the contest, he had surfed a reduced schedule and only competed in a few contests. The attack had taken its toll. Fanning was hesitant to get back in the water after such a dramatic experience but decided he needed to in order to compete. Mick did not want what happened to prevent him from competing in the event or from ever surfing again. Fanning not only competed, but he also made it to the finals to surf for the title. He won the event in a dramatic fashion and overcame his fear of getting back into the water. “That was always the intention, to come back—to right the wrongs of last year,” he said. “Now we have, we can move on.” Mick is the example of what it means to embrace the conditions—not allowing the conditions to dictate failure or success, but embracing the challenges and turning them into opportunities for success.
NEW BUSINESS CONDITIONS
1. NEW DECISION JOURNEY
Just as there are ever-changing conditions within the ocean for surfers, there are also changing market conditions for business leaders. The biggest change is the dominance of customers and how they have been able to gain more control within the buying process. Their needs and wants have become more transparent as well as more important to the marketing and sales process. It has become more challenging than ever to grab the attention of customers and to hold onto it. With the advent of new information-sharing platforms and the use of mobile devices at their fingertips, buyers are able to find information faster and have used that information to leverage buying power with organizations. These new platforms have increased the expectations of consumers, and their behavior has become more social and real-time. Customers now use multiple channels to make a purchase decision on a product or service.
The advent of technology has brought customers and companies closer to together, but customers have access to more information-sharing platforms, and the purchase power has shifted from organizations to the consumer. The demand for transparency and having their needs met has become a priority for customers, and they know about your product before they even contact your organization. Even though companies are closer to the customer, there is still a gap with how best to connect with them and impact the buying process. Customers have a wealth of information about who you are and what you do, leaving little to no control over the narrative about a product or service. Organizations are struggling to participate in a process that is happening independent of their efforts and the conversations that are created within the consumer market.
NEW BUYING PROCESS
It’s estimated that most customers are more than 75 percent of the way along a decision journey before they connect with someone from an organization about a product or service. This means that consumers want to experience a product or service for themselves before they interact with someone from your organization. This dynamic can put companies and leadership in a position of having less influence on the customer buying process. When left to customers or the market, your organization becomes defined by those perceptions and in what is being said. If you’re not telling your story, the story of your product or service is told for you. The new skill for management is the ability to identify, adapt to, and understand this new buying process. Organizations that do not change or adapt could miss opportunities to meet the needs of an ever-changing market.
2. THE STATUS QUO
DON’T USE TECHNOLOGY
Companies that adhere to the status quo and do not embrace the new conditions are not using or leveraging new technology or information-sharing platforms. These companies are not “in the water,” either because they don’t understand or don’t know how to use the new platforms. Some organizations are not using CRM and marketing automation platforms or not leveraging social media because they don’t think it’s needed or relevant to their business. They have gone without it for so long that they think they can continue to survive by sticking with what has brought them success in the past. The problem is that new technology is so prevalent within all industries and markets that every organization, regardless of the industry, is using some form of new technology within their business. Every kind of organization, from those that are service-based to manufacturing, will need to embrace the new platforms available, not only to compete but also to stay ahead of competition. Any organization can benefit from new technology—those that don’t suffer at their own peril.
DON’T UNDERSTAND BUYERS
Organizations that are struggling in the new conditions don’t understand the new buying behavior of their customers and don’t know their unique decision journey. Within the new market conditions, there has been a shift in the dynamic between customers and organizations. No longer is the organization in the driver’s seat, steering the marketing to sales process. Customers and consumers are now able to use information-sharing platforms to learn about products and services. Consumers are buying products and services in a new way and keeping the organization out of the process until later, after they have made their decision. In the past, organizations pushed customers through a traditional funnel process to make a purchase decision, but because of the new conditions, customers are able to jump in at any point in the buying process. They find the information specific to their needs and manage the process on their own or on a separate path from marketing or sales professionals.
DON’T EVALUATE CONDITIONS
Organizations that do not embrace the conditions will never overcome the challenges in markets because they’re not evaluating what’s changing. They are overly focused internally on the organization and do not scan the external conditions to see how customers are making purchase decisions. They are so focused on keeping up with competition that they don’t attempt to lead in their respective markets. Most organizations evaluate the external conditions based on a perception of themselves in the market versus how the customer actually sees them. Customer problems are fluid and always changing. The way we live and work is also changing—as are the problems and challenges for customers. We all have less time but more choice in terms of how we solve those problems. If an organization is not keeping up with the changes, the company will not evolve with the market and will struggle to embrace the new conditions.
3. THE RESULTS
Organizations that maintain the status quo, don’t change their approach, and don’t embrace the new conditions all experience the same poor results. When they do not explore new technology or look for new ways to improve systems and processes, they do not evolve. However, the organizations that are evolving in the new conditions are using software and automation wherever possible. Marketing to sales systems are being automated from beginning to end in order to speed up lead profiling and qualifications and pass this information to sales professionals in the field. Organizations are evolving by taking the human factor out of processes to improve internal systems and can now provide real-time responses to customer requests. If you’re competing with an organization that is leveraging these kinds of technologies, and you are not, you will be blown away by your competition. You will not be evolving to meet the needs of customers that prefer to buy this way in these new conditions and not evolving with the market changes, which will slowly erode your competitive advantage. Customers will find alternatives to your product or service.
When organizations are not exploring buyer behavior and do not understand the new way that customers buy, they continue to solve problems the way they did years ago and don’t change. As customers become savvier about how they find information and make decisions about products or services, organizations will need to change to meet the customers’ new level of expertise. Consumers have never had so much information at their fingertips or so much choice when it comes to products or services. Smaller, more nimble companies that can unbundle services and become experts at a specific niche are now challenging larger organizations that have been around for years. Banks are no longer the only type of organization that can provide payment services. Companies such as PayPal and Square are helping organizations collect money from customers and making it easier, less of a hassle, and also cheaper. If companies do not evolve to meet how customers now want to buy products or services, they will lose out to the smaller, more progressive companies that do.
When organizations do not embrace the conditions and evaluate them on a consistent basis, they lose the ability to manage the changes. Embracing the conditions is about understanding the market and making incremental changes on a regular basis to adapt to what is happening. Knowing that you are in the conditions and in a position to catch the next wave of success or avoid the next disaster is key. Embracing the conditions is about anticipating what’s next in the short term, but also about evaluating the conditions and planning for what’s next in the long term. Organizations that are not scanning markets or evaluating their position against competition can lose their ability to stay relevant or even effective in the market. Embracing and consistently evaluating the conditions are important and key to finding success when using the first principle.
THE NEW PRINCIPLE
1. HOW TO EMBRACE THE CONDITIONS
MAP THE JOURNEY
Just like the surfer who paddles out into the water over and over again, business leaders will have to embrace these new market conditions and adapt accordingly. One of the first things to understand about the new conditions is that there is a new customer decision journey and that the traditional marketing to sales approach has changed. No longer is there a linear marketing to sales process or a funnel where customers all enter at the same point and work their way to a purchase decision. The funnel has been replaced with a circular process where customers can access stages on their own, independent of your organization. The first step that business leaders can take is to chart the customer journey by identifying touch- points and customer needs at each of those stages. Figuring out each step in the customer’s unique decision journey and the stages where you are either meeting those needs or falling short will be vital.
MEASURE YOUR ACTIONS
Measure your actions by using tools and technology after you have mapped out the customer’s decision journey. The new technology that is disrupting markets can also be used to work in your favor. Use technology to make better decisions, streamline systems or processes, and help measure your results against the actions you are taking. There is a wealth of data that leadership can use to measure and manage the customer decision journey. Leaders can create compelling content to attract customers and enhance their knowledge or experience with products or services, but also to measure which are most effective. Through these interactions, you will be able to create a compelling narrative and also assess what is working and what is not. Integrate organizational structures to focus on sales and marketing collaboration, but use the latest in technology to make this process easy. The new customer decision journey requires sales and marketing to work together at each stage of the process to meet customer needs. You need to have a seamless and integrated process to help you embrace the new conditions, but also to measure the results.
CREATE A PROCESS
Once you have mapped out the customer journey and are using technology to measure your performance, create a repeatable process that can be evaluated on a regular basis. Organizations will need to create a repeatable process for evaluating the customer decision journey and where they are having success along it. Once you have an established process and know where you are having success, you can start to allocate your resources accordingly. When you map the journeys and find points where your tactics are successful, you can reallocate sales and marketing resources to the activities that are most likely to influence a purchase decision. You can also pull resources from initiatives that are not making an impact. Track customer decision journeys, reallocate resources along the path, and test your assumptions. There is no need to wait for the perfect market conditions. The market conditions will always be changing and a repeatable process will help you to evolve right along with them.
2. THE BENEFIT
THE DECISION JOURNEY
Like the surfer, the organizations that find success all start by embracing the conditions and then make changes to the organization that match the customer’s decision journey. When organizations map out the customer decision journey for their product or service, they can create sales and marketing efficiencies, save the organization money by reallocating resources to more effective strategies, and decrease the length of the overall sales cycle. Companies willing to adapt to the new conditions and take a more progressive approach to using technology platforms will also have better success than those that do not. Organizations that are willing to take a chance on a new strategy or tactic are more likely to meet the needs of the customer at the different points along their decision journey. They are also more likely to use new digital tools and technology more fully, allocate sales and marketing resources more effectively, and create collaboration efforts across the organization.
When organizations map out the customer decision journey, they can gain a 20 percent increase in customer leads, 10 percent growth in first-time customers, and 20 percent increase in the speed to qualifying a lead and closing a deal.(1) These results can benefit any organization that wants to improve how they market and sell products or services, but the challenge becomes dedicating the time to explore this journey from the customer’s perspective and then taking the steps to implement the process fully. Most organizations have not taken the time to explore the decision journey of their customer and are still too focused internally on the organization to understand the significance of this change in the conditions. Leaders within organizations who know and understand how their customers buy have succeeded where others have failed.
Companies that are successful year after year all use the first principle of embracing the conditions. These organizations map out how the customer makes a purchase decision to buy their product or service. They also measure what customers do on their site, have a good understanding of who visits them, and know the best way to follow up with the potential customer. After they have determined the unique journey for the customer and measured their success, they are better able to allocate resources accordingly. For example, a real estate firm can manage every step of the process from the point when a customer visits their site, fills out a buyer or seller contact form, and even how their firm will reach back out to make contact with that potential client. The firm can then match the expectations of the buyer or seller with skills and abilities of one of their agents and have established practices in place to move someone from making a simple inquiry online to making a purchase decision on a property. The company can map the journey, create a repeatable process, and support the buyer’s needs when they embrace the new conditions.
3. MY JOURNEY
One of the biggest changes within retail is the new way that customers buy and how marketing and sales organizations have had to change how they approach offering products and services. The power dynamic has flipped, with customers now demanding more transparency and wanting a simpler way to make purchase decisions. The auto industry has experienced this change more so than any other industry and has changed its approach to marketing and sales considerably. The way consumers buy both new and used cars is drastically different than the way it was even just a few years ago. I experienced this firsthand from the customer’s perspective when I made my first ever car purchase in the summer of 2014. My first ever car was a graduation gift from my parents that they gave me after graduation from college so I could drive myself to work. After a few months, however, I landed a new job that included a company car, so I sold my first car to pay down student loans.
For the next fifteen years, I would own a number of different fleet cars and never actually had to go through the process of buying a new car for myself. When it came to buying my first car, I researched cars online to determine what my new car would be. Living in a city, I knew I would be making short trips, parking at meters, and that I would not spend much time on freeways. I would never have to haul anything more than a few bags of groceries in the backseat. In doing my research, I looked at new, small, and Italian cars. I quickly discovered Fiat and thought that a small, black Italian car at the right price would be more car than I would ever need. During my process, I scoured the Fiat website, read online reviews, watched videos, and talked to my friends about Fiats as well. In the span of a few days, I had all the information I needed and was ready to connect with my local Fiat dealership to make a purchase.
DEALERSHIP AS CONCIERGE
I emailed a sales representative at a local dealership about the kind of Fiat I was looking for. I sent a list of cars that I was interested in and gave specific details about what I wanted, including colors, seat materials, stereo preferences, and I even requested red brake calipers with mag wheels. Within a few minutes, the sales representative had used my list to find a similar car at another local dealership and asked if I wanted to see the car that afternoon. After viewing the car in the parking lot with Kate, sitting in the leather seats, and kicking the tires a bit, I said to the salesperson, “Looks great. Let’s do this.” My statement was met with a startled look from Kate, who informed me that a test drive was actually the next step in the process. But feeling confident in the work I had done to come to this decision, I responded, “This is actually exactly the car I want, and I’m not sure a test drive will change my mind.” After that, I did some paperwork and then took home my Italian beauty after just a few days of research and decision-making. This process illustrates how consumers, like myself, now buy and how there’s a new journey for customers in the new conditions.
(1) Oskar Lingqvist, Candace Lun Plotkin, and Jennifer Stanley, “Do You Really Understand How Your Business Customers Buy?” McKinsey Quarterly, February 2015, http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/do-you-really-understand-how-your-business-customers-buy
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