If the corporate-dominated world of the 80s and 90s has taught us anything, it’s that absolute power corrupts. Big greedy corporates controlled the message, and consumers were told what they should think, wear, buy and how they should behave. Today, this trend has done a full 180 degree-shift, and through social media consumers are able to control the conversation – often to the detriment of the brand.
As a start-up, it’s important to keep this balance in mind. Yes, you need to give them what they want, not what you think they need. But you also can’t be a complete pushover. If the power dynamic is too heavily weighted on either side, the result is a poor business landscape.
According to Tim Shier, MD of online reputation management tool BrandsEye, consumers want great service, a great product and a great experience overall. The problem is that at the (sometimes unreasonable) demands of customers, many businesses – particularly start-ups that are desperate for business – will roll over for their clients. Big corporates holding all the power was not healthy, but neither are businesses that take no control of their own processes.
High yield relationships
Good business/customer relations benefit everyone. ”There is an awareness by consumers of ‘good capitalism’, where brands make ethical choices. In response, brands need to realise that there is equally ‘good consumerism’, where consumers politely raise issues in a way that equips the business with the tools to solve the issue,” says Shier.
“Sadly, only the consumers are demanding good capitalism of their favourite brands. Consumers are often incentivised based on the flawed guiding principle that ‘whoever shouts the loudest gets the most attention’. This drives the market to learn a particular behaviour, which is then further accentuated by the network effect and social norming. Critically, this learnt behaviour is the antithesis of what a brand desires — why teach and subsequently enforce bad consumerism? Through a sequence of seemingly innocuous activities, brands are entrenching this behaviour and are then forced to wallow in the negative consequences.“
The lesson for start-ups is clear: you need to clarify what your relationship will be with your consumers. Be proud of what you are offering them, and expect respect in return. The power balance needs to be equal from the beginning. If you start off on the wrong foot, that’s where you will stay.