Changing Business Climate = Changing Demand Process

Not unlike the Tyrannosaurus Rex of over 65 million years ago, legacy enterprise businesses are coming to the end of dominance. They are dying the slow death brought on by size and the inability to generate demand enough to feed their appetites and maintain a healthy existence. In comparison, smaller more nimble organizations have begun life with absolute focus, acquiring customers by delivering meaningful, hassle-free experiences – rather than attempting to dictate the entire value chain structure and flow. This strategy enables them to attain dominance within a unique buyer plight by quickly coming into synchronicity with customers. Removing the demand process complexity allows them to get to the business of solving problems and delivering value that matters most to their customers.

Why is change so difficult for (enterprise) dinosaurs?

The answer to this question is really quite simple; internal complexity. For decades, large enterprises have structured rigid buying processes in an effort to navigate political, functional & organizational divisions, to comply with legacy IT-driven technology governance and to capture bits of siloed data – tagged with functional importance – spread across disparate data warehouses and in varied data architectures. Yes, the integration (or lack thereof) of companies through merger and acquisition carries a large part of the blame, but enterprises also do this to enable a dysfunctional buying procedure, usually centered on checking the internal process boxes, and not on removing friction from the buyer experience.

It could be laziness, but I’m sure it’s more due to the level of difficulty involved. It’s never easy to undo decades of status quo, especially when power structures and functional authority are not customer centric in nature. At an earlier time, and in their own way, these dinosaurs disrupted established organizations by delivering valuable product innovation. In today’s world, innovative products are simply not enough. What matters as much, if not more, is the experience buyers have before, during and after the purchasing event. Complexity, in and of itself, eliminates the possibility of delivering a continual, meaningful customer experience. The two are like dark and light. They cannot optimally exist in the same place.

The remedy is never easy.

It’s now or never. Leading enterprise organizations are seeing the writing on the wall. They are taking a hard look at their entire demand process in order to identify opportunities to improve buyer (and influencer) experiences. It’s not an easy road to travel. Even bold leaders known for their fierce, take-no-prisoner style, can waiver when approaching such a daunting task.

Recently, I had the opportunity of talking with a newly appointed CMO of a global enterprise manufacturing organization. Saying, “the business is complex” is an understatement. In fact, employees use the business’ complexity as an excuse as to why progress is difficult to achieve. I shared with this CMO many deep insights I had gained working with the various businesses and geographies now under his leadership. After hearing of the work I was prepared to perform, he responded by saying that he wasn’t willing to open so many cross-organizational “construction zones.” Instead he chose a route much less challenging, definitely more safe, but certainly not one that will avail the required business outcomes.

It takes commitment and follow through.

On the other hand, I’ve been talking with another marketing leader of a Global Fortune 100 company, who recognizes demand re-engineering will be the only way to transform their customer experience in a way that will deliver perpetual revenue and meet business growth objectives. Budgets are being shifted, departments are being reorganized, functional teams are being realigned and navigating “orange construction barrels” has been embraced from the top down.

Although removing friction from your demand process feels like a herculean effort (because it is), there are ways of attacking it one piece at a time. Be sure to go all the way to the root of the problem. Look at EVERYTHING through the lens of Customer Experience. How are your systems, people, processes, and data architectures adding to, or taking away from supporting a meaningful customer experience? Sure, you can find incremental benefit by treating the symptom, but the real value will only be achieved by getting to the root cause. One thing for sure, a legacy demand process, gone ignored because of perceived complexity will put your enterprise into the dinosaur bone yard.

Image courtesy of Will.

Image: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.