If you are pondering how to move your brick and mortar business to one that markets and competes on the internet, then I have a great drill for you and your company staff. Bear in mind, if you take this exercise seriously, it could change your company forever.
It consists of answering one simple question, but you do need to consider it carefully.
What if you could never meet your customers in person?
Now if your first thought is “that couldn’t work in my industry,” then I urge you to step back and clear your mind. This is only a drill, and it serves to activate your ability to work through some changes that you will have to successfully navigate as you lead your company to an internet based model. Sure, there are industries that might always have to meet directly with the customer (Dentistry comes to mind), but for the purpose of this drill (pardon the pun), put that thought behind you.
When I first asked myself this question for my real estate brokerage business, my first thought was “how do we consummate a real estate transaction without ever meeting (face to face) with the client? Of course, every year we seem to sell a few houses to people outside of the US who actually close on the property without ever seeing it (and without us meeting in person). But people want to walk through homes before deciding which one is right for them, so how do I make this question help me?
- How would we engage with them?
- How would we “sell” them on our product or service?
- Do we need to change our service offerings?
- How would we deliver after the sale?
Remember, the purpose of the “what if” drill is not to force change, but rather to enable change management. This thinking has allowed me to envision a real estate brokerage company that has no agents, where all business is outsourced to “agents on the ground” who have no direct affiliation with my company. This would allow me to enable a process where performance metrics are established and maintained, but no overhead is created in managing the “on the ground” processes.
Though I have no plans to move to this model, I am thinking strategically about situations that do not yet exist in my industry. Are you?
Some products or services allow for this question to be relevant today (the stock brokerage industry is a prime example), while others require some serious contemplation. I urge you to spend some time with any trusted advisers when considering how you could conduct your business without meeting the customer in person, as I believe in most cases consumers are seeking this model as well.
Start the process of re-engineering your business processes, and look to build amazing customer service systems right into the functionality of your company website. You just might find your company of tomorrow.