The Business Case for Love

Nothing is the same anymore, but Marc Cox remains optimistic for our future as he believes we are witnessing a ‘flight to authenticity’ where ‘love’ will be the key to success.

The ‘Credit Crunch', 'Recession', 'Armageddon'. Call it what you will, the current times are having a seismic affect on our behaviour. The breakdown in trust and confidence in Government, the banks and many large institutions is well documented with anger and civil unrest rearing its head and a severe back lash aimed at people and companies who 'say one thing and do another'.  Poorly managed companies have gone to the wall. Those, that on the surface seemed strong are struggling yet some continue to thrive. Go to Apple in Regent Street and the atmosphere is infectious. Visit London's Borough Market on a cold January Saturday and you will see it is packed with people spending money and enjoying the experience. The tills at John Lewis maybe quieter but there are little sign of distress.

So what's going on?

My own experience of working with a variety of businesses suggests that there are currently two types of people within companies. Those who are 'up for the fight' and recognise the need for greater creativity and entrepreneurial ingenuity and those that are simply 'frozen' and don't know what to do once they have used the last drop of red ink to cut their people.

All this is bringing into focus what companies like Apple, Google and our own John Lewis have known for years. That sustainable success only happens when your customers love you.

Sounds a bit woolly for these difficult times? Not anymore. Thanks to Fred Reichfield of Bain & Co who pioneered the Net Promoter Score (NPS) having presented evidence of a direct causal relationship between brand advocacy and business growth. NPS is not new news but for those who don't know it is the difference between the percentage of those who recommend your brand and the percentage of those who tell others to avoid your brand. Apple's NPS in 2008 was 79 with the lowest detractors at only 2.

Companies such as J&J, Google, Ebay and American Express all now use NPS.  Do you?  Do you know the answer to the ultimate question?  Would your customers recommend you to others?  Do they love you?  More importantly, if they don't what are you going to do about it? Because this is a time when they will leave. Transactional relationships based on just product and price will increase.

So where do you start on the journey?  Begin by looking in the mirror and ask yourself whether you are up for the challenge - because brand advocacy needs to be a way of life, not simply a customer service initiative. If you are, then you need to start on the inside first. Love starts within. The love you want from your customers starts with your own people.

Employee advocacy is the foundation and what employees want from their company and their bosses is conviction and authenticity based around a clear set of values, beliefs and sense of purpose. Create that and you create engagement.

Those companies who are 'up for the fight' are looking inwards at themselves and going back to their roots, by making sure that their people are connected to the values and behaviours that made the company great in the first place. This creates trust and confidence. Not in a fake way, but one rooted in people's hearts as well as their minds. If you can’t get your employees to love the company that pays their wages, what chance do you have of getting your customers to love you?

So why am I optimistic? Whilst governments and certainly the banks still don't get it, the stallholders at Borough Market do. They know that by loving what they do and selling produce that is cherished and dear to them, people will buy from them and not only return but tell others. Hope is there because the companies that will thrive will be real and have that basic human characteristic of belief in what they do. A far cry from the now disgraced and discredited 'masters of the universe' and from those company bosses who don't know what to do because their spread sheets and forecasts don't add up anymore.

Not convinced about the power of advocacy? Don't take my word for it. Ask Barack Obama. Where did he start? First he had belief, then he got his team to believe and only then did he seek to get the American people to believe. Now, the World wants to believe. Let's hope his NPS score is as high as Apple's in four years time!

About the Authors
Marc Cox is Head of Advocacy at 1HQ Limited. Contact Marc by email at