Fresh off Super Bowl LIII, there’s no doubt that competition is on the minds of agency leaders — and not because they’re all diehard New England Patriots or Los Angeles Rams fans.
The Super Bowl is the proverbial holy grail for advertisers, and a few industry giants have even taken to leaking commercials early or releasing teasers online to build up more hype. With more than 100 million pairs of eyes tuned in, a 30-second commercial spot can cost more than $5 million.
Even if your business isn’t big enough to pursue a Super Bowl ad, just tuning in to the conversations and analysis of the commercials being released can be enough to spark your competitive spirit. Whether you aired an ad or not, remember that keeping your edge is about more than one commercial shown during a coveted time slot. Staying competitive means implementing new initiatives now instead of waiting to act.
Many companies larger than yours have lost their positions at the top by resting on their laurels. Others, like Blockbuster and Circuit City, have disappeared altogether. If you’re not evolving, you’re falling behind. By taking the following proactive approaches to secure your position at the front of the pack, you’ll not only see short-term success, but you’ll also be laying the foundation to stay relevant in the next decade and beyond.
Expand your ’employee’ definition
The workforce is changing, with some experts estimating that more than 50 percent of workers will be freelancing in the next 10 years. Given that flexibility and accessibility, all agency leaders should keep freelancers in the forefront of their mind when making staffing decisions and exploring ways to improve efficiency. Project management tools like Trello can help you coordinate the efforts of your dispersed workforce, while messaging platforms like Slack or Kik will keep the channels of communication open.
It will be equally critical to take advantage of automation opportunities as technologies like artificial intelligence come within reach of small businesses and large companies alike. Business leaders outside the manufacturing sector might imagine that robots have nothing to offer their companies, but AI can turn unruly quantities of data into insights and schedule your meetings, while chatbots can revolutionize customer service efforts. For instance, when officials for the city of San Francisco couldn’t handle the sheer quantity of procurement requests, they brought in a team to develop a chatbot capable of understanding about 1,000 user questions and providing roughly 400 immediate answers.
You’ll need to prepare your team to work well with freelancers and robo workers. For instance, discussing what successful communication with freelancers looks like is imperative, considering that poor communication is often the cause of unsuccessful freelancer relationships. In addition, remember that your AI solution is only as good as the team implementing it. Consider courses and workshops that will increase your team’s knowledge of AI. For example, Andrew Ng, formerly the head of Google’s AI division, is offering an online training course that will introduce businesspeople to machine learning and pattern recognition.
Know your customers better than they know themselves
There’s no doubt that having insights about the future will help your business stay competitive. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t give marketing and sales leaders a crystal ball. While you can’t know exactly what the future holds, your customers can let you know what their pain points are through feedback and surveys — and that’s information that can spark your next great innovation.
As Steve Jobs once put it, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” He had extraordinary success in offering customers something they didn’t even know they needed — until they saw it, of course. So how do you get to know customers better than they know themselves? All businesses have access to data that can help with this goal; monitoring conversations happening on social media, for example, will give you insight into customer preferences. With this information, you can craft offerings that your customers don’t even know they want yet.
When it comes to sales, “next best offer” is a useful tactic. Amazon, which is thought to be the originator of the NBO technique, utilizes a recommendation engine that shows shoppers items they may be interested in based on their page visits, searches, and past orders. NBO processes will be key if you want to remain competitive in an increasingly digital world because they offer as much as 10 times the response rate of a generic campaign. If you’re not giving your customers your next best offer as they’re interacting with you, you’re missing out.
Know when to take risks and when to play it safe
At one time or another, we’ve all been told to “think outside the box.” While that can be good advice, remember to take a dose of realism with those big ambitions. It’s vital to know which initiatives or opportunities are worth taking a risk on — and which should give you pause. Brett Hyman, CEO and founder at NVE Experience Agency, recommends that you “lean into creativity just enough to push the boundaries of possibility, but never to the point that you cannot confidently deliver what you present.”
Striking the right risk-reward balance is key, so develop a process for assessing risk. Start by gathering as much information as you can about the risk you’re considering. Don’t forget to consult your team members — it can be easier for someone who’s in the weeds to recognize the possible negative outcomes of going down one path over another. You’ll have the variety of perspectives this process requires if you’ve built a multidisciplinary team of creatives and non-creatives.
After gathering information, ask yourself what other opportunities will be at risk if you take — or don’t take — the opportunity in front of you. And weigh the risk of taking the specific opportunity against the risk of doing nothing. When taking a risk doesn’t turn out the way you’d hoped, take time to reflect on what went wrong. Failures are learning experiences that can help you strike the right risk-reward balance in the future.
Instead of pinning all your competitive hopes on a Super Bowl ad that gets everyone talking — for about 10 minutes — start looking to the future. Focus on making your team more efficient through freelancers and robo employees, understanding your customers, and knowing when to take risks. These three areas will help you stay competitive in an ever-changing landscape this year.