CommonSense Blog

The Ultimate Differentiator: How to Stay Relevant

By Abigail Rethore | Apr 02, 2015

As technology continues to reshape how we connect and live, it’s hard to imagine that there could be one investment – a ‘constant’ amid ongoing change – that businesses can make to ensure they stay relevant today, tomorrow and in years to come. Sounds too simple, right?

At the core of every business, however, there is (refreshingly) one element that validates an enterprise’s existence and fuels its growth.

Relationships.

Dynamic, diverse, ever-changing, everywhere. Relationships are key to business (and personal) success. Relationships power business…not innovation.

Relationships – with your customers, prospects, employees, investors, partners – not only make sure a business has a reason to exist (such as customers in the first place, and employees who bring new ideas and make products and services possible) but also makes sure it can continue to do so (if these relationships are maintained).

Customer Relationships. These relationships should influence the trajectory of a business and its product pipelines. Learnings and insights from ongoing dialogue and listening with this group help ensure businesses provide products, services and experiences that give their customers reasons to be loyal. Intimatrelationships kidsely knowing customers, building relationships and trust with them, helps businesses identify the answers, or shall we say solutions, in order to make their lives easier, better, richer, and/or more fun.

Employee Relationships. These relationships make sure customer and investor relationships even have the chance to happen. What came first the product or the employee team? The employee (team) who thought of the product. Without people, there are no (new) ideas. Without employees, companies can’t operate or deliver.

Perhaps the best news about relationships being so fundamental to a business’ success is how many opportunities there are today to cultivate them. With talk of big (and now small) data, new technologies and growing social media, in many ways it is easier than ever “to have more meaningful, two-way conversations,” as Google’s senior vice president of marketing Lorraine Twohill recently explained.

The challenge becomes making sure you don’t commoditize your relationships. Authenticity is key: empathy and acute listening make the magic happen, naturally differentiating you from everyone else. As maintaining and growing relationships continue to become easier – possible on the go, 24/7 with a plethora of tools – it can be tempting to phone in the energy invested. Recognize the value of relationships to your business’ long-term prosperity and you’ll have the insight you need to stay relevant, or better yet, ahead of the curve.

All you have to do is listen.