Become a Conversation Company by executing 10 strategic projects
The journey of becoming a Conversation Company is a journey that begins today, but never ends. As mentioned in the first post about the new book: the Conversation Company is a metaphor for the most consumer centric company possible, leveraging the power of people in a positive way and grasping all the opportunities new media has to offer.
To get there, it requires change. To stay there, it requires passion and dedication. I hope you enjoyed the summary of the new book. As said, I’m open for all feedback, suggestions, opinions. And if these 6 posts aren’t enough inspiration, there is one more thing to do: order ‘The Conversation Company’ 🙂
Three phases every company has to go through
As part of the preparations for this book, we interviewed 25 senior managers. Our purpose was to discuss their views about change projects. We talked to people in organisations that are already well on their way to becoming a true Conversation Company, as well as to people in organisations that have hardly started. In addition, we asked another 400 managers to complete a quantitative questionnaire about the integration of the conversation philosophy into their company. The results of these studies prove that every company goes through similar processes in their attempt to build greater customer-orientation and conversational thinking into their operations. The roadmap consists of three separate steps:
1. The build-up of knowledge: During this first step, the internal knowledge and conviction necessary to apply Conversation Management are built up in a structural manner. You follow a conscious training trajectory, making sure that you involve your legal and HR teams, as well as any other important internal partners. This creates the necessary internal consensus of support. Finally, you need to introduce the necessary hardware and software. These are the bases for a successful evolution.
2. Pilot projects: During this phase the first test projects are implemented. These projects offer important opportunities to learn, but are also a way to demonstrate the added value which can be created by the new methods. This means that as well as accelerating your learning curve, they must also have a positive effect on your marketing and financial results. At the beginning of this phase, it is important to appoint a central person (= the Conversation Manager) who is responsible for developing conversational thinking in your organisation. This is also the phase in which you must start actively listening to conversations.
3. Integration and the lever effect: In this final phase your organisation must embrace the concept of the Conversation Company fully. The 4 Câ€Ÿs must be applied consistently and the gap between your company and the market must be closed. When this happens, a lever effect will be created. Everything that you do will be magnified in a positive manner and your unused conversation potential will disappear.
MOST COMPANIES HAVE HARDLY STARTED
Our research has revealed that the largest proportion (38%) of companies in Europe and the United States are still in the first phase or have not yet started with their change process. 184 14% of companies claim to have already implemented the philosophy in full. The four sectors in which this is most likely to be the case are telecom, media, travel and foodstuffs. The financial market and the health industry are currently at the bottom of the class. As a general rule, service industries are also further along the change pathway than production industries. Similarly, the largest global companies have made less progress than regional companies with fewer than 500 employees.
The shining examples of Conversation Management include Google, Zappos, Cisco, Dell, Kodak, Intel, Starbucks and Best Buy. Yet notwithstanding the great advances that they have already made, all these companies admit that there is still work to be done â€“ or rather, that the work is never finished. The non-stop evolution of the market requires them to keep their eye continually on the ball. But if the journey to becoming a Conversation Company is a long one, it at least holds the fascination of being a true journey of discovery. There are no certainties: you are never quite sure what is going to happen and you never know in advance whether your plans will work. Everyone is exploring together and learning together. Surely this is something that you also want to be a part of?
CAN IT BE THE SAME FOR EVERY COMPANY?
Are we not missing something with our three step plan? Is there not a risk that in future every company will be more or less the same? How will companies be able to differentiate themselves if everyone follows the same path?
Have you already asked yourself these questions while reading the posts so far? It is, perhaps, an understandable reaction. It is indeed difficult to imagine that every company will seek to implement the same strategy. Even so, the research carried out by InSites Consulting showed clearly that the companies who most closely reflect the Conversation Company philosophy have all taken a remarkably similar route.
Does this mean that there are no longer any differences between companies? Of course not! Even if companies follow identical trajectories, there will always be differences between them. Why? First and foremost because the three steps to change are carried out within the framework of the company culture â€“ and every company culture is different. To give a simple example, this means that every company will draw up its own training programme specific to its own needs. What suits Intel might not suit Unilever â€“ and vice versa. Secondly, the pilot projects are also very different. Once again, these pilot projects are chosen on the basis of their relevance to specific company needs. For Intel this meant the development of a blog strategy, for ING (as we shall read shortly) it meant the creation of a webcare plan. Dependant upon these two variables â€“ company culture and existing strategy â€“ the final outcome will continue to vary from company to company.
Does this then mean that there will be no similarities? On the contrary, there will be plenty of similarities! Just like every company is today organised in accordance with the silo model, in the future companies will be organised along conversational lines. Just like every company today arranges market research to learn more about its customers, in the future this will be done through direct customer communication. A number of elements of the new philosophy offer advantages to every company, so it is reasonable to expect that these will be adopted by every company. But the content and the implementation will continue to be different in almost every case.
The last part of my book describes in detail the projects which every company needs to undertake in order to complete its transformation into a Conversation Company. Completing such a process usually takes between 24 and 48 months. The exact speed (like so many other things) is largely dependent upon the culture of your company. One of the most crucial steps is the selection of the right pilot projects. These projects must have sufficient impact to create both support and movement within the company with minimum delay. No company can afford to wait 48 months for impact! Both in the short term and the medium term, it is important that the change process develops momentum â€“ and then keeps it. Be aware of the fact that this type of process will always create tension and frustrations between the leaders and the followers in your company. For some, things will be much too slow; for others, much too fast. You can help to reduce these tensions and frustrations to a minimum by working through the process in a step-by-step manner. Your leaders will be mentally in stage 3 while your followers are still in stage1! Draw up a clear plan in advance and make sure that everyone keeps to it. In this way, everyone will have the same expectations.
This is it!
Now the real work can begin: the building of your own Conversation Company. I wish you every success! The purpose of the book is to offer you a new business philosophy and to suggest the tools that will be necessary to implement that philosophy. I hope that I have succeeded in that task and I look forward to seeing the first results of your efforts. I really like any kind of feedback and conversations. Please feel free to let me know what you think of the book and where you do not agree with it. I would also love to hear about your practical experiences. On Twitter you can find me at @Steven_InSites. Or you can mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.