5 New Sandbox Rules of a Highly Successful Business

Business New Sandbox rules Business is no longer and will never be ‘as usual’. The global, IoT-connected digital economy has removed the shackles from both consumers and B2B buyers, re-defining traditional business models. The new business sandbox rules are in place and to succeed, B2B brands must quickly learn the rules and play them better than anyone else. 

Customers today have more options to choose from than ever in every area or product and service. Thye wield the ultimate power to vote with their feet. Or rather, their fingers. It is a job of your brand to influence that choice.

Interestingly, today, every business leader and every employee can take fast and decisive action to turn things around. Embracing a few simple rules can have a significant impact on your business success, job security and prosperity. 

There are new Sandbox Rules for market leadership and survival and our job as leaders and professionals whose job is to make a difference, is to learn them fast and play better than anyone else.

5 New Sandbox Business Rules:

  1. Audience
  2. Insanely Different
  3. Authenticity
  4. Awesomeness
  5. Brand Culture

Whether you think big or small, seek ROI or perfection, the first two rules are paramount to business success in every sector. However, they are even more powerful for B2B companies, as very few business-to-business organisations do it well. The post is short because it’s about YOU taking time to think through these critical building blocks of a truly competitive, insanely successful business.

1.     Audience

Visions Ain’t Visions. Ed Catmull was an innovator in the growing field of high tech computer ographics. His vision was to make the world’s first computer animated feature film. After meeting Catmull in 1986, Steve Jobs was inspired to imagine an even bolder vision. He bought Catmull’s division from LucasFilm, renamed it Pixar and gave it this bold direction:

“Over time we want Pixar to grow into a brand that embodies the same level of trust as the Disney brand.”

Sustainable business cannot exist without a grand vision that attracts great talent. And, great, talented people will not stay around to do just nuts and bolts without a meaning. They don’t want to lay bricks; they want to build a cathedral.

Business success starts with the Business Leader’s Vision. Vision, evangelised by the Leader and every employee creates Audiences: internal and external. It becomes the torch illuminating the path forward for an organisation. As any source of light it requires a reliable supply of energy and a way to switch it on every night. Brand Leadership is that source of energy and must be driven by no other than the Leader, personally and consistently. Consistency and frequency is everything.

Guy Kawasaki, one of the world’s most famous technocrats and bloggers and former Apple employee and Mac Evangelist, says, “We all thought we were going to change the world with our little computer, and we worked 90 hours a week… and drank six-colour Kool-Aid every day” (reference to the 6-colour Apple logo in the 80s).

2.      Insanely Different

Without clear differentiation a business will rarely succeed in the long run. Forced to compete on price, with difficulty to sell undifferentiated products or services, it will never have the necessary profit buffer to innovate and marketing becomes expensive and ineffective. Next step: closing down sale!

Forget benchmarking. Differentiation is not about comparing yourself to competitors. It’s about seeing market needs differently and addressing them faster and better than anyone else. You know when you are doing well if you apply the right strategic approach.

Benchmarking can only measure retrospective compliance and forces you to play the game by someone else’s rules. Leaders inevitably set their own game rules and benchmarks. They, in the bandwidth of their own Competitive Advantage, become the Benchmark.

When you set your own rules, others have to follow. The key task of a Competitive organisation is to have systems in place to continually innovate ONE THING: how to defend your competitive ground. Innovation is simply continuously looking for and applying new ideas, connections, trends, pre-empting threats, fast response to relevant opportunities and new technologies to sharpen the competitive outcomes.

The organisation is conditioned to broaden the gap EVERY DAY WITH EVERY ACTIVITY!

Constant Innovation, powered by constant two-way marketing, is your life blood. You need a balance of both, flowing through every vain and artery of your business!

“A company can outperform rivals only if it can establish a difference in Activities that it can preserve.” Michael Porter

Establishing a Competitive Positioning requires deliberately choosing to perform activities differently than rivals do or to perform different activities to the norm.

A good Marketing and Innovation Audit that is focused on unique activities enables an organisation to set practical goals and parameters for action and to measure progress. It brings Vision to the foreground your and maps out path for personal Leadership of every employee.

3.  Authenticity

branding-1The customer universe has become more informed, more sophisticated (in some ways) and, as a result, more cynical. But, this has also elevated the value of Trust.

While customers, driven by the magic of ‘Insanely Different’ business brands, are prepared to wear the Brand virtually tattooed on their foreheads, they will as quickly abandon the brand if it fails to deliver the three elements of authenticity.

Authentic Brand Conviction: “With great power comes great responsibility”. How can customers trust the message of a brand when they see a different reality? Here is an easy example. Telstra’s latest slogan is “That’s how we connect.” And, yet, trying to resolve a basic problem indicates that even their departments in the vertical service process, are not connected. There is a Great Wall of China between technical and financial resources.

Authentic Leader: Business brands can no longer depend on the advertising message to carry the value of the promise. Leaders can no longer hide behind the labours of their marketing or PR department. They have to personally drive the real conviction of the brand. The world believed Steve Jobs when he launched new, exciting products. A very different story if you have ever seen the launch of a Blackberry when it was still fighting for survival: an executive in an expensive suite, looking like he had only just stepped out of his expensive office to make a stock-standard announcement. Nobody could believe that it was actually an innovative product. He was a messenger, not an Oracle.

Authentic Values: Many businesses and less-than-visionary marketing managers try to prop up the brand value with semantics. Words like “superior service”, “innovation” have been proliferating. Yet, the behaviours of employees fall short of delivery. And, it’s not their fault. Service is becoming increasingly important part of product and brand differentiation. But its meaning is not underpinned by the culturally understood and embraced business values.

Here is an example that should serve as a warning. Qantas: once an airline famous for its safety record. So, what do they do? Cut down on maintenance costs and outsource this core competency to a market that does not support trust in delivering this important value.

And, if this is not enough, here is another example. There is a lot of competition in deregulated markets of energy (as well as mobile phones, water, banking, accounting and it).


They spend millions of dollars on customer acquisition, only to disappoint. If it wasn’t for well documented customer inertia, they would be losing customers in droves.

4.  Awesomeness

Grilld-3We all love ‘awesome’ experiences that simply leave us breathless and in awe. That kind of experience leaves lasting imprint and creates desire for more, i.e. turns into loyalty. The good news is that Awesome doesn’t always require perfection.

According to a trends report by www.Trendwatching.com, “Consumers don’t expect brands to be flawless. In fact, consumers will embrace brands that are FLAWSOME*: brands that are still brilliant despite having flaws; even being flawed (and being open about it) can be awesome. Brands that show some empathy, generosity, humility, flexibility, maturity, humor, and (dare we say it) some character and humanity.”

Grilld-2Closer to home, next time you have a chance, look closer at some local Australian businesses that are showing awesomeness through ‘flawsome’: Crust (pizza), Grilled (hamburgers). They tell customers an engaging story about what they are passionate about, provide differentiated value proposition and add – carefully designed – quirkiness to brand expectations. Until they break trust in their core values (think Qantas), they have customer ‘love’. Awesome!

Awesome creates Business Voodoo Magic and can turn adversity into business value:

My local shopping strip, in a leafy Melbourne suburb, is a blink-and-miss event. But, it has four and a half restaurants, two hairdressers, and… five cafes. The owners of my regular café had a near stroke when the latest café opened four doors up. But, marketing innovation kicked in immediately: they started offering free home-made biscuit with every coffee, changing coffee brand and machine, even friendlier service, new uniforms, etc.

But, can you guess, what was the most important thing they did? They started openly sharing their concerns with their customers – throwing up hands and lamenting “Why another café?” They told all customers about all these new initiative – more than once. They didn’t leave it to chance that customers would notice. They kept asking for feedback about the coffee, whether I noticed that they have a new machine (hard to miss), about the changes and improvements they have made. They cast a spell on their existing customers.

So, it came as small surprise when I witnessed the effects of this Business Voodoo magic last Sunday. The café is usually closed on Sundays but walking past I noticed a familiar face and some activity around. Curious, I walked up to say hello and  found some of the regular customers and the owners (a nice Cambodian couple) having a ‘working bee’ revamping garden beds around the cafe. Atmosphere of mutual ‘reward’ was augmented by a comforting backdrop of a table generously set up with coffee cups and selection quiche and cakes served by the owners.

How awesome is that!

Would your Customers go to bat for you? Would they take action to protect you from competition, beyond just buying your products and services but helping add value to your business – for Free? Or, would they just jump ship?

5.  Brand Culture

Culture is what binds together people from whole nations, to ethnic communities, to religions, and small sub-culture groups. Corporate or Brand culture is an example of a subculture. Business culture evolves either by design that stems from values of the leaders or evolves by common behaviours.

Irrespective of how it was conceived, every business has a distinctive culture which can be a powerful brand differentiator.

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