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Falling For a New Old View

November 15, 2009

It was a crisp, late fall day, so I decided to take Krispy Kreme, my dog, for an outing in one of her favorite parks. I admired the fabulous light as I drove west to the other side of town. There’s nothing quite like living in wine country between two, gorgeous mountain ranges to supply an ever-changing vista of Mother Nature’s great work. The same hills, crags and rocks look entirely different while the leaves are changing to orange and bright yellow or gold throughout the last months of the year, giving a wholly different impression than they do during the spring and summer months.

We parked and began our ascent up the fire road into the park with vast stands of squeaking eucalyptus bowing in the breeze. As always, Krispy could outpace me, going uphill (!), even though her legs are only half a foot high. How is this possible? Her speed and low center of gravity became even more of an advantage for her as we progressed through the woods, and traversed rather steep hills that I would have second thoughts skiing down, let alone walking across on a narrow footpath. But I digress.

After some time, taking a new route we hadn’t done before, we emerged at the top of the park’s biggest hill, which was treeless at its crest, to view the entire valley floor, from the Napa River’s winding marsh route in the south, Mt. George’s peak due east in the distance, and up the Silverado Trail north marking the far side of the valley’s boundary between developed land and the vastly undeveloped territory above the trail’s path along the Vaca Mountains. All was heavenly to view and pick out familiar landmarks from this new vantage.

One always lets out a long-held sigh upon reaching a great view – even when it is easily within the close boundaries of the city. The grandly undeveloped park within the city (yes, Napa is a city) provides a much needed respite from the developed world, a luxurious wilderness within ten minutes of my front door (which I could almost see from the top of this hill). And that long, exhaling sigh feels like a new starting point. I get a new view of my hometown. The light, being long, low and golden, is different than it is the rest of the year, and makes all the trees and buildings take on new perspective.

Of course, I’ve seen it all before many, many times…but in different light. So while everything is comfortably familiar, it is also refreshed for a new season and a new outlook – something sorely needed in the world that’s been in a bit of time rewind for the past couple of years. The value and quantity of money has been rewinding to previous levels in prior years; we’ve been rewinding back from giant, gas-guzzling vehicles to those with better mileage and more reasonable size. Certainly home values and other goods have also been rewinding to previous levels of years past. Humans, on the other hand, are a bit uncomfortable with the clock going in reverse. It is not a natural state of movement to us.

Thus, quietly observing the physical and natural world moving forward slowly from such a wonderful view is enormously soothing and rejuvenating. It reminds us that while some things appear to be going backwards in our lives (like our bank balances), the bigger picture keeps moving along and progressing as it always has – forward.

This is what customers look for as well in the products and companies we patronize. As the world has shifted dramatically in the past couple of years, customer allegiances have shifted as well. Many, once loyal customers have abandoned their chosen suppliers in favor of their competitors. Why?

There are a lot of obvious answers for changes in customer loyalty: Their lives have been turned upside, so they reevaluate their brand loyalties. They trade down for monetary reasons. The value once given to your product may no longer match their newly-shifted values and circumstances. They are looking to find a way to continue forward – not reverse – in their own lives. That includes changing perceptions about what’s important to them.

A company that doesn’t aggressively reinvent itself as aggressively as the times have changed is likely to be left behind. This includes reinventing how its products and services are marketed to clients. Customers want to feel they can ride along with your progress in a new or reinvented direction rather than wait by the sidelines. Does your marketing program convey you are forward-thinking and rolling with the punches of the current times? Are you using all the new social media tools at your disposal? Have you discontinued venues that no longer serve to bring in new business?

With a new calendar (and/or fiscal year) upon us, now’s the time to reevaluate what is and isn’t working in your marketing gene pool. What may have given you a great return for a dozen years may not be producing anything anymore. Can you bury the now-extinct dinosaur venues and move forward in evolution? It’s hard to let go of the past. But as Darwin noticed, it is survival of the fittest. Your clients are waiting for you to show the way forward (and provide a reason for their continued loyalty).

Are you getting a fresh look at your marketing vista? Now is the time to lead the way through the gnarly, shadowed woods towards a new, sunshine-bathed path. Those who find the new path will reap the greatest gains in customer loyalty. Take a deep breath. Take a look at the new view.

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