Saturday, June 30, 2012

Did You Ever Hear of the Gettysburg Principles

David Weinberger wrote an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review which describes an interesting perspective of how to build customer loyalty. He offers the question of whether a company meets the Gettysburg principles. From Lincoln's Gettysburg address the question asks for a given business is your business of the people, by the people and for the people?

OF THE PEOPLE means that the company appears to share the same values as its customers. It also appears to treat its employees like individuals rather than numbers. It also has a sense of humor and can admit it is not perfect. Mr Weinberger suggests that Ben and Jerry's does a pretty good job of being OF THE PEOPLE.

BY THE PEOPLE means that customers appear to have played a part in creating it. Wikipedia is just such a company. Customers beleive they are a part of the company even if when they have no ownership.

FOR THE PEOPLE means the company is completely focused on the customer. The company wants to satisfy the customer with every aspect of its business. Apple stores may be a good example of being FOR THE PEOPLE.

It is not easy to provide customers with all the principles to get loyalty. It is possible to gain loyalty by meeting two of the three principles. The good news is that each principle is not a black or white characteristic. That means it is not that you either have it or you don't. There is a range of values for each and a company does not need a perfect score for a principle for it be considered.

Some of the examples that Weinberger are:
1. Amazon provides excellent customer service makes it a company FOR THE PEOPLE. It's openness and the fact that it provides openness of its customer reviews suggests it is BY THE PEOPLE. however, its corporateness does not offer customers a chance to feel that it is OF THE PEOPLE.

2. Craigslist seems to hit all three principles. It seems to have built loyalty even though better technology services have come along because it appears to satisfy all three principles.

3. Google has hit all three in the past. Since it has become a mega corporation it is no longer OF THE PEOPLE and with its increasing interest in putting advertising on the pasges it is losing its ability to be FOR THE PEOPLE.

4. Facebook seems to be clearly BY THE PEOPLE. It no longer feels like it is OF THE PEOPLE or FOR THE PEOPLE. The loss of these two principles may be one of the reasons that Facebook is losing some of the glamor it once had.

These three principle really are another way of stating customer loyalty.

The bottom line is that companies should try to be OF US or FOR US even when it can't be BY US. When a company loses sight of these principles, customers will lose the connection and become vulnerable to competitive offers. When selling on the internet that competitive offer may be only one click away.


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