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Ask this about your business: Why do you exist? (Or more precisely, should you?)

By Lindsay Herbert


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October 8, 2014 | 4 min read

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I controversially asked this question last week during a talk at a conference of destination marketing organisations (DMOs) from across Britain and Europe.

Lindsay Herbert

It was controversial because historically DMOs are funded by the government to promote tourism in a region, but with consumers now more likely to go to TripAdvisor or Google than websites like ‘Visit Newport’ or ‘Explore Gloucester’, has digital killed the DMO’s very reason for being?

Should your business exist?

Whether it’s a DMO or your own organisation, companies fail when they confuse ‘what’ they do with ‘why’ they do it.

Take Blockbuster and its (now sadly ironic) company mission statement ‘to provide our customers with the most convenient access to media entertainment’.

Instead of staying true to its own mission statement, Blockbuster ignored opportunities to innovate and fixated on improving its traditional retail model by killing late fees and increasing rental periods – unfortunately this was the business equivalent to trying to fend off a drone strike with a wooden club.

Why focus on ‘why’?

Just compare Blockbuster’s story to Netflix, with its mission ‘to be the best global entertainment distribution service’.

Unlike Blockbuster ignoring what people wanted, Netflix closely tracks and adapts to its customers’ preferences – such as appealing to people’s love for ‘binge watching’ by releasing all episodes of new shows at once.

By staying true to its mission, Netflix has evolved from a mail order DVD rental company to a world-leading online streaming subscription service and an award-winning content provider, with season 2 of ‘Orange is the New Black’ alone garnering over 150 million new subscribers.

Keep ‘why’ separate from ‘how’

So which DMO marketers at the conference were panicked by my question? The ones who thought their reason for existence was to drive traffic to their own websites.

Conversely, the marketers who looked calm in the face of such existentialism were the ones who knew they didn’t exist to move traffic, get email signups, or advertising clicks.

DMOs exist to drive tourism and right now, the good ones do it by working with platforms like TripAdvisor, educating the operators in their region on how to have better websites, and getting news of their region onto every public portal, social channel, and news site they can find.

It’s the same even for agencies

Precedent’s mission is ‘meaningful ideas, intelligently delivered’ – 25 years ago that meant making CD-ROMs out of our one studio in Shoreditch, today we do it by building major websites across six studios internationally.

No matter what sector you’re in, if your business can’t answer the question ‘why do we exist?’ without mentioning a service or a product, it’s time to step back from the controls and re-evaluate before the next stage of digital evolution threatens to decide for you.

Lindsay Herbert is global head of digital at Precedent. Lindsay and will be speaking at the Joy of CX conference on the 16th October at Bounce in Holborn. For more information on the event visit the Joy of CX homepage.

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