Businesses have always been shaped, in some way, by individuals—consumer behavior dictated which products and companies would thrive, and employee turnover could have a similar impact. But these influences were often reactionary. Businesses would make a guess about what customers and employees wanted, and then simply wait to see how people would react. Now, however, the way companies do business has changed, and they’re looking to individual consumers and employees for direct input and guidance in making major decisions.
Here are just 3 ways that “The Little Guy” is helping to shape big businesses in the modern marketplace.
Social Media Influencers
Social media has officially silenced the naysayers that claimed it was only a fad. Now, social media is a major platform for individuals to connect, as well as for businesses to connect with customers and promote their products and services. But the modern consumer can be quite skeptical, and frequently look for recommendations from trusted sources prior to making a purchase.
This is why many businesses are now looking for ways to work with major social media influencers. Some of these individuals can have millions of followers, and an endorsement from them can bring your company a tidal wave of business. However, if these “macro-influencers” are outside of your price range (or simply unable to accept additional endorsement requests), you can also look into working with micro-influencers—social media influencers with a following of less than 100,000. This is still a pretty large audience to get your products out to, but it can save you a lot of money.
As already mentioned, businesses have often taken a retroactive approach to consumer demands and product development. They would put out a product they think people would like, and wait to see how their customer base responds. But this “trial-and-error” approach to innovation is costly and time-consuming, especially in our fast-paced, modern world.
Today, individual consumers have a more direct impact on initial product development than they ever have before. “The Little Guy” can now provide direct feedback and opinions to businesses, and may even be able to submit their ideas for new products. More and more businesses are looking into “crowdsourcing” their innovation efforts by allowing employees and consumers alike to offer ideas for new products, features, and services.
Why wasn’t this the process in the past? Primarily, this change has been brought on by new technology, which allows for the collecting, sorting, and analysis of large amounts of information. Plus, with improved communication pathways, it’s much easier for the average customer to provide their feedback without it getting lost in the shuffle. Recent developments in innovation management software provide all of these features to businesses, allowing for simple and effective crowdsourcing of ideas.
Development of Vision and Values
Another recent shift in the way consumers and companies interact lies in the development of values and social impact. Modern consumers care much more about a company’s vision and values today than they did in the past, and the Average Joe is making his opinions known to big businesses. When a company shows poor moral conduct in the way it treats its employees or in their environmental impact, many consumers will choose to boycott that business. On the other side of the coin, consumers are drawn to businesses that make a positive social impact in the community, treat employees well, and make contributions to charitable causes.
This shift is due in large part to the incredible connectivity we now have around the globe. It is easier than ever to spread information about how a corporation behaves, as well as rally others to a social cause. And because of this, “The Little Guy” has largely pushed companies into shaping their social behavior and developing more meaningful visions and values.
The 21st Century is certainly a time in which the average consumer can make his voice heard, and it’s a trend that is unlikely to change in the near future. It’s more important than ever before that businesses of all sizes recognize the power of the people, and harness the wisdom of the crowds at every opportunity.