Relevance in business makes all the difference Print
Written by Chris Brown   
Wednesday, 15 July 2015 02:53 PM America/New_York

Speaking the language of consumers is critical to influence


Small businesses are not just a part of our economy. In a lot of ways, they are our economy—and the statistics prove it.

According to the Small Business Administration, America is home to more than 28 million businesses with fewer than 500 employees—and their influence is powerful. They account for 48.5 percent of private sector jobs, 42 percent of private sector payroll and 46 percent of private sector output. That’s a lot of economic impact!

Small-business owners are great people who put risk on their back every day to bring products and services right to our neighborhoods or computer screens. But even though running a small business can be hard, it can also be rewarding.

But whether a small business is experiencing a rough patch or enjoying encouraging growth, all businesses must consistently pursue relevance. A loss of relevance is a major threat to small businesses today. It may not seem like a very spiritual thing to say, but in business, relevance dominates.

For example, if customers want to buy e-books, it doesn’t matter how much they love your hardcover design. It’s not relevant. Likewise, a physical newsletter or newspaper can be done with excellence, but that won’t help if the target consumers are screaming for digital delivery.

The ultimate tragedy of any business is winning the preference battle by creating a product that really stands out, only to find it’s the best option among the many possibilities consumers are bypassing.

So, how do small businesses stay relevant? Here are three helpful strategies:

1. Engage in aggressive market research. There is a great book called Who Moved My Cheese? that all business owners should read. It’s a quick read that teaches how to aggressively anticipate—and embrace—future change rather than seeing “Blockbuster” on your sign and no customers in the building.

Barnes & Noble (B&N) did this well when the chain noticed the number of readers buying physical books was falling while the number of people enjoying environments like Starbucks was growing. Instead of fearing potential change, the company responded to the research by expanding its product lines. B&N also enhanced their environment to be more conducive to relaxing and studying.

Other retailers, however, found themselves sitting in empty stores asking, “Who moved my cheese?” Doing solid market research—and responding to it appropriately—is essential in this ever-shifting consumer culture.

2. Distinguish between mission and strategy. Many times we feel compelled—even called—to share a certain message through a product or a service. That’s our mission, and that’s a good thing. However, while the mission stays the same, the strategy for accomplishing it can change. We have to be true to what we do, but we aren’t necessarily bound by how we do it.

Now, I’m not suggesting that Christian retailers change their store policies and procedures every Wednesday, but I would encourage you to evaluate your “how” on a regular basis. By staying on top of your customers’ felt needs, you can probably identify a few small, systematic shifts to employ in your strategy every quarter.

Those shifts might seem scary at first (Nobody likes having their cheese moved!), but they actually keep things fresh and reduce monotony. Not long ago, McDonald’s decided to tweak its “how” by adding healthier options to its menu—and I’ll bet you one of their fruit smoothies that they’re glad they found a way to shift strategy while staying true to what McDonald’s does.

3. Consider repositioning your brand. Every business has a brand, and every business strives to own the most trusted brand in their space. But branding is a part of strategy, and strategies sometimes change.

As you evaluate your business, consider modifying and repositioning your brand to make sure its value proposition remains relevant to your market dynamics.

Harley-Davidson toyed with bankruptcy when less disposable income among its core audience translated into fewer sales. In response, the company softened its hard-core “biker” image to appeal to a white-collar world. The company also began marketing to a wider demographic. Now Harley-Davidson is back to being America’s most trusted motorcycle.

It’s worth repeating: Relevance dominates. If we’re not speaking the language of our consumers, we’re not communicating or connecting. More importantly, we’re not influencing anyone’s life.

The best way to serve your customers is to research their current buying habits and their potential future needs, then shift or reposition to meet those needs with a smile—and that’s always relevant. CR

Chris Brown, a dynamic speaker and pastor, joined Ramsey Solutions in 2014 with a message of stewardship and intentional living. His radio program, “Chris Brown’s True Stewardship,” launched in June on 20 stations nationwide. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbrownonair; on Facebook at; or online at