The Four Strategic Pillars of Successful Businesses

by Jay Deragon on 02/03/2014

FourPillarsIn the past the four strategic pillars of successful businesses were mass production, market domination, lower cost and return on equity.  The market was ruled by the rulers, the BIG got bigger and the voice of the customer was managed through silos  and influenced by incremental improvements. Market dynamics were predictable with little significant disruption.

Then the dynamics began to change and the market is now ruled by the many instead of the few.  The buyers voice became connected, united and a dominant force of distributed influence. The old strategic pillars of past success shifted to a new set of pillars that reflected a different strategic focus which required new mental models and a different set of strategies to succeed.

Engagement, crowd sourcing, problem solving and stakeholder satisfaction became the strategic pillars of business success in the 21st century. The art and science of optimizing these intangible attributes represent the strategic differences between the winners and losers in 2014 and beyond.

Many have recognized and even adopted one or more of the strategic pillars that influence success in today’s marketplace. The many are also are beginning to learn that none of the individual pillars by themselves can offer the leverage gained from leveraging all four at once.

The Four Pillars

The word pillar stands for 1) a firm upright support for a superstructure, 2)  a supporting, integral, or  a significant part of the whole 3) a fundamental precept that reflects the underlying philosophy.  A business strategy rest on pillars which represent the organizations beliefs in a set of levers that create the most value.  The four strategic pillars that have emerged as the collective means for creating the most business value in the 21st Century are:

  1. Engagement: This is more than just enabling people to share your offering on social networks or creating followers on Facebook. Engagement is more about you engaging with your stakeholders and enabling all stakeholders to engage with you seamlessly anytime and from anyplace about anything and everything of importance and meaning to those stakeholders.
  2. Crowdsourcing: There is an old expression from the Book of Proverbs. “A wise person seeks the counsel of many”. Historically organizational leaders and politicians have done the opposite while pretending to be wise. Crowdsourcing is the 21st century means of “seeking the counsel of many” Because of social technology, the growth of hundreds of crowdsourcing platforms and the natural desire of the human network to solve problems crowdsourcing of problems and solutions is available to any organization of any size. However its use and understanding is limited to the wise.
  3. Problem Solving: Remember when your mother complained: “Everything I tell you goes in one ear and out the other.” Well, in a neurologic sense she was correct. If she had asked questions instead, you would have retained more of her messages. That’s because the brain operates with skepticism: tell it what to do and it will analyze the implications. On the other hand, the brain processes questions as if they were problems to solved – games to played. Similarly, your stakeholders like solving problems because it gives them a rush – their brains release neurotransmitters that act like adrenaline. The lesson here is to ask your stakeholders to help you solve problems and you’ll be surprised on the responses. Asking a crowd questions to find and explore options is the wise thing to do.
  4. Stakeholder Satisfaction: Did you know that 85 percent of consumers will retaliate against a company if their customer service needs are not met?  Additionally 49 percent of all consumers will stop doing business with that company, and 18-34 year olds are three times as likely to vent their frustrations on social media. “The customer is always right” is a pillar of American commerce. In a competitive business market, keeping your stakeholders happy is critical for retaining their business and attention, promoting your brand, and keeping an edge on rivals. The Internet has changed the landscape for customer service, both in terms of customer expectations and in terms of creating new ways to connect with customers and deliver help.

The changes in today’s marketplace are systemic in nature not individualistic and the winners understand the leverage gained by adopting and embracing the knowledge, wisdom and the represented philosophies embedded in all four pillars all at once.

To not leverage all the pillars all at once is foolish thinking and a guarantee of poor results.  Choose wisely.


Shrutin Shetty February 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm

Really deeply thought and written, Jay.!

Stephen Anderson February 4, 2014 at 3:24 pm

So true, engagement works only when everyone is engaged. You can’t make someone be engaged and if you as a business create a fake sort of engagement (mommy blogs for teeth whitening come to mind), you are going to get buried in the compost heap of ignoringdom (I made that up) -at best.

And buried by shared social media postings at worst – to the point where it will be hard to recover. Better to start off honestly and with good intentions, and much much better to turn to transparency, because the rest of the world already expects that.

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