Sometimes when we look at huge, globally successful corporations, it’s hard to imagine how they got where they are today. Most started out as small businesses that seemed to have that ‘magic touch’. But what exactly is the secret recipe behind the success of these top global companies, whose names are so familiar that we see them every day?
The secret is this: each of these global giants had a unique approach to their business – one that positioned them for success. Small businesses can study these approaches and take away key lessons to help kick-start their own growth.
Below, we’ll look at the five top global brands of 2016, analyze each company’s road to success, and identify some useful lessons you can apply in your own business. Let’s go!
The number one global brand has a remarkable success story. Apple is the world’s largest IT company by revenue, and the second-largest mobile phone manufacturer after Samsung. When you look at its well-recorded business trajectory, one of the major lessons you can take away is that if you have a vision, you need to push for it – hard. Apple’s early story wasn’t one of easy success, but its founders were pioneers and visionaries who saw the potential of technology that was, when they identified it, almost science fiction.
It’s also worth noting that Apple’s marketing has always been stunningly good (take as an example the ‘1984’ TV commercial that first aired during the Super Bowl that year). Its products aren’t cheap, but they are stylish and have a devoted following. Steve Jobs’ genius was in anticipating what people wanted before they knew they needed it, rather than relying on market research. He also relaunched the tablet PC as the popular and powerful device it is today, after others had tried and failed.
To follow in Apple’s footsteps, you need a deep understanding of your target market. Know what your customers do in their spare time, what music they like, what they care about, and where they congregate online. Analyze this data (and use your intuition) to determine what your target customer group needs and would appreciate.
It’s rare to be so successful that the name of your company becomes a verb! Google has done just that, however, and was also the number two global brand of last year. The company has grown organically from one original, wildly successful idea. This digital powerhouse radically changed the search engine concept, and now offers a dizzying range of further products (such as AdWords, Maps, and Analytics). The Googleplex is a hothouse of innovation that is refined based on user data – Google is constantly promoting and discarding ideas, depending on their popularity.
Following this model means constantly analyzing how your services are performing and tailoring them based on what you find. Welcome customer feedback, and use it to develop new services that arise naturally from what you already do, leveraging your core strengths. For example, a company offering translation services might also offer proofreading for its specialist foreign languages. This type of organic growth is far lower risk than moving into an entirely new field.
Samsung, the number three global brand of 2016, is a South Korean trading giant with humble roots in producing and delivering groceries. The company swiftly moved into quite different sectors, though, including insurance and retail. It finally entered the electronics sector in the 1960s, with a huge amount of capital available to back its new venture.
The model of expansion Samsung uses is distinct from Google’s approach, since it is based on a massive investment in upfront research intended to produce ever-better electronics. Samsung may not always produce the first version of a product (think of its legal tussle with Apple). However, the company is a fast learner, positioning its brands carefully to provide what customers want and need based on extensive research and testing.
To emulate Samsung, look carefully at what your rivals are doing to identify what you could do better. Research their clients, and their websites, looking through any client testimonials for clues as to what they are doing that’s different and successful. Then plan how you can improve on their services by asking a few key questions: could your service be faster, more customer-focused, cheaper, and/or easier to use than your rival’s? Ensure that your offering provides a significant improvement in at least one of these areas.
At number four, Amazon seems to sell everything these days, and is rapidly taking over as the place to go for anything from apples to zinc baby cream. However, it began in 1995 as an simple online bookstore.
Amazon’s genius and differentiating factor has always been its intense focus on keeping its customers happy. With such a broad and diverse customer base, the company can’t leverage customer segmentation or product differentiation, so it has to deliver a uniquely reliable customer service experience. Amazon’s customer service is truly excellent, response times are swift, and multiple systems are in place to encourage and actively solicit customer feedback.
To emulate Amazon, it’s important to respond fast and well to your clients. Be responsive to their needs, and ensure that any issues are dealt with swiftly, sympathetically and patiently. And don’t be afraid to ask for feedback – it’s the most reliable way to find out what’s working and what’s not.
Microsoft, another IT giant, was the fifth largest global brand of 2016. Paul Allen and Bill Gates founded the company in 1975, and it’s now the home of the vast Windows empire. The corporation offers far more than an operating system, however, having created products such as the Xbox family, the Windows Phone, and the Surface tablet computer.
An important lesson can be gleaned from an incident at the company’s beginnings, back when it worked with Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS). Gates promised that Microsoft could provide a BASIC interpreter for MITS’ micro-computer, the Altair 8800 – one of the first machines in the personal computer revolution. MITS asked for a demonstration, but Microsoft didn’t yet have a working device. However, Allen swiftly created a simulator, and Gates developed an interpreter to go along with it. The device worked perfectly and MITS agreed to distribute it. The rest, as they say, is history.
The message here for small companies is to be ambitious in what you say you can deliver, but never promise what is beyond your capabilities. Over-deliver on your promises, and look at your services to identify where you could propose daring new ventures. The only way to end up responsible for the next big hit is to keep trying new things!
The big success stories on the global stage can teach small companies a lot about developing services and products, leveraging early successes, and understanding core markets. All of these companies broke the mold in some way, and left behind many useful lessons in their wake. These lessons include:
- Understand your clients perfectly to deliver services they love.
- Go beyond market research – know what your customers want before they do.
- Study what your competitors are doing, and work out how to offer better products or services.
- Provide excellent customer service, and always welcome customer feedback.
- Don’t be afraid to promise ambitious deliverables – but make sure you deliver them!
Do you have any favorite brands whose success you admire, and what do you think their secret is? Let us know in the comments section below!
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