Businesses and Gradients
Businesses begin (or should begin) with an idea.
They survive or fail based on the strength of that idea. If the idea is weak then it is unlikely that the business will even get started, let alone overcome the various barriers on the way to flourishing. But if the business idea gains in strength, so that products and services are produced and delivered, then the original idea will shape the attributes of those things.
As any business takes shape, there is something that happens out of sight: someone has decided to be a provider, to take on the responsibility for transforming an intangible idea into a working entity which somehow fulfils someone’s needs. He or she has decided, consciously or not, to be the fountain from which that business will flow. Part of this is inevitably to take on a particular point of view: as part of moving the idea into the world of commerce, one makes the decision to adopt a perspective. What kind of business is this going to be?
In doing this, and in asking that question, a provider automatically extends out from an initial viewpoint a set of expectations or goals. Conventionally this is done through a business plan, but they can be rather boring. However things are written down, though, there have to be aims or expectations. These aims define the direction, the flavour and the kind of business which is to be created. Any goal or aim immediately creates a vacuum, an absence, which pulls the business forward: in seeking to fulfil any goal, the provider moves through a series of events, either approaching the business’s aims or deviating from them. Aims can be conventional, and therefore to some degree predictable, or unusual and unpredictable.
This is the story of commerce: a provider comes closer to, or moves further away from, the aims of a business. Time, transactions, events, meetings, emails, personnel are all part of this movement towards or away from, culminating in the aims being accomplished, or not.
The size and arrangement of the needs involved determines how successful business will be: successful operations begin with vacuums that approximate those of the customer when he or she first encounters the business, then sequentially increase in size to eventually include deeper and deeper consequences before some kind of fulfilment of needs occurs. A misalignment of, or something missing in a sequence of vacuums in terms of size can stall a customer’s progress: customers are drawn along on gradients, and normally react badly if gradients are misapplied.
The real product of marketing is motion: is the campaign powerful enough to bring about action on the part of a customer, every set of the way? This has to be judged in relation to context: a customer’s first needs may be strong enough to have him or her give you an email address, or only strong enough to click a link. To make vacuums more powerful, align them in sequence: start with a widely-known and appreciated weak vacuum that your customer is probably experiencing as they read your ad or shop window; then add a larger and still common vacuum then add a less familiar but bigger vacuum before drawing the customer towards fulfilling his or her needs.
Mastering business and marketing is a question of mastering these gradients.