Transforming business in digital age: How to stay relevant and grow in a complex and disruptive business environment? – Branding That Matters

Transforming business in digital age: How to stay relevant and grow in a complex and disruptive business environment?

transformational business in digital age
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Who cares about your business, brand and marketing?

No one cares what you do or how great your brand and marketing is.

With about more than 40,000 searches EVERY second (3.5 billion searches per day) on Google, why would even a tiny fraction of those searches land on your site or profile?

Why would someone, who is experiencing ‘marketing fatigue’ and is busy with his or her daily priorities, stop and pay attention to your stuff?

Not only that, 21% of Users Abandon an App After One Use. eMarketer also expects three in 10 internet users will be using ad blockers by the end of 2018.

Let that reality sink in for a moment. We can’t even pay people to be engaged these days!

No one wakes up in the morning just to check out a fantastically written ad copy, a creatively done brand marketing video or to learn how to code (whatever you do), unless it is relevant to them and resonates with them.

Most likely, your audience, just like you, is looking to:

  • fulfil an aspiration that they have put aside for some time or been struggling with
  • find ways to break certain unproductive or unhealthy habits so that they can actualize a bigger outcome
  • fuel an ongoing transformations they want in their lives, careers, health, relationships and finances... to express their potential fully
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    help them do all of the above more efficiently, stylishly, enjoyably, effectively (or with less friction, frustration and pain) than they could otherwise or with previous versions of products or services out there.

The question is, are you engaging your audience deeply at those levels where they care most? Or are you still striving to stand out, to promote your brand, to position yourself and to market your business like the rest of your competitors, fighting for attention?

Welcome transformational business.

grow your business in transformational ways

Willy Kruh, KPMG Global Chair, Consumer & Retail

“Today’s consumer and retail market is beyond disruption – we are disrupted – and CEOs need to listen to the market, look outward and focus on changing their business,”

What this implies is that our business landscape is going to be more transformational than ever, especially in the fifth industrial revolution. In our upcoming future, it isn’t just digital transformation alone, but also human transformation so that collaboration between humans and advanced technology can produce a sustainable economy.

We can’t just keep to the status quo of financial returns alone. Consumers today and in years to come are choosing to put their money where there are environmental, social and humanity benefits and value. Consumers want to be part of the creation process with brands - consumers want to collaborate with brands.

To put it another way: If people aren’t experiencing some levels of transformation through you, you are just another transaction in the red ocean zone!

In the book, The Transformational Consumer, author Tara-Nicholle Nelson found that 50% of U.S. consumers are Transformational Consumers. And she emphasized that this isn’t a niche.

Transformational consumer see life as a series of personal growth projects to actualize themselves on becoming healthier, wealthier and wiser - to reach their full potential before they die.

Therefore, they are on a constant search for products, services and content that support them in their personal growth journey.

As a result, they are more proactive with brands who are able to support them in their mission and are ready to invest way more than non-transformational consumers who tend to bargain or are less committed.

In addition, they inspire others around them, hence they are highly influential.

As I learned from several entrepreneurs who have a thriving business model, transformational consumers are the ones who make up about 80% of their business. They are the ones who bring a higher customer lifetime value. Usually, they are the best clients to service. On top of that, they inspire their friends on their transformational journey!

Positioning yourself to be a transformational business helps you avoid the common bottlenecks and focus on the things that will move the needle in your business or venture.

Who are your transformational clients?

who are your transformational consumers

Designed by Skyclick

How do you know who your transformational consumers are in your market?

Transformational clients don’t necessary fall into certain demographics or even psychographics the way a lot of marketers are taught.

Mind Transformations, the longest running NLP training company in Asia, has grown significantly since 1997, helping over thousands of professionals, leaders, CEOs, managers and entrepreneurs to actualize a greater potential in their personal growth that leads to a career, business, relationship, wellness and lifestyle transformation.

Their transformational practitioners come from different walks of life, industries, age groups, countries and background. Despite the differences and having their programs in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and recently in Mauritius, what’s common among their target audience are:

  • They are well-travelled and experienced. They have been through different programs. They are sophisticated in their level of thinking. They do not settle for less.
  • They arrived at a plateau - what used to work well for them isn’t working as great anymore. They are working to create a breakthrough to the next level in their life. They are willing to do what it takes to earn their way there by seeking a sustainable or ecological solution, not fixes, to their personal and professional development.
  • They are in a position of great influence, leadership and impact with the decisions they make in their role and the values they want to impart to others.
mind transformations be part of the solution 2018

In short, the essence in their transformational clients is that these people are looking for deep change in themselves and acquiring mastery in whatever they are pursuing. They want to create sustainable results and fulfilment in their work, life, relationship and financial health.

The company is built on a paradigm shift of delivering deep human change. This is what separates them from the other similar training and coaching providers, where most of them are serving ‘improvement offers.’

Market Sweet Spot

What is an improvement offer?

Simply put, an improvement offer is just a better version of what your competitor does. For example, a faster and easier way to win sales, or a more powerful method of getting buy-in from the key stakeholders. An improvement offer has little or weak differentiating factor and is often compared to other competitors. Regardless how good your improvement offer is, you are still being seen as a commodity.

Here's why.

When you sell on improvement, you are reminding your audience of their past poor decisions they've made because that's where they reference to - the things they've tried but failed. Improvement offers are referencing to the other previous versions out there.

Where is your market sweet spot?

Most improvement offers fall under the mainstream stuffs you and I would have come across many times.

When entrepreneurs try to differentiate themselves from there, they go to the other extreme end of the spectrum - the crazy zone. Or they are too ahead of its time where the market isn't ready yet.

Take for example in the market of alternative health modalities. 

prolific market sweet spot business

Under the mainstream is where the popular modalities or fads are in the alternative health space that you can easily find in the internet.

On the other extreme end (crazy) are practices such as Breatharians - a group of practitioners who believe that a person can give up food and water altogether and live purely off prana, which they also call "living on light" or "living on air."

Someone in the prolific sweet spot market would be like Wim Hof, better known as “The Iceman,” who has attained roughly two dozen world records by completing marvellous feats of physical endurance in conditions that would kill others. 

Though it seem crazy at first, the sweet spot he tapped into is that he is able to replicate the results of his method into a teachable conditioning process that people can adopt in their ordinary lives for enhanced health - increased energy, better sleep, improved sports performance, reduced stress levels, stronger immune system and more. Not everyone wants to be like him, yet, the benefits his method can produce are accessible to anyone.

To be in a sweet spot, one doesn't need to be as radical as Wim Hof. One just need to consider possible new ways to deliver results and performance at a whole new level that can be replicated and accessible by your market looking for transformation, not improvement.

Identifying the characteristics of their transformational clients is vital to the company’s growth. It enables them to prioritize their efforts and resources to serve their clients well.

It also enables them to create an inbound presence through their content marketing in the domain of professional training, leadership, career development, coaching, influence and personal development. 

From there, they are then able to qualify and identify the people who possess the above transformational qualities. Their transformational clients are the ones who are least likely to drop out of the foundational 12-days intensive program, had greater success and a strong positive influence on the people around them.

Through my previous work with them, the way to understand their transformational clients is having multiple touch points to interact with them and to understand their challenges more so from a qualitative point of view. That is, talking to real human customers.

In your business, you can also do this through surveysquizzesconsultations or trial sessions.

The important distinction is this; you want to be looking at this group of people from the perspective of their life journey, aspirations and the resistance getting in the way of their outcome, rather than from the lens of your company’s offerings.

Fundamentally, these are the areas you want to uncover:

Context of the landscape

What is the context of their greatest challenges and outcomes of highest priority?

For example, if you are in the business of helping yoga studio owners in their business development and marketing, the context here could be scaling their company and the greatest challenge they faced is in attracting and retaining students while staying cash flow positive.

Understanding the context gives you a big picture of what’s concerning your transformational audience. Most importantly, it allows you to scope your discussion and questions to have a high-quality data.

Common enemy

What trends do you notice in the landscape? What seems to be disrupting the industry? What’s the common “enemy” here that is getting in the way of your clients fulfilling their outcomes? This is where you go a layer deeper into the discovery process.

In the example above (by the way, these are real cases I’ve came across), yoga industry is getting crowded and competitive with many similar facilities in the region.

With the wide availability of wellness apps, events and co-working spaces promoting awareness in this area, yoga practitioners are having way more options as well as distraction than before.

Students usually go around trying different classes or go with teachers who are more well-known in the landscape or recommended by their buddies. Hence, retaining them can be a challenge. They also find themselves needing to differentiate on competitive pricing and attractive class packages.

By digging deeper, there is a specific group of students who find it intimidating to pursue yoga where they can gain the health benefits without feeling overstretched, pressured to be flexible and getting lost in the crowd.

These people just got started and are looking to lower their stress, lower their pain, to feel energize and become stronger. Most of them have certain health conditions that they are careful with when comes to learning alternative modalities such as yoga.

Moreover, they want to belong to a like-minded community, which is lacking in many studios where the pace of classes seem fast and rush. Besides, people seldom interact or get to know one another during class.

Deeper themes

Not all challenges are worth tackling. Even having understood the common pains your market is facing, it doesn’t mean they are worth your attention as they might just be surface problems.

Here, you are looking for a specific segment of theme that your audience is indicating to you about a deeper issue or elephant in the room.

Using the same above example, the deeper issues that this transformational group of students faced could be that they are searching for a suitable studio where they can practice yoga in a safe, welcoming and respectful environment. They want to see improvements in their health conditions as a result. 

They are more interested in having a program that can meet their health and personal goals instead of feeling obliged to perform under a certain yoga style advocated by the studio.

How do you tell if one is a transformational consumer as you interact with your market?

One telltale sign is that they expressed their situation more in-depth and showed deeper genuine concern on their challenges than other people in the market who responded at face value.

More importantly, what they do is more telling than what they say. Finding out about their routine and the things they have tried around their situation will give you some clues.

Two other indicators you want to look out for are:

  • How much time they spend on trying to overcome their personal challenges?
  • How much money they’ve invested on finding their way out of their stuck position?

Their hyper-responsiveness is an indication that they care - they are willing to invest the time and money on it. And you want to be listening to how they are describing their challenges and the natural language patterns they used.

Knowing who your transformational consumers are gives you clues on where to find them and ways to position yourself so that you are the right one to serve them deeply where others can’t.

When you sell transformation, you make it about your clients, not your brand.

With regards to the yoga studio example, as a studio owner, once having identified your transformational market, you would focus on helping this group of transformational students on their movement, not on stretching and definitely not how hip or trendy your brand of yoga looks.

Unlike other studios, you don’t use pain as a sign of a good yoga class. They can experience health benefits even if they aren’t flexible. You will focus on helping these students get greater results and experience yoga in a safe way when they do it right - by working on their alignment, breathing, and progress according to their level of ability.

Your studio would also help them work on their muscle tone that’ll help burn calories, facilitated by full-time expert instructors who observed a strict teaching protocol for students’ safety, results and best interests at heart.

You’ll then create your services that offer accountability. There will be regular check-ins to see how they’re progressing and what support can be given because great results come from commitment and consistency, not coming to class once in a while.

This is how you build a culture in the community that is welcoming, safe and respectful (to both students and upholding the integrity of yoga that serves your student).

When you sell on transformation, it is about your clients’ growth, not your studio’s brand of yoga.

Redefining your business.

redefine your business model

When you make it about your transformational clients, the way you do business will be radically different from others in the market.

A while back, I had the privilege to meet the founders of superfood company Organic Burst, Dimi and Katya, to learn about how they are serving their transformational consumers in the health and wellness market.

Currently based in Singapore, Dimi and Katya saw a worldwide increase of health conscious individuals who are particular about their diet. Since these transformational consumers are sensitive or allergic to what goes into their food, they are stringent at how the ingredients are sourced.

With a worldwide movement of customers in 112 countries, Organic Burst is grown on a strong foundation of prime, creme de la creme, top grade superfoods - from the selection of land, soil, growers to the methods of harvesting and delivery of the end product. With their state-of-the-art and patented systems, it helps to conserve more nutrients and make their foods super easy to absorb by our body.

All their ingredients are grown organically (and Certified) - meaning they are strictly non-GMO, free from herbicides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers and any nasties…Even their tablets do not contain any binders.

That’s not all, they advocate direct trade to support the development of local communities and farmers around the world. They apply sustainable cultivation practices so that their trees and their soil are never over-harvested and depleted.

Essentially, the company is a social enterprise that maintains a sustainable ecosystem where their profits are continuously re-invested to create a win-win with their growers, harvesters and in turn benefit their consumers.

A powerful insight they shared with me is that they stop looking at their competitors. Though they had bad experiences from competitors trying to copy their products, because of their strong foundation, due diligence and principles, they had built a natural moat around their business. This is where their competitors, who are trying to be opportunistic in the wellness market, can never get it right.

Instead, they focus on serving their transformational consumers exceptionally well.

To them, their real competition is not the other superfood companies, but the poor habits (common enemy) that are getting in the way of their consumers living a rich, vibrant and healthy lifestyle. Therefore, getting the superfood to their consumers’ hands isn’t the end of their job. They are also educating their consumers on how best to consume those superfoods in fun and exciting ways so that they gain maximum benefits.

Likewise, for Mind Transformations, their real competition is a universal problem plaguing many people: the phenomenon of ‘no time,’ the lack of energy and the distractions of instant gratification that interfere them in performing at their best and the challenge of getting through to people. The core of their program is designed to address these common enemies.

How then do you create a path of engagement that will take people who has never heard of your venture, to a die-hard fan and evangelist for your work?

Start with the Outcome: Start by zooming the lens out and asking these bigger questions:

  • Where are we going?
  • What’s the desired outcome that we want people to actually engage in?
  • What do we want to give them?
  • What gets people from where they are now to the outcome? In their personal journey towards that bigger outcome, what are the different levels of challenges or resistance faced? And what’ll trigger them to act or move in each of these levels?

Spend some time reverse engineering.

This goes back to understanding your transformational consumers not as an illusionary avatar, but as a human being with real aspirations and challenges.

What is the entry level where you can get people to start a relationship with your expertise? From there, create micro-steps that people can take to progressively deepen their commitment towards their outcome, which also means towards what you can offer for them.

Again, when you focus on serving your transformational clients well, you’ll rethink your business and competition. This empowers you to invest your time, energy and resources where it matters, rather than jumping on the bandwagon of digital trends.

Creating a transformational culture that will take your company to the next level.

build a tribe community and human network cultural intelligence

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

This quote by Mahatma Gandhi is more than just a quote for Mind Transformations.

It defines their culture.

And this culture is necessary to be able to serve their transformational clients at a greater capacity.

Here’s why and how.

Although they are a NLP training company, ‘life redesign’ is the heart of their value and offering. Think of it as a rebranding exercise on their life and personal development.

Their transformational clients are aiming to level up in order to thrive in complexity, uncertainty and the growing demands in their life.  

To be able to serve them, a typical training culture might not suffice. Therefore, they integrated a coaching culture in their business. And coaching is more than just a title, certification or a profession, it is a way of life to getting real sustainable results in the era of disruption.

This culture is represented as ‘change-makers’ for Mind Transformations - an identity that their transformational clients strive to embody as a symbol of growth.

This identity is backed by ‘life-supportive’ practices, supported by the tools of NLP, coaching and multi-intelligences.

Without this kind of culture, there wouldn’t be a community of coaches, facilitators and practitioners who are dedicated to serve, add value or to give back.

Without this ecosystem of support and community, transformation would be a tall order for their clients and practitioners.

Similarly, for Organic Burst, their culture is symbolised by ‘Bursters.’ It is a powerful identity that signifies the aspirations of their transformational consumers who are making the right choice in taking charge of their own well-being. By standing for companies that promote ethically sourced, the purest and most authentic foods, Organic Burst grows a passionate community of consumers over 112 countries.

How can a transformational culture grow a transformational business?

The greatest asset that will take your business to higher levels is having a strong community. And it all starts with a transformational culture. A sense of community helps deepen
the loyalty, participation and buy in from your transformational consumers.

Transformation is a high-stake and a long game to begin with. There are risks involved and tough decisions to be made.

With a strong transformational culture, companies like Mind Transformations not only last through difficult times such as Asian Financial Crisis and the subprime triggered global recession, they also grow and thrive over the years.

Here are some approaches to build a transformational community.

Aligning culture with a manifesto

A manifesto consolidates the core purpose of why it does what it does. It creates a framework for what the company stands for. A manifesto acts as a central communication piece that activates people at their core, bringing the right people together in synergistic ways.

It speaks specifically to the type of person who will most resonate with what you’re offering, builds rapport, harmonizes around shared pain, beliefs, worldviews, values, aspirations and calls people to a very specific action.

Unlike most vision and mission statement that is static, a manifesto is dynamic. It is constantly evolving and a work-in-progress.

It serves as a high-level guideline in whatever the company does - from the way it serves, connects and communicates with the community to how it makes decisions.

Rites of passage

One of the things that makes people feel like they are part of a community is going through a shared initiation ritual. These rituals serve 3 purposes:

  • They signify to the individual a commitment to officially being part of the community. This is meaningful because it sets in motion a desire to contribute and a sense of belonging and also creates an impulse to continue to act consistently with that first meaningful action.
  • They indicate to the community that this person is now part of the tribe.
  • As the individual shares the process with their larger group (sometimes this is actually PART OF the rite of passage), it tells the individual’s broader social group that this person, who they know, like and respect, has decided that this new thing is important to them and, in doing so, also sends across a message that “hey, maybe it could be important to you, too.”

Rites of passage can also be very simple, more about a shift in psychology that says “I’m in” and also transmits the same to those who are already in and those who are part of the broader community.

It doesn’t have to be as significant as lifetime vows. It might be as simple as acknowledging an agreement, sharing the manifesto with one person they like to benefit before the start of a program or sharing why they join the membership with the rest of the members upon onboarding.

These rituals can be constructive, proactive, uplifting and inspiring micro actions for people to start engaging with, such as sharing a photo tag on social media with their friends, announcing a new journey they are embarking on.

Co-creation and ownership

Brainstorm any common rituals or actions that might be beneficial or even necessary things, and that also help connect people. It may be as simple as a weekly check-in on a chat group. Or it could be a weekly coaching call. Remember that not everyone will buy into a regular ritual right away, so consider the ways to make this easier for your community. Simplify!

A way to enhance this is to give opportunities where your clients can be part of the creation process with you. This can be instances such as a contest of coming up with a new program title, a book cover you are working on, or a new online course outline. It can also be a 30-days challenge on something that is relevant or worthwhile for them to participate in.

By collaborating with your customers to create better ideas, products and services, it instills greater shared ownership in them with the venture.

Common language and symbology

Create your own language, words, names, terminology and symbols that allows people to communicate in a way that connects them.

These common language and symbols help to encapsulate the spirit, culture and essence of your work and the values both you and your community stand for.

Make them fun. Make them playful. Make them cool. Make them different. Make them, in some way, memorable so that people connect with them.

Keep in mind, too, that your community might come up with it’s own language to describe things. This is in many ways much more powerful than any language you can come up with because it is something they self-identify with and therefore has much more ownership.

Code of conduct

Create the basic rules and expectations for your community. Then make sure you are prepared to enforce them. Let your community understand and acknowledge the higher intent and purpose behind those expectations or rules.

These days, the companies that last are those who serve deeply. And it all starts by defining your transformational advantage.

You have a choice in which space you want to be in - to stay relevant and thrive or being made redundant in a complex and disruptive business environment.

P.S. If you like to define your transformational market and sweet spot, you can get in touch with me at on how we could work together or partner up.

Alfred Chung

A holistic communicator and purpose coach who cares about the bigger picture that connects the dots towards sustainable growth, healing and transformation. His purpose and intention behind whatever he does is to translate life’s wisdom into practical applications which can be adopted by others.

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