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Building a Movement - 5 lessons from Jack Ma & Joey Zwillinger.

"We view ourselves much more like an innovator than we do a shoe company, or a fashion company - we don't think of ourselves as a fashion company at all." - Joey Zwillinger, Co-Founder @ Allbirds

Thought provoking listening to The Twenty Minute VC on the commute this morning where Harry Stebbings was joined by Joey Zwillinger from Allbirds to discuss the importance of building a movement.  

The podcast reminded me of a video I came across recently where Jack Ma (back in 1999) introduced Alibaba and his plan to compete with the U.S. internet titans.  Both leaders have absolute clarity on the model through which they plan to grow their brands, and awareness of the opportunity/challenges facing their business. 

Whilst there are clear benefits from building a movement that focus on external audiences (mostly your customers), the enablers come from within (your employees), the people that make your business and it is crucial to have everyone working from the same page.  

When communicating the movement, what you've set out to do and why you want to do it, the following 5 points resonated from both Ma and Zwillinger when it comes to executing the how:

  1. Defining the vision - what do the next 5 to 10 years look like for the business?  For a startup this can be seen as a distant future; however, for your employees, this provides meaning, buy-in to the company journey, and understanding that their work is contributing toward an ultimate objective. 
  2. Communicating the goal - is there a clear goal that has been communicated and reinforced repeatedly?  Without this, it is not possible for each business unit to set their leading and lagging indicators to contribute toward the target.  Whether this is a revenue objective, to IPO, or impact a tangible market change, it needs to be disseminated further than the c-suite/senior management. 
  3. Understanding the competitive landscape - in an established/new market, it is important your employees understand where you fit, and furthermore how you differentiate from what already exists.
  4. Setting expectation - your team need to be inspired to go over-and-beyond, which whilst it might sound clichéd, expectation will allow each member/unit to specialise and produce desired outputs. 
  5. Align decision-making processes with customer-centricity - when it comes to decision-making at Allbirds, Zwillinger sets a simple criterion: "make the absolute best experience for the customer".  This will refine company processes and with the customer in-mind, enable you to create authentic customer connections.  Furthermore, understanding customer feedback will allow you to deliver enhanced products/services. 

Establishing and communicating each of these 5 points within your business, will define what makes your brand aspirational and the factors that excite people to get involved.  

Alibaba IPO: Jack Ma's Original Sales Pitch in 1999


content marketing, b2b marketing, podcast, twentyminutevc, startups, brand strategy, innovation

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