3 Lessons From My Day Inside Coca-Cola
I was able to spend an entire day at Coca-Cola’s world headquarters, one of the world’s largest brands. The access was made possible by a close friend who is also a long-time marketing executive for the company. I spent the day meeting with various team leaders to understand the nature of their work and their engagement with agencies. Here are 3 lessons I learned from Coke that hold value for every business:
#1: Never take your market share for granted
If anyone should be satisfied with their market share, it is Coca-Cola. I have been in remote parts of Africa and Asia. I have yet to find a village in the world void of Coke. Their flagship soda can be found at little league baseball games in rural America as well as streetside vendors in remote parts of West Africa. Market saturation is an understatement.
Yet, the leadership of Coke does not rest on their laurels. Rather, they have built a culture and mindset in which they battle every day to maintain and grow their market share. They are aggressive in their advertising, sponsorships, and strategic sales channels.
They not only focus on growing revenue through increased sales of existing products, they focus on developing and acquiring new products. Water, soda, juice, energy drinks, teas, and more have become part of their brand portfolio. They are constantly looking for new ways to deliver value.
It’s a great lesson no matter the age or size of your business. The market share you take for granted is the market share someone else will take from you. Like Coke, every business requires constant vigilance to protect the market share they’ve captured and look for opportunities to gain more. Growth is a mindset and must be part of the culture your business creates.
#2: Never take your largest clients for granted
One of the most enlightening parts of my visit was meeting the dedicated account teams Coke has for some of its largest clients: Wendy’s, Sonic, Subway, Chick-fil-a, and others. These quick-service restaurants represent one of the key distribution channels and sources of revenue for Coke. The company creates account teams whose job is to make sure the entire franchise gets the highest level of service possible.
Coke grows by helping its largest clients grow. When more people eat at Chick-fil-a, more Coke is poured. It’s that simple. As a result, Coke invests significant amounts of money in advertising campaigns to promote these franchises. They have their service professionals provide rapid response to any equipment issues with their soda machines. These dedicated account teams exist to keep these large clients happy and growing.
Customer satisfaction and customer retention are critical for every business. For most businesses, there are a handful of clients who represent a significant amount of revenue. It is imperative to constantly create value for them, even when they aren’t asking for it or expecting it. Don’t take them for granted.
#3: Never take your brand for granted
We all know Coke: the iconic script with red and white colors. It represents quench-thirsting satisfaction around the globe. During my visit to the world headquarters, I was taken aback by how much money Coke devotes to keep its own employees excited about the brand.
Here’s what you need to know: Coke is a strong brand externally because it has a strong brand internally. They know who they are, who their audience is, and the values they want to portray. Around the campus, they have large displays where employees can see the latest updates from social media as customers share their excitement about Coke products. They have the latest swag available to their workforce from the World Cup and Olympics, iconic events where they serve as a lead sponsor. Every hallway has reminders about Coke’s history and worldwide reach. Even better, you are never far from some free product when you get thirsty.
Do your employees have a strong sense of mission? Do you have ways to remind them why their work is important? Do you have ways to share and celebrate client success stories? As business leaders, we have to find ways to communicate and activate our brand values among employees. Your brand is only as strong externally as it is internally.
Roundtree, like most companies, will never have the size or reach of Coke. However, Coke is a shining example that success in business typically comes from doing something well over an extended period of time. If you want to imitate Coke’s success, the formula is no secret: grow your revenue, control your costs, and innovate. And, oh yeah, do it for decades.
Andy Jones is the Founder and CEO of Roundtree. He helps businesses and organizations create clicks and customers. He’s also a big fan of Coke Zero.