Just knowing your audience isn’t enough these days. You need to be your audience.
There's a very well-known term in the advertising industry: 'Put on your client’s hat’. It's regularly used when an idea is pitched and the audience hasn’t been considered, or gets lost in translation - a commonality that’s overshadowing the growing blockchain industry.
A good majority of arising ‘blockchain’ startups have come up with what I like to call 'imaginary clients’ or as you and I commonly call them ‘the audience’. They’ll pitch a problem and solution that doesn’t fit a specific audience. Or pitch to an audience that doesn’t even exist (well, for now).
This is where everything falls flat - how do you know your service or product is going to have traction or be effective? Who’s going to use your product? There’s also the problem of trying to talk to too many people at once - no target audience. This plays effect on your outward-facing brand. I personally don’t think a majority of these startups actually know who they want to be, because they simply don’t know who they’re talking to, so let’s get this right.
“Everybody” isn't your audience.
You’re probably thinking why is this so important. The audience is the livelihood of any company, and without them a company has zip. Nada.
Here’s a quote that summarises it clearly from Sam Walton, founder and former CEO of Walmart.
"There is only one boss: The Customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."
Seeing things through their eyes
It takes one to know one. You need to think, feel, breath, speak and... like them to truly comprehend what it is your audience needs. In other words, it's one thing to say you have the solution, but it's another thing to say you have their solution.
If you think Ripple are a blockchain company or some swanky FinTech startup, think again. Ripple are a payment’s company listening to banks with open ears - they’re wearing the bank’s hat.
Ripple’s business philosophy has proactively been in-sync with the banking and payments world since day one. Like the synchronization of a transmission engaging with an engine, Ripple are helping banks shift through the gears after every turn, straight and dip along the journey.
Just as important as problem-solving for the future, companies first need to be looking at today’s apparent issues; the real problems to clearly understand their audience. Similarly to those Ripple repeatedly remind us of in their communications - to solve the bank’s problem - to remove friction and lower costs in global payments.
From C-suite management, right through to the customer at the teller, Ripple know the ins and outs of every single pain point the banks are facing and are ready to pivot their strategy in order to solve those problems together, and at full speed. This is what forms a good strategic partnership with your client.
A change for the good
2015 was a pivotal moment in Ripple’s story. A time when ILP was in its early beginnings, Ripple’s original strategy was to get banks and payment providers to solely use the XRP Ledger and the digital asset, but banks were thinking otherwise.
¹“What we hear from many of our customers is that it’s imperative to keep their transactions private, process thousands every second, and accommodate every type of currency and asset imaginable.” Said Ripple CTO, David Schwartz (ITnews, June 2018).
Moving forward, banks needed a way to send their payments data privately (off Blockchain) and also be currency agnostic.
Fast forward to today, and Ripple has clearly listened by decoupling the payment (ILP) and the settlement (Blockchain, Nostro/Vostro and 3rd Party LP) of the transaction using xCurrent.
It was a pivot in strategy that acted as a stepping stone towards the robust product portfolio Ripple offers today - xCurrent, xVia and xRapid.
This strategy has and will continue to ease banks into new ways of thinking and working, more importantly utilizing xRapid for cross-border payments, and in the future ideally utilizing XRP directly for payment settlement.
Leading the pack
Ripple are the flag bearers when it comes to working with, not against their audience. Learning, listening and being your client is imperative, especially when your solution ultimately relies on their pain points and the way they go about their business.
When you take a step back, Ripple are laser-focused on banks and banks are laser-focused on people. They are effectively caring about the end-user without them being the direct audience. Genius.
Coil and Xpring are also prime business examples of not wearing too many hats. Coil is clearly working with content providers and Internet users. Xpring on the other hand will facilitate new business cases that sit outside the realms of banks and payment providers.
It's businesses like Ripple, that believe that their clients are the sole reason why they exist; something that is clearly lacking in the blockchain space to date.
Client-centric businesses, like Ripple ensure that financial institutions are at the heart of their philosophy, ideas and future.
And the future is bright for Ripple, because today and tomorrow they know who they want to be. They’ll be wearing the bank’s hat.