8. Forge connections: Starbucks
After suffering a slump a few years back, the world’s leading specialty coffee retailer has perked up its business and its brand by getting back to its original promise of bringing people together. “Starbucks has gotten much more in touch with the reason they’re here, and that’s to help create connections,” author Stengel says.
From the free Wi-Fi to the in-store music to the large tables with room for groups and meetings, the company’s stores are designed to help customers interact. “Go into any Starbucks, and business is happening and people are sharing, and the company understands that,” Stengel says. “Everything in there is about connection, discovery, inspiration and creation.”
Startups would do well to note the company’s innovative approach, which has enabled it to set the agenda in a category that has been around for centuries. “They carved out this dynamic niche with their brand and became very successful, and there’s still nobody else like them,” Stengel says.
The key, he says, is to thoroughly understand category norms and competitors’ strategies, and determine how to direct those toward your advantage. “If you’re an entrepreneur entering a category, maybe you can’t set the agenda, but if you can redirect that agenda, that’s how you win,” he says. “If you’re going to enter a category and be a ‘me too,’ don’t bother.”