As legendary Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt once put it, “people don’t want to buy a
quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” Retailers are not just looking for new products, and lots of talk, they are looking for trusted partners and results. Many organizations have lost the forest for the trees, focusing too much on creating products for consumer segments rather than satisfying higher level needs. Retailers like consumer are looking for the same thing. They are looking for organizations that understand and address their deeper needs and fix problems while earning “share of heart”.

What do I mean by “share of heart”? Share of heart is the level of trust, belief and the depth of relationship you’ve earned with a partner. It is more than revenue; it’s the deeper “one to one” bond you have created with another person or organization.

During last December’s Drug Store News Industry Issue Summit the topic of earning “share of heart” came up in the discussion with our retail executive panel. The summit focused on strategies for elevating retailer and manufacturer relationships, and the stumbling blocks that hinder growth. Our research showed that almost half of all retailers and manufacturers don’t believe their partnerships go deep enough and only 1/3 of both retailers and manufacturers believe they are being as transparent as they could be. Why is there such a problem with deeper alignment, shared values and trust? And why do so few companies earn a high share of heart?

If you are looking to earn retailer trust or “share of heart” the following are three ideas that have come out of my most recent research for my book Dark Horse: How Challenger Companies Rise to Prominence. The best challenger companies understand the following ingredients of trust.

Idea #1: Fix Problems: Top retail executives are looking for companies that are more than trusted ad visors, they are looking for companies that are strategic assets. Ad visors are nice to have, but assets increase in wealth and pay
the bills. Manufacturers who earn high share of heart spend time uncovering and address business problems that the retailer may not even be aware of. They often times are exploring business opportunities outside of their own space and spend time on projects that they may not be able to personally monetize. These organizations understand that share of heart, means you invest in the larger relationship, even when there is not a pay day associated with the project.

Retailers want to partner with manufacturers that uncover new ideas bubbling up on the fringe of the market on in other countries. They want to understand “what’s next?’ Here is the take away: share of heart is not for those in need  of immediate financial gratification.

Idea #2: Understand Me: to quote one senior retail executive “most manufacturers present and act like they are working off of a script, and spend little time truly understanding my agenda, my goals and my unstated broader needs.”

The executive went on to tell me “very few companies bring tailored solutions that neatly align with my corporate and personal goals, and even fewer, understand why my goals are actually important to me.” To get to high share of heart, you must demonstrate that your business agenda is your customer’s agenda. They are one!

Do you dare being that committed to your top customers?
Idea #3: Take out the Garbage: many of the best dark horse “challenger” companies align their planning process around vision and values, while centering on shared expectations and their customer’s goals. When retailer & manufacturer think like one company, they drive mutual accountability, facilitate growth initiatives and delight the consumer. Retailers are looking for manufacturers who are objective and category agnostic, who partner on research, uncover unmet needs while looking for gaps with the guest. They also rarely see companies who operate with ruthless honestly, proactively deleting their under performing items, while recommending competitive or emerging items that could improve the assortment. To earn share of heart status, you have to be able to own up to your own problems and “take out the garbage” without being asked.

Earning a high share of heart is the most valuable metric you can measure. And the problem is that it is not developed through technique, but through an open culture or service. The best dark horse companies serve their customers, not manage. They are stewards of their trusted partnerships and actively bring on associates who protect it.

How are you at stewarding “share of heart”?