Evolution happens when organisms adapt in order to survive successfully in new environments. These adaptations increase an organism’s ability to attract mates, avoid predators, and find food. Animals or plants that don’t adapt must either move out of the habitat or die out. The business climate has gone through some rapid changes in recent years and, just like animals, organizations must adapt to the new environment or face extinction.

Adapt or perish

Just as organisms must attract mates, avoid predators, and find food, companies must build relationships with customers, beat the competition, and make sales.

Attracting Mates

No matter how assiduously a male bird chases a female, if he doesn’t have the feathers, he doesn’t get the mate. If he has traits that make him attractive to females of his species (color, size, behaviors), he’ll get all the attention he wants.

Similarly, pursuing your customers with letters, phone calls, generic e-mails, and sales calls, won’t get you any closer to building a relationship. Instead, you should attract your customers with online content that pulls them to you. Make sure your website is well-designed, optimized for online searches, and presents your company as you would like your customers to see you. Develop compelling content for your blog and e-newsletters that customers will want to forward to others. When they’re looking for the products or services you offer, you’ll be irresistible.

In the deep ocean where meals are rare and unpredictable, the deep sea anglerfish remains almost motionless and just waits for its prey to be drawn by its irresistible luminous lure. Your job is to create the content that will make your company just as irresistible.

Avoiding predators

Before the web, researching your competition was time-consuming, expensive, and often incomplete. Businesses needed to hire a research team, pay for expensive industry reports, and you still couldn’t get a full picture of your competitors.

You can now find out almost everything you need to know about your competitors on the web: Visit their websites, check out the online profiles of people who work for the companies, and read what their customers say about them online. Get to know all you can about their offers, prices, and services and make sure yours are more attractive and more effectively targeted to your desired audience.

You can also use what their customers say to adapt your offerings and capture new markets you hadn’t previously considered.

What you should not do is watch the wolves begin to circle without knowing what you’re up against.

Finding Food

Back in the day, standard sales tools, such as print advertising, direct mail, sales calls, and tradeshows were developed to get a company’s message across to a wide audience. All of these techniques come with high price tags and have little focus. They’re like a spider’s web that’s spread wide to catch whatever flies by. OK when there are swarms of bugs around, but not so good when they’re few and far between.

Today’s technologies provide ways for businesses to reach directly and cost-effectively tailor their messages directly to the audience. Send personalized e-mail newsletters to a well-honed list, to help you get your message to exactly the customers most likely to buy. Network online to get in touch with contacts around the world that you could never reach through a sales call. And, produce webinars and podcasts to speak to your customers directly without the costs of a tradeshow.

Natural Selection

Making some adaptations might not be easy, and there may be some who want to keep doing things the old way. But, often making a few big changes followed by a series of small mutations over time can evolve your company to a new level. Track the results that each of your adaptations gets. If the change doesn’t bring success, scrap it. And, if something is working, don’t change it.

The key to evolution is the willingness to adapt, survive, and flourish when the environment changes. And,  those that do survive and embrace these adaptations as a permanent part of their company’s framework will be poised to become the dominant species in the new business environment.