Part 3 of What a Go-To Does Differently: Obsession

This is the third installment of a multi-part series to talk about what a Go-To does differently from the me-too pack. Part 1 talked about how a Go-To focuses.  Part 2 talked about the importance of establishing a beachhead. Next up: The importance of obsessing over what you do.

A Go-To is Obsessed with Its Area of Expertise

I used to have an old Mercedes diesel sedan and would take it to the San Francisco Go-To for these cars, Fred, at Silver Star Motor Services. Fred didn’t just work on old Mercedes diesels. He loved them. He was an aficionado. He was constantly thinking about them, reading about them, learning more about them. And he had strong opinions about them. He could bend your ear for hours talking about the ins and outs of these cars. He wasn’t showing off, he was waxing poetic about something he was passionate about. He would just light up at the thought of these cars. It wasn’t a business or job for him – it was his life.

A Go-To doesn’t just specialize. A Go-To is a passionate aficionado, a devotee. A Go-To obsesses. And a Go-To is very opinionated when it comes to a particular market issue.

steve-jobs-iphoneSteve Jobs was obsessed with distinctive design. He insisted that Apple’s mantra be simplicity. In his mind, consumer technology was too complex, hard to use, and ugly. As a result, the company has always been obsessed with creating innovative, easy-to-use technology that people have an emotional connection with. When Apple started to work on the iPhone, Steve Jobs didn’t instruct the development team to create a device that would put a computer in your pocket. His directive was: “Create the first phone that people [will] fall in love with.” According to Former Apple product manager, Bob Brochers, “The idea was, he wanted to create something that was so instrumental and integrated in peoples’ lives that you’d rather leave your wallet at home than your iPhone.” Steve Jobs was clearly passionate, obsessive and strongly opinionated about how people should interact with technology, and these qualities have informed everything Apple has created, even after his passing.

800wi-jpgWhen Marc Benioff founded Salesforce.com in 1999, he was absolutely passionate about the need for companies to move away from installed software and to adopt the software-as-a-service (SaaS or “cloud”) model. I saw him on stage at a conference in 2006, and he relentlessly and completely unapologetically pounded on his primary thesis that installed enterprise software was on its way to extinction. At the time, it was still an emerging idea, but Salesforce.com was so passionate about the idea that it put a “stamp” of the word “software” in a red circle with a slash through it on every ad, on its website and any other bit of material associated with the company. Benioff wore a trademark pin of the image everywhere he went, including on the stage that day. It is difficult to find an article or presentation by him that does not espouse his point of view on this topic.

I’m obsessed with the importance of companies becoming the Go-To in their markets. What are you obsessed with?

Part 2 of What a Go-To Does Differently: Beachhead

This is the next installment of a multi-part series to talk about what a Go-To does differently from the me-too pack. Part 1 talked about how a Go-To focuses. The next thing a Go-To does differently is build from a base of strength.

A Go-To Builds a Strong Beachhead Around a Central Theme Before It Broadens

Rather than a hodge podge of messages, products, services and activities, a Go-To builds its brand around a central theme/market, and every fiber of its being revolves around that theme until the company has enough of a dominant position to broaden from there into adjacent markets. Its activities aren’t all over the map. They are highly, highly focused.

  • Oracle gained its footing as the Go-To for relational database technology before broadening into applications a full ten years after it was founded.
  • Salesforce.com built its foundation as a salesforce automation application before broadening into other sales and marketing applications.
  • Accenture is a $30 billion company today but started in the early 1950s as a tiny consulting division of the accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, to meet audit client demand for financial and manufacturing process automation. The bulk of this division’s business was focused on these two areas well into the 1970s.
  • Facebook was initially only available to Harvard students; once strong there, it allowed students from just eight other universities to join. Not until it had a firm foothold in those markets, with others asking to join, did it open itself to most universities and corporations before finally allowing anyone 13 and older to sign up. Even with Facebook’s lightning-speed growth trajectory, this progression took two and a half years.

Look around. Just about any large company you can think of started with a beachhead.

51susyutxjl-_sx330_bo1204203200_Geoffrey Moore discusses the importance of a beachhead in market dominance strategy in his seminal strategic marketing book, Crossing the Chasm, which I highly recommend as a marketing primer to newbies and as a great refresher to everyone else. Using a D-Day analogy, he explains the importance of focusing your scant resources to secure a stronghold and then building from a base of strength. Much of what he talks about are principles many MBA students learned but have proceeded to ignore at their peril. It’s truly excellent and is a quick read well worth your time. Buy your own physical copy, mark it up and keep it near your desk for frequent reference.

One of the metaphors he references in explaining market dominance strategy is the use of kindling to start a fire.

The bunched-up paper represents your promotional budget, and the log, a major market opportunity. No matter how much paper you put under that log, if you don’t have any target market segments to act as kindling, sooner or later, the paper will be all used up, and the log still won’t be burning…this isn’t rocket science, but it does represent a kind of discipline.

— Geoffrey Moore

The key, then, is to figure out a beachhead – which market will you seek to own first before broadening?