Part 7 of What a Go-To Does Differently: Adapts

This is the seventh installment of a multi-part series to talk about what a Go-To does differently from the me-too pack:

Now what?

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A Go-To Constantly Adjusts and Adapts

The world is continuously changing, and a Go-To keeps an eye on the horizon to constantly adapt to market conditions, evolving customer needs, and other factors that impact a company, like the economy, politics, regulatory policy, technology and so on. It even reinvents itself, when necessary.

A Go-To maintains humility and a healthy paranoia. I remember being in meetings with the senior leadership at Accenture when it was flying high with record growth and profits, and you’d have thought from the conversation that the company was on the verge of going out of business. The executives in the room understood that Accenture’s fortunes, like those of any company, could turn on a dime. The team took the same earnest attitude toward its strategic planning activity as a struggling startup does.

A Go-To also understands that, regardless of how unique its current offerings are, it will face competition. The market will invariably begin to fill up with me-toos going for a slice of that pie, so the Go-To must watch its back and work to stay ahead of the pack.

Technology companies, in particular, can’t stand still for three seconds before a competitor pops up or market conditions change. Oracle started as the only relational database company, but of course competitors came along, followed by new technologies. Though Oracle, by far, still maintains a solid leadership position in that space with nearly 50% market share, it is no longer the same company. It has built on its strengths to broaden into many technology and software solution areas, including numerous specialty niches, such as inventory management for communications service providers.

As of this writing, Apple, Google and Microsoft are the world’s three most valuable brands according to Forbes, but you’d never know it from the healthy paranoia pulsing throughout the headquarters of all three. None look the same as they did in the early days, and they all know that their offerings could become obsolete at any moment. They are always working intently on their next innovations.

A Go-To understands this: Companies that don’t change or don’t change fast enough often perish. As Andy Grove put it in his book, Only the Paranoid Survive:

…the person who is the star of a previous era is often the last one to adapt to change, the last one to yield to logic of a strategic inflection point and tends to fall harder than most.”

In recent years, some stalwarts within their markets, like IBM, have suffered for not embracing the trend toward cloud computing quickly enough. Over the next decade, it will be companies that don’t embrace the Internet of Things trend.

To really bring this point home, consider the S&P 500 Index. According to an Innosight 2012 study summarized in the briefing, “Creative Destruction Whips Through Corporate America,” an S&P company is replaced every other week; and whereas companies in 1958 stayed on the index an average of 61 years, today the average tenure is just 18 years. In the decade leading up to the study, over half of the companies had been replaced.

What This Means for You

Whether you are part of a large company or a startup, be sure you are constantly monitoring market changes and trends on the horizon and then analyzing how they might impact you. Look at what you need to do to adapt. The “Creative Destruction” paper I referenced above offers some pointed advice applicable to any company and talks about how P&G is doing it successfully, and I’ll be sharing additional tips in forthcoming posts.

Subscribe to the blog and stay tuned for some tactical how-to guidance.

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?