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?

adapting-to-change-universestars

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 6 of What a Go-To Does Differently: Results

This is the sixth installment of a multi-part series to talk about what a Go-To does differently from the me-too pack. Remember that a Go-To is the market leader – the first name to come to mind when folks in the market think about a particular business problem and who can fix it.

The next thing a Go-To does differently profoundly affects customers.

thinkstockphotos-491925526

A Go-To Sells and Delivers Results, Not Products or Services

When you are pitching your offerings, it’s not enough to talk about the problem and what should be done about it – a Go-To also actively solves the problem for customers and delivers a result.

  • A Go-To provides, not just a product or a service, but the complete solution required to give the customer a business outcome.
  • A Go-To leads the customer on a journey and measures success in terms of business results delivered.
  • A Go-To’s sales activity is not transactional and “lead” oriented – it’s long-term relationship and account oriented.
  • A Go-To seeks to be the customer’s trusted business partner and has the customer’s long-term interests at the center of what it does.
  • A Go-To approaches the market with a set of targets it sees itself as best suited to serve and cultivates a presence among those targets – it builds a community of believers in its point of view and approach to solving the problem.

If you in need of a meal, Target will sell you the pieces – food, plates, utensils, etc. – and send you on your way.  A fine restaurant will sell you a complete, satisfying dining experience. Taking that several steps further, the Go-To local restaurant will do this and be a gathering place for birds of a feather, know your name, know your food sensitivities, make a custom dish at your request and send you special offers.

The most important dimension of this is that a Go-To doesn’t market a laundry list of generic services or talk in terms of “capabilities” the way most service providers do. It doesn’t sell functions and features the way most product companies do. Instead, it sells impact. The best ones offer a very specific, and sometimes even quantified, value proposition. It talks in terms of specific business outcomes – e.g., how much more quickly, less expensively or more profitably you’ll achieve your business goals and at what cost. A Go-To already understands your business problem and walks in with a prescription for solving it. A Go-To doesn’t answer your question of “What do you do?” with “What do you need?”

If customer dissatisfaction is a problem, would you rather buy software (or software as a service) that will track customer dissatisfaction, or would you rather buy an offering that says, “We’ll increase the net promoter score of your unhappiest customers by __% within six months”?

Would you rather buy from a public relations (PR) firm that charges a monthly retainer to execute a nebulous publicity program or one that says, “We’ll charge you $XX to achieve 100% aided awareness and 60% unaided awareness among your top __ prospects within the next year”?

If part of a large company, would you rather buy from a firm that says, “For a set fee of $__ thousand, we’ll review the bills you are receiving from your communications service provider and let you know if/when they are overcharging you,” OR would you rather buy from the company that says, “We are confident that your communications service provider is over billing you by at least __%, but don’t pay us a dime unless we find something. If we do, split the savings with us.”?

Side Benefit: Results Orientation Will Lower Your Costs

Because it is so focused, a Go-To is able to do all of this through efficient, behind-the-curtain operational excellence. It has a low cost of delivery relative to someone doing the same thing on a one-off basis through tools, processes and, technology. A Go-To hires and trains people focused on its area of expertise who can jump in and immediately add value. And it has a “trusted partner offering superior results” value system and culture.

Unlike retailers in the mid-1990s who jumped into the online channel as a side business, Amazon made the online channel its only business, initially focusing just on books. In fact, its operation was so efficient that, rather than create their own online channels, companies like Toys R Us, Target, Sears Canada, and Lacoste contracted with Amazon to run their retail websites. Another major key to Amazon’s success is its fulfillment operation, which reduces its shipping, inventory and other operating costs. Wired Magazine once called it, “the world’s most nimble infrastructure for the transfer of things….”

This fascinating video shows just how efficient their operation is, using robotics and analytics to fulfill an order with barely any human involvement.

 

What This Means for You

Use the above as a checklist. Where is your company currently falling short, and how can you redefine your offerings to be outcomes oriented rather than selling capabilities or mere products? Is there anything you can do to quantify your value proposition? Are you currently transactional, or do you take a longer-term view of your customers’ businesses and play a more ongoing, impactful role? And what can you do to create community among your customers – what can you do to build a following among them and between them?

If you’re struggling, there is more on this topic to come. Subscribe to the blog and stay tuned for some tactical how-to guidance.

Part 4 of What a Go-To Does Differently: Ownership

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

Now we’ll talk about a Go-To’s purpose in life.

A Go-To Has a Higher Purpose: It Takes Market Ownership of a Problem

A Go-To says, “I’ll take this one. I’ll own this problem.”  A Go-To fixates on a market problem (or opportunity) and declares intellectual ownership for that problem or opportunity, effectivelthinkstockphotos-485715206y becoming the ringleader, the primary thought leader, for related discussions and market activity.

Cisco doesn’t talk endlessly about sensors and routers, it talks endlessly about how the “Internet of Everthing” will save lives or reduce risk for companies. GE has taken intellectual ownership for the “Industrial Internet of Things.”

Kaiser Permanente, the large health maintenance organization (HMO), doesn’t just offer an integrated delivery system – where you and your family can get all of your health care in one place, with a single set of medical records and a  multi-disciplinary team devoted to your well being  – it believes this model is the way of the future. Kaiser has been running its “Thrive” campaign for over ten years, offering tips for healthy living.  Many of its ads don’t talk about Kaiser at all. Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 5.57.10 PM.pngThey address Kaiser’s higher purpose. One print ad shows an image of a jump rope curled into the shape of a human brain, with the copy, “Exercise doesn’t just make you feel better, offering a good defense against depression and anxiety. It helps you stay more alert and focused. Something you can think clearly about as you knock out just one last set. To learn more go to kp.org/thrive.”

According to Kaiser’s Diane Gage Lofgren, senior vice president, brand strategy, communications and public relations, and Debbie Cantu, the company’s vice president, brand marketing and advertising, Kaiser wants to play the role of  health advocate “completely dedicated to health and well-being with the fact that, no matter what their stages of life, people want to be as healthy as they can be.”

Salesforce.com was founded to solve the problem of expensive enterprise software implementations, with an initial focus on the salesforce. Facebook’s goal is to connect everyone on the planet. Apple created iTunes to make it easy for iPod users to legally download songs vs. illegal options that were rampant at the time. Cybersecurity firm, RSA, is regarded as one of the most trusted brands in its space and, as a demonstration of its “ownership of the problem,” hosts the world’s largest and most respected annual information security conference.

So it’s not just about solving a market problem. It’s also about keeping the conversation alive and working with the market to make continuing, collective progress against the problem.

What problem do you or will you own?

It Takes a Village…an Atlanta Technology Village

While in Atlanta on business, I went to the Student+Tech Entrepreneur Mixer last night at the Atlanta Technology Village. The Village has only been open a few months, and it’s already humming. Boy, I sure wish this had existed when I lived in Atlanta and was just starting my business. Being an entrepreneur, especially back then, pre-Web, was a very lonely pursuit. I left Accenture and went out on my own before it was fashionable. There were plenty of other entrepreneurs, but none of us knew who the others were.  There was no one to commiserate with. No one to celebrate with. No one to compare notes with. No one to answer, “No” when I was asking myself, “Is it me? Is it just me? Am I just an idiot, or is this typical?” Signing a lease for office space was more daunting and financially risky than buying a house. Managing employees and trying to drum up business were daily exercises in self-doubt. As one business owner on a conference panel once put it, “No adult bangs their head on the desk and cries more than an entrepreneur.”

In fact, it wasn’t really until years later when I got involved with the Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) at Stanford University and immersed in the entrepreneurship education community there that I came to realize just how normal my experiences had been. Everything I had gone through had been completely typical. It is impossible to overstate how reassuring it would have been to know that while it was happening.

Fortunately, entrepreneurs don’t have to go it alone these days, because there is such a fabulous ecosystem of resources, gathering places and communities. Thanks to the Internet, it’s now easy to find a plethora of resources, organizations, and events. On the work environment front, options range from incubators like the Plug and Play Tech Center to the trend of startup founders rooming together. (Also enjoy this article, “How to Find Awesome Startup Roommates,” by Jason Shen. As a side note, he and his buddy Kalvin Wang happened to meet during our first Stanford Global Innovation Tournament and turned the winning project into a social venture, Gumball Capital. That is a whole other {very inspiring} story…But I digress…)

Atlanta Technology Village image

Atlanta Technology Village Source: atlantatechvillage.com

What I love about the Atlanta Technology Village is that it’s the best of both worlds. Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs fighting the same daily battles as you? Check. Affordable month-to-month office space you can scale up or down, starting with part-time use of a desk? Check. All the perks of an established tech company office environment, including free snacks, coffee, and game room? Check. A sense of community? Check. And the list goes on.

The best part is that it’s not just for startups. The Village is the whole building. The plan is to accommodate companies throughout their growth until they become so big they need their own building. This is a first in Atlanta. I haven’t researched it, but I’m sure the model exists elsewhere. Let’s hope so. It’s a terrific one.

Atlanta Technology Village building

It’s the Whole Building

They gave our group of about 50 a tour of the Village, and everyone in the room over 21 was saying, “Man, I wish something like this had been around when…”