Marketing – blowing it up? What does that mean?
It means – don’t get comfortable with your Marketing. Just because it has worked, and worked well for several years does NOT mean that someone else is not about to create an even better Marketing solution. You have to continually be monitoring the market, watching the trends, and when the time is right… be ready to blow up your own marketing – for your own good (long term).
Clay Christenson wrote a seminal book on The Innovators Dilemma. The Innovation Dilemma being that well managed, and even outstanding companies could be doing everything right… yet fail to an unexpected competitor. These competitors are the disruptive innovators that create or leverage a new disruptive technology to displace the previous industry leaders.
Naturally we gravitate to the easiest example, being Apple. They introduced the iPod, and decimated the music industry. Although traditional printed books are experienced a bit of a revival, e-books businesses drove the publishing industry through a similar cycle (not done yet). Another clear example is the iPhone completely revolutionizing the mobile-phone industry.
Mobile Phone Market
In the 1990’s, Ericsson, Motorola, and Nokia had the worldwide market for Mobile phones. With such sophisticated technology, depth of R&D resources and experience in design – it seemed impossible for any competitor to succeed, other than in niche areas. In fact, both Nokia and Ericsson already had wireless data apps, email from your phone, location based services, and so on. Yet the 40%, 38% and 35% worldwide market share holders each fell from grace, as Apple iPhones and later Samsung Android smartphones took the market.
Depth of investment in a technology gives the firm a certain confidence in their barriers to entry. It also often paints them into a dilemma of having to produce continual profitability improvements and margins from the resources they have. From high growth and revenue focus, firms go into concerted margins growth cycles. When this happens, all efforts gravitate toward creating incremental innovations that are not too costly, leverage what you already have as a base, and grow the business along the similar path previously taken (perhaps with a few new features).
Human Capital Management (HCM) Market
A good example of this challenge today is the Human Capital Management (HCM) field. It is a revolutionary time of HR / people analytics, and unification of payroll, HR and Time and attendance systems. There is a push toward Cloud based Software as a Service (SaaS) technologies, away from the traditional software sale, or systems integration of mass database technologies (older Oracle or SAP systems). True SaaS leverages massively parallel computing resources in open source or quasi open-source technologies. However, some firms hold on to old private cloud (another word for client-server technology) models based on aging mainframe technology. A clear example is ADP focused on mainframes as its core engines, versus more modern technologies from Workday, Ceridian (Dayforce) and Ultimate.
The Innovators Dilemma means that technology companies MUST innovate continually. To succeed, most firms innovate incrementally (next version of the same base technology with upgrades in speed, features, functionality). However, that is NOT enough. After several incremental innovations, they must also have the ability, foresight and gumption to create a revolutionary. It means blowing up the past technology platform, and working on truly disruptive technology. Most importantly, the implication is that senior leaders, must clearly articulate that to do so, you can seldom stay the course on continually increasing profit margins. There are times when the profitability will take a hit, in order to jump to a new disruptive model. Only by taking such risks, can an outstanding company survive the continual barrage of disruptive technologies evolving their markets.
What does this have to do with Marketing?
In my early days at HP, I was responsible for managing multiple product lines. One of which suffered intense seasonal flux. To help boost sales, we used various marketing campaigns and promotional ventures (no surprise). Among these, the biggest was one campaign that had been run for many years, in the same quarter. While asking ‘why’ we were running the campaign in that quarter, people and management believed I was simply dumb. HP had ALWAYS run that particular campaign in that particular quarter, and it explained why sales were strongest in the third quarter! Simple.
Doing deeper data analysis showed me that few of the critical clients were taking advantage of the promotion. The reason the quarter was so solid, was that many of our main clients ended their fiscal year in that quarter. They were faced with a use-it or lose-it cycle….
Blowing up our Marketing paradigm, I took the risk of shifting the timing, changing the Marketing and promotion, changing the target audience and corresponding messaging. This was hugely controversial as “we had always done it that way, in that particular quarter.” How dare an outsider come in and change things up! Although I was close to losing my job over this risk (my risk averse boss was convinced he made a hiring error) – it worked! We ended up adding an incremental $1 Million dollars to a product line running at $11 Million per year (9% growth). This may not seem astounding, but to a business line that had stagnated for over a decade… this was a huge paradigm shift.
If you have done a marketing campaign or promotion repeatedly… it is a big red flag. Find another way to drive your sales. Disrupt the team’s assumptions. Disrupt the market’s assumptions. Change your marketing.
Better to blow up your own Marketing than have your competitor do it for you. Blowing up your own marketing let you rise from the Ashes stronger, and ready to disrupt the market – yourself.
About the Author:
Charles Dimov is Director of Strategy D, a Digital, Content & Product Marketing consultancy (www.StrategyD.org). He has 20 years of experience in High Technology, with 15+ years in Product Marketing functions – having successfully introduced over 80+ new product to global markets. Charles has a MASc.(MBA), BASc.(Eng), and a BA.(Econ), and loves Photography, Marketing Strategy, and rolling up his sleeves to drive market success. Reached Charles: Charles@DimovStrat.com