At the beginning of this year, I issued a call to all small and mid-sized businesses (SMEs) that social media, while still hyped to be more than it is, was no longer optional. Since that time I’ve seen some very wild reactions – everything from complete and total resistance to the apparent belief (or more likely desperate hope) that social media will solve all business problems. The bulk of SME executives, however, lie somewhere in the middle. Today, they are curious about social media, but a) they don’t understand it and b) they don’t believe that “their clients/customers” use it.
This morning, I came across an excellent presentation that (while a bit aggressive in tone) clearly highlights why it’s important, why it works and why you’re foolish not to be participating. It’s from the people at Brand Infiltration. Admittedly, I know nothing about them. This presentation, however, nails it and even though it’s 83 slides you need to read every one of them (yup – every single slide).
On the surface it sounds nice. Combining Zappos.com with Amazon sure sounds like a powerful combination. Both companies care about their customers obsessively. Both are innovative. And Amazon has sure built an amazing distribution system.
But, I’m not sure. While I don’t follow Zappos.com or Amazon closely, I wonder if the sum is less than to total of the parts. While it certainly hasn’t been a wise idea to bet against either of these companies, I wonder if this won’t be looked at more as a distraction than an accelerator.
The purchase of Zappos.com accentuates the fogginess to the question: What is Amazon? The purchase by Amazon opens up the question as to whether the internal cultures of these companies will actually mesh. Will all of the things that made Zappos so special transfer after the purchase in the long-term?
It seems to me that Amazon is following the path of Ebay, who built a tremendous business by disrupting the auction and classified advertising businesses. Ebay was a world-beater and could do no wrong. Then, in the name of synergy, Ebay went on a buying spree. The result has been a company that has gone nowhere.
Apple, on the other hand, has followed the path of going deeper and deeper to delight its core customers and to allow new customers to find the core. As the graph below highlights, Ebay was a far better performer than Apple from 2001-2005 (disclaimer: I am by no means saying that stock performance is the key factor in judging success, I’m merely using this to highlight a point). As Ebay spread itself thinner, Apple became a far better performer and has outperformed Ebay by a factor of 8!
My recipe for success is that results equals focus times velocity. I wonder if both companies wouldn’t be better off in the long-term if they had pursued their own paths and increased their focus. We’ll never know. But in this time of celebrating the marriage of two wonderful companies, it’s a question worth asking. What do you think?
UPDATE: Just read a take on the merger from Seth Godin. While he doesn’t clearly express his opinion about the merger, his observations echo my thoughts. When you look at the list of “what Amazon is buying,” it doesn’t contain anything that Amazon hasn’t already built – thus making the rationale less than clear.
On a scale of 1 – 10, how good are you? If you’re like most people you probably do a lot of things where you would rate yourself a 6, 7 or even 8. I’d also bet, that if you’re really successful there are one or two things you do where you’d rate yourself a 9 or 10.
Recently, I was discussing issues surrounding a client’s sales team. I had observed that his top line sales execs (also VP level people in the company) were Demand Creators™ (a term I use to describe the top level of sales professionals), but that there was a huge chasm between his senior level and the front line sales staff – a chasm that could negatively impact their ability to implement a new go-to-market plan. The CEO replied to me that he thought I was underestimating his salespeople. He told me that while certainly his senior people were 9’s and maybe (his word) 10’s the bulk of his front line were still 7’s and 8’s.
I replied to him, that I agreed, but the problem is that the difference between an 8 and a 9 is the difference between – well – a lightening bug and lightening. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re at a talent level of 7 or 8 you’re quite good – BUT GOOD IS NO LONGER GOOD ENOUGH!!
Markets are too tough; buyers are under too much pressure; and the economics of the information age have completely changed the game. In sales, at least, you must build a sales team of Demand Creators (9’s and 10’s) if you are going to create economic value through your sales efforts.
What must a salesperson master to become a 9 or 10? Here’s a start:
- Business Acumen
- The Five Unbreakable Rules for Creating Demand™
- Diagnostic Protocol
- Their customer’s problems
You may say that there is little difference between an 8 and a 9. To get a picture of how BIG little differences are take a look at the money list for the PGA Tour in 2008. Vijay Singh led the tour, winning more than $6.6 million. He averaged 70.27 strokes per round. Kevin Stadler averaged 71.56 strokes – less than a 1.5 stroke per 18 holes difference. He won just under $600,000 – more than a 10x difference. Kevin Stadler is good – really good; Vijay Singh is great.
Just as a golfer must master all 14 clubs he or she uses in play; you’re sales team must master all the tools of Demand Creation if you expect them to drive superior results.
As more and more companies are looking to transform their business to deal with the new realities, I am getting far more questions about messaging strategies. I’m also seeing strong small and mid-size companies (SMEs) struggle with what it means to develop a powerful message. Too often, however, the focus is on the words alone. Be it taglines, slogans, or elevator speeches – there is nothing any company can say that makes them different or better. There are, however, many things you can do.
This morning I was discussing this very topic with a great client in the midwest. I’d like you to hear what I shared with them.