Monthly Archives: October 2010

Do Your Loyalties to Past Distribution Channels Block Your View of What End Users Truly Want?

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What is your definition of seamless service/an extraordinary buying experience?

For a long time, the wealthiest clientele appreciated being “taken care of.”  They sought advice from experienced financial planners and guidance from brokerage firms, door to door itineraries for their elaborate vacations, and the artistry and project management of top name interior designers.

Trust has been eroded within the financial industry.  The Internet puts information and resources at our finger tips. The recession has strained the wallets of even high end buyers. Individuality is stifled in many work environments. There is pent up desire to express oneself … somehow. Continue reading

Channel Changes – And We Aren’t Talking About Television Here

Recently, a few of my clients have been expected to commit the time of key employees to find obscure parts and products, work with designers to make it all come together, and then just hand over all of that work so the construction company can put the project out to bid. And the construction company then threatens that if the vendor doesn’t turn over all of the information, the vendor won’t be included in the bidding process and won’t end up earning a dime on the project.

Essentially, the construction company is expecting the distributors (vendors) to take on the overhead costs without being paid for it.

The construction industry has been a highly competitive place to be for YEARS.  We all “get” that.  With the implosion of the financial industry and lingering recession, it’s become even more difficult to survive.  Jobs go out to bid more and more and more.  We know that, too. But in the past when a vendor has been asked to do a hundred hours of sourcing, the presumption has been that the vendor would be getting the project.

I’ve seen too many companies go out of business because they gave into this kind of pressure.

My clients are carefully adjusting the terms of their contracts. Who can afford to give away hundreds of hours of high level work? How can companies retain talented employees (even during a period of high unemployment) when their work isn’t respected and won’t generate income and bonuses?

If your business specs out complex projects, sources dozens/hundreds of parts and products for those projects, and/or includes a design element in all of that work, it might be time to revisit the terms of your contracts.  You won’t want to be blindsided when a construction company refuses to pay for that effort and wants to put the specs out to bid….without you.

Is Your Product/Service Development Process Slower than the Economy?

There is so much emphasis these days on specialization, serving a niche, and improving what you do that some companies get in a horrible rut.

Imagine you ran a M&A (mergers and acquisitions) firm like Peter Colella does.  He is the President of the Colmen Group.  That’s complicated business, right?  It’s a big dating game.  They are always looking for buyers and sellers, evaluating compatibility, and facilitating deals.  But one of the many reasons Colmen has been successful is that Colella continues to introduce new services to the mix in response to customer needs. They got into developing, staffing, financing, promoting, and integrating new offerings several years ago and more recently they added management advisory services as well.

“It may not sound sexy,” says Collela, “but our clients were really happy when they learned we could provide ‘spreadsheet jockeys’ for them while they were going through the various steps involved with deals.”   (Click here to listen “When & How To Introduce New Services” with guest Peter Colella.)

Or imagine you are in the “personal image” business. Would you be one of the first firms to provide make overs? Did you pitch a television show to the cable networks?  Would you have seen the cue to author a book? Would you use UTube and Facebook as ways to reach the public? Entrepreneurs like Mary Lou Andre and Karen Kauffman have found ways to update and expand their services in that highly competitive market.  (Click here to listen to “DIFFERENTIATION” with guest Karen Kauffman.)

Or imagine that your company provides project management or marketing services?  Those services can quickly become commodities, right?  Greg LaLonde of TripleFin has stayed ahead of competitors in that space by focusing on the pharmaceutical and consumer products industries and investing in new services to become a one stop shop for their customers.  (Click here to listen to “The Power of Committing to Vertical Integration…Especially during a Tight Economy” with guest Greg LaLonde.)

Thrity-eight years ago I did not know that my businesses would provide a range of services to help midsized companies keep growing.  Expanding from strategic planning into services like growth financing and executive search has certainly helped my businesses achieve 93% repeat business and attract talented employees over the years.

When/if your business hits a plateau, consider the possibility that the plateau may not have been caused by the economy. Maybe your company’s product/service development process is FLAT!

True Differentiation Doesn’t Just Happen

Two very clear traits become apparent when you interview Presidents of truly differentiated companies.  They really do know how to listen to their customers and they focus much more on the business than themselves as individuals.  That may sound obvious and familiar because most of us have heard it before. But most of us don’t pay attention, look at our own behavior, or make changes based on it.

Smith Yewell is the President of Welocalize, Inc. Yewell’s company didn’t remain a home based consulting firm and subscription on line import/export business.   He listened to what communications companies were saying and got into the language translation business in a big way. Welocalize, Inc. invested in multiple locations for visibility on a global basis.  They have consistently upgraded their technology.  One of their 10 acquisitions was a software company that could pick up the speed of their on demand translation work. Today, they are a $60 Mil/year industry leader with Google, CISCO, and Computer Associates (CA) as clients.  Many of their top clients have been with Welocalize since Smith Yewell started the business in 1997.

Welocalize, Inc. reflects a few of the tests to evaluate if your business is truly differentiated:

Does your business address a problem, a pain, a meaningful gap in what competitors are doing? Just doing what others already do–just a little bit better–can be tiring and expensive.  Computer Associates, Google, and CISCO needed translation done well and much faster than they were able to get find elsewhere.

Is your product/service conveyed in a memorable way? Smith Yewell changed the name of the business to Welocalize, Inc. to convey the benefit (the results) of fast excellent translation services. That is more powerful than something like “TranslationsRUs,” don’t you think?  1 800 Got Junk is a more powerful differentiated name than “Jim’s Hawling Services.”

Does you business feel like a magnet pulling prospective customers, vendors, talented employees, and investors toward you? Why wouldn’t you receive several resumes each week from people who want to work for/with you when the unemployment levels are as high as they are these days?

Is everyone in your business invested in learning and continuous improvement? What is your reaction when you hear customers complaining? Do you become defensive and shift your focus to more compliant customers?  Or are you like Welocalize, Inc. and pick up your speed, invest in technology, go global, and seek the most demanding customers to sustain your position as an industry leader?

Click herewww.TheGrowthStrategist.com to listen to Aldonna’s interview with Smith Yewell – one in her series of shows on DIFFERENTIATION .

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The Emmerich Group, Inc.

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