Sunday, April 5, 2009

Customers and the Crystal Ball

Last week I had lunch with one of the most successful software entrepreneurs in the country. Although he has amassed considerable wealth (i.e. the pleasure boat he sold last year sports a crew of eight), he’s back in technology as an investor and top executive at a software provider in the mobile management space.

While it was an informal get together, I was quick to hit him up for his thoughts on the market and, in particular, Strategic Communications Group’s (Strategic) business. I learned soon after founding Strategic nearly 15 years ago that the smart CEO is never shy about asking for advice.

So, what gem did I pick up at this lunch? The business you start is rarely the business that succeeds.

The lesson here is that it’s critical to talk to customers, each and every day. Rather than focusing on the now, ask and then listen about future needs. What do they anticipate their requirements to be in six months? Twelve months? That’s how you want to position your company.

Sounds simple enough, yet consider the high-quality companies run by proven management that fail to reinvent themselves. Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) is one. Then there’s Compaq. And most recently it was SGI’s turn. What was once a $4B a year maker of high end computing servers was just sold off for a mere $25M.

I’d have shook my head in disbelief is someone told me three years ago that in 2009 nearly 75 percent of Strategic’s revenue would come from social media and digital marketing services. The shift in the market has been stunning and, admittedly, somewhat unexpected.

We’ve been fortunate to align ourselves with an exceptional set of clients in the technology and healthcare markets. And, make no mistake, I am talking to each of them on an ongoing basis.

1 comment:

Cristi Spahr said...

Great point about staying in tune with (and ahead of) your customers, and one that is too often overlooked by business owners.

In talking to business owners today, I see a need for management of the day-to-day efforts required to fully leverage the lead-generating potential of SEO, social media, and blogs. The agency that can position itself to manage these efforts on behalf of clients and do it in a way that is both efficient and effective, could open some doors.

Nice post.