-Andrew Vachss, author
Are you like the weasel? Are you so focused on what you’re doing that you don’t hear the hawk that will soon take you out of the marketplace?
You may very well be staring at your hawk as you read this article!
You see, one of the “hawks” in today’s world is technology — iPhones, iPads, other mobile devices, the Internet, social media, Siri, artificial intelligence, big data, 3-D printing, etc. These “hawks,” along with a global economy, shifting demographics and new power players, have made the world a very dangerous place for “weasels” like you and me.
From Mohan Nair’s book, Strategic Business Transformation, we learn that the following companies were all profitable in 2007 and by 2010 were dead:
From this same source, we also learn that in yesterday’s world 80% of change was cyclical and 20% was structural or transformational. Tomorrow, the opposite will be true – 80% will be structural and only 20% incremental.
Time, place and pace have changed. Today we live in a 24/7/365 world without borders and with an expectation of instant gratification. We want what we want, and we want it now! Don’t believe me? Google it!
In the days of Ozzie and Harriet, big threes dictated to a mass market. The auto industry was defined by GM, Ford and Chrysler. Broadcast television was owned by CBS, NBC and ABC. The magazine industry was controlled by Time, Life and Look.
Fast forward two or three decades, and power has fragmented. Today, more than 40 automobile manufacturers sell hundreds of models of cars in the U.S. Visit any newsstand in your town or the equivalent on your computer, and you can find magazines specializing in everything from fly-fishing to quilting to cigars to Sudoku. You can view hundreds of broadcast, cable or other channels — and from any screen you own, not just from a TV.
We are no longer a mass market but rather are a series of niches being served by specialty manufacturers and distributers using mass customization to meet the demands of each niche. In fact, as we walk toward the horizon of unlimited possibilities that is tomorrow, we see where each of us is a niche of one whose needs will be served uniquely.
Big data allows manufacturers and distributors (and others) to know our wants and needs before we even express them. (Yes, we are sacrificing privacy for convenience.) Innovation is now at the point where 3-D printers can manufacture body parts for us.
The market has switched from selling to facilitating buying: A Wall Street Journal headline in July 2012 read, “The Customer as a God.”
The Baby Boomers (a.k.a. hippies) are finally on the “center stage” of life but are being told to exit stage left so Gen Xers can have their turn. Waiting behind the curtain with the Gen Xers are the Millennials and the Gen C — and they will not be as patient as the Gen Xers have been. The Millennials and Gen C are the new world. They don’t want to intern under us. They want to do their own thing. Now.
The boomers and their world of analog are about yesterday. Selling products, developing relationships, drinks at the City Club, civic and church groups, letters, prospecting and cold calls: These are not tomorrow’s world.
As Scott Walchek wrote on this site, “The Last Analog Generation — let’s call them LAGards — are departing, and in their wake a fascinating new world is emerging.”
Gen C — the newest generation and the only digital natives currently on the planet — were born into tomorrow and don’t give a damn how we did it back in the day. As a Booz & Co. study says, “They are Generation C (born after 1990) — connected, communicating, content-centric, computerized, community-oriented, always clicking. By 2020, they will make up 40% of the population in the U.S., Europe and the BRIC countries, and 10% of the rest of the world, and by then they will constitute the largest group of consumers worldwide.”
Their biggest impact is that as teenagers they are not learning from us (their parents and grandparents) how to be good consumers. They are teaching us: how to use the power of technology and social media to be great consumers. They are teaching us how to buy in a digital and nonverbal world.
As a result, every manufacturer, distributor and salesperson will be changed sooner rather than later and much more deeply than they would change if left to their own devices.
Today is/was a world driven by products and services and product and service sellers. Tomorrow is about being defined and driven by clients. Siri will know more about products and services (even those you offer) than you do. Product knowledge will not be as important as understanding a client — a finger on their pulse. Tomorrow, you must be an expert in your client and their industry. You must build intimacy with each client and affinity with his or her world. Within this focus and framework, they will choose to buy from you — you won’t sell to them.
Each of us is who, what and where we are today because of the way we think. If we want to change, survive, prosper and enjoy longevity, we must think new! We must innovate or evaporate.