A lot of businesses failed in the Great Recession of 2009-2010, heck, even internationally known newspapers and magazines fell by the wayside. But not all of them failed because of the economic climate. Some of them failed because they didn’t embrace the technological climate.
Everything You Know is Already Obsolete
Think about how your customers consume the thing that you do or make. Is there technology, no matter how space age, that could make people less willing (or unwilling) to pay for what you do? Think about DVDs, music compact disks, newspapers, books … these are all being replaced by digital equivalents. Now think of all the stores that sold these physical items, stores that have shuttered their doors in the last decade. What makes your business immune from obsolescence?
Consider what the United States of Facebook means for, say, a wedding photographer. When every guest can take pictures, upload and tag them instantly, wedding albums have been, to some degree, crowdsourced. Professional photographer not necessary. And who keeps paper photographs anymore, anyway?
Apple have shipped around 300 million iPod devices in the last five years, and many happy couples are avoiding the possibility of hearing the Chicken Dance, or the song that was special to the groom and his ex, in favor of creating a playlist and plugging it into a PA system. DJ, band, not necessary.
In the last decade, fax machines have been all but replaced by all-in-one scanners, pagers (and in some cases, landlines) replaced by cellphones, boring company meetings replaced by conference calls and online meetings, corporate classrooms by online training and webinars.
Technology is Part of Every Business
The point is not that business practices have changed, but that technology changes everything. Even if you don’t expect it to hit your industry.
How about the oil change guy on the corner? Surely he’s in no danger? If you thought so, you’d be wrong. Because it’s not only how your customers consume your product, it’s how they consume your marketing efforts that matters. And the oil change guy on the corner is going to be put out of business by the oil change guy on the other end of the block who knows how to get followers in Twitter, can create buzz on Facebook, and has posted his deal on Groupon or LivingSocial.
As recently as fifteen years ago, the primary methods of advertising were print, tv, radio, and billboards. Now the best way to get in front of your market is a strong Twitter presence, and daily activity in Facebook. It’s the next step in corporate personhood — your business needs to have a personality that consumers can “like” on Facebook.
Bad reviews of your business aren’t shared among a handful of people anymore — there are whole Web sites devoted to sharing knee-jerk opinions of your company with hundreds of thousands of visitors each month. And let’s not kid ourselves, here: people are far more likely to post a negative review than a positive one, and much more likely to give your business an anonymous beatdown online than call you up with constructive feedback.
Companies who can move with the technological times are far better placed to respond to the bad review on Yelp.com, or send a direct message to the Twitter user who is complaining about the experience they’re having right now.
Social Media is NOT a Fad
Back in 1995, Newsweek published an article about why cyberspace isn’t, and never will be, nirvana. Many of the predictions for how we’ll use the Internet, which the author claims as hype, (online shopping, ebooks, restaurant reservations) have come true. So think really hard about how technology might make your business obsolete. And then set to thinking about the answers to these two questions. How do you:
- stay ahead of developments that will make your product or service obsolete.
- stay ahead of how to market what you do, to consumers who will become evangelists for your company.
And start thinking about them now, because your competitors are already working on answers.