Darwin-proofing your business

Updated May 14, 2013

If you want to see what an archaic business model that relies primarily on one market segment can do to your business, pick up a newspaper.

For years, newspapers have built their business on solid 30-plus percent margins by leveraging an audience they couldn’t guarantee against advertisers in search of a captive audience.

For years, it worked.

More and more eyeballs have moved to the Internet in search of news, and newspaper management was content to sit back and muse, “they’ll be back.”

The world was changing, but many of the industry’s biggest, and in some cases best, players refused to acknowledge it, much less plan for it.

Consumer attitudes shift in every business.

I’m sure many of you deal with family businesses everyday. Does John Smith III see and do things the same way John Smith, Sr. does?

Probably not.

“Trey” is likely the one who would rather email you than talk to you. He’s always busy. Probably returns every third voicemail.

Senior loved to tie you up for two or three hours talking about fishing and sports, and he probably still doesn’t have an email account.

But, you had to learn how to deal with Trey.

You had to learn how to get his attention just like you once had Senior’s.

You adapt to your audience or you die.

How you adapt takes planning, and often a shift in thinking.

In terms of the aftermarket – and sales in general –  you sell a product that brings value.

How you communicate that today is likely a lot different than how you did 25, maybe even 10 years ago.

Back in Senior and Junior’s day, it was all about reputation and quality. If the customer liked you, your company and your product, you were golden.

Trey cares about all that, too, but price point and certain efficiencies are now a major factor.

So is how you can help him.

Your relationship with Trey is likely a non-factor, and he’s probably way less concerned with the name on the box than his dad and granddad.

A good story, slap on the back and a joke won’t sell Trey anything.

Trey cares about value.

How will this help my customer?

How will this help my business?

It may be a change in sales pitch but it’s an important adaptation in reaching your audience.

As new managers and key decision makers come into play in the businesses you work with, feel them out early.

They might not have buying authority today, but they may in the coming years.

Learning how to deal with them on their terms now will save a lot of time and growing pains later.

Senior’s not going to be around forever. Every business has a Trey, or will at some point.

Don’t follow the lead of the newspaper.

See the change coming, and be involved in it at the earliest point possible.

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