Too often, when flush with victory, we grow overconfident and start attributing our success to skill or virtue, rather than luck or happenstance. At Eigenworks we see the results of this overconfidence all the time when we study churn – the number of times our clients are surprised by churn would surprise you. The scenario is always the same: your company just got a big win in its corner. Its a high-value customer with a large client base, a lot of employees who need your tools, and a willingness to pay for premium service. Its a perfect fit – so perfect, in fact, that nobody questions why – and that can be fatal. Just because you won the deal doesnt mean you won it. Was your product the best in the market – or the only thing in the market? Are your onboarding and CS teams top-rate, or just the default? The question is: the moment competition arises, is that win going to seem quite so secure? Did your win come from magnificence, or monopoly?
If it is the latter, are you prepared for change?
We’re Number One – And The Only One
There is nothing easier than having the best product out there in the market – so long as your product is the only product of its kind in the market. You might sell a flying car that has a 90% failure rate and can only hover fifteen inches, but if nobody else has one on the market, youre the obvious number one choice. It doesnt even have to reach that level of hyperbole – the line between a literal only one in the market and a market where your company has all the PR clout and brand-name recognition is a narrow one.
Think of Microsoft at the end of the 20th century, when at the start of 1999 it had almost 94% of the worlds market share of computers to Apples measly 3% – it so dominated computers that it effectively was the market, especially in places like the business world, where to have a word processor was to have Microsoft Office (other than the five of us using ClarisWorks).
What did being on top of the world get Microsoft? Complacency – and that complacency led to a long and steady decline. Theyre hardly a forgotten company or anything, theyre still a powerhouse, but then went from owning the table to simply being another player at it. They didnt have the best product, they were simply the only game in town. Best doesnt even have to mean quality’ – the merits between a Microsoft, Apple, or Linux product dont need to be debated here. Perhaps a better term is desirable – everyone was willing to settle for Microsoft until something came along that people wanted more.
Listen And Learn
You need to fear complacency. Your product may have met your buyers needs today, but are you certain it is what theyre going to need tomorrow? What about next week? What about five renewals from now, or ten? Is your product going to able to keep up with them? Whats that you say? You have a comprehensive series of planned expansions measured out for the next decade designed to anticipate buyers future needs? Thats nice – just one more question: while I applaud you for trying to anticipate buyers future needs, did you at all consider, say, just asking them?
Nothing will better prepare you for your buyers futures than being closely involved in their corporate lives. Talk To Your Buyer is more than just a catchy phrase we toss around here at Eigenworks – it is a way of life, a praxis for a better future in which you can never be complacent about what a buyer is thinking or feeling because youre always aware – youre always asking them, and keeping yourself informed. Its more than just checking-in every few months as part of good CS – it involves being a partner in your buyers success. We talk about it being more than just their vendor, and in the context of the above its more than just being the biggest thing in the market – you cannot be the monolithic monopoly, you must be approachable and constantly approaching, building trust and camaraderie between you and your buyer, showing them that their future is more than just an abstract anticipation thrown together in a product meeting – its something personal, something tailored to their needs now and in the future. Its showing them that wherever theyre going as a company, you want to be there supporting them – and that when needs and desires arise in the future, youll be ready to meet them.
Communication is the Future
Going forward, take our usual advice – talk to your sales and product teams about how much they know: are they sharing the right information with each other, are they reaching out to potential buyers and studying the market, so that these potentials know that their current and future success will be safe in your hands? What about wins youve already won? Examine them – were they built on that solid foundation of future success, or were you the only choice the buyer had? Can someone come along within flashier and cooler – something more desirable than what youve got and take your buyer away? What can your teams do to anticipate their future, and ensure that your buyer wont evaporate overnight the moment an alternative arises?
Finally, look at yourself – are you complacent? Are you 1999s Microsoft with 94% market share and total confidence that youll be the king forever? Maybe thats not a great position to take. Maybe its time to really think about your market and your buyers – and question just how victorious you are every time youre winning.