In 1958, car manufacturer Rover released their P5. You’ll see from the advertisement below that its style is very different from what we see from car manufacturers today:
Nowadays, cars are advertised in much the same way perfume is; with beautiful people staring moodily at the camera in an effort to convey some subliminal suggestion that you’ll be as alluring as them if you buy their product.
Cars, technology, holidays, and even your visit to your local fast food outlet is presented as an experience whilst the finer points and small print are relegated to a website to help track interest.
The rise of convenience has overwhelmed the regard we have for craftsmanship. Much to the frustration of the craftsman, the global presence of retailers that can mass market and dominate markets through competitive economies of scale, mean that consumers skew the relationship between price and value often sacrificing quality for lower prices. With current economic conditions, who can blame them? But where does it end? Who’s going to help lead the charge?
In the ICT & AV Industry, we have seen this developing over the past decade, particularly through the acceleration of hosted/cloud services. Through either choice or stifled revenue streams, the big guys in our industry look to new light-weight and easily consumable products and services. Take for example, volume licensing – unless the consumer is interested or even understands the benefits over and above the initial capital outlay, then the licensor is never going to win that battle, especially if even their own employees can’t be convinced.
Let’s go back to the car – electric heated seats, integrated MP3 players, and extended warranties are becoming something of the norm; but get stuck on the M25 (think Chris Rea’s ‘Road to Hell’) and your radiator blows, well you’re basically at the hands of your roadside assistance company and your insurance company. Our love of consumerism is a bitter sweet relationship – we love anything that enhances our lives but hate the vulnerable feeling we get when something goes wrong. When our washing machine packs up or our server rolls over five minutes before the office opens, we throw our hands up in the air and begin to list all the things we can blame this predicament on. Funny how we forget that if we pay peanuts, we tend to get monkeys making cheaper, less resilient products and solutions.
If you have a technical mindset or are a lover of detail, you may often get frustrated with the way consumers and clients don’t appear to respect what it is you are passionate about. You may find yourself trying to explain where your value derives from, the way you charge, and you may even find yourself avoiding saying ‘I told you so on a regular basis’.
Maybe it’s our own fault, we’ve given others the technology needed to create a Martini environment where our customers can work ‘any time, any place, anywhere’ where conversely, they have less and less time to spend working with you to understand the ‘magic’ that exists. Microsoft have cleverly commoditised their cloud-based portfolio of services with their succinct ‘To the Cloud’ advertising that slaps to the forehead sounds are echoing around the UK as techies acknowledge that they’ll struggle even more in this new world.
Slaps to the forehead aren’t necessary but there are still so many IT professionals out there who are still banging the technical drum to their clients despite little or no improvements to relationships and revenue. Even some guy called Einstein back in has been quoted saying ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got’.
Our Channel is changing, further fall out in 2011 is expected, and most will have to go through a little pain to learn and grow into something that’s more relevant in our new market. The irony of having IT professionals who themselves are laggards is almost ridiculous as the thought of these same people not understanding why their clients drift away.
The Trusted Business Advisor is not an urban myth, and in a competitive industry such as ours, if you don’t have the focus to get out their and execute on a higher level, it’s little wonder why the bigger guys in our Channel are jumping on opportunities that could have once been yours.
Create new and exciting experiences for your clients, keep the technical details under the hood (pardon the pun) and focus on what your customers want. Not what you want or *think* they want. Get those lower down the business hierarchical structure using technology that was previously siloed to senior executives who had little use or care for the potential technical benefits the kit offers.
No more head slapping for 2011. Use the next few days before it all starts again to get some objective opinions on what it is you do… if your own mother or non-tech savvie relative can’t understand what it is you do, you can use the time to practice keeping it simple.
Susanne Dansey is the Managing Director of Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that facilitates a paradigm shift in the collaborative nature of the ICT Industry. You can follow her on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.