…It’s probably not what you think. You may say “I know what business I am in, I have this product and/or this service…”. But this thought may keep you on a plateau of your current growth state. To innovate and break from the holding pattern, ask the title question. Innovative Big Brands already discovered its power and are fully exploiting it. It started to gain traction with HBR’s Levitt’s “Marketing Myopia” in 1960. Called manifesto of his works, Levitt pleaded with businesses to stop marketing the widgets they produced, and start paying attention to customers needs.
You may be in a whole other business than you think you are…
So, really, what business are you in?
Amazon figured out that they are not a merchandise business, but “Earth’s most customer-centric company”, as Jeff Bezos told MIT students in 2002.
Domino’s Pizza considers itself a digital retailer – more than 50 percent of its business now comes from online orders.
Crayola found out that they are not in commodity selling business, but in a business of helping teachers and parents to develop creative children.
A restaurant may find itself in a transportation tracking business. An Apple watch can now track live your pizza delivery whereabouts.
Nestle, a chocolate treats producer is acting a lot like a drug company lately.
An international accounting firm is very aware that they are not in a business of accounting, but finding rich clients offshore money havens.
…at times you’re in a whole other business than people think you are.
There was a small retail restaurant on my street that very quickly closed its door, but did not shut down operation. I was wondering from time to time if they started catering contracts or what business they were in…
Kodak paid the ultimate price for not knowing what business they were in. They had focus, and unique niche in the market. They thought (like many hot shot business coaches nowadays) that this uniqueness – perfecting film and chemicals that went with it – will make them dominant forever. While actually they should have been thinking that their business was giving people past time memories back. Because ultimately it’s all about people. And people seek new experiences as much as comfort or security.
Strategic decisions and tactics depend heavily on context. Taking time for a thinking session in a non-usual setting, you may find a few new opportunities – maybe new markets, more revenue and a whole new inspiration.
What business are you in is one of the most common, ongoing questions. It’s not enough to figure it out once. Marketing myopia develops quickly. Yet market is evolving. People’s daily routines change depending on their current job, location, available income, age. Companies’ structures and processes change, startups rise and fall, so their needs for services change with it.
Sometimes listening only to “clients needs” leads us astray on a spiral of lowering prices, until business goes … well, out of business, and then you would find yourself asking “what business do I want to be in?”.
Globalization almost put retailers completely out of business, until they found lately a new spin: Experience is Everything. New retail stores are designed around superior experience and creating customer’s mood before he/she is aware of it. Even food stores had to do it, placing strategically product paths that make you buy more.
Classic example is IKEA. Don’t go there to pick up one cheap thing only. The store influences you to discover more, be enticed, leave inspired, and that means buying more than you came for, even on a budget.
Levitt wrote in 1960: “In every case, the reason growth is threatened, slowed, or stopped is not because the market is saturated. It is because there has been a failure of management…”
Your thoughtful answer to a seemingly simplistic question: What business are you in? can be a gateway to your growth, not once, but now and again.
I think I am in the business of bridging payments technology for millions of small businesses, who want to stay in control of paying their bills and receiving business payments without any hassle, until instant payments are really instant, really secure and really not expensive. It gives me time and opportunity to grow other business services.