Monday, May 20, 2013

Two Ways to Go-to-Market

There are two ways to go to market: Find Customers for your services, which is the hard way. This is the one with high customer acquisition costs. This is the path that requires marketing and sales people.

In the early days of dial-up (1993-1998), it was the other way: find products for your customers. You had a service that was unavailable in your area that people wanted to buy.

The noise level was low back then. The number of competitors was low back then. Advertising was expensive but there were a limited number of avenues to advertise on (billboards, radio, TV, yellow pages, direct mail).

Today, the noise is awful. People have been trained to ignore almost everything.

Advertising is still expensive but there are way more avenues now, considering the online marketing landscape and the offline tactics.

Back then, with dial-up and, for the early birds, with DSL, you had Products for your Customers.

Today, do you even bother? Are you stuck in the mud of anger because dial-up was so easy? DSL was a little harder but in the early days it was still like dial-up -- easy and profitable.

Then in 2005 after Brand-X changed the regulatory and the resulting wholesale market, you did one of two things: you became EarthLink or NetZero.

The NetZero approach was to sell on price and not add any new products; not try anything new. Ride it out.

NetZero did use that pile of dial-up money to buy other properties like FTD, but even at that point they stopped and rode it out. Now, they are spinning off FTD because the other brands including NetZero are mostly declining or dead.

EarthLink tried a lot of stuff - muni wireless, cable, voice, CLEC, cellular (Helio). Not all of it worked. Some of it they executed poorly. But today that dial-up ISP is a billion dollar company. Of the $320 million in quarterly revenue, 77% was business services revenue at $247.8 million. That consumer business is still over $70M.

You need to talk to your customers, find out what they want, what they need. Then figure out what you can offer, what you can actually sell, bundle it and get it to market.

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