Eyes on the prize: what is your company’s core offering? March 3, 2008Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, marketing, web 2.0.
Tags: eBay, Etsy, Fred Wilson, Google, New York Times, Seth Godin, Skype, The Dip
I’m a big believer in a business being free to focus on its core product(s). If it ain’t what you do, then it ain’t what you do! Far too many times I’ve seen companies get distracted by an interesting piece of technology or an idea outside their scope or ability to act on. When that happens, your core product suffers, and your competitors who may have been running a distant second seem to close the gap over night.
It isn’t simply a case of distraction though, outsourcing can also land your ability to succeed and innovate in the hands of people who don’t share your priorities, goals, or values. What that means is a devaluing of your offering in the eyes of the people you’re hoping to sell to. An inconsistent experience you can’t directly impact means your brand comes to be associated with, at best, a level of impotence in affecting positive change for its own offering, and at worst, a frustrating end-user experience. On top of the impotence. With a good measure of GAF* thrown in.
The same idea applies to brand extension. Let’s compare Google and eBay, two titans from Web 1.0. One seemingly goes from strength to strength with an occasional bit of conjecture, and another is mired in a mix of end-user apathy and anger, with top-tier management failing to set a cohesive direction. Google’s acquisitions may seem puzzling at times from the outside, however each purchase (with the occasional exception) can fairly readily be tied back into search, and eventually monetised.
Contrast this with eBay’s acquisition of promising-but-troubled VOIP provider Skype back in 2005. 2 1/2 years on this seems like a move geared around nabbing promising tech before someone else does, and not around how such a service better positions eBay to grow. Now both services are languishing with indifference and open hostility, and the purchase is little more than a land-grab in hindsight.
The trouble with a land-grab is eventually the people who actually own the land show up and cause trouble. In this case the digital natives are fighting back, services like Etsy crop up and move in on markets that could have and maybe should have been eBay’s. All due to the company losing focus, and the same can be said for Yahoo!, parts of Microsoft, and a myriad of players in the offline space too.
Times like this some old-school business lessons can come in handy. Echoed in Fred Wilson’s post about the New York Times, Jack Welch’s mantra to his VPs was be number one or two in your market, otherwise get out. Seth Godin says in his book The Dip “being the best in the world is seriously underrated”. And as I say up top, “If it ain’t what you do, then it ain’t what you do!”
Anyone have examples that fit into the above they’d care to share?