When you or your company becomes known for something, the marketplace draws lines around what you represent to the world effectively boxing you in. Over time, you may grow the size of your box many times as you add new products and services. However, be aware — it is harder for the marketplace to grasp that your box has really grown and evolved, particularly if you have name recognition and are known for being in a particular space or area. Getting the marketplace to understand your company’s new box versus the original box is a pretty steep hill to climb.
For example, one of the things that drives me batty is analysts lamenting the decline in PC and laptop sales at Dell. They suggest that, based on the current metric of declining PC and laptop sales, the future is all doom and gloom for Dell. But, what really confounds me is the analysts failing to recognize that their claims of doom and gloom for Dell could only be true only if all Dell offered the marketplace is PCs and laptops. Their offerings have grown by an order of magnitude. And, of course, these analysts very words negatively impact the stock price and the perception of Dell being able to be relevant to its customers and make money in the future.
Analysts who track Dell seem to be trying to keep Dell in a box — the box of “all they do is manufacturer PCs and laptops.” It is not accurate and does not come close to properly characterizing how Dell has evolved. PCs and laptops represent but one dimension for Dell. The conclusion ignores their growing strengths in enterprise software, services, health care, government, education, small and medium businesses and large enterprises. Dell has grown its box yet the analysts continue to focus on a single metric which is what Dell represented a decade ago.
YouSendIt recently changed it’s name to HighTail as it grows its capability and offerings. The name change is more than a mere name change — it is a recognition that HighTail is offering far more in functionality and capability than YouSendIt did. While it is likely that it is costing a small fortune to make this name change, it is crystal clear that more than the name is different. That just may be of great interest to existing customers and thereby keep them coming back for more. They did not try to grow the box — they actually jumped into a new box that enables them to tell a new and a fresh story.
In my consulting practice, I have always eschewed “the flavor of the month or year.” Why? If I had associated myself with total quality management (TQM) or business process reengineering, I would be considered irrelevant to prospects and clients who are no longer drawn to those programs and/or approaches. I did not want to be boxed in by concepts that would ultimately loose market traction and then be forced to reeducate my marketplace about what I am doing today.
What box are you sitting in? Is it serving your present needs or is it making you appear old and dated? Does the box allow you to continue expanding your future? Or, are you going to have to do what Dell is now having to do — reinventing yourself under the same name? Perhaps it Is time to consider a name change much as what YouSendIt is presently going through? In other words – what is going to best communicate that your box is continuously expanding?
Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting http://www.gardnerandassoc.com