Disruption Disasters: Sales and Marketing Can Prevent Them

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Disruption Bring Challenges and Opportunities

Companies can wait for disruption, or they can prepare for it and harvest the opportunities that it brings.

How can companies evaluate their vulnerability to disruption? How can businesses prepare for and survive a challenge from innovative new products, market dynamics or other external forces?

The Perfect Setting for Disruption

Your company is not immune to complacency.
Disruption is the “boogey man” of our age. Out of nowhere, an upstart company emerges to dominate an entire market sector with an innovative new product. Established companies watch as their market shares plummet and their stock prices soon follow.

Management scrambles to find a niche where their old solution can still deliver an unchallenged advantage.

At best, the surviving enterprise will operate at a fraction of its previous size, serving a handful of customers with greatly reduced revenues.

In many cases, the brand will be the only survivor, and the business, itself, will be absorbed into another enterprise altogether.

This scenario has played out over and over again during the past 20 years or so. Actually, disruption itself is nothing new; it is simply more frequent, visible and severe in its velocity and effect in its digital form.

Arrogance and complacency are frequently cited as factors that contribute to the demise of many companies that fall victim to these digitally powered start-ups. Some of that is likely justified.

If your company is basking in the glow of steady revenue, a stable customer base and an established solid product that addresses a common pain point or need, you probably think things are just perfect.

You may even make the mistake of assuming your management brilliance has somehow protected you from failure.

While it is easy to arrive at that conclusion, past success does not guarantee future performance.

The three positive and desirable elements described above also describe the perfect setting for disruptive change.

All of that stability and ongoing success has likely left your management with a case of risk aversion and comfortable complacency. This complacency extends downward into almost all levels of your organization.

The stability that your organization enjoys will attract prospective employees who seek stability and safety in the companies they interview with and ultimately work for.

Why? In the 2018 article, “Be Prepared for Disruption, Thinking the New Unthinkables,” the authors cite conformity as one of the primary causative factors that renders management incapable of anticipating and reacting to disruptive forces.

Conformity and the pressure to conform may make it easier for potential leaders to attain their management goals within the enterprise.

But it simultaneously renders them incapable of innovative thought, insightful anticipatory decision-making or the ability to execute effective strategic and tactical actions in the face of a disruptive challenge.

Become Disruption-Resilient

There are many paths to becoming a more disruption-resilient organization. Some of them suggest a re-engineering of the entire organization.

For many companies, this is simply not going to happen. It’s not that the strategy isn’t valid, it’s simply a matter of inertia.

In a 2018 Gartner article titled “Disruptive Events Require a Nonlinear Approach to Enterprise Architecture,” the author explains that most technological development, business process planning and skill development is based on the premise that change occurs in a linear fashion. It reacts by applying the same linear development to funding and investing efforts related to those efforts.

The problem with that approach is that the very nature of disruption breaks up the whole linear sequence associated with the evolution of technology, knowledge and planning. All of the assumptions about “next year” are blown away by the new reality of the disruption.

Prepare for Disruption

So, how to prepare for disruption? Let’s look at some details.

Inoculate your Enterprise

For marketing and selling organizations, the prescription for disruption immunity is found in the fundamentals.

What does that mean? It means staying within your market and addressing the problems you are best at solving. It means listening to and hearing the voice of the customer. It means focusing on the market and being aware of any unmet needs or shifting demands.

Stay Aligned with Your Market

Your organization came into being to address specific needs. Success was attained, and that success served as the foundation for building the enterprise and assuring its future success.

Too often organizations drift away from that area of strength in an effort to capture a sale or enter an unfamiliar market. These activities can result in a diffusion of effort that leads to confusion within the customer base, the sales force, itself, and certainly with prospects.

Marketing must feed valuable, relevant, interactive content to prospects. Sales must translate that content into specific values delivered to specific prospects.

This type of engagement is critical to maintaining an understanding of what is important to your prospects, your existing customers and the market, in general.

Technology enhances this process. CRM is essential to isolating the right audience for specific communications, and CPQ is critical to ensuring that the recommended solution addresses the specific needs of the prospect.

Hear and Listen to the Voice of the Customer

Knowing what information and content to deliver is made possible by seeking out and listening to customer conversations. These are found in online marketplace hangouts within the assorted social platforms, as well as in some actual organizations that hold online or actual periodic local meetings.

Marketing and sales should involve themselves in these organizations, not so much to proselytize their solutions, but to listen and hear what is being said.

Getting ahead of the market movements and anticipating market shifts is critical to maintaining organizational agility and “being there already” when changes arrive.

Address Unmet Customer Needs

Your customers are living in an evolving world. The challenges that confounded them last year have been met and addressed, perhaps by your solution. New challenges emerge and new pains are felt. That reality is the foundation for future development and staying ahead of the market.

Knowing what is happening with your customer today, what challenges they are facing today and what issues they need to solve today is only possible if you remain engaged with your customer base.

Sales will too often neglect existing customers in favor of finding new ones. Marketing and sales management actually encourage this by focusing on finding new customers rather than delivering ongoing value to the existing customer base. Hunters and farmers are both important.

Many times, the very issue that feeds a disruptive offering is one your company may have had an opportunity to address years before but chose to ignore.

Communicate and Act

Effective communication between sales, marketing, product development and management is critical to creating a responsive, agile environment that will ultimately deliver disruptive solutions, rather than displacing them.

The disruption-proof organization is constantly engaged with itself across silos and lines of business. It has extended itself into the customer base and marketplace in a way that enables it to anticipate and respond effectively.