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Keeping Up is a Fool’s Game

Many business consultants agree that benchmarking is imperative to strategic planning. By using metrics, a business will study the practices, designs, and financial outcomes of industry leaders with one distinct purpose: To keep up with the pacesetters.

There’s just one problem. Keeping up—with technology, with the competition, with anything in business or life—is what some would call a fool’s game. Think about it: When you’re merely keeping up, what’s the advantage? In reality, there is no advantage; all you’re doing is making yourself just like everyone else.

So how do you gain advantage and truly stand out from the crowd? Here are three suggestions.

1. Get off the Treadmill

Rather than keeping up, a smarter way to benchmark means you will look to the future. Most benchmarking practices are based on two questions:

  • What path are my competitors on right now?
  • And, what are all the successful companies evolving to?

However, there is a third question to ask yourself – and it’s key to moving past the pacesetters:

  • What’s the likely progression of the industry as a whole?

Asking these questions enables you to go beyond your competition and get off the treadmill of keeping up. It opens your eyes to future possibilities—to stay ahead of the pack instead of side-by-side with them.

In my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage, I reinforce the major competitive edge that comes from the ability to accurately anticipate the future. Think of being anticipatory as a new competency; it’s a mindset that teaches you to elevate tried-and-true strategies like benchmarking to new levels. Unlike traditional benchmarking, which looks backwards and measures what has already worked, being anticipatory requires you to look forward.

2. Use Hard Trends to Get Ahead

Ask yourself: Is your industry faced with cyclical changes, such as seasonal, economic, or sales cycles? If the answer yes, you can expect the normal ebbs and flows that go along with that. But, if the answer is no, there may be even opportunity out there.

Trends that are linear (and not cyclical) present the best opportunity for exponential change. These are trends in technology and innovation that show no signs of slowing down. Think about the future of virtualization, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT). How could advances in these areas impact your business?

I call the latter, Hard Trends, and they are things that are sure to happen based on their upward trajectory and other considerations I talk about in the Anticipatory Organization. Knowing how to identify them can give you a powerful window to the future.

3. Learn from a Leader

While Blockbuster worked to maintain its foothold as the largest movie-rental outlet, Netflix was redefining the concept altogether.

Though Netflix began in 1997 by lending or selling physical DVDs to its customers, it already had a technology platform. Consumers could order their movies online and have them delivered through the mail. One thing it didn’t do was open a brick-and-mortar store.

Ten years later, Netflix added streaming media to its mail-order business. From there, consumer behavior and digital technology took care of the rest. By the time Netflix reinvented itself as a content creator in 2012, the majority of its content was consumed online – including on tablets and phones, which didn’t even exist when the company began.

The key here is to realize that moving beyond competition into innovation wasn’t just a small tweak in order to hit a benchmark; it was a complete change in direction. Netflix didn’t even try to compete in the physical space, they made a one-way move and invested in the future of streaming technology instead.

Are you anticipating the future with confidence? If you want to learn more about the Anticipatory Organization, my new book is available on Amazon.com now.

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Best Practices Economics Entrepreneurship Industries Marketing Personal Development Sales Technology

How Technology Changed the Billion-Dollar Ad Game

The advertising industry has had a long and successful history. It has been a very big business, especially for brands like Procter & Gamble, which topped AdAge.com’s list of the world’s five largest advertisers with $10.5 billion in advertising spending.

For decades, the personal care company kept its products front and center in the minds of consumers – on TV, in print and eventually online. The formula was simple: P&G would spend a huge amount on advertising and loyal customers would respond by buying its products.

That is no longer the case. Technology has changed the ad game for P&G – and not in a good way.

Brief Timeline of Advertising Game-Changers

So if your company is like P&G, what should you do? Start with a fresh look at how much technology and advertising have changed over the last 30 years.

As you look at this timeline, pay attention to how technology worked for – or against – advertisers throughout recent history. Then, use my Hard Trends Methodology to predict what’s next.

1990s – Hundreds of cable channels and the Internet launched, and advertisers jumped to buy space wherever their audiences would be.

Early 2000s – TiVo was one of the first disruptors to these seemingly endless advertising avenues. For the first time, consumers had power over when they got their content and began to skip the ads.

2001 – Next came iPods, which could play downloaded media while consumers were on the go.

2004 – Amazon.com launched as a virtual bookstore and began laying the groundwork for online retailers

2006 – Social media pioneer Facebook opened the News Feed, in which anybody – and any brand – could self-publish content. Facebook ads, for which advertisers once again had to “pay to play,” wouldn’t come until later.

2007 – Netflix went from DVD to streaming and never looked back. Consumers could now also choose what to watch, whenever they wanted to.

Also in 2007Smartphones came on the scene, allowing consumers to carry all types of media in their hands. The ad industry had to go mobile – often in addition to going traditional. Though it wasn’t easy to navigate at first, by 2015 mobile ad spending would top $28 billion.

2008 – Spotify started running on advertising dollars initially, but also offered premium, ad-free packages to consumers at nominal prices.

2009 – In the late 2000s, YouTube began allowing pre-roll ads; advertisers were once again able to recapture a very captive audience.

2012 – Facebook purchased Instagram. It would be five years before the $1 billion gamble would pay off, but in the meantime, real people became the faces of brands. The newest media-buying currency was the influence of the crafty, hip or carpool moms who had become spokespeople.

2015 – Amazon.com hit a milestone as it accounted for at least half of all e-commerce growth. Many experts attributed sales success to the debut of the company’s one-click ordering.

2018 and beyondNot only is data-driven advertising becoming more popular, it’s expected in today’s “show me you know me” consumer culture.

If you use my Hard Trends Methodology to look ahead to the future of advertising, you’ll be able to anticipate that the next decade will move even faster. Even more devices are likely to be developed, and they will ultimately be connected to each other as an integral part of our lives.

Now is the time to learn to anticipate the next wave of technology. Start with my book, The Anticipatory Organization, which is fittingly available with one-click ordering on Amazon.com right now.

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