Perception: The Biggest Hurdle In Broadening Your Business
Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are enabling device and solution providers in the enterprise space to expand and somewhat reinvent their business. Some have done so out of necessity to remain current and fence off competition from new entrants, while others have done so simply because they saw the opportunity to widen their revenue.
One area in particular, where we have seen a lot of change over the past couple of years has been collaboration and communication. The move has been brought forward by new apps that entered the workplace, but mostly by new workflows that are less siloed. Finally, communication and collaboration are intertwined the way they are supposed to be.
If you think back at a time before Slack, Teams, Zoom, and BlueJeans, communication and collaboration were pretty independent. We used single-purpose apps, but also most people did not want or need to collaborate in real-time as they do now. Better connectivity and increased mobility have redefined the way we work and how we see time-critical tasks. We moved from snail mail to email, and now we have been moving from email to live messaging for instant gratification, even on answers that are not time-sensitive. And so, we collaborate even if we are just communicating because the interactions we now have are real-time. In turn, the higher the importance we give to these interactions and more flexible work conditions increased our reliance on video conferences, smart boards, and more.
Devices, as well as apps and solutions we have been using, have grown in capabilities and intelligence to be more comprehensive than they used to be. With the change, brands had to learn how to talk, distribute, and position their products. They also must consider how much they want to deliver on their own rather than find a partner.
Two brands come to mind as an example of how far their business has evolved, and the challenges they face with the perception people have of them: Citrix and Poly. Both names should be familiar to you as they have been very visible players in the enterprise market in the digital workspace and unified communication, respectively.
You Are on a Journey…
Despite being in different businesses, both companies have walked a similar path on which, directly and through acquisitions, they have developed their core business in a much broader set of services and products. Most importantly, they transitioned from selling products and services to selling solutions that bring those together. Both companies went through a transition: Citrix from networking and virtual desktops to digital workspace solutions and Poly from the UC focus of Polycom and the headsets competence of Plantronics to a workplace solution for optimal collaboration no matter your location and what conference providers you use.
What is fascinating with these two brands is that their transition was not just a marketing and branding exercise. They actually did the work, acquired the talent, and listened to what their customers were telling them. Despite this, they face similar challenges in getting the broader market to understand their transformation because they changed and they took their customers on their journey, but industry watchers did not always tag along.
…Choose Your Fellow Travelers Carefully
We know technology often moves at a faster pace than we humans can understand, embrace, or accept. Over the past few years, however, technology has also enabled changes in business models, go to market, solutions, and services that require a new way to assess brands and segments such as collaboration and communication.
Market disruptors are often not easy to plot on a wave or a quadrant as they get into a market and change the rules by which they are supposed to measure. The same can be said for brands that transition their business. Think about how Uber would have lived up to be measured against a traditional taxi company or a limousine service, not very well, right? But that was not the point. They were not trying to be either and to make their service understood, they needed to rely on analysts and press who grasped the gig economy rather than those who covered the travel and transportation vertical.
It is a fine balance, but brands must invest in reaching out to those who cover the markets they are reaching for as well as continue to foster their relationship with those who have covered them in the past. This might require some time to cover the basics of who the company is and what they stand for. It might also need some patience from your spokespeople who might consider the new audience as uninformed. Finally, it will require a different way of communicating that focuses on the solution and its business impact rather than the detailed specs of a product. The investment will be well worth it, as this new audience brings an understanding of the new market, the broader competitive landscape, and ultimately the right reach into partners and clients you want to influence.
Both Citrix and Poly are not done yet with their transformative journey. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning will bring new opportunities to deliver vital information on how their customers use their solutions. As they move more into AI and ML, they will get on the radar of those who cover data centers, edge computing, cloud, and so their reach will have to shift to include those who have been covering these areas without ever considering Citrix or Poly as players.
Broadening or reinventing your business does not mean you need to change your core values, but it might mean you need to learn to talk about your business differently. Telling your audience who and what you are is as important as telling them who and what you are not despite how many times someone will force you to fit a preset mold.