My brother, an industrial-design executive in the cell phone industry, recently sent me a blog post that touched on many of the principles that I teach in my workshops and work on with business owners. As is often the case, some of the best examples of strategic thinking—both the good and the bad—come to us from much larger companies.
The article by Alex Goldlfayn is called 7 Marketing Lessons From RIM’s Failures. In my first blog post, I will comment on the first two lessons.
Throughout this series, I will post the original article with my comments in bold to help relate the lessons back to the world of small business. A link to Alex Goldfayn’s original post can be found at the end of this post.
7 Marketing Lessons from RIM’s Failures
You remember, don’t you? The emails magically appeared while you weren’t looking. That blinking light turned us into addicts. And that keyboard — copied often, but never matched. It was the BlackBerry, the glorious, beloved, and life-changing BlackBerry. It made us feel good, and it never let us down.
Long before the iPhone took the world by storm, and before Google even dreamed about getting into the phone business, Research in Motion was on top of the consumer electronics mountain.
Today, sadly, it is buried under it, and industry insiders everywhere wonder whether RIM will survive.
What happened? Harmful strategy. Unforced errors. And, mostly, really bad marketing. On this, RIM is in good company in the consumer electronics industry, where so many manufacturers market poorly. But few have made so many marketing mistakes so quickly.
Here are seven marketing lessons from RIM’s dark and difficult journey.
1. Make Great Products
Consumer electronics success begins with excellent products. The BlackBerry was once perceived as the very best smartphone — or, at least, “emailing phone” — available. It was exciting, emotional and it made people feel good. RIM sold BlackBerries on the strength of word-of-mouth recommendations. BlackBerries were aspirational, and people wanted to own one because friends and colleagues were so passionate about them.
Now, fast-forward to today.
Consider the excitement and energy around the iPhone and all those Android handsets. RIM enjoys none of that today. Not one percent of it. In part, it’s because it stopped making good smartphones in favor of a poorly received tablet called the PlayBook.
Successful marketing begins with having a tremendous product or service to market. Nothing happens without this.
My Comments: For small businesses, distractions like those experienced by RIM are all too prevalent and can be costly. Tablet-like opportunities—ones that appear new, exciting, glamorous—oftentimes appear much more interesting than executing your current strategy, which might seem ho-hum and boring. But if you don’t have a clear and widely understood strategy that defines what you do best and a strategic plan that keeps you focused, you might just find yourself in unfamiliar territory. You end up spending more than you thought you would spend and earning less revenues than you thought you would earn. Know where you are going and you won’t end up somewhere else.
2. Build on Strengths Instead of Improving on Weaknesses
I’m constantly telling clients that they should build on strengths instead of trying to improve their weak areas. For RIM, the BlackBerry was a great strength, and they all but abandoned its development and marketing for a year or longer to create the tablet. RIM did this to try to prevent the world from passing it by in the tablet space — which it did anyway. Tragically, as a result of diverting talent, attention, resources, investment and innovation from the BlackBerry to the Playbook, the consumer smartphone world has also passed RIM by.
It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. If you focus on developing weaknesses, your strengths will atrophy due to neglect. If you want to market well, identify your strengths — products, services, techniques, approaches, relationships — and exploit them relentlessly. This technique overcomes nearly all weaknesses.
My Comments: What you say? Don’t work on my weaknesses? What do I do with that list of things we uncovered in our SWOT analysis?
Of course you should work on your weaknesses, but a distinction must be made between weak areas that are a requirement to be in business (better customer service, more efficient operations, stronger leadership, better financial controls and so on) and those weak areas that are intentionally weak because their are not central to your strategy. Pick your customers, markets, products and services in a way that builds upon what you are already great at is how you achieve high, above-average margins. For RIM, the tablet did none of this. But it was so shiny and new that it took their eye off the ball.
For more on focusing on your strengths, see my blog post https://tpstrategy.com/2012/01/the-power-of-saying-no/
To Be Continued . . . .
Questions or comments? Send Tony an email: email@example.com
More information on Tony Collins.
Here is the link to the full article: http://mashable.com/2012/02/10/marketing-lessons-rim-blackberry/
Alex Goldfayn’s new book is called Evangelist Marketing: What Apple Amazon and Netflix Understand About Their Customers (That Your Company Probably Doesn’t). He is CEO of the Evangelist Marketing Institute, a marketing consultancy with clients that include T-Mobile, TiVo and Logitech.