Keep Your Dot Com Envy In Check

“We’re the FBI,
We Have No Sense of Humor
That We Are Aware Of.”

Tommy Lee Jones, as “Agent Kay”
“Men In Black”

We all have preconceived notions about our capabilities; about what we can and can not do. And if you believe what you read and what you hear in the media, it’s hard not to feel as if you are the only person on the face of the earth who has yet to join the “new economy.”

Well, I’ve got some good news for you. This week (and this week only!), we’re going to talk about the advantages of being an old economy professional!

I know this may come as a shock given my history of telling you all the things that you need to adjust in order to thrive on the web. You do need to adjust, it’s just that in the process I don’t want you to lose sight of the many factors that you have in your favor as a traditional business professional.

1. You’ve Got Customers. Your customers don’t want to leave you — it’s much easier for them to stay with a familiar company than to go elsewhere. It will take more effort and more money on the part of a competitor to take your customers away than it will for you to keep the ones you’ve got. You’ve already got customer names, customer addresses, customer account histories, and most of all, existing customer relationships. The competition starts from ground zero.

Your ability to grow your business through approaches that take advantage of this information and these relationships — through cross selling, refer-a-friend programs and targeted marketing campaigns, for example — can not be matched by a competitor that has just arrived on the scene.

Make sure your marketing approach does not rely exclusively on tactics that “anybody” could employ. Traditional mass market approaches like print, radio, direct mail, telemarketing and others can be used by any business, whether it’s got one customer or one million. You want to leverage your customer base.

2. You’ve Got A Proven Business Model. You’ve figured out a way to generate real revenue by offering real products and services to people who pay you real money. Yours is more than just a good idea, you’ve built a plane that actually flies.

Your newly minted web-based competitors on the other hand, are discovering that a good idea isn’t worth anything if it can’t be implemented. And at the end of the day, most products and services are consumed in the physical world, and therefore require well managed physical world processes. (Drop me an email if you want to hear how my real world experiences as a Peapod grocery delivery customer compare with the conceptual advantages of the Peapod approach described in our 10/14/99 newsletter, Understanding What the Internet is Good At “).

3. You’ve Got A Track Record In Your Business And In Your Industry. At the core, the fundamentals of business don’t change (although as we’ve said many times before, the strategies and tactics certainly do). Your 10, 20, 30+ years of real world tested, industry-specific business experience are tremendously valuable. Many of the Dot Coms on the other hand, have already felt the pain that comes from building a business without any “adult supervision,” and without an experience-based understanding of the dynamics of the industry they operate in.

BOTTOM LINE: The Internet presents many challenges for traditional professionals, and all of us need to be open to changing as necessary to meet them. In your struggle to evolve quickly however, make sure you don’t overlook the inherent advantages that come with being the incumbent.

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