Off the radar

In March, Malaysian Airlines flight 370 went missing an hour after take off; it went off the radar. Data indicated that the aircraft made changes to its flight path with no announcement. Being off the radar means you are ignored, you are invisible, you are of no consequence in the grand scheme of things. In short, you are lost to the attention of others.

Has your company become lost? Have you disappeared off the radar with no trace, maybe made a direction change but have left no trail? It is very easy for a company to get off their flight path, to disappear. No matter the size of your company, it is easy for the customers you serve or target to lose visibility of your company. You become insignificant in their grand scheme of suppliers.

How does a company get lost? There are several ways for this to happen. Most of them are unintentional or accidental. Any of them can be devastating to your business.

It can be the result of a merger where a business gets put deep within the structure of a larger organization. The larger parent company does not put the investment into promoting the company any longer. Upper-level management loses interest, which leads to dwindling funding. Eventually the talent finds other homes within the larger corporation or they move on to other opportunities.

Sometimes companies lose focus: a large project can consume a smaller company, forcing key resources to be allocated to serving the project; successful products that got a company to where it was are not kept current, causing customers to look elsewhere. Internal priorities may change, thus shifting the focus.

A product line can go bust – especially one that took a long period of time and expense to develop. Long delays in getting products to market can lead to a slow disappearance of a company. Potential customers tire of waiting, lose faith, and move on to other suppliers. A bad product can have the same effect –not meeting customer expectations and forcing a move to alternate sources. Poor feature choices that fail to meet potential customer expectations or requirements cause sales to be lost. A poor pricing strategy can drive them away just as fast.

Holding on to a dying market or aging product a bit too long can make a company irrelevant. Markets grow and shrink, and customers look for innovation. Trying to hold on to a past favorite customer may be preventing resources from mining new customers to replace the older business. Just as bad is a poorly planned or executed move to a new market or geography. A company may have been a rockstar in one market, but a nobody in a new market. Maybe they went from being a big fish in a small pond to a small fish in a big pond, making their relevancy to the market very insignificant.

Even a simple company name change that is not properly executed can be a disaster. In the effort to promote the new name, the old connections are broken, lost forever. Sometimes the name sends out a new meaning that is not understood, confusing the customer base and causing them to ignore your company.

Much of the business in our industry is relationship-based. The wrong people in key positions can take you off the radar very quickly as customers move on to seek better relationships. This can be especially hard to detect and is often the most fatal.

You can prevent your company from going off the radar screen by stepping back to take a pulse of your public perception. Are you doing at least the minimum to promote your company, products, and services? Are you using the right channels for your product? Are you diversified in your marketing strategies? Do you have the right people representing your company? Do you have a solid marketing team in place to keep your company visible? These are just some of the questions you should be asking no less than once per year. It is very easy to slip off the radar, and getting back on can be very time consuming, not to mention expensive.

I would enjoy hearing some of your stories and recollections on this topic.

Jerry Gipper