Leadership | Courage | Ethics - bold business development

Ed Marsh | Oct 1, 2013

Journalism students get it - why doesn't Marissa?

Is anyone else rankled by the recent account of Marissa Mayer's handling of NSA demands?  "We push back a lot on requests, she said, adding that if they did release the information, it would be considered treason which 'generally lands you incarcerated'"

No doubt she's got a lot on her plate.  But she's been groomed for her position, was carefully selected and is paid handsomely.

And yet when a really tough situation, with unpleasant potential personal consequences came along, she opted for the expedient solution.  Every freshman journalism student knows that in contrast to Marissa they'll be working for peanuts.  And also in contrast to Marissa, when Uncle Same comes to bully them into revealing information (their sources) they'll take prison over disclosure without hesitation.  And while they would have at least moral support from their employers, they probably couldn't count on the resources of the Yahoo legal team to battle on their behalf - they'd go it largely alone.

That's courage.  And that's frequently missing from business. 

Go with the flow....tweak around the edges

There are many reasons why businesses revert to the norm rather than courageously differentiate themselves.  The old "no one got fired for buying IBM" syndrome; the psychology of 'loss aversion'; and cognitive bias toward assumptions of gradual, linear change all incline managers to hew to tradition, seeking only occasional incremental improvement.

Certainly this isn't universal.  Radically new business models and innovation offer inspiration on a regular basis.  But they are outliers.  Traditional businesses, particularly manufacturers in B2B sectors, have ossified business development approaches.

Two critical misjudgments will doom many manufacturers to subpar growth and threaten their viability:
  1. their market is constrained by US borders
  2. B2B sales are driven by direct sales people
Both are fallacious, and clinging to them offers only illusional stability.

Where is the market?

US Dept. of Commerce statistics show that only 1.5% of all American companies sell outside North America*.  Yet 95% of the world's consumers lie outside the US.  This contrasts with Germany, an export focused economy, where the AVERAGE SMB sells to 16 different export markets.

Certainly there are different business considerations, challenges and risks to mitigate in international sales.  But they are hardly insurmountable.  Doing so takes an awareness of the 'unkown unkowns' and the courage and commitment to do so.

But the fastest growing markets are outside the US.  And these markets often covet "Made in USA" products.  There are eager buyers.  Are you a seller?

This doesn't mean that companies can't grow at rates well above trend in the domestic market.  But to do so they must adapt their approaches.

How to reach the market?

Most B2B manufacturers rely on a traditional sales model that uses tradeshows and advertising to generate leads for direct sales people (whether employees or reps) to chase in addition to consistent cold calling and independent activity.

The success of that approach is rapidly declining as the dissonance between the sales objectives and buying behaviors grows.  Buyers now control the process (with ubiquity of information) yet sellers persist with tactics that were effective when sales reps controlled the process as the source of information.  One would almost think that managers who persevere in these tactics don't use the internet themselves to find what they need.  Of course they do...so why do they presume their buyers don't?

Proven B2B marketing approaches with demonstrable ROI and the ability to continuously manage and adjust are now available.  But they come packaged as internet marketing which repeatedly failed to produce the promised results and is now perceived as either vacuous or only appropriate for B2C.

Manufacturers with courage will dominate

Plenty of entirely understandable reasons are offered for hesitance to embrace both global sales and inbound marketing.  But at the end of the day they are simply excuses.  

Sure, everyone could sympathize with Marissa's desire to steer clear of prison.  Similarly it's easy to empathize with B2B manufacturers who hesitate to plunge into complicated global markets or to possibly "throw good money after bad" with more investment in internet marketing.

But that's why courage in business is such a rare commodity - and it's why those manufacturers that have it will likely experience vibrant, diversified growth.  And why manufacturers which don't will continue to stagnate.

After all, courage is fundamentally about doing the "right" thing even when it's the "hard" thing.

Are you a courageous manufacturer eager for business development success?  Or are you sliding toward extinction?  After all, it's not like you'll go to jail....

business growth, international business development, SMB marketing,

*- 5% export at all, and of those only 30% sell beyond NAFTA