Resolve to Remain Relevant

When I was asked to submit this article I thought about many topics hoping to find one that was “relevant” to our current situation. Then it dawned on me, relevancy itself! It is so important today; maybe more now than ever.

The dictionary defines relevance as “applicability to social issues.” How many times do you hear that during the day, from social media to social networks? Why am I writing about this? Because I feel our industry is looking for ways to remain relevant to the consumer.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of companies that became irrelevant to their markets and the consequences that can have:

Research In Motion (RIM)/ Blackberry — This company owned the personal digital assistant (PDA) market until two years ago. If you had a job, you used a Blackberry. Where is this business? It’s trying to determine what to do and how to play catch-up, and it is probably too late. I am certain someone at RIM said at some point, “Who would want to own a phone made by Apple? They don’t even make a mainstream computer and the phone could never be as good as ours.” Yet the app in Apple killed them because the app became relevant, not the phone. In fact, more things are done daily on an iPhone that don’t involve talking. Imagine that, using your phone for something other than talking!

DEC (Digital Equipment Corp.) — Most of you probably don’t remember or even know DEC. This company owned the computer market from the mid-1970s into the mid-1980s. It was convinced the world of computing revolved around a mainframe, namely its VAX 11/750. Surprise! Along came IBM and Microsoft with a different view of computing … the desktop. I am certain again that someone at DEC said, “Who is this Microsoft? They surely can’t compete with our processors and their language is way too simplistic to ever have density.” Well you know where that has gone. DEC no longer exists and the world is rapidly moving away from desktop applications to handhelds. Dell, are you listening?

And speaking of Microsoft, do not confuse increasing “features” with relevance. I was perfectly fine with Excel 2007. Along comes Excel 2010 with all kinds of new “features” that are irrelevant to me. Maybe you have noticed this too in products you use — benefit poor and feature rich. It needs to be the other way around to truly be successful.

My point with all of this is to make you think about what makes you relevant as a company? Don’t say, “It is our superior customer service, our top-notch installers, etc., etc.” At the end of the day, those things may not matter. Is your RMR derived from monitoring, the lifeblood of your company, going to be there in the years ahead or will something else more cool and relevant take its place?

Think about how the youth of today communicate and purchase; very different from the paradigms of the past. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to spend some time talking to the young people in your company and find out what they think is cool and not so cool about your company. Then maybe focus attention on becoming cool — and relevant. If you practice this on a regular basis without letting the preconceived notions of the past cloud your judgment, you may be able to stay one step in front of your competition.

In closing, I harken back to an economics professor’s anecdote that was right on point. A parent says to his 20-year-old, “I see where Sears is carrying the Kardashian line. What’s a Kardashian?” The 20-year-old says, “What’s a Sears?”

Good luck and stay relevant, now and in the future, to protect your equity and, most importantly, your livelihood.

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