Thursday, January 3, 2008

Imminent Danger

Organizations that do not take seriously the different preferences of their various constituencies are at risk of becoming irrelevant.

When Netflix emerged in 1998, Blockbuster was the king of home video. There was no match, no comparison, no threat. But Netflix changed that. And for quite some time after Netflix introduced its new model of video delivery, Blockbuster behaved as if Netflix posed no danger. That hesitation very nearly cost Blockbuster its existence. Some say it will, yet. But Blockbuster finally recognized that some of its customers really liked home delivery of videos and it began t0 emulate Netflix' business model. Thus far, it has survived. Time will tell whether it acted quickly enough, early enough, to salvage its business.

The Blockbuster experience, regardless of ultimate outcome, is a less for associations: listen to your constituents and know their preferences. If your members want hard copy newsletters, give them hard copy. Sure, it's expensive, but if your members want them badly enough, they will be willing to pay for them. If your members want podcasts and wikis and personalized education, you'd better give them that, too.

In today's business environment, speed is king. Listen fast, act fast. There may come a time when your members will give you time to deliberately assess their needs. There may be a time when you will again have the luxury of testing new products and new modes of delivery to be sure they're right before you launch them. But, for now, you'd better be prepared to act fast, take risks, and pay close attention to your members' rapidly-changing preferences or you're apt to find yourself staggering in the gutter, wondering where the good life went.