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“My prediction is that over the next 10 years, we are going to continue to see countless industries change in ways most cannot imagine. Burger King getting into the vegan game, Amazon flying packages to our doorstep and homes being built in 2 weeks instead of 12 months.”

Who are you?

I see this happening everyday with businesses of all sizes. Most of them still haven’t realized they are a media and technology company, not the product or service they sell. We are in what I like to think of as the first or second round of what is going to be the largest transfer of wealth our country has ever seen.

Learn from history

One of my favorite examples is Blockbuster. What I would have given to listen in on the meetings that happened at Blockbuster Headquarters when Netflix came on the scene. “How silly,” they must have thought. “This little DVD mailing company and their $2.99/month subscription.”

What they failed to recognize was the user experience Netflix was providing to their customers.  Netflix said, “People don’t want to go to the store to rent a DVD, they want it delivered and would like to hold it as long as they want.”  Blockbuster said, “People will not rent a DVD unless they can read the DVD jacket.” 

Seemingly so alike, yet so NOT

The similarity between these two companies is obvious; they both provided movies for people to watch at home. The differences are astounding. Netflix obsessed on how they could provide their customers with all the information they needed to make a decision without ever leaving their home.  Blockbuster obsessed on how to open more Blockbuster locations so more people would enter their stores. How did this vast disparity of what their customers wanted exist for so long? Why didn’t Blockbuster see this sooner? They were certainly better suited to enter the game, having more capital, resources and assets.

The answer is that they weren’t playing the same game.

Perspective is everything

Netflix looked at the DVD rental as an afterthought, instead they focused their energy on how the customer was going to get the DVD in their home. An amazing online experience that would allow them to get everything they needed to make a confident decision on a movie choice without leaving their website. All the while, Blockbuster was working on end caps, candy and popcorn sales and of course, hiring more people to work at their stores. I have to think there was a solid 18 months where every day that passed, Netflix was taking 2 steps forward in technology and media conversations, while Blockbuster was having meetings with items on their agenda that were taking them 4 steps back. I doubt either of them realized it even when it was happening.

It’s all about the customer

This “Blockbuster syndrome” is happening in conference rooms all over Michigan. Companies focused on their products, services, HR, real-estate holdings and assets instead of obsessing about how their customers want to engage with their brand or the position they have with those customers in the marketplace. Most importantly, they are scared to think about where it’s heading. 

Coming into work everyday, doing the same old thing, working on the same old problems that are easy to care about and pour effort into. They are getting caught up in their own narrative, their own worldview, instead of what their customers care about most.