Over the last five years, a number of companies have emerged seemingly out of thin air to dominate in a "three screen", computerized world (mobile, tablet, computer) and grow explosively. Think Facebook and Groupon in the publicly traded realm... in Austin we have Chaotic Moon Studios, Mutual Mobile, and AppSumo. Of this group, only Facebook existed in 2007. Yet all are growing like a weed.
They all have one thing in common -- they saw opportunities, a market need, and a clear path to monetization that was also capable of scale. In each case, once they found success, they hit the accelerator rapidly. And none of them have debilitating geographic limitations that can't easily be overcome.
A number of my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances in traditional media want to capture that lightning in a bottle -- and are now putting plans in place to do just that. What will they need to do to succeed?
Fill the toolbox with relevant products -- think about what the target market wants and offer it to them. There is a revolution going on in mobile and social media. Hop aboard! For mobile, that might mean offering apps, mobile advertising, and mobile optimized web sites. For social, it means helping people keep their sites & social properties up to date, social advertising, how-to webinars, and metrics to be the ultimate scorekeeper of what is working and what is not.
Modernize the sales force & think creatively about the sales process -- Your sales force is perhaps one of your biggest assets, and a huge differentiator from other entrants who have no sales force. But all too often, they're not motivated to modernize. Progress means selling new things *and* maintaining cash flows from the old cash cow businesses. Sometimes your sales force can be a part of this transition, but in other cases they just need to be disrupted. Broaden your thinking of what a sales process is -- it might make sense for your reps to change, and/or future product sales may not even require a sales rep after all.
Invest in true innovation -- they say in technology that you have to skate to where the puck is going to make good bets for the future. What pain points will your customers endure in a few years? That's where they're likely to spend money. Give thought to it, and plant seeds there alongside existing opportunities. Some of those new things are tomorrow's stars, if you commit to them as the examples above did. But they also will never graduate if you don't give it a real chance.
Make geography irrelevant -- Geographical constraints are expensive -- forcing you to invest in on-site salespeople and/or support staff. Try to make geography less relevant over time to both generate new leads and to find sources of revenue that are not necessarily in your specific locale. This may force you to do some things differently, but that's OK if you can be truly geographically agnostic.
Embrace the potential of a services organization -- For bigger businesses, non-profits, and other customers, you may find that you can make more money providing support or fulfilling maintenance contracts than you would selling your core product. A services organization, built and integrated into the sales process in the right way, can be a highly profitable yet valuable part of your product offering.
Interestingly, many services organizations and agencies are aggressively moving in the direction of offering products. They're reinvesting cash flows to compete. It's a smart move, but it means that old media is getting another round of competitors -- probably the last thing it really needs to stay on top.