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Riding the wave…from a vendor perspective

I’m a consultant now (who isn’t?). I have a little company that’s been around for awhile and it does okay. But when I started it in 2008, it had a much different look and feel than it does now, because now I’ve worked with vendors.

Let me explain. No, it will take too long, Let me sum up.

If you’ve been around for longer than a year or so, you will start to see the same stories crop up in the blogs, in the magazines and at the conferences. These “evergreen” topics go in a bit of a circle:

NEW PROBLEM –> NEW SOLUTION –> PROBLEM WITH THE SOLUTION —> WE’RE TOTALLY OVER IT–> BACK TO THE BASICS

And you’re lucky I left out the exclamation points.

When you work at a media outlet, you watch the cycle with amusement but you either highlight or create the stories that go along with the cycle. You report on it, basically. And when you work for an HR department or a recruiting firm, you make selections based on whatever your current criteria, budget and timeline are.

But when you work for a vendor, you see how terrifying and fickle the cycle can be. First you have the prep the market for the problem that your solution is trying to solve (pharma companies are MASTERS at this), then you have to make sure your solution does not just A and B for the problem, but at least anticipates C. Then when the gloss wears off your solution (because no tool can do the job of a human except for in the Terminator movies) your audience, who you so carefully cultivated and educated starts to complain and you dazzle them with service and consultative sales. If you do not do that fast enough, well then you’re out of luck, because you’re reached the “totally over it” phase.

Back in the day, this phase wasn’t a huge deal. There were 3-5 year contracts, auto renewal and truly great product took years to innovate and build. Now, with true SaaS and free or low-fee products, it’s make or break time baby. This is typically when you see the “back to the basics” posts start to form. Nothing wrong with them, I’ve written more than a few myself. But it’s pretty easy to write them from my home office or from a consultant or vendor’s point of view. Real HR pros have contracts to worry about, and a team. They have legitimate excuses for not jumping from one tool to the next, some even (gasp!) have a long range plan.

So here’s what I say to vendors, look at the cycle, recognize the high and low points, the opportunities and pitfalls of human nature and pretty predictable market waves, prepare your communications for that inevitable cycle and then…ignore it.

Because the truth is, your product (don’t care who you are) can’t do everything for everybody. In fact, there is a very select pie piece of the market for which your solution will be THE solution. The only way for a vendor to ride the wave is to constantly be improving the product and the service process.

That is all.