Coping with change: It seems fast isn't fast enough anymore

June 27, 2011

I’ve always admired how a cartoonist can say so much with a few images and a couple of captions. I remember years ago reading the comic strip Garfield — you know him, he’s the chubby, orange cat that is always questioning why things don’t seem to work out well in his world. In this particular comic strip, Garfield sat with this puzzled look on his face, and it read, “Just when I finally figure out where it’s at, somebody moves it.” 

Garfield hit the nail on the head; things are moving. It’s not easy to figure out where it’s going, and keeping up with change is ever more challenging.

It’s indisputable, change is accelerating. As I wrote in an article last year, even the speed of change is changing, not only faster and faster, but wider and wider. The magnitude of change and the consequences of change are significant. Wrong decisions have more severe consequences than ever.

Today, many decisions feel more urgent, more complicated, and require immediate attention. 

Going digital or giving up?

Please don’t think I’m trying to create some hysteria. 

Last week I visited an independent tire dealer in Southern California at the dealer’s request. He was seeking advice. He’s contemplating what he considers significant changes in his marketing direction. He is, by default, being forced to make some changes (usually not a good position).

He knows the basic direction he needs to pursue; he has to go digital. He has no Web site. He has no relevant digital presence. He openly admits he has not acted, and that decision alone has adversely affected his business. He pointed to competitors in the area that are gaining on him. He is losing business.

In days gone by, in the “Yellow Pages days,” he could get away with not changing his ad for a few years as long as the phone number and address were correct. Today, he can’t wait. He has to act now. He’s got the best-looking ad where returns are diminishing and is completely invisible where the opportunities lay.

This is an oversimplification, but it’s not like the Internet was turned on last week. The consequences of not acting prudently or quickly are lasting. He may never recover the lost business.

The hardest reality beyond the speed and pace of change is the unrelenting, unending march.  There is no rest. Right behind turbulent change, more change rages. Change is unyielding, moving violently and with intensity. This can be either wearying or energizing, or both wearying and energizing.

If we are waiting for change to slow or yield, we are kidding ourselves. The changes over the last few decades have produced a hardened, battle-ready group of product and service providers; they are known as “independent tire dealers.”

The changes we face work in favor of the independent tire dealer when change is addressed prudently, aggressively, strategically and with purpose.

I have two pieces of advice this month:  Go more digital, and become more professional.

Number one:  Go BIG digital. Abandon old, large, Yellow Pages ads. Abandon old advertising that only returns marginal results. Invest in the future, and the future is digital.

Number two:  Become more professional. Not just a little more professional. Think quantum leap. If customers in your area want faster service, give them faster service — fast. If they want WiFi, give ’em WiFi. Get rid of the old coffee pot and step it up. Look around, shop the competition, step up your game!


Become more professional

Listen to this opportunity.  I read a lot of business magazines such as “Fast Company,” “Forbes” and “Wired,” and I read a wide variety of White Letters, primarily pertaining to customer service, digital advances and in-store experiences, and there is a shift taking place. 

Big box stores like Walmart, Best Buy and others are having trouble keeping up with all of the changes. (No kidding — why should they be exempt from the pain of change?)

Anyway, the shift, the buzz is that consumers want personal service, and they want it the way they want it.

They want to deal more and more with smaller local retailers who get it!  Do you understand what I’m saying here? Small local retailers who get it! The trend is toward local shops! How do consumers find local retailers who get it? Well, they don’t stay up all night watching infomercials, and they don’t look in the Yellow Pages. I mean, what could you possibly say in a static ad with black ink on a yellow page, or a color ad on tissue-thin, yellow paper, that indicates that you get it? The fact is, if you’re in the Yellow Pages, it screams you don’t get it.

Where do the consumers go? They go online. They want to get info. They want prices, of course, but most of all, they want to deal with a professional who gets it!

If you’re not digital and you’re not professional, forget it!

I was reading “Automobile” magazine this month, the June 2011 issue. Talk about change.  It’s their “sneak preview” issue. Check this out if you didn’t see it: 165 new vehicles are coming in the next 24 months! A new, smaller Cadillac and a new, larger Cadillac; smaller Audis and larger Audis; smaller crossovers and larger crossovers; 556 horsepower Camaros; the return of the Dodge Viper; a Fiat; a Veloster; a Jaguar crossover. Minis are getting bigger and Caddys are getting smaller. The VW minivan is on the way, it’s called the Bulli. 

This is going to get very interesting. Do you think the big box guys, Mr. Big Mart or Mr. Big Club, are going to be able to keep up with these changes?

My experience and my research is saying that this is a gigantic opportunity for the local retailer who gets it. Are you that local retailer?

My company is producing a video to hammer home the point. Keep tuned to this column for more information. The video will be entertaining and informative!  

Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at [email protected].