Daily Archives: January 8, 2009

Dead Company II: If You’re Hoarding Cash …

Like my fellow bloggers, I talk to a lot of companies in the run of a week, and many more in the run of a month, and one thing I’ve been hearing too much of lately is “we’ve cut back on X” — where X is marketing, development, or outside consulting — “because we have to conserve cash to get through the current crisis” — where the crisis is the current recession, downturn, etc. And it saddens me because the truth of the situation is thus: If You’re Hoarding Cash, You’re Not Going To Last … you’re just prolonging a slow, agonizing death!

As I’ve reminded you many times before, great companies are born in recessions … especially in Spend Management! This is a spend management company’s best time to shine … and the time you are most likely to get the undivided attention of senior management who dismissed you as unnecessary when times were good and the stream of cash was overflowing. Plus, it’s an opportunistic perfect storm like none you’ve ever seen: companies are desperate for savings, prices have nose-dived in many commodity markets which had been climbing steadily for years, and many types of spend management technology — including sourcing, procurement, analysis, optimization, supplier information management, and trade management — are now mature low-risk technologies in the eyes of even the most conservative techno-phobes. Plus, SaaS has hit mainstream and advances in cloud infrastructures allow you to keep your costs, and prices, low enough to make your solutions, and the returns they offer, within the budgets of even the lower end of the mid-market. In other words, everyone needs it, everyone can benefit from it, and everyone can afford it — especially if you can offer SaaS and they don’t have to come up with a large amount of cash up front, before they see savings.

But you’re not going to see a single sale if:

  • they don’t know you’re there
    and they won’t if you don’t keep your brand out there where they can find it
  • you’re not keeping your technology up-to-date
    because even the most technology illiterate procurement professionals know that advantages are fleeting and the only real value will come from solutions that are continually being improved and updated
  • you’re not innovating ahead of your competitors
    because it is always a buyer’s market and customers are going to buy the best solution … and you’re not going to know what that is if you don’t bring in some expert help once in a while to help you do a competitive analysis and chart the right roadmap

Now, I’m not saying that you should go out and spend 50K to 100K on a trade-show and staff your booth with magicians, super models, and sports stars just to get attention; that you should double your development team and see how much you can pump out in the next year; or that you should go out and hire a McKinsey or A.T. Kearney to do a complete end-to-end analysis of your software and service offerings — just that you need to conduct business as usual against a thought-out growth strategy. Otherwise, you might as well pack it in and go home, because odds are that you have no future.

However, I am saying that you need to maintain visibility where it counts, and especially on-line as some recent studies have found that appropriately designed on-line campaigns can easily be three times as effective as print campaigns; that you need to continue to enhance your current offering and continue to develop one or more new offerings with a high ROI potential, and that you need to continue to validate your offerings and directions with an external expert. And if you’re smart, you can stretch smaller marketing, development, and consulting budgets and get a big bang for your buck.

Because if you decide to hoard your cash, here’s what happens.

  • You cut your marketing budget and fade from memory because no one remembers you exist in the face of constant marketing from your smarter peers; as a result, you don’t get invited to the table when new opportunities arise and your pipeline shrinks until there’s no one left to sell to.
  • You cut your development budget and your solutions get stale, and even when you do get invited to the table, you lose because your competition not only has more functionality, but has new features and functions that streamline processes, improve analysis, and identify more savings.
  • You cut your consulting budget and you lose touch with your target market, going down tangents that your CEO thinks are important but that, in reality, are only valuable to one or two companies with obscure processes and, as a result, what you thought was a great new feature that would put you ahead of your competition actually scares potential customers away.

And even if you manage to make it through the recession to the next boom, you’ll be one to two years behind your competition, who will likely grow by leaps and bounds and decimate you on all fronts when you emerge from your cocoon. So, unless you’re sitting on at least three to four year’s worth of cash in the bank, which I know is not the case for over 99% of companies in this space, remember this: those who hoard cash don’t last. Another shake-out is coming … and it is the predators, and not the prey, that are going to win this round. The question is, which are you?