A Quote about the CCO Council from Curtis Bingham
Join Your Peers and Share Your Insight. Become a Member
Already a member? Click here to sign in

Are You Too Making a $100M Mistake?

One of my favorite stories to illustrate the costs associated with lost opportunity centers around a major market research firm that decided to scuttle what was initially an eagerly anticipated new practice area. The firm decided that there wasn't a market for this new area and the associated research. A few years later, however, this firm’s biggest competitor had a booming practice – its largest by report volume and revenue – in this very same area. Not only that, but the competitor's most widely read analyst was writing about this area exclusively. Somehow, the competitor created a very successful business in the same market that was deemed unprofitable and unfit for entry by the first firm. How could one firm fail where a competitor succeeded so completely?

From a business perspective, it may make sense to scuttle a project when sales are lackluster and the new product or service simply isn't gaining traction. Yet, in this case and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and a competitive outlook, that was exactly the wrong decision. How could this research firm have made a different (and more profitable) choice?

In talking with executives, I identified three problems. First, their initial foray into the marketplace was too general; they didn't investigate and so couldn’t address the specific needs of their customer base, which they spent no time up front attempting to understand. So, the product they delivered didn't provide sufficient, immediate, and practical value. This oversight created their second problem: a marketing issue. Although undertaking a new practice area, targeted to a different role within existing client organizations, the marketing department didn’t equip the sales team to identify the right buyers. Nor did it equip sales with the right messages to effectively convey the new product’s value. This resulted in the third problem: poor sales execution. Because the sales team was uncomfortable and ill prepared, they gave up prematurely. Their rationale was, "We can't figure out who owns the function in the company that corresponds to this practice area, therefore we can't sell the research."

So the company scuttled what could have been a $100M opportunity. If they had spent time up-front to find out who would actually buy the new product and what specific research these prospective buyers were looking for, they could've avoided this disaster and saved a huge amount of money.

There are two lessons to be learned from this story: You need to clearly identify prospective purchasers and you need to spend time with them to clearly understand how your product/services address Customer Purchase Drivers. As I've written elsewhere, customers base their purchase decisions on the attributes of a product or service that enable them to do four things:

  • Make more money
  • Reduce costs
  • Mitigate risks
  • Satisfy an emotional need

Only by understanding these Customer Purchase Drivers can you develop products and services that are guaranteed to be successful in the marketplace. Only by spending time with customers beforehand can you avoid making a $100M mistake.


"At SAVO, we are dedicated to our customers' success. We have organized our teams around it, developed programs to promote it, and we measure ourselves based on their success. I look forward to working with other members of the council to explore innovative ways to drive the imperative
of customer success to
the forefront of an
strategic initiatives."

Brian Study
SAVO Group