How can you do that? By changing the rules of the game. By reinventing the way business is done in your industry. And by using technology to scale quickly, forcing your competition to play catch-up.
Following are ten companies that have done all of the above. Can you find in their stories best practices that will help you disrupt your industry and become a market leader?
1. Merchant Cash and Capital (MCC) specializes in small business loans to companies that are unable to get traditional loans from banks and credit unions. MCC has changed the entire experience of borrowing money by eliminating the need for a personal guarantee, reducing the amount of paperwork for underwriting, and by funding in three days instead of weeks or months. “If a business has a 90-day track record of at least $10,000 per month in credit card revenue, we want to help them with their funding needs,” reports Stephen Sheinbaum, CEO. “The average loan size is $45,000, but we can go up to $500,000 for companies with higher sales volumes.” MCC takes a percentage of future dollars that run through a borrower’s merchant account until the loan is paid back. Clearly, there is a market for this type of financing. MCC funds 800 loans (over $25M) every month. A main contributor to MCC’s growth is technology. Their Instant Cash Advance Calculator is a good example of how they can screen and pre-approve borrowers without the need for brick-and-mortar locations and hundreds of loan officers. How could you employ technology to speed up your company’s cycle times, reduce red tape, and fill a pressing need for your customers?
2. SDL is a prime example of a company embracing technology to delight customers and vex competitors. Founded by Mark Lancaster in 1992, SDL started out as a language translation company, but has since grown to $500M in sales, with 3,000 employees worldwide, through an aggressive expansion of the use of technology. Today, 72 of the top 100 companies in the world use SDL products and services, which are all rooted firmly in technology. For example, SDL helps its customers sell more of their offerings by making it easy to gather and use social intelligence and predictive analytics to place the right advertisement on the right mobile device at the right time and location—thus enhancing the customer experience and increasing conversion rates at each step of the sales cycle. According to Lancaster, “Mobile devices are changing the ways in which people interact with the world. We are all connected all of the time now, and SDL allows our customers to take advantage of that connectivity.” Can you find new ways of helping your customers’ customers have a better buying experience through technology?
3. What would a fully automated, online banking experience feel like? Simple. Arguably the most modern version of the bank, Simple claims that “you’ll never miss your bank branch again,” and judging by the reactions of current customers, they may be right. As a new alternative for your checking and savings accounts, Simple has completely disrupted the banking world by providing the best of online services in a user-friendly, state-of-the-art platform. “We basically rebuilt a more modern bank from the ground up. Until now, the banking model has been stuck in the 1950s,” proclaims Josh Reich, CEO of Simple. Although Simple doesn’t make loans at this time, they do have plans to offer mortgage loans and student loan refinancing in the future. Simple has grown its customer base to 120,000 by offering services such as online bill pay, easy transfers between your accounts or to outside accounts, a Simple Visa card, no overdraft fees, free access to 55,000 ATMs, photo check deposit, and sending checks by mail from the system. Of course, all services are accessible on the cloud through any device, so mobility is well supported by Simple. Is there something about your industry that can be remade from scratch through the application of technology?
4. Find a pervasive customer problem and solve it with technology. That’s what Okta has done. With so many apps requiring user names and passwords, the task of remembering, tracking, and securing authentication in the login process has become a nightmare for users and IT security teams. As an identity and access management company, Okta makes sure that everyone gets access to the apps they want while driving IT security at the same time. But C00 and Co-founder Frederic Kerrest takes this solution one step further. “We don’t just throw a solution over the wall and hope a customer can benefit from it—we proactively empower them to succeed.” Kerrest explains how the old model of customer service (waiting for the customer to call when there’s a problem) is not only passe but dangerous as well. So Okta has instituted one of the more robust customer support models around, with varying levels of support, depending on a customer’s needs, desires, and budget. This strategy of “support on steroids” has worked so far, yielding 1,200 enterprise customers and 4M users authenticating daily. How can your company not only offer solutions to problems, but also ensure that your customers succeed in using them?
5. Gamify the buying experience to increase customer loyalty, excitement and participation. HelloWorld has mastered the combination of marketing and gamification to grab buyers’ attention. They engage prospective and existing customers by offering everything from coupons to a grand prize of $1M, depending on the campaign they’re hired to run for a client. HelloWorld uses channels such as mobile, social, web, and live events to promote the “engagement levers” of sweepstakes, instant win, contest, trivia, polls and surveys, and advergames. The result? How about a 23% increase in sales for Olay? Or a 1.3M customer increase in sign-ups for Bare Escentuals FAB loyalty program? How could you use gamification technologies to engage more customers for your company?
6. Every business has complex processes. Mendix helps businesses automate and streamline those processes by providing a platform to create custom apps internally, without the need for outside developers. By putting the power of app creation in the hands of its customers, Mendix has been able to grow at the impressive rate of 100% per year for the last four years. At a time when companies are trying to outsource as many functions as possible, Mendix is making it easy to bring this traditionally outsourced capability in-house. “We try to make this as easy as possible,” states Mendix CEO Derek Roos. “Our customers can develop any app and test it with up to ten users before they pay us anything. Only when it’s ready for deployment do they pay for this ‘platform as a service’.” One Mendix customer, Wade Sendall, who is VP IT at The Boston Globe reports, “We have launched four apps using Mendix, and have eight more in process. In all cases we are seeing cost savings, but the real benefit comes from operations that are running more smoothly than ever before.” Can your business provide a technology platform with which your customers could make their own businesses run better?
7. ItsOn has developed a disruptive technology that allows mobile network operators such as Sprint and AT&T to develop new revenue streams, design and deploy new types of service plans in minutes rather than months, and dramatically upgrade the customer experience for end users. “We are creating a very different opportunity for network operators,” states Greg Raleigh, CEO ItsOn. “By replacing old systems with over-the-cloud technologies, mobile network operators can increase customer loyalty by more quickly responding to market trends, which are ever-changing in this space.” What this means is that ItsOn is providing a competitive advantage for its customers. Does your company have the means to provide a similar advantage for your customers?
8. What do you get when you form a business by combining some of the best minds of Microsoft and Accenture? A technology company called Avanade. While Avanade is adept at creating new technologies to solve customer problems, they also have a talent for combining existing technologies to bring solutions to market. “When technologies such as mobile, cloud, analytical, and big data come together, that’s when really interesting things start to happen,” observes Avanade CEO Adam Warby. “It’s always nice to give birth to new technologies, but when we create products by combining existing technologies, we can add value to customers right now.” Avanade now employs 22,000 people and serves customers in 21 countries. What existing tech tools can your company combine in order to disrupt your industry and delight your customers?
9. If you could make technologies available in markets where they’re not yet accessible, you would have a first-mover advantage. Such is the case with 2Checkout, a tech company that takes the pain out of accepting payments anytime, anywhere, on any device. “What we’re really doing is democratizing ecommerce worldwide,” says Shaun Budde, CEO 2Checkout. “We’ve found an international niche of small-company merchants, which happens to be the fastest-growing segment in business right now.” 2Checkout seems to be mining that niche well, with 50,000 merchants in 196 countries. To accomplish this, 2Checkout supports 26 currencies and 15 languages. What technologies does your company have that could be exported to underserved markets?
10. This holiday season, 10% of shoppers will be using GPShopper technology without even knowing it. But GPShopper’s clients, such as Best Buy, bebe, Express, Grainger and The North Face know GPShopper very well because of substantial sales increases. GPShopper plays an important support role for its retail customers, setting up in-store beacons that wake up the cell phones of distracted and harried shoppers when they are in close proximity to special deals they would be interested in. This is just one example of the broad range of marketing management tools available from GPShopper, which all operate in the background to target and engage would-be customers. GPS CEO and Co-founder Alex Muller sums it up with this observation: “Every month we engage with tens of millions of shoppers, driving them to our clients in ways they’ve never been able to do in the past.” Can your company create this level of value as a behind-the-scenes provider of sales support?
Do you know of businesses that are disrupting their industries, driving their competition crazy, while surprising and delighting their customers? Let me know. I’d like to write about them.