Failing Instead Of Changing

Today was Saturday and I had a few things I wanted to get done this morning.  I’m travelling two days a week at the moment for work and then the other three days I’m a bit busy, so some basic things like going to the bank or the post office is a bit challenging during the normal work week.  I’m sure many of you reading this can relate.

The post office is a big one for me because with the Casual Marketer Newsletter being a physical product, I have to actually go mail stuff to people.  Normally, I take the stuff I want to ship out to the post office at one of the local shopping malls we go to, grab some breakfast at a cafe with my wife, send the stuff off and then do some grocery shopping.

It’s all rather pleasant, except the whole post office part.  The post office closes at noon on Saturday and there’s a stupidly long line every time I go there.  We’re talking twenty minutes or so wait times.

And it’s all because the post office does stuff that isn’t postal related.  There are people queued up to get passport photos, people are there paying their bills by cash (because they’ve never heard of the internet apparently) and then the post office shops are littered with knick-knacks and bric-a-brac rubbish, so you have people lined up to buy that crap.

Seriously, 80% of the people in the queue aren’t really doing postal system stuff – a few weeks ago I saw a guy buying American Express Travellers Cheques, I didn’t even realise those were still a thing!

The problem is that the post office shops are independent franchisees who just own a license to run the post office for a specific postcode.  They need to do a bunch of other stuff to actually make ends meet because let’s face it, email and the internet are pretty much killing the postal systems around the world.

Which brings me to the most bizarre part.  The local postal shop for my postcode is about a two-minute walk from my house.  This morning, rather than go to the shopping mall, I decided to walk my stuff over to the local postal shop and do it all there.  I figured it would be quicker and I could pick up some coffees or whatever on the walk back for my wife and myself.

I get to the post office at about 11am thinking they’ll close at noon.

Oh, of course not, the local post office doesn’t even open on Saturday at all.  I was standing there with my son, with my mouth slightly agape wondering if I’d stepped through a time portal and ended up by mistake in 1955.  My son broke my stupefied silence by pointing out that their hours posted on the door were 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Even the 12-year-old said, “When do people who have jobs get to go to the post office?”

It was a good question and he immediately followed it up with another good one, “How do they stay in business?”

And the truth is, they probably won’t for much longer.  Put aside email and the internet, the way they run their business is not conducive to meeting the changing the demands of their customers.  How can you run a business where you have exclusive licensing arrangements and then have your licensees basically operate a variety of hours and provide inconsistent service?  You can’t.

The postal system is no longer a real necessity for most people now, it’s this thing that they have to occasionally deal with that’s really inconvenient and archaic.  It’s like dealing with a government department – they operate in a model that just no longer makes sense.

It’s not just big bureaucratic agencies or government departments that fail to change and keep up, even small business owners can get hit with this.

I have spoken before about the massive upheaval that happened in the SEO industry back five years ago.  The way most people were providing their SEO services meant that they were not just doing something that was no longer effective, the stuff they were doing was actually toxic for their customers.

These business owners went a couple different directions.

Some folks just kept doing what they were always doing, they were like the postal shops I’ve been talking about.  They weren’t convinced that what they were seeing or being told in the market was true or they just couldn’t figure out how to adapt and make themselves relevant going forward.  Within six months, all of these companies were pretty much out of business.

Other business owners saw the change and decided to get in front of it.  They looked at the what the market was telling them, they adapted their services and they kept focusing on delivering results to their clients.  These businesses, mine included, made some false starts and had to change direction a few times, but overall the goal was to deliver a valuable service to clients in a way that best served them.  Many of these SEO businesses survived and prospered.

It’s a bit cliche to say that the one constant in business is change, but the reality is that in the world of online business, that’s entirely true.  You’re going to face a constant battery of changes and if you’re new to running a business online, sometimes it’s going to feel like you’re under assault.  The secret is to understand what results and outcomes that your clients and customers looking to get, how they want or need to consume what you offer and then provide it to them in a way that has as little friction as possible.

It’s really as simple as that.  Figure out how to deliver what your customers want with as little effort from them as possible while being affordable for them and financially viable for you.

It’s just not that complex when you focus on what the customer needs.

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