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What Business Is Your Company Really In?

Most companies get this wrong and certainly most RFID solution providers get it wrong.
By Mark Roberti
Aug 09, 2017

While on vacation in Toronto, I visited a bookstore on the Danforth and picked up a book called This I know: Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence, by Terry O’Reilly. O’Reilly hosts a radio show on the CBC called “Under the Influence,” which is all about advertising and marketing. Every time I heard him, I was impressed, so I bought the book.

In the first chapter, O’Reilly asks: “What business are you really in?”

It’s an interesting question and one, he says, most people get wrong. He argues that Molson, the big Canadian beer company, is not in the beer business. It’s in the party business. It’s ads always show people gathering together and having a good time. He points to old the Michelin tag line “Because so much is riding on your tires” and says it is really in the automobile safety business. This got me to thinking about what business RFID companies are really in.

Some RFID companies are in the omnichannel-enablement business. Some are in the supply chain visibility business. Others are in the asset-tracking business.

Most companies, of course, would not answer this way. They would say they are in the RFID tag business, the RFID reader business or the RFID software business. And they would talk about the faster read rates of their tags, or the longer read range of their readers. O’Reilly would argue that these things are important to discuss down the road, when you differentiate your product from your competitors, but they are unhelpful in the initial pitch. The initial pitch is about what you do for your customer, not about the product you sell.

O’Reilly also writes about the importance of timing. He gives a great example of how Target used purchase patterns to determine which customers might be pregnant and then marketed pregnancy-related products effectively to them. Timing is clearly critical. If you’re in the business of omnichannel enablement and you are talking to a retailer who is not seeking to be an omnichannel retailer, you are wasting your time.

I started thinking about what business RFID Journal is in. We don’t sell tags and readers, so we’re not in the omnichannel enablement, asset tracking or supply chain visibility businesses. We provide information and access to the companies who solve business problems. I might say we are in the RFID education business. But I know O’Reilly would say that’s wrong.

So what business is RFID Journal in? We provide business enlightenment. If we were running television ads, I would show a retailer executive enabling omnichannel retailing, improving the asset tracking or enabling supply chain visibility and being praised by his or boss for doing so. The executive would respond: “I learned it through RFID Journal.”

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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