This is a true story, but with the details disguised so I can share it with you.
When John Reed became president of BildIt Co in 2001, his job was to make the building-materials company profitable again. The business had done reasonably well since being founded 10 years earlier, but it had foundered over the past couple of years. Its sales had peaked at $6 million and the business had, for the first time, slid into the red.
Everyone in the company knew that BildIt's product was excellent—and that it had a massive potential market because almost every new home built in North America used a product from BildIt or one of its competitors. But Ian Sharpe, who had invented the firm's product and founded the company, was stumped about how to achieve the kind of results he envisioned. He brought in John to help him grow the company.
Today, 11 years later, BildIt's sales have soared to $83 million, an increase of almost 1,300%. When I asked John what he had done to achieve such a stellar growth rate, he attributed it above all to the firm having made a fundamental change in its mindset. "When I joined BildIt, we were a world-class product company that sort of marketed," says John. "Today, we're a world-class marketer with a superior product."
BildIt's shift from focusing on product to focusing on markets and customers is one that I strongly urge B2B companies to consider emulating. Every week I see great companies that make excellent products, yet that don't even come close to the degree of success BildIt has achieved over the past 11 years. The difference is that these firms are more focused on the product they make than on the customers they serve.
What John did at BildIt was to make sure that customers knew about and wanted the company's product—and could buy it easily.
The company's dramatic shift in mindset entailed far more than simply boosting its ad budget and tweaking its sales-commission structure. And it took several years for the firm to fully evolve its new strategy.