They say good things tend to happen in threes. This was certainly the case last Thursday at the DSE in Las Vegas. I had a breakfast meeting scheduled at one of the restaurants at Planet Hollywood. I arrived early, and wandered through the empty casino. My cell phone rang, and it was my wife letting me know that my long awaited Kindle had arrived. Needless to say, I was excited. With time to kill, I threw a $5 bill into a slot machine. On the fourth dollar, the bells started ringing. $360 later, I had two out of my three good things in the bag before 8:15 AM! Breakfast and the day at the show were both very good. My third good event came in the form of an insight, and was related to the Kindle once again. But it didn’t occur until late that night, after some interesting intelligence came our way.

During the day, as often happens during trade shows, information concerning competitors, customers and prospects came to us at our booth. As a very competitive individual, I tend to react strongly to that type of business intelligence, simply because I want to win… always. Who doesn’t? At any rate, one piece of information was particularly astounding. One of the well-known SaaS digital signage providers has apparently decided that out of the famous five P’s of marketing (Product, Price, Place, Promotion and People), they can only win new deals based upon price. They may be right. As such, they were offering to undercut their own famously low ball “rack rate” by 28% to total strangers, with a clear willingness to go 40% off if pushed. I had two potential customers that I consider friends share this with me on consecutive days, so it is far more than a rumor. How does one respond to that kind of clearly desperate sales effort? We chose to stand our ground, and emphasize that Product and People, plus another P-word, Partnership, contribute greatly to a deal and a relationship’s overall value. Value can not be measured by price alone, as so many people have learned the hard way. Both prospects agreed, and will ultimately make their own decisions based upon their own priorities. I felt like our response was appropriate, especially since any customer investing in a strategic relationship with a software provider has a stake in the ongoing health of their new partner.

That night, laying in bed, I scanned the channels, and landed on a PBS interview with Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. Jeff of course was proudly holding a Kindle2, and the conversation centered on the new product. When asked directly about certain competitive products, both for Kindle and Amazon’s core eCommerce business, Bezos responded (and I paraphrase), “We choose to obsess about our customers, and not our competitors. If we do right by our customers, and focus our energies there, the competitive aspects will take care of themselves.” I smiled. Bezos had nailed it for me: our response to the competitive intelligence was the correct one. We should continue to obsess about partnership, product and people, and ensure that price reflects value. We should focus energy that may have been wasted on worrying about a competitor’s moves, and use that energy instead to delight a customer. And we will. The calmness with which Jeff Bezos responded gave me a similarly calm feeling. Thanks, Jeff. You provided two out of the three good moments for me that day, as well as a guiding thought that will serve us well.

Side notes:

My first Kindle book purchase was Pirate Coast, by Richard Zacks, recommended by colleague Dale Johnson. It downloaded onto the Kindle in well under a minute. A good read. Thanks, Dale.

My breakfast meeting was with Nikki Baird, co-founder of Retail Systems Research, who really understands the retail space and digital signage’s past, present and future within it. She was speaking on a DSE panel that morning regarding measurement. We talked a bit about that, and she provided the insight that what agencies seem to be clamoring for is a measurement system for DOOH that is completely analogous to the broadcast model, and that we really need to revisit that kind of thinking. Hopefully, we will. It will be better for everyone.