What’s Love Got To Do With It? Ask TelOne


What’s love got to do with it? – Ask Telone.

If you fall in love with your product, you’re lost. If you fall in love with your idea, you’re lost. If you’re fall in love with your process, you’re lost.

If on the other hand you fall in love with your market…you shall be found.

See, the most important function/ department or skill set in ANY Business – is marketing. More than any other factor, your ability to reach & persuade a given market is paramount. Think about it: what’s the point of having an amazing accounting system, state of the art equipment and expensive office chairs – if the market completely ignores you? No matter what else you have, you don’t have a business, until your market says you do. That’s why it’s important to fall head over heels in love with your market – where your love is, your focus is.

Telone made this mistake…

Shouldn’t Telone (formally PTC) have been the one to introduce the cell phone network to Zimbabwe? They were the dominant (only) force in Zimbabwe telecoms industry, they were perfectly positioned with the brand, money and maybe even technical experience. Today, they would’ve been unrivaled.

In fact when Strive Masiyiwa hatched the idea to start a Cell Phone network, it was Telone he approached first. But they weren’t interested, in fact they told him that Cell phones had no future in Zimbabwe (same way some talk about the internet now)! So Strive decided to go it alone…and the rest is history. He formed Econet which besides being the dominant force in the telecoms industry in Zimbabwe, has also spread it’s tentacles all over the African continent and beyond.

What was Telone’s problem? I think they were too in love with their current tech. They were so focused internally (on their service, product and so on) that they became blind to trends happening in the rest of the world. They didn’t understand their industry market well enough to see emerging trends, needs and opportunities. The market was in love with them, which is why they were doing well but they weren’t in love with the market, which is why it didn’t last. Over a decade later and it looks like they’ll be the last to introduce 3G. A focus problem again?

Now before you say all this is simply because Econet brought in a new technology – realize this. Not all new (or better) technologies win the battle in the market place. In fact the little known truth is this – MOST don’t. Most innovations in fact are either ahead of their time (the market doesn’t want it yet) or worse they’re simply advanced, but not desirable (big difference). And even in cases where a new tech solves a problem better than the old did, they can still fail if they fail to reach the market.

For example, Econet made waves with their initial offering of 3G in Zimbabwe late last year – but Powertel launched 3G in 2007, 3 years ago! Guess who knows the market better? It’s not just the tech, it’s the tech the people want, when they want it, the way they want it. Those are things you only get to know when you love your market – not your product.

So what about you? What aspect of your business gets most of your love? Your focus? Your attention. If it’s not your market, then you’d better check yourself.

The late Gary Halbert, a world famous copywriter (and an early mentor for me) used to ask his seminar audiences

If you were selling hamburgers and you could ask for a one advantage in business…what would it be? People would shout out “Excellent service” or “most competitive prices” or even “the tastiest burgers”. Gary would shake his head and say, You can have all those. All I want is a hungry crowd!

When you’re in love with the market, you know where to find the hungry crowds. While you’re competitors spend all they’re love (time) on other things, you’re finding the hungry crowds, and giving them what they want, the way the want it.

So again, if you fall in love with your product, you are lost. Fall in love with your market…that’s smart.

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7 thoughts on “What’s Love Got To Do With It? Ask TelOne

  1. Interesting article Max some very perceptive ideas. You may want to check out the success of LiveNation (formerly owned by Clear Channel) and how they have used this exact principle to form a global monopoly for the live music industry. While the record companies ostrasized their consumer market LiveNation found out what the market wanted and gave it to them in bucket loads. Hence the imminent end of the four Major Labels as we know them.

  2. Max, another great post. I think focusing on your market is such a powerful distinguish-er of world class entrepreneurs – yet it’s rarely taught in conventional business school settings. I believe it’s both a right and left brain skill – an emotional connection with ones market as well as a scientific/ factual approach to what matters most. Thanks for the timely reminder!

  3. Interesting views, hungry crowd eh? Telone wouldn’t know one even if it hit them in the face! Biti should privatise this one quickly, it still has the potential to make money!

  4. @ Fungai thanks mate – appreciate it!

    @Dusty you’re probably right. I think Privatization represents the last and only hope for most of them Gov owned businesses.

    @ Brian – Thanks for the compliment mate…no Goblins. Holy Spirit + hard work – yes!

    @Conraydius – Thanks for stopping by bro. Great example there with LIveNation. Did a bit’ve a read up on them. Do come again!

  5. Very powerful and wise words Max. Honestly for any business to thrive one has to love their market. Loving one ‘s market incorporates finding out what they want and when they want it. The market is the foundation of any successful business, without the market there is no client and with no client there is no business………

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