Traditional Business vs. Disruptive Technologies: Is Your Business Model Lost In The Mail?

Traditional Business vs. Disruptive Technologies

Article by Gregor Perotto, Senior Director of Corporate Marketing, DocuSign 

For years, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has struggled to balance its budget. In 2011, it was in the red by a massive $15.9 billion.  Like many businesses challenged by disruptive change, it faces tough decisions on how to preserve customer service while responding to budget cutbacks.

Are you relying too much on your traditional business and avoiding, versus embracing, disruption?

Recently, USPS proposed cutting service to five days a week by eliminating Saturday mail service. They have since rolled back those plans. In reality, the USPS could have gone much further to balance its budget.  It should have proposed to take mail delivery down to three days per week with a strategy for managing the transition.  A move to three days of delivery per week would save upwards of $6 billion annually.

While change to mail service may initially upset many, let’s examine what this means to most Americans and how businesses and consumers really use the mail. Today, you can use technology to provide faster, convenient, and more secure delivery mail service methods.

Bill payments are the easiest online solution. Most companies routinely manage their accounts with electronic billing and auto pay. For those who still prefer paper and hand-written checks, there would still be three days of delivery and pickup.

For important documents requiring signature, many alternatives are available via cloud technology.  Electronic signature services, like DocuSign, provide an easy, fast and safe way to send and sign documents.  They eliminate delays and reduce costs associated with the print/fax/scan/mail/overnight mess.  For crucial contracts and agreements, digital methods increase speed to revenue, reduce cycle times, eliminate errors, and create a better customer experience—not to mention radically reduced carbon production caused by paper manufacture and distribution of copies.

Several companies have radicalized their offering and even reduced service to offer a better alternative. Angie’s List, the well-known site that aggregates verified consumer reviews to “capture word-of-mouth wisdom,” began as a call-in service and print publication for reviews about home and lawn care. To sign up members and collect ratings on local contractors, the Angie’s List team went door-to-door.  The company evolved into a successful, national on-line business and trusted forum by providing legitimate, verified reviews.

What can CEOs, CMOs, and entrepreneurs learn from the Postal Service?

  1. Never get comfortable. It’s easy to get used to “the way things are” rather than thinking critically and reinventing the process. The USPS refused to acknowledge a process that was based more on tradition than a rational look at the way its service is actually utilized. The success of any company depends on leadership to find new and better ways of doing things.
  2. Follow the customer.  New and better ways of doing things often come from the people that use your service or product. Take the opportunity to listen to and observe how your customers use your product today. What do their words, emotions, and actions tell you about opportunities for innovation and improvement?
  3. Look for solutions that remove friction points – or beware. There are a bevy of great apps, platforms and tools – indeed, entire industries – devoted to simplifying business and removing middlemen.  If your business is dependent on inefficiency, tradition or brokering a transaction, your customers and current and new competitors will always be on the lookout for a better way. Look for ways to innovate so that you offer it yourself.

Let’s not underestimate the cost of transitioning customers to “the new way.” In the case of the USPS, a move to reduce mail service would impact employees, courier services, direct mail marketers, and others.  As old industries evolve, new industries always emerge to spur job creation.  The USPS can apply its savings to offer voluntary early retirement packages; resume and job search services and job skills training to assist employees into new careers. And the package delivery business – whether USPS, UPS, FedEx or others – will continue as more and more consumers and businesses go digital, make purchases online, and require parcel deliveries.

How has your business responded to disruptive technology? Is it possible for your business to offer more by reducing service?  

Gregor PerottoGregor Perotto is responsible for corporate marketing at DocuSign. He sets strategy and leads execution for corporate and marketing communications; public, media, analyst, and investor relations; brand and reputation management; and social media. Gregor has helped the company accelerate growth to more than 37 million users across 188 countries and earn recognition as a ‘Next Big Thing’ by the Wall Street Journal and top rankings in independent third party research reports.


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