I used to catch major flak from my stepmother for wearing inappropriate attire—white pants, patent leather shoes, that sort of thing—before Memorial Day had marked the proper start of the summer season.
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Even now, I pause before donning linen in East Coast climes before the end of May. (On the West Coast, all bets are off.) Of course, like me, you probably now have that old Byrds song stuck in your head. You know the chorus: “To every thing, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn.” For that, I apologize, but I quote this lyric to underscore that just as there is a cycle of seasons to IT spending trends each year, so is there a seasonal life cycle to every product you choose to represent. How you should position that product and what sort of profitability climate you should expect should naturally change along with these cycles.
You need look no further than security technology for a real-world example. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard specialized security solution providers complain over the past six months about the amount of time and training they’ve invested in the springtime of an emerging product, only to see their profitability model collapse when things get hotter and go more mainstream—especially when the original product’s creator is acquired by a bigger vendor.
This is a case, perhaps, of the weather changing before these evangelical solution providers had a chance to get out the sunscreen or don their foul-weather gear. But certainly, it can’t have been entirely unexpected.
When you’re considering whether to rise to the challenge of representing a leading-edge product category—such as like VoIP, voice-over-wireless, managed services or security categories such as identity management—not only do you need to assess how long it will take to earn a return in this product area, you also must factor in how long you can count on that return before you need to move on.
On the flip side, it’s the vendor’s responsibility to protect this special class of product evangelists—not only by providing early visibility into changes that will whack out their profitability models, but by making sure the sun is shining on that next new thing.
How good are you at predicting the weather? HEATHER CLANCY, Editor at CRN, welcomes feedback at email@example.com.