Performing regular Dog and Pony shows seems to be a prerequisite in our business, whether it is for old customers, potential new customers, or even our competitors. Typically a Dog and Pony is an elaborate visual briefing or presentation, often for promotional purposes or cheesy sales pitches.
The term Dog and Pony is a distinctly American one, and it seems to date back to the 1890s when small traveling troupes would travel the rails and feature performing dogs and ponies as the main attractions of their events. Shows were festooned with brightly colored tents, barkers, stirring music, popcorn men, and toy-balloon sellers. Not altogether different than one of today's trade shows, it would seem.
By 1950, the term took a term for the worse, generally implying some sort of event with more style than substance, often in the form of a sideshow. By the 1980s it appears to have reverted back to its more traditional roots without the hyperbole, yet still putting the participants through an awful lot of stress and strain to achieve. Today's Dog and Ponies can be just as exhausting as those in the days of old. Most of them include a few of the following:
1. Some sort of technological showcase. Every company likes to strut its stuff, and showing off the latest and greatest of your achievements to the world is standard fare for Dog and Ponies, trades shows, and industry magazines. A showcase may involve some new twist on an old concept, some recently introduced hardware, or a unique application of technology.
2. Affirmation of your company's core competencies. Most companies do something well and generally some things very well, indeed. It is often sound business practice to accentuate such abilities, especially in difficult business environments.
3. A list of recent innovations by your firm. It is likely that some of your customers might be very interested in the trials and tribulations you've recently encountered while working for someone else and how they may benefit from your experience without paying for the attendant learning curve.
4. A focus on main market segments. Dog and Ponies are an excellent way to ferret out your important customers and markets. No doubt your presentation will be tested in some manner internally first with one of the most obvious of all questions: "Who has the money to pay for what we're pitching, and are they likely to buy it at our price?"
5. A validation of your firm's market positioning. Are you a leader or an also-ran in your field? Are you satisfied with your position? If not, what are you going to do to change it?
6. An examination of incremental costs versus market potential to amortize investments. Every project and effort requires some sort of investment to institute. In most business endeavors, it's generally sound practice to estimate those costs up front and determine if the market can bear the expense of what you're planning.
7. Expand the reach of your brand into the customer bases of your competitors by 'conquest business.' Ah, the Holy Grail of business. Taking your competitor's key clients away by doing a better job than they do with improved quality, schedule, budget, or attitude.
8. An effort to affirm ownership experience matches the quality of the product. While you may turn out a far better product than your competitors, it is entirely possible your customers don't know it. Altering the customer's perception of your product or services relative to competitive standards is undoubtedly difficult and time-consuming.
9. A detailed examination of which market segments are expected to grow. This is sort of a hot-or-not test of your market positioning. Regardless of your overall market position, you need to make sure you're in a market with staying power. High technology and buggy whips have had a lot in common in recent years.
10. The feasibility of expanding capability and volume using your current platform into those market segments. How can you parlay what you've got into some other field that might be equally or possibly even more lucrative? Sometimes it is the absolute best way to proceed.
11. An enhanced attempt to strategically position your firm in a masterful fashion to exploit market niches. Ah, resurrecting yourself into something better than you are today. You know there are actually people that go to school to learn how to do this? They call it an MBA program.