3 Tips for Disrupting an Industry
T-Mobile is turning the mobile phone service industry on its head right now.
If you didn't notice, don't sweat it, because I didn't either. Having been tied to a long-term service contract for as long as I could remember, my thought of switching carriers had long been just a dream.
Recently, however, my local carrier, HTC, permanently became AT&T and in the transition provided all HTC customers a small window to terminate their contract with no early termination fee. With this new opportunity, I decided to window shop other service providers. T-Mobile was my first stop. Within five minutes, the very enthusiastic representative had me instantly fixated on two things: unlimited calling minutes, texting, and data; and no contract.
I was not much concerned with the cost of the plan, as I was fairly certain it could not have been more than my existing agreement. After thwarting every iteration of "what's the catch" I could throw at her, we eventually got down to the cost: half the cost of my existing plan.
The decision to switch was, as they say, a no-brainer.
These days, T-Mobile is going even further, offering to pay your early termination fees for switching from AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon. The move has caused AT&T to step it up. This week, it's offering $100 to existing clients to add lines.
And so starts the mobile service wars.
What I loved about the whole experience (beyond receiving a remarkable deal) is what T-Mobile is teaching us about disrupting a stodgy and profitable industry. Even if small businesses do not have the resources and flexibility of a large corporation like T-Mobile, we can learn a few things about shaking things up. How?
Don't wait to be disruptive.
T-Mobile probably could have continued in line with other service providers, charging higher rates, with contracts, and made a good deal of money. At some point, however, the reality of phone and data service was going to change, and T-Mobile was just the first to act. As they say, the only thing that is constant in business is change, and there is no better time than the present to act on it.
Stay the course.
Disruption cannot effectively happen without a great deal of planning and strategy. Most important, once you set that course, you need to stick with it. As evidenced by the clever T-Mobile ads, featuring Carly Foulkes's radical (dare I say disruptive) transition from nice to edgy, the strategy has been in play for some time.
Create a disrupt culture.
The strategy has to bleed from the top and throughout the entire organization. Look no further than T-Mobile's website or visit a satellite store to get an idea of how the company has pushed its disruptive attitude through its organization.
To disrupt an industry, you need to be disruptive yourself. It is a rare personality trait that drives you to not only think disruptively but also to have the fortitude to withstand the pressure, criticism, and potential failure. It is not for everyone, but once you’ve committed, it takes a true disruptive leader to follow through. T-Mobile's John Legere has that edge, as evidenced by his talks and even his antics, such as crashing (and subsequently being escorted by security out of) the AT&T party at CES 2014.
No doubt T-Mobile has its issues. Coverage is still weak, and I am still waiting for my iPhone unlock code from HTC (it is like waiting for your ex-girlfriend to return your personal belongings). The nice thing is that if I ultimately hate my service, I can cancel at any time, with no early termination fee. That’s freedom mobile phone users haven’t had in a long while. And it is where the industry is heading, thanks to T-Mobile.
What do you think about the T-Mobile strategy? Please share your thoughts below.