The term, “platform” is tossed around liberally in small business circles these days, yet many people remain confused about exactly what it means. To help clear up the confusion, I recently interviewed someone I consider to be an expert on the topic.
Phil Simon is the author of The Age Of The Platform, a book about how small business owners can look to larger companies like like Amazon, Apple, FaceBook, and Google to learn new ways to leverage online platforms for success. Phil has researched the topic extensively, and you'll enjoy insights during this interview that you won't find anywhere else.
To listen to my 30-minute interview with Phil, and to put his tips to work in your business now, scroll to the bottom of this page and click the play arrow. If you don't feel like listening right now, here is a high level summary of what Phil and I discussed, with time stamps in case you want to scroll forward.
- What is a platform (4:00)? A platform is a collection of integrated planks. An example of a plank is the hair cut service offered by a barber. The barber could also offer the complementary service of a shave. The two planks (hair cut and shave) create his platform. The more complementary services he provides, the more planks he has to support his platform. While the barber can add planks just to increase revenues, Phil says he should avoid misguided attempts to make quick money. Planks should be logical extensions of an existing core platform. They should support the ecosystem of the brand and enhance the customer experience, not be added on willy nilly to make a few extra bucks.
- Platform alone does not guarantee success (12:45). In addition to knowing what a platform is, we must also know what a platform is not. Phil shares the example of a character in a popular sitcom, who thinks that beepers are making a comeback. That person could build a business around beepers. He could have a blog and manage several marketing channels to bolster a visible platform. Of course he won't be successful because no one is buying beepers. The lesson here is that a platform does not guarantee success. A platform must must be accompanied by a product people want to buy (know your audience!) and a solid business model. Otherwise, it may be worthless.
- “What's Yelp?” (16:00) This is a bit of a rhetorical question, to illustrate the point that, if you're a small business owner, and are not aware of Yelp or other online outlets discussing your brand and/or the types of products and services you offer, you have a problem.
Phil shares the example of a conversation he had with the owner of a moving company he was considering hiring. Before speaking with the company owner, Phil discovered numerous negative Yelp reviews for the company — yet the owner of the company had never heard of Yelp.
Phil's message is that business is changing — your platform is not completely controlled by you. Not only must you build your own platform, but you must also be aware of third party-owned platforms that can help (or hurt) your business.
Toward the end of the interview, we encountered a technical difficulty. The audio is clear, but you may notice our creative editing in the last few minutes. (Thanks Darryl!) I really wanted to bring you Phil's insights, so despite the glitch, you will enjoy this podcast.
About Phil Simon
Phil Simon is recognized technology expert and the author of four management books: The New Small, Why New Systems Fail, The Next Wave of Technologies, and The Age of the Platform. His contributions have been featured on Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, the American Express Open Forum, ComputerWorld, Technorati, ZDNet, abcnews.com, forbes.com, Inc. Magazine, The New York Times, ReadWriteWeb, and many other sites. Visit his website at Phil Simon Systems, and follow him on Twitter.
How to Listen to the Show
This post contains my paraphrases of the information Phil shared. To hear it from the horse's mouth yourself, listen to the entire 30-minute show using one of these options:
- Download it on iTunes. (It usually takes a day or two for iTunes to feed the show there.)
- Click on the arrow at the bottom of this post to listen now!
- Because I have not had a chance to load all of my shows to this blog, you can listen to hundreds of interviews from 2005 to 2010, each one as relevant today as it was when I recorded it, at my Indie Business Radio site.
Question: How are you building planks and platforms to support your business?