Bring da *context*

I’ve been listening to Wu-Tang Clan’s first album a lot lately. It’s help up really well over time, and so when I say “bring da context”, really I’m singing along in my head: “Bring da mother, bring da motherfuckin’ context!”Fred Ross wrote in with a terrific response to this, from last week: (Yeah, I know you thought we were done with Axell Grell, but we’re not quite yet.)What’s so great about Fred’s response is how it reveals my bias, which is to over-focus on the high-end music segment of Sennheiser’s audience while kind of ignoring the pro audio and consumer segments. Maybe that’s why Axell left in the first place?Anyway, Fred’s response, then some comments of my own afterwards:

A possibly contrarian opinion based on poking around a bit. Sennheiser’s revenue is about half from their professional division and half from their consumer division. Grell was irrelevant to the professional division. That’s microphones, and monitors manufactured under another name. They’re not using audiophile consumer headsets. And frankly, monitors aren’t a position of strength for them. Sony really owns that space in professional. Consumer is headsets, but how much of that are the high end headsets that Grell was designing? That I’m not in a good position to estimate, but looking at the range of segmentations on their website under headphones, I’m betting it’s not that much. So in the audiophile space this may be a big deal, but that seems like it might be a pretty small part of Sennheiser. You could argue that there’s a brand position involved, but I think that’s not true for two reasons: the brand for professional is completely separate and Grell has no effect there, and non-audiophile consumer headsets is a market approaching commodity, and Grell doesn’t have any pull in that either. And, as you demonstrated in one of your emails, no one asks their audiophile friends for gear recommendations. 🙂 It’s a different play than Microsoft’s approach where they tried for mindshare among tech professionals because everyone asks their family member who’s good with computers for help.

Thanks for giving me permission to share this, Fred!Again, what’s great here is Fred has brung the muthereffin context, and that contextual understanding is a critical part of expertise.My bias is to over-focus on the high-end music part of Sennheiser’s business, because that’s the part of their product line I personally care about. But a consultant to Sennheiser needs to be more objective than that. They need to look at the whole picture.That’s more what Fred is doing, and that’s what a consultant would need to do to be effective.It’s quite possible that demographic trends, economic changes, and other sea changes are showing Sennheiser that the real opportunity is in other market segments. Maybe they fired Axell because of this and his leaving was not a big deal at all for Sennheiser.Fortunately, I am not a consultant to Sennheiser, so my lack of objectivity and lack of clarity on the industry is not a problem. But for a tech consultant focused on that industry, that missing objectivity and missing context would be big problems.Fred’s email is a great reminder that our objectivity with clients is one of the more valuable assets we bring to the table.Need help getting more control over who you work with? might help.-P