Archive for category customer.

The 5 C’s – Committed


Maybe you are staring at the blank screen and don’t know where to start. Or it could be when you are looking at your phone and don’t know who to call next. How about when your beta customer tells you something isn’t working and you don’t have the skills to fix it. Or maybe you see an article and you learn that someone is “in your space”.

All of these and thousands of other scenarios are examples of when an entrepreneur must look in the mirror and recommit themselves to the mission that they have committed themselves to.   Just like anything the entrepreneurial journey is one with peaks and valleys. But because the entrepreneur tends to personalize everything associated with their business these peaks tend to be higher and the valleys lower and they come at you fast and furious. It can be quite a roller coaster ride.

Sometimes it hits you 3 days before your closing, when you have already committed the money to new projects and the Venture Capitalist calls you to tell you that they are pulling out of the deal. Or it could be when your distribution partner decides to end your key distribution deal. These are the times that the entrepreneur has to dig deep and decide how committed they are to their mission.

Each of the 5 C’s (Conscious, Curious, Creative, Customer Focused, and Committed) are important. However, there are examples of entrepreneurs who have been successful who lacked one or two of the first four. Maybe they created a new technology and hired someone who was customer focused. Maybe they had a vision and was able to find someone creative to figure out how to make the business model work. But to reach their goal everyone has had to be committed to their cause. They have had to overcome obstacles to achieve their vision. These obstacles may have been small ones like having a key recruit back out of a job or they may have been big ones like having a major competitor enter your arena.

It’s ironic that this has been the hardest blog post to write in 3 years. Some work stuff came up, it’s summer which means I am taking time away from the lake and I haven’t seen any other “Update” posts in a while so I wonder if anyone is out there. These things cause you to ask yourself, why should I keep going? That’s what happens to the entrepreneur. They begin to question all of their basic assumptions. Are we really building something my customers want? Do my employees believe in our mission? Is my family really supportive? These doubts are normal and exactly when the committed entrepreneur breaks through.

However, there is a fine line between committed and stupid. We all hear romantic stories about Fred Smith and how he spent his family’s money without their permission to prop up FedEx in the early days. But we don’t hear about the guy who squandered his wife’s trust fund on bad investments and a Porsche dealership.  The woman who was supposed to be set for life is now 76 and working as a nurses aide.

No matter how committed you are you have to know when to throw in the towel. There are three constituencies to look at when evaluating this decision. First, are my customers (not just one group, but all of your different customer bases) supportive and willing to pay for what I am delivering? Are my investors fully informed and willing to keep supporting me? Do my employees continue to support the mission and what we are trying to accomplish? If all three of these are true then you aren’t crazy. If you lose one group for an extended period of time, maybe it’s time to throw in the towel.



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ECommerce Success Story

Andrew Warner of Mi just interview the most amazing e-commerce entrepreneur that you have never heard of…

Anthony Bucci is one of the founders of RevZilla and Andrew gets him to tell the story of how he and his cofounders built the most successful e-commerce company that you have never heard of.  RevZilla is a $50 million company that was built over the last 4 years with no outside money.

There are too many lessons to take away from this interview to list them all here so I will just mention one.  Anthony talked about all the ways that they listened to their customers to learn why they came to the site, what got them to buy and in some cases why they didn’t buy.

A great interview for anyone hoping to start an e-commerce company.


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Change from the Inside?

Ron Johnson

Yesterday it was announced that Ron Johnson was dismissed as the CEO of JC Penney.  He came into the company 17 months ago with great fanfare.  Johnson was the genius behind the Apple Store and was going to change department store retailing as we know it.  Opps.

Johnson’s main principle was that he was going to do away with heavy promotion and focus on everyday value.  The lesson here should not be that the strategy was flawed.  It should be that fundamental change like this is virtually impossible in a relatively healthy company.  There is no compelling reason to take the risk.  Employees don’t feel the change in their guts and customers aren’t behind the change.  If this change is to happen it will come from a new entry into the market place.  Only with a new entry will customers be taking control and making a positive choice to spend money there.

Creative Destructionism at it’s finest.


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Market Research

Great Quote from Rene Lacerte founder of on  “You can’t do market research to find out what customers want.  Customers don’t know what they want”

The interview captures the iterative process for a start up.  Rene speaks very clearly about creating a “Push Cart” in a very challenging industry (software) where you wouldn’t think it was possible.


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Communicating with Customers

Communicating with Customers

In this article Robin Chase, founder of ZipCar, talks about how she made a big mistake early on and then communicated it with her customers.

The lesson that should be taken here is that no decisions are permanent and that if you have to deliver bad news (like a price hike) the best way is directly with no spin.  Customers are smarter than we typically give them credit for.

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Customer Viewpoint

I am constantly surprised by the number of people and companies who make no effort to try and think about things from their customer’s point of view. They seem to have a myopic view. The view is “this is the way that I think about something and so it’s the way that you should too”.

This happens in the physical world (brick and mortar stores), face to face meetings, and emails but the place that I see it the most is on the web. It becomes apparent in some very visible places and also in some very subtle ways.

Quite frequently I will have a conversation with a sales person and ask “What is it that they (the customer) is trying to accomplish?” and the salesperson will have no clue. Or you are trying to have a conversation with someone about how a website is designed and they will have looked at it but that’s all. They haven’t purchased anything and so don’t understand the full experience.

The subtle nature of this came to me very early this morning. You see, over the last 2 months I have made 3 different reservations on that were non cancelable. I didn’t intend to do this because my travel plans change more often than not. After this last one I was racking my brain to figure out what I did. This morning it hit me… I think in Days (Monday, Tuesday…) not Dates (17th, 18th…). I say I need to be in Seattle next Tuesday. Boom easy. I use the pop up calendar, select the day and away I go. But then when you select the rate and get your confirmation it gives you the date. I know it’s next Tuesday that I want to be in Seattle but I have no idea what the date is, (heck, as I type this I don’t even know today’s date – 23rd? 24th? 25th? am I close?) so when it comes back with a date that is 24 or 48 hours earlier I don’t recognize that. Is it my fault? Absolutely. But when I get frustrated at paying the cancellation fees, who do you think I take it out on? That’s right, Marriott. So, it’s in their best interest to see things from my point of view.

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"Honey, I’m Home"

One big advantage that the Web has over Brick and Mortar retail is that typically when someone is in their web store, a retailer knows who it is, what they have purchased before, what they have looked at, and lots of other data about that customer. This allows the web guys to acknowledge their best customers, help them if necessary, and provide offers and recommendations. They can even customize the store, based on their customers’ preferences.

A challenge for retailers in 2012 is: How can we get customers to identify themselves when they come into our stores so we can do some of those same things?

Over a five day period, RetailWire, the retail news service has had stories about two retailers doing just that.

Two very different retailers and two very different programs.

How are you getting your customers to let you know they are home?

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