Customer check-in

One thing I find very fascinating is that for a lot of startups there seems to be an almost inverse relationship between the energy put into acquiring and onboarding customers versus the energy put into keeping them as happy customers for the long term.

Of course most startups do customer satisfaction surveys, NPS scores etc, but how often do you actually reach out to some of your customers to engage in a real conversation about how it’s going, how they use your product and what challenges they are experiencing?

Thought so.

The challenge tends to become more complex the more you’re driven by SaaS-metrics like MRR and ARR. Yes, it is vital that you understand these, but what difference will it make, if in essence you have very little understanding of what is going on behind the scenes, in the heads and minds of your customers?

One of many reasons that Amazon has become so extremely successful over the years is that they have always been extremely customer obsessed. They have always been looking towards understanding the customer, the journey and experience better and better in order to develop their many offerings.

And they have been remarkably successful to say the least.

You will most probably not be the next Amazon, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t steal a page our of their playbook and become totally customer obsessed.

Lesson one in that course is to start treating an existing customer and the relationship you have and want to expand with that one over time with the same amount of energy, you put into acquiring new customers.

(Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash)

Differentiation through humanity

In a world where more and more can be automated, run and optimized by algorithms, how do you develop true differention?

My bet?

Humans. And the human intellect.

As more and more gets automated and in essence standardized, human flavour, feel or whatever we choose to call it, will in essence be one of the most important if not the only true differentiator.

Your unique feel will be what separates you from everybody else you’re competing against.

That’s a good thing, I think. Not only will it allow us to focus more on how we deliver that value that is above and beyond what everybody else and their automated solutions can do. It will also provide us with a sense of purpose, fulfillment and joy, which I think is essential for us as a species to thrive.

So let this be a note to those who fear that machines are taking over:

Humans, being human and humanity as such will only gain in importance going forward.

(Photo by Erik Dungan on Unsplash)

Are you interesting?

There is a lot of talk about the effectiveness of content marketing for startups. And while I don’t doubt that it has some effect for some, I am firmly in the camp where I would advice anyone to up their game significantly, if they want to do content.

Because there is som much ‘blah’ put there that’s just not interesting at all.

Compare it to a party, where you meet someone you have never met before. You talk casually.

What’s the most interesting conversation?

The one where the guy across from you just babble on in banal terms without even making the slightest effort to understand whether you’re interested or even paying attention.

Or the one who actually engages in a conversation, brings new perspectives to something you care about or at the very least can relate to and leave you wiser and eager to know more?

Of course you would choose the latter one.

And that’s my point:

Content marketing is the first one. Thinly disguised as being ‘customer centric’ it is essentially about the sender and demonstrates a lack of understanding and/or real interest in who you are and what challenges you are facing. Basically, it doesn’t care.

The latter one is content where you from an angle of curiosity explore the field, you’re working in making sure that you bring fresh perspectives to your field and basically is worth the time and investment for others to follow and engage with.

That kind of content doesn’t need to be hard to produce. It just takes someone who knows what he or she is talking about and with a willingness to write about it from time to time and a openness towards getting it out there and potentially get some interesting feedback.

It’s an approach that doesn’t fit very well with outsourcing to an agency, because it takes knowledge, real insights and – crucially – the authenticity and presence that you can only bring to the table, when the one putting the content out there is deeply immersed into the field herself – day in, day out.

That’s what will make it interesting and worth following. And that is what could be a great and efficient building block for building and nurturing relationships.

If you can go that route, you have a number of potential advantages looking at you compared to your competitors, who stick with the old, ineffective content marketing playbook:

You can essentially become a real thought leader. You can get valuable feedback from customers and other constituents that can have an impact on your business. And ultimately you can drive new leads to the business that will both be worth significantly more over time from a commercial point of view but will also be way cheaper to connect with than other means of advertising.

Because all it takes is essentially your insights, willingness to share and openness towards connecting.

(Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

Cash value of communication

Often times I meet people who question the value of a focused, operational communications strategy. The argument is that there are plenty of other more important jobs to get done before looking coherently at communications.

Allow me as a former communications professional to take a step back and look at the kind of value, great communication can unlock for a startup. I will do so over a couple of posts here, and today I will be looking at one of the really easy ones to measure:

Sales.

Normally, when we think of sales, we think it of it as an effort to get our offer in front of the right people in order for them to make a decision on whether they want to buy our solution or not. The more we work diligently with sales, the better we will be at getting it in front of the right people, the more hot leads will be created, the better conversation rates will be and – ultimately – the more we will sell.

Ok.

So what role does communications play in that? Let’s look at it from a structured operational perspective:

Let’s assume you have your OKRs in place. You know what your objectives for the upcoming quarter(s) are, and you have identified the measurable key results that will support you in understanding what kind of progress you’re making towards reaching those goals.

If we look at sales, the objective could be to launch a new product successfully, and a key result could easily be to get 200 new hot leads and book 50 first sales meetings.

Ok. Where does communication come into play here?

Easy.

When you look at the job of getting 200 new leads, you need to figure out where to find them but – more importantly – WHAT to tell them in order to get them interested, so they become a hot new lead, you can work with.

In order to know what to tell them, you need to have a clearly crafted value proposition and a wording of it that resonates with the intended target audience, so you can optimize your conversion.

That’s all about communication and getting the actual words right.

Furthermore, in order to be on the radar of your future customers, when you try to convert them into hot leads, you need to have created awareness and a presence about your startup, your brand and, most importantly, your product(s). And you need to have done so in a way that is available and convincing in a way that sits well with your future customers.

That’s all about communication, too.

Finally, when you have the sales meetings, you need to ensure that the people you meet get hooked enough to buy. They need to be convinced by those final killer arguments for why your product is the solution to their problem, and doing so in a scalable way requires not only a solid structure but also – again – the most effective words.

Surprise, that’s communication too.

All in all a focus on great end effective communications is a powerful an extremely valuable driver for driving sales. It’s not just a marketing job – and yes, marketing is communications too. And communications is not only about PR and looking good on SoMe.

So do yourself a favor and prioritize your communications efforts in your startup. Doing it right can – almost – be translated to money in the bank.

(Photo by Tadeu Jnr on Unsplash)

Bond. Jeff Bezos Bond

Amazon is reportedly looking to acquire MGM Studios for close to 9B USD.

That’s a lot of money to fork up just to get in with a shout at becoming the next James Bond. You have got to hand it to Jeff Bezos:

When he does something, he does it in style.

Neither shaken nor stirred.

Just solid.

Let’s get serious for a moment, ok?

Not only will Amazon get its hands on the James Bond-franchise. Despite my obvious affection for 007 that’s a minor detail. What’s important is that they will get access to a content powerhouse that will be an interesting competitor in the streaming wars being waged between Amazon Prime, Disney+ and that ‘old incombent’, Netflix among others.

The really interesting bit is just how important a part of the overall Amazon offering, streaming is becoming. To me at least it seems like it’s a key ingredient in keeping the Amazon Prime rundle interesting and value for money for consumers. It’s the icing on the cake. After you have eaten the cake, that is.

Taken into a larger context it seems rather bizarre by now that we have been discussing the value of content over the years as something that approached zero, when it’s becoming fairly obvious that great content is a key differentiator that makes the bundle turned rundle ever more evergreen and attractive to consumers.

People have never spent more money on content than they do today. They are just spending it with a set of very different providers and value propositions than they were a couple of decades ago.

Where does this leave the media players that used to skim all the profits?

Almost like a failed Bond villain.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

What’s a corporate CEO really worth?

Maybe this should have been posted on May 1. But nevertheless: At some point in the not too distant future, my personal feeling is that I think we need to have a discussion about CEO compensation in corporates and what good governance in relation to that really is.

Not because people shouldn’t be paid what they are worth, but because there is a discussion to be had about whether they are worth what they are paid. Fair and square.

But wait! Isn’t compensation for the CEO a matter for the board? Yes, it is. But judging from just a few examples maybe its time to just acknowledge that the boards might need some help in staying the best course.

Let me give you three examples:

One CEO proudly steps up and says that he has been spending quite a lot of time getting involved and trying to understand the digitalization efforts of the company, as it is important to the future of the company.

Ok?! You would think it was part of the job and not something extraordinary to be selectively proud about.

Another CEO claims that running a company as a CEO is like being in the old veteran cars in the Tivoli gardens; the tracks have already been laid out in front of you, and while you might think that you’re in the drivers seat, the car really runs itself, i.e. it is all handled by the organization.

Ok, so the reason you’re compensated 50x compared to regular employees is…?

Finally, a former CEO does an opinion piece about the need to reduce the gap of inequality between older and younger generations. Not only does he present old arguments as new (and perhaps even his own). He also fails to offer one single example of what he and others like him are willing to personally sacrifice in order to reduce the gap and prevent future potential social unrest.

A bit ‘meh’, right?

As mentioned I am all for paying people what they are worth. But I am also keen on discussion if people at the very top are worth what they are paid. Especially as compensation packages skyrocket year after year while ordinary wage increases for regular employees can just about keep up with inflation.

Add to that that there is also a matter of simply securing credit where credit is due; if the CEO thinks (1) he has to make an effort to understand what’s going on in the company, he’s running, while (2) acknowledging that essentially the company runs itself anyway and (3) thus procrastinating writing opinion pieces with banal truths that are already out there, then maybe – just maybe – we should start realigning where we give credit.

And award compensation accordingly.

Furthermore, we need to be more willing to dissect CEO compensation packages and be able to understand and explain them. The less CEOs and boards are willing to explain them and the rationale behind, the more suspect it will risk end up looking to ordinary people.

NB: Just for good measure: I am neither a communist, marxist or socialist. I just believe in fairness basic on data and logic. I fully support CEOs who really are worth every cent of their compensation

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Doing your homework

What does it mean for a business, a startup or you to ‘do your homework’?

Does it mean being out there, staying curious about the problem you’re looking to solve trying to figure out what potential avenues towards solving it might be.

Does it mean diving into existing research to be able to say and tell others that you know what is already out there, and that is what you’re building from?

I am not really sure, although I do think the latter resembles more of an exam, where – let’s face it – the only objective is to pass in more or less flying colors and then move on.

The problem with homework is much the same as with communication: The effectiveness and value of it often rests not with the creator but the receiver.

Thus, is the receiver has a misconception of what doing your homework really is, you run the risk of putting in the wrong sort of work for the job while still being able to claim that you have essentially done nothing wrong.

See the problem? Or paradox, even.

The sense of having done your homework needs to rest deeply within you. You need to have a feel for what you need to know, what you need to challenge and the questions you need to ask to get the answers you need.

When you have that, you can think of yourself as having done the homework. But not before.

Homework is an extension of determination. If you’re determined to get something done, succeed with a pitch or with a business or anything else you put your mind towards, you will make damn sure you do your homework. And it will be yours to define and own. Also the results.

Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Your idea is not about you

One of the hardest things to do when you’re trying out an idea for a new venture is to separate your own feelings from the data.

After all, you probably came up with the idea because you thought it was great – perhaps even the greatest since sliced bread. And now you’re bringing it doubt and jeopardy by subjecting it to some sort of validation in the actual real world.

Frightening.

But fear not. Because chances are that not everything is wasted.

Your idea might still be great. But the present application of it is not the optimal one. Wouldn’t it then be rather nice to get that insight through data, so you can change the application and move towards the iteration that gives both you and your future customers most ‘bang for the buck’?

Of course it would.

But still; the idea of finding out that your initial idea wasn’t the optimal solution for your customers can hurt and sting. Just make sure you realize that that’s ok; it is all part of the plan.

After all it is about the application of the idea – not you as a person.

If you think it’s too much to deal with, and – more importantly – you’re in danger of closing your eyes to the data and just venture on with what you originally had in mind, consider getting some sort of outside help or perspective. Someone with a clean slate and a fresh pair of eyes, who can help put it to you more gently – but nonetheless put it to you.

It might prove to be one of the best investments, you can make.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)