Aligning with your Customers and your Values
Aligning what you do with your values.
One of the hardest things about starting up a business, when you startup, is that you can’t fully adhere to your values. If you take investor money, odds are you have to make some compromises on your vision and values to align with your investors. If you bootstrap your business, you’ll find that you have to make compromises just to get your business off the ground, in the name of revenue.
The compromises aren’t a good thing or a bad thing, innately. Compromise in this context is a means to an end. They’re the path to get your new company to the place you want to be.
But at some point, your little business will have the resources to not just align with values, but invest in them.
When Customer Value is in your Values, Align!
I had a bit of an epiphany about our own business the other day when I was listening to someone else describe their own business challenges. It was a successful business, but plateaued. As we were discussing why it might be “stuck”, we started to talk about who the customers are, and what makes their business different than “the big guys” in that space. We talked about how some of those customers are really different and don’t get served well by the big, mechanical players.
As we were talking, it became apparent to all of us that the problem likely wasn’t features and functions. It probably wasn’t pricing (though that could be experimented with).
The conclusion we drew was that the business needed to align with its customer segments, and figure out which ones are worth investing in. One segment was described as being particularly high maintenance and requiring hand-holding and care and feeding – making the segment a bad fit for the big players who don’t staff for that. My thought: then IF you choose to market to and identify with this customer segment, OWN IT. Sell to them on the idea that you are going to provide that hand-holding and white-glove treatment. And then do it. And don’t begrudge it, decide to love it.
As an added bonus, this business had been running successfully for years… So they had a lot of data about their customers and what was working and what wasn’t in their customer’s businesses and incentives. What could we do with that data? Mine it for what types of incentives actually increase revenue, for example. And then design those incentive campaigns into the business so that these customers without business savvy can still benefit from sophisticated incentives.
If they picked a different segment, they could figure out what matters to that segment instead (or as well), and OWN IT. That was the epiphany I walked away with.
The beauty of the approach isn’t just that it will probably work to either grow the business or make it even stickier for their customers. The beauty is also that this is fun. It’s creative. It’s exciting thinking about how you can move the needle for your customers.
So this is the epiphany I walked away with. Align your values and your value proposition to what can help your customers’ business. Is there something that your customers should be doing but aren’t? Why aren’t you doing it for them? Or offering to do it for them?
Applying what I Learned
It was immediately clear how to apply to our own business. I had a new way to articulate what I’d just been doing in my own business, that very day. We were at the whiteboard talking about how to invest our energies in BP Labs to improve all of our offerings to customers, and more importantly to create more value to our customers and our team. I think now we have our direction set on this front… I can’t wait for the new ideas to roll out for customers. After all, what do we have in common with our friends’ business?
- Customer segments that are under-served
- Lots of data about these customers – what works, what doesn’t, and how we can help
- Lots of expertise on BPM that we can bring to bear in novel ways
When you don’t have much in the way of resources, it is hard to be creative with this. You create value with your experience and hard work, or with a good price, or with a novel approach. But as your company grows, you’ll have the financial and human resources to invest in your customers’ dreams, not just your own. And that, my friends, is a truly wonderful place to be.
Stay tuned for announcements from our BP Labs group – we have offerings coming that reflect our commitment to our customers and to BPM.