One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in running an online services business is the need to have a customer centric approach to everything you do. You need to think about everything you do in your business as somehow being of benefit to your target audience. If something doesn’t pass that simple test, then you really need to think about why you’re doing it.
It never ceases to amaze me how often people take a “me first” approach to what they are doing and then try to figure out afterward how they can make it appear to be customer centric in nature.
Back in 2008 when I was running a growing SaaS company we had a supplier from Germany who we licensed some software from and they were probably the least customer centric company that I’d ever come across. We were their single biggest customer by a country mile generating about 65% of their revenue. Unfortunately the product was struggling to keep up with the demands of our clients from a performance perspective, the owners were prioritising feature requests that were specific to their small customer subset and the product was riddled with bugs.
What was worse was every time you’d talk to their owners about these issues they would complain about the financial arrangements of our contract. This was despite the fact that we renegotiated more favourable terms with them when we didn’t have to on a couple different occasions to try and get them to focus on our needs. Whenever things were not working the way they should we heard about their problems.
Eventually the relationship became so toxic that we decided to simply write our own software from the ground up and terminate our license agreement. We knew that we could do a better job of giving our customers a solution that better fit their requirements and we built onboarding and support right into the entire product stack.
It took us about fifteen months to deliver the software and over the next twelve months with the foundation of the new product we grew the business five fold. Our customer satisfaction scores went through the roof and our feature utilization rates were hundreds of percentage points higher across the board.
It all started by thinking about how we could do a better job for our customers.
All Good Businesses Are Customer Centric
Now that’s a very specific example and it may not resonate with you, so I’m going to share a little bit about how the entire Casual Marketer project was conceptualized with a customer-centricity focus.
When I started kicking around the idea of creating a physical newsletter, my thought process began with sharing my thoughts and knowledge in a way that I knew people would consume. Over the years I’d come to the realization that people often came across information online that could potentially help them, but they clicked away from the site or failed to read the email containing the information. I knew that if my best information was worth sharing and could help people, then I needed to make sure that it was delivered in a format that outcome.
Creating and producing a printed newsletter fit the bill perfectly.
What was really interesting is that this decision disqualified some potential customers. They wanted the newsletter digitally and were even willing to pay the same price for it. The truth is, these people weren’t the ideal target audience that I’d put in the centre of my thinking. To accommodate their requests, I would have had to alter my vision for the best possible service that I could deliver to my customers was and I just wasn’t prepared to do that.
Being Customer Centric Is Good Marketing
The other thing about having a customer centric approach to your online business is that it’s really great marketing. When you focus on delivering the best possible experience to your customer, they tell other people about it and they become fans of what you’re doing. I’ve noticed this already with Casual Marketer – my churn rate on customers is very low, small single digit percentage type figures. That’s really good for any kind of online subscription program.
Strategically, one of the best things that you can do is develop a customer centric mindset when thinking about how best to build out your own online business. The tools that exist online to make this easier and more tightly integrated are incredible, but the simple fact is that it all starts with you being focused on delivering the highest quality service to your customer.
As I mentioned, with Casual Marketer, I planned this into my strategy from the very beginning. In the April issue of the Casual Marketer Monthly Newsletter I take subscribers through how I build out the strategies I use to run my own businesses. If you want to learn how to develop a solid business strategy for what you’re working on then I suggest you click the link below and sign up to the newsletter now.