The total revenue your business earns can be summed up by the following equation:
Total Revenue = Revenue per user * Number of users.
This revenue generated is a direct result of the value you provide to your user base. You can observe this value by substituting it for revenue in the same equation:
Total Value Provided = Value to 1 user * Number of users.
Looking at it this way provides an easy solution to increase your business revenue:
Find more users.
Increase the value you provide to each user.
What does it to take to find more users? For each additional user, you need to:
Introduce the person to your product or service.
Get him to trust you.
Convince him to make his first purchase.
That sounds like a lot of work (and it is). Once you have done all that though, increasing the value you provide to an existing user becomes much easier, since he already knows your company, trusts you and has made his first purchase that he is hopefully happy with (if not, you have a different problem to solve).
Have you done everything you can to maximize the value you are providing to your existing user base? If not, then would it be easier, cheaper and more efficient for you to maximize that resource first, before looking for new ones?
“Social media is not a marketer’s platform. It belongs to consumers.”
Marketers used to control their message. They created their own ads, and shaped them how they wanted to be seen. However, since the rise of social media, consumers now control the message. Viral messages can be positive or negative about a brand, and no single person can control it. Users are no longer passive and can now publicly engage with brands, creating new stories in the process.
The brands who are successful now are those who adapt their strategies and embrace social media platforms, rather than ignoring or worse – fighting them.
During the different stages of your product launch, you may end up ticking off a lot of users in the process. Initially there may be complaints about missing features or features not working as advertised. Later, you may experience growing pains with site crashes or not being able to service your users promptly. How do you deal with users who complain, and turn them into your most loyal users?
Put things into context. Each user who complains, represents several others who were equally ticked off, but chose not to take the time to tell you. By resolving the issue and improving your service, you are appeasing several other users you haven’t heard from.
Respond quickly. Most companies and businesses out there take very long to respond to user complaints. I’ve left customer service messages using forms at the sites of several major corporations and have been ignored many times. At the moment, I’m dealing with a refund issue with another corporation that has taken months to process. Responding quickly will immediately make you stand out from the crowd.
Listen and acknowledge the issue. This is especially important with phone or face to face conversations. Let the user do most of the talking. In most cases they are just happy to have someone hear them out, especially for situations that they realize are out of your control. They will be much more accommodating if this step is done well.
Resolve the issue. If the user deserves compensation, and a solution isn’t obvious, be up front and ask them what would make them happy. In most cases, you will be surprised and how little it would take to appease them. In the odd case that a solution will cost more than you are willing to pay, appraise the potential benefit of the user returning for return business, and recommending your business to others, versus the cost of the user not returning and worse – spreading a negative review of your business to others.
Follow up. Depending on the nature of the issue, follow up after a few days to make sure that the customer is indeed happy with the new resolution, and no further issues have come up. This is the type of service that makes you stand out from the competition, and can even earn you praise for your effective resolution.
Continue engagement. Even after the situation has been resolved, continue engaging with the user on other aspects of your business. Find out what parts they like, and what parts they think can be improved. I’ve found many situations where customers who complained ended up becoming some of my most loyal supporters after that. They have seen first hand that you care about their business, and are willing to return the favor by helping you succeed after that.
“Man did they screw up. But boy did they make up for it.”
As long as your company is growing, there will be users contacting you with various issues. Consider this a good thing. In fact, if you are not hearing from your users through comments or emails, then perhaps this is a sign that your business has started to peak or is stagnating.
The toughest part, when starting a business, is right at the beginning. For most people, just getting started itself is a big step. You may be spending a lot of time trying to get your business plan just right, getting all your ducks in a row, or waiting for the stars to align perfectly before you begin. My advice – unless you have a brand reputation you’re trying to protect – go with the simplest strategy to begin with so you can get started quickly. That in itself is a huge challenge to overcome, and if you can get that far, you’re already ahead of most people.
The next stage though might be a long one. You now need to build yourself a customer base, reputation and a following. This requires a lot of discipline on your part to stay the course. A clear vision of where you want to be is the key here, as that is what will get you through the days where you don’t feel like working or start to wonder if this is all worth it. Even if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, ensure that what small steps you do take, are leading you in the right direction.
The customers you have at this stage are the early adopters. They are the ones that set the stage for the masses who will hopefully arrive after them. Engage with them – how did they hear about your product? What do they like about it? What could you improve about it? Encourage them to leave product reviews and testimonials. Join forums that users of your product spend time on. Listen in and contribute where you can (without spamming). Early adopters love to be included in the development process, so do that and cultivate them into becoming evangelists for you.
This stage may be the hardest, since it requires a lot of effort on your part for very little immediate reward. Use this time and opportunity to continue tweaking and improving your product. Appreciate that you’re able to do so now with a small user base that is engaged in the process and therefore more patient and less demanding with you. The later masses you’re hoping for won’t be so kind.
If you’ve put in your dues and used your time wisely, then your efforts will pay off handsomely. You are now ready to market your product to the masses. But you should do so only if you’re confident that the masses will rate your product well. If not, then try to prolong the previous step until you have more confidence in your product. The last thing you need is a viral campaign of users upset with your product, or scores of negative reviews.
Even if your users are happy with your product, you have a different set of problems to manage now. Can your website handle a large user base without problems? Do you have the resources to field more support requests? Key changes that you could easily make before now affect more users, so be prepared for complaints or increases in support issues with each new update. Pay attention to comments you make on your blog or on Twitter as you are now in the spotlight. You worked hard to get this far, don’t blow it with a reckless comment that could go viral. If there are any issues whatsoever, then see what you can do to limit your growth until things have stabilized.
Being aware of these stages and what is required of you to move from one to another will go a long way towards building your business successfully. It is even more imperative to do so in our age of social media tools that put your business in the spotlight (whether you like it or not) – enhancing what you’ve done right, while also magnifying your mistakes.
I was in a Mexican restaurant recently and noticed that much of what they served – burritos, soft tacos, hard tacos – had the same filling, but was presented with different wrappers. That made sense – different people have different preferences and tastes for how they consume their food.
You can use this same concept in your online business. If you’re selling content, the same content can be distributed to your user base via different media – podcasts, YouTube videos, ebooks, physical books, mobile apps. This provides you with two benefits:
You increase the variety of products in your “menu” – giving your user more options on how to receive your content.
Unlike items on a restaurant menu, having additional products in the online world also lets you tap into additional distribution channels. So now in addition to your site, users can also find you on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon, mobile app stores and other sites that host different media product0s.
I’ve used this strategy for CLO, letting users access my content via podcasts, blog posts, downloadable PDFs and mobile apps. Are you taking advantage of all the distribution channels that are available to you?
(If the answer is no, determine that first, before reading the rest of this post). Are you closer to that vision today, than you were yesterday? Are you closer this week than you were last week?
While we may not know the exact path we need to take to get where we want to be, keep an eye on what you accomplish on a daily basis and make sure it is taking you closer to your vision. Even small steps accomplished each day, like making contact with that key someone, or making slight progress in a progress are all steps in the right direction.
I have tackled some seemingly huge projects in the past, that looked quite daunting when I first began. However through little progress day in and day out, milestones slowly got hit and projects eventually got completed.
Stay focused and break huge tasks down into small, bite-sized, manageable bits. Getting through a lot of bits will eventually add up to a lot.
This way the next time someone comments how fast time flies, you’ll have progress to show for it.