Keep Users Happy, and Customers Follow


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Half of all consumer purchases are either transacted online or driven by online research and word of mouth. To succeed in the digital marketplace, it’s no longer customers that matter most, but users—anyone who interacts with your company digitally. Keep users happy, and customers follow.

I asked Aaron Shapiro CEO of digital agency HUGE and author of Users, Not Customers: Who Really Determines the Success of Your Busines this question:

What have you found to be the biggest obstacle for a company to make this move?

Related Podcast and Transcription: Users Will Determine your Success

Aaron Shapiro:

I think the biggest obstacle is the digital savvy of leadership in the company. And just to extend on that a little bit, earlier in my career I was a technology entrepreneur. So it was the early days of the internet, and this was kind of the late 90’s and the first dot-com boom and I was right out of school and it was the most exciting thing in the world and so I went off and started my dot-com startup. And I was fortunate enough for it to go on and for it to be pretty successful. But I actually had a lot of trouble in the early days. And the reason was because I was a business guy and I didn’t really know how to program and how to do the technology and really understand the nuances of what it takes to make digital successful.

Venture capitalists and investors wouldn’t fund me because they said, “Hey, we’re not going to fund someone who doesn’t know how to do this stuff really well.” And quite frankly they were right, I didn’t deserve to be funded back then. Likewise I knew so little that I wasn’t even qualified to evaluate talent to hire, to know if they were even good. So after kicking around for a while I finally rolled up my sleeves and learned everything, everything from how to program to all the nuances of internet marketing and everything else. Once I went through that process then I was able to get the company funded and have it go on to grow and become successful. And those are big growing pains that I personally had to go through and the challenges that most companies that are looking to make the shift, the senior leadership either has to go through a similar gut-wrenching transition or have the confidence to hire the right guy or gal and give that person the power and authority to make all this stuff happen. And that’s a really big shift for companies because a lot of the leadership that’s now in place just aren’t setup to make those kinds of decisions, so it’s a pretty tough thing.

A lot of the challenges that these companies have is they’re now competing against digital pure plays like the Google’s and Amazons of the world who are all run by technology people who totally get the internet and are totally optimized to be successful in digital. Now, you got these people with no experience trying to compete, and it’s very one-sided battle. So it’s getting over that hump that’s probably the biggest impedance for companies to succeed in digital and become a true user-first mindset.

To the credit though of a lot of our clients and to other companies that aren’t our clients, there have been a lot of really bold moves by senior executives to hire very, very senior digital leadership in very senior parts of the company. For example, American Express denounced a few months ago that their whole head of consumer products is a gentleman who previously was the CEO of Skype. And that’s a pretty big deal if you think of a quintessential blue chip Fortune 50 Company like American Express, and now one of the top executives in the company is an internet guy. That would have been unheard of five years ago. This person has authority for many areas that do not deal with digital. So it’s going to take that kind of out-of-the-box thinking and decision making for these companies to succeed in our new economy.

Related Podcast and Transcription: Users Will Determine your Success

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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