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领导力

这些危险错误,许多领导者都有可能犯

Fayez Moamood 2019年02月28日

不要把批评和失望混为一谈。


Bluecore的联合创始人及首席执行官法耶兹·默罕默德。图片来源:Courtesy of Bluecore

企业家内部网络是一个在线社区,美国创业公司中最有思想、最具影响力的商界人士将在此回答关于企业家与职业生涯的问题。今天我们的问题是:“在开公司之前,你希望自己了解哪些事情?”回答者是Bluecore公司的联合创始人及首席执行官法耶兹·默罕默德。

一些企业家认为,应对难缠的客户耗时太多。他们会错误地应用80-20法则,试图抛下给他们带来80%麻烦的20%顾客。这是个巨大的误区。我希望当时在建立Bluecore之前,自己能够知道:那些最具怀疑精神、要求最苛刻的客户将成为我们最佳的拥护者。

那些喜欢听好话的企业家可能难以理解这种对难缠客户的赞美。在创业之初,寻找认同的感觉很棒,对吧?你吸引了一些潜在客户,他们说:“啊,这个点子真不错!”你想要忘掉那些唱反调的人,因为你必须走上正轨。不过糟糕的是,那些光说好话的顾客不会在六个月以后购买你的产品。他们只是表现得很友善,就像卡罗尔婶婶说的:“宝贝,我喜欢你这个创业公司的想法!不过还想来些蛋酒吗?”

在2013年建立Bluecore平台之前,我有幸与一位被称作“杰克”的数字营销商见过一面。他为一家户外零售商工作,见我是因为他对触发式邮件技术很有想法。我介绍了一下我们的计划。杰克大致的意思是,想法很棒,但我们还得另外开发两个核心功能,他才会购买我们的产品。

四个月后,我带着我们的完成品再去找杰克,它仍然不够好。杰克提出了更多要求。与此同时,我们与第一批10名客户签约了。我想:“他们都喜欢这个产品,我还需要去迎合杰克的需求吗?”

我十分看重杰克的想法,以至于无法忽略它。他的要求很高,想法也很独特。我们持续为杰克的想法完善产品,最终让他成为了我们的客户。他迫使我们做出了一款比原来好得多的产品。

这段经历让我意识到初创公司就像中学生:他们需要至少一名严厉的老师来督促他们成长。这名老师不会说那些空洞的鼓励,而是提出批评,打出很低的分数。学生们觉得老师一定是讨厌他们,而实际上老师只是希望他们提高。许多学生认为老师不公平,但也有少数人会利用这些批评来提升自我。后面这些人无论做什么,都会成为佼佼者。

拒绝最苛求的客户是很危险的事情。十个月前,我几乎就放走了这样一家客户,因为实现要求的成本太高。这家客户是股份经济公司,他们不断提出要求,希望我们尽管做出产品细分。我们有点受不了了,不过随后就意识到他们的要求是完全正确的。我们做了产品细分,这家公司则用我们的平台替换了他们的整个营销产品。现在想想还觉得有些可怕,我们差点放弃了一家客户,而这家客户的反馈让我们开发出了一款贡献2016年一半营收的产品。

你也许认为那些多疑又难缠的客户会抓住一切机会抨击你。不是的。当我们今年进行B轮融资时,一名投资者要求与我们最难缠的客户——一家《财富》美国500强的服装市场营销公司对话。我本以为我们一定会失去这位投资者,不过我还是引荐了他们。这家营销公司给了我们收到过的最强有力的推荐。没错,她也提到了我们的缺点,不过这才让她的推荐如此可信和有效。那位投资者加入了我们的B轮融资。

关键点在于:不要把批评和失望混为一谈。客户苛求是因为他们想让你提供一流的产品,他们怀疑是因为他们在意你的产品及其性能。你反倒应该提防那些只说好话的客户。

尽管我们在过去两年中取得了成功,但我还是希望自己在建立Bluecore之前就知道这些。我走向市场的战略本应该是寻找那些最难缠、最具怀疑精神的客户。我本应该更早、更频繁地参考他们的意见,获得他们的产品开发建议。我本应该花更多时间与杰克这样能改变我们想法的人交流。

毕竟,生意就是吸引并留住客户。你最难缠的客户会帮助你达成这两点。(财富中文网)

译者:严匡正

The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What’s something you wish you knew before starting your business?” is written by Fayez Mohamood, cofounder and CEO of Bluecore.

Some entrepreneurs believe that life is too short to deal with difficult customers. Misapplying the 80-20 rule, they try to dump the 20% of customers who cause 80% of their problems. This is a huge mistake. Before launching Bluecore, I wish I had known that my most skeptical, demanding customers would become our best advocates.

This ode to difficult customers may seem counterintuitive to entrepreneurs with “happy ears” syndrome. Early on, it feels good to find validation, right? You pitch some prospective customers and they say, “Wow, that’s a great idea!” Forget the naysayers—you must be on the right track. Too bad those prospects will not buy your product six months later. They’re being nice, just like Aunt Carol who said, “I love your startup idea, honey! Want some more eggnog?”

Before building the Bluecore platform in 2013, I had the good fortune to land a meeting with a digital marketer we’ll call “Jake.” He worked for an outdoor retailer and took the meeting because he had strong opinions about triggered email technology. I described what we planned to do. Jake essentially said it was nice, but that we needed two other pieces of core functionality before he’d become our customer.

Four months later, I returned to Jake with our complete product, and it still wasn’t good enough. He asked for more. In the meantime, we signed our first 10 customers. “Well they like the product,” I thought to myself. “Should I keep building for Jake?”

I valued Jake’s opinion too much to ignore it, because while his demands were tough, his ideas were exceptional. We kept building for him, and eventually Jake did become a customer. He forced us to build a much better product than we would have built otherwise.

The experience made me realize that startups are like high school students: They need at least one hard-ass teacher to grow. Instead of spewing half-hearted encouragement, this teacher dishes out critique and lower grades. The students think the teacher must hate them, when in fact he wants them to excel. Many students accuse the teacher of being unfair, but a few use the critique to up their game. Those few become the top performers in whatever they do.

It is dangerous to dismiss your most demanding customers. Ten months ago, I almost let go of our most difficult account at the time because it was consuming an inordinate amount of resources. A player in the sharing economy, this customer wanted us to build a segmentation product ASAP—and brought it up constantly. We reached our boiling point, but then recognized that their demand was spot on. We built the segmentation product, and this company replaced its entire marketing stack with our platform. It’s scary to think that we almost fired a customer whose feedback led to a product that will account for half of our revenue in 2016.

You might think your skeptical, difficult customers will bash you if they have the chance. Not so. While we were raising our Series B this year, an investor asked to speak with one of our toughest customers, a Fortune 500 clothing marketer. I was certain we’d lose this investor, but I had to make the intro anyway. This marketer gave Bluecore the strongest recommendation we had ever received. Yes, she also talked about our shortcomings, but that’s what made her endorsement so credible and effective. The investor joined our B round.

Here’s the key point: Don’t confuse critique with disappointment. Customers are demanding because they want you to deliver at the top of your game, and they’re skeptical because they care about your product and its capabilities. Be wary of the customers who have only nice things to say.

Despite our success over the past two years, I wish I had known all of this before launching Bluecore. My go-to market strategy would have been to seek out the most difficult, skeptical customers I could possibly find. I would have turned to them for references and product development feedback early and often. I would have spent more time with people like Jake who could rip our ideas to shreds.

Ultimately, business is about attracting and keeping customers. Your toughest critics will help you accomplish both.

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