There’s a new word floating around the web, humblebrag (humble • brag). It’s when one brags about oneself through a story of humility. This piece might come off as a bit of a humblebrag, but bear with me to the end.
When we started Speak Social, our team was one of the best (and worst) things you could be when starting a new business. We were idealists. I know most entrepreneurs are idealists initially. Idealism tends to live in our DNA somewhere. It’s what keeps us going on those 14-hour days when everything seems to be falling apart. I’ve come to believe that most successful entrepreneurs are able to shed that idealism for practicality, like a snake shedding its skin. We never could.
There is a company, whose name I won’t mention, but it rhymes with Peach Focal. This company (and others like it) is incredibly successful for questionable reasons, and have taught me some important rules for achieving success.
Rule #1: It’s not about service, it’s about scalability.
Creating a perfect solution for one client means creating a solution that you can sell easily (with little customization) to a mass market.
Rule #2: It’s not about client satisfaction, it’s about client retention.
Creating satisfied clients is hard, especially on a consistent basis. It is easier to retain clients through well-written contracts, and proprietary processes, leaving clients with something they don’t own, and can’t get out of, without damaging their business reputation.
Rule #3: Don’t over deliver; just make it over the Low Bar.
Most clients are clueless to online marketing. To them, this all seems like a bunch of hoo-doo-voo-doo that makes good search results magically appear on their screen. When you over deliver, you set expectations too high. It’s better to feed them dog food and convince them it’s steak … it’s also much easier to deliver dog food.
Rule #4: Be a sales engine first and focus minimally on fulfillment.
The companies that focus on improving sales first, and not their products / services will always win the big money game.
Rule #5: When in doubt, dazzle the client with data.
Reports without context are not meaningless; they are proof of activity, even if that activity is useless.
See how this works?
Now, lest you think this is just an attack piece, let me put this into perspective. Companies that follow these rules do well. Not just financially, but they employ lots of people, have no trouble getting funding, and have a base of clients that think they are being adequately serviced. Based on the face-value, the idiot doesn’t seem to be them at all.
We choose to break every one of these rules, and we struggle mightily for it. It’s important to ask oneself, is this a pride issue? Our company is a habitual over-achiever. We go to great lengths to manipulate, explain and track client results. We focus on sales second and quality of work first. Our growth has been steady, our client success rate is often off the charts, but we’re killing ourselves in a model of actual “Client Satisfaction,” which might be about the most impractical thing one could do.
So here’s a question for you, and don’t just answer from the gut. Remember you are responsible for payroll, the growth of your company, and your overall dreams of financial success. What are we sacrificing in order to do the work we want to do? Are we trading even bigger success?
We are not perfect, we lose clients too. Ironically, we often lose them after exposing core foundational problems that companies like Peach Focal caused … I should have added “not telling the buyers how the sausage is made” to the rules above. I think our primary problem is we are just incapable of doing bad work … ahhhemmemm … #humblebrag.
What’s funny is that we do ridiculous amounts of hard work that is not scalable, or replicable. We approach each client’s campaign differently from the last, and choose to explore the world for possibilities. It makes us an investment nightmare on paper. If we weren’t self-funded it would be very difficult to get funding. Investors want to make investments in formulas, not experiments.