Marketing Is A Process
It seems to me that one of the reasons that marketing is such a challenge for some small and medium-sized businesses is because contemporary marketing does not follow the familiar paradigm of “plan and execute.”
A more accurate paradigm for current marketing is “plan, execute, engage, learn, plan more, repeat.” Today’s businesses must plan and budget for ongoing marketing in a marketplace that is always changing and often unpredictable. The key ingredient in any ongoing marketing brew is to continually monitor customer needs and adapt offerings to those needs.
The Triberr Experience
I recently had a great firsthand experience with a business adapting to the needs of a single customer – me.
Dan Cristo and Dino Dogan are the dynamic duo co-founders of Triberr, an amplification platform for bloggers and content creators of any size. Triberr is a popular and well respected platform as a result of constant iteration that is partially driven by constant engagement with its customers. As a result, Dan, Dino and team have the relentless task of innovating for the present and future needs of bloggers – even when those bloggers don’t know what they want or need.
Where Dan and Dino excel is in being in constant “input” mode. Whether they are speaking at a conference or waiting for the elevator, they are always listening to users and non-users alike and distilling that input into practical improvements for Triberr.
I’ve had a number of experiences providing feedback to Triberr, but none was as inspiring as the night when I saw Triberr adapt to my personal needs right before my eyes.
A Bit Of Background
Triberr consists of three concepts: tribes, followers and members.
Tribes are virtual communities that are led by a Tribe owner.
Followers can view and share content in a Tribe, but their content is not published to that tribe and can therefore not be shared by others.
Members have all the benefits of followers, but also have the privilege of having their content made available to Tribemates for sharing.
The number of members that a Tribe can have at the free account level is relatively limited.
The problem I ran into is that I was invited to a Tribe that I wanted to participate in, but since the Tribe owner only had a free account and the cap was reached I could not join as a member.
A few weeks ago, I went to a baseball game with Dino and mentioned that this was a flaw with paid Triberr accounts. “Wouldn’t it be cool if as a paying member of Triberr, I could become member of a Tribe that had hit its cap even if the Tribe owner didn’t have a paid account?” I asked.
He loved the idea, but since he’s not the writer of the code, he suggested that I propose it to Dan Cristo.
I let the idea percolate in my head and a few weeks later, when we were at an informal gathering of amazing creatives (Carol Lynn Rivera, Eugene Farber, Michael Brooks, Lori Ruff, Jillian Jackson, Brendan Fitzgibbons, Dino Dogan, Hanna Erlandsson, Jure Klepic, Dan Cristo, Paul N. Shapiro), I popped the question to Dan.
“That’s a good idea,” he said with a smile. I could see the gears churning in his head.
The night progressed and Dan eventually left. Several hours later I saw Dino trying to get my attention across a long table. He was gesticulating wildly at his phone which was passed down to me. On the screen was a text message from Dan to Dino:
Is there a better textbook example of adapting to a customer’s need? While this is my personal experience, I know of other stories like this where the Triberr team has either reacted to their customers’ needs or acted proactively to meet an emerging need.
This exceptional behavior drives my running joke with Dino that Dan is my “man crush.”
Fortunately Triberr isn’t alone.
The Sorapro Experience
Sorapro, a New Jersey-based solar technology company and one of my clients, has also built a business around adapting to customers. Sorapro installs and manages solar equipment and also produces a cloud-delivered app that reports on solar data to customers in real time.
Sorapro has built its platform around “making solar social.” Each customer is provided with social tools and encouraged to share their generation data and cost savings across their social networks.
How did Sorapro get there? By listening to every “wouldn’t it be cool if…” comment from their customers regardless of whether they were at a tradeshow or across the dinner table.
Matt Alestra, Vice President of Operations at Sorapro, proudly says, “Our software will always be in beta because we will always be making it better for our customers.”
After a recent meeting with a customer, Matt added close to a dozen features to the platform roadmap. All were either responses to user requests or improvements for what the Sorapro team deemed to be future needs.
The process of tying development to customer feedback and interactions means that the Sorapro platform realizes small but meaningful iterative improvements every week.
The Holmdel Parents Association Experience
Successful iteration and evolution isn’t limited just to businesses, either.
The Parents Association of my local school district approached me several years ago to build their website because they realized that the old “stick a flyer in every kid’s backpack” methodology was becoming a progressively more expensive and unreliable way to communicate with parents.
Moreover, each school had its own unique website that was difficult to find, difficult to navigate and almost always out of date, as there was no methodology to update the content.
Parents were frustrated, communications were being lost and membership dues were not at sustainable levels.
By embracing opportunities for using the web and social media, the Parents Association adapted to an increasingly web savvy parent base and were able to provide the real-time, accurate content and information that parents wanted and needed.
As an added bonus, they were also able to generate more membership revenue because they had made it a simple matter for parents to pay online.
The Game Changer
These three organizations should be models for every business on how to remain competitive in a fast-moving economy.
Balancing customer iterations with predicting future customer behavior has been the game changer for all three.
How does your business succeed or fail at engaging with customers and adapting to their current and future needs? Let me know in the comments.