Archive for August, 2008

Not Your Customer

August 18, 2008

The Sales team is not your customer. Customer Support is not your customer. Finance and Accounting aren’t your customer, either. The other Marketing teams? Nope, not your customer. The Enablement teams, the developers, other business units, the senior executives…not your customer.

The only way you have an “internal customer” is if you have a tapeworm with a credit card. Unlikely. People who talk a lot about “internal customers” are generally scared to death of the external ones.

Your customer pays you money in some fashion. It’s a market-based transaction with free will on both sides. If the customer isn’t happy with the value you provide they go elsewhere. Then you go find a customer you can satisfy so you can get paid.

If you think about the customer as the person who pays you money, you’ll do things differently than most of corporate America. You won’t think of Sales, Customer Support, Finance, Accounting or anyone else as “internal customers.” You’ll think of them as teammates. You’ll start working together to serve the customer. You know, the one who pays you money.

Thanks to Neil T for the photo


MarketingSherpa: Special Report on Online Group Subscriptions

August 14, 2008

Yours truly quoted by Sean Donahue at MarketingSherpa here. Thank you Sean!

And if you don’t know what kudzu is, it’s a vine that grows through everything. Which is a fine, if southern-fried, metaphor for increasing usage and penetration with an account.

One Priority Comes Prior to the Other

August 10, 2008

As @TWalk pointed out during a Twitter exchange, that’s why it’s called a ‘priority’. The root word is prior.

I understand the desire to reap maximum goodness from any endeavor in business. A business might monetize a Web site by selling both transactional products (to the visitors) and advertising (to parties who value the attention of the visitors). As an executive, you want to avoid tunnel vision and maximize all potential revenue streams.

But when your operational teams ask for help in setting priorities, help them.

An executive who routinely responds to questions about priorities with ‘both’ or ‘all of the above’ probably thinks that she or he is tuned into the big picture in a way that the minions are not. There’s a difference between a big picture and a bad movie. The approach comes off like The Sphinx from the Ben Stiller film ‘Mystery Men,’ using word games to sound profound.

  • Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller): Okay, am I the only one who finds these sayings just a little bit formulaic? “If you want to push something down, you have to pull it up. If you want to go left, you have to go right.” It’s…
  • The Sphinx (Wes Studi): Your temper is very quick, my friend. But until you learn to master your rage…
  • Mr. Furious: Your rage will become your master. That’s what you were going to say. Right? Right?
  • The Sphinx (defensively): Not necessarily.

If you work for an executive who’s fond of that game, figure out their riffs and call them on it the same way Mr. Furious did. It’ll be uncomfortable, but you’ll get to real dialog.

If you employ an executive who’s fond of that game…I don’t want to come off as unduly harsh…but their salary might be better invested in office supplies.

If you ARE an executive who’s fond of that game, heed this warning: if you fail to prioritize for your team’s success, your team will fail to prioritize success for you.

Every Grain of Sand

August 5, 2008

Some people believe that change agents – those people able to help an organization shift culturally and change direction strategically – are very rare. Chainsaw Al‘s compensation package at Sunbeam was based on that idea. We know how that turned out.

Lasting change that creates value doesn’t happen that way.

Think of an oyster. If you work like Chainsaw Al, you pick it up and scoop out the contents. Time to implement: immediate and short-term. Value created: one appetizer. Value destroyed: future value of the oyster and anything it might produce.

The grain of sand works differently. It consistently irritates the oyster on just the right level. Too little irritation and nothing happens. Too much, and it’s ejected from the shell. Does that sound like a balance you’ve ever had to achieve in the workplace?

This constant irritation changes everything that happens in the immediate vicinity of the grain of sand. A small zone is created where the rules are different than in the rest of the organization. Time to implement: months (if it’s longer than that, you’re not being irritating enough). Value created: one durable and long-lasting pearl. Value destroyed: none (unless you really liked the old cover sheet for the TPS reports).

A big side benefit: there are few Chainsaw Als, and even fewer Jack Welches. If we use the top-down model for change agents we have to find one, pay a lot, and potentially see value destroyed rather than created. But the pearl model means that potential change agents are as numerous as grains of sand (or cube-dwellers in corporate America).

The hard part is staying honest about whether you’re acting in a manner that creates meaningful change. Cubicles are full of random acts of meaningless rebellion, and even fuller of supposed ‘change agents’ that are hoarding fossils instead of creating pearls.

What small irritation will you create today? Will you be consistent at it so that activity in your vicinity is forever a little different, a little better?

Photo by nigham


August 3, 2008

Of course you’re constrained. Who isn’t? You need a bigger budget, more headcount, broader reach, a more recognized brand. The harder you try, the tougher the going gets.

Some people keep trying but don’t get anywhere.

A lot of people quit trying. They say “I got the message. The organization doesn’t want to change.”

Some people respond by managing down the goals. They say “Freeing our index fingers is not realistic given our constraints. The goal is to type as well ax posible givn thar our index fingters are stuck togeter.”

This kid’s gonna keep trying different directions until something moves.

This kid’s not smarter than you are. He’s not more committed than you are. He ain’t no Harry Houdini. He’s just willing to try new directions and unwilling to quit.

Thanks to Archie McPhee Seattle for the image