What’s In It For Me?

For most of us running our own businesses that serve clients and customers, we generally spend a fair amount of our time thinking about how we can add additional value for them ahead of ourselves.

And truthfully, that’s the way it should be.  We should always be thinking about how to better serve our clients and deliver more value because that’s the best way to build a long-term relationship with your clients, customers and your audience.

But sometimes, some of us can take that too far.  We end up making decisions that not only not help our business but can actually hurt it.  We get blinded by the desire to service our customers and forget about taking care of our own interests.

Let’s put it out there, we’re in business to improve our own financial well being.  While there are some people who feel they have a greater mission or purpose and selflessly dedicate themselves to the service of others, in our capitalist society the vast majority of businesses are designed to increase the bottom line of the owners.

Occasionally, those two things come into conflict and it can be difficult to find an appropriate compromise.  My personal advice, try and take the long-term view from your own business perspective.  If you think you can withstand a bit of a hit to significantly improve your customer’s experience, then maybe you take the hit.  You think of it as an investment and you move forward.

We start finding ourselves in trouble though when we invest too much at our own expense and the required returns on those investments starts to stack up to a point where it becomes impossible to achieve.  This is generally the result of many small decisions over time because taking a big risk that buries you financially is generally not something many of us do, particularly in our online businesses.  The situation tends to creep up on you.

There are a number of occasions where I’ve made those decisions across my various online businesses over the past seven or eight years.

With Casual Marketer, I made the decision not to sell the first issue of the newsletter but to include a printed version in the Welcome Pack of everyone who becomes a subscriber.  I figured it was a good welcome gift for people that join.  It actually costs me money as you can imagine to print and ship that issue, but that’s an investment I’m making in satisfying my new subscribers.

Selfishly, it also means that I can at some stage in the future give that issue away digitally as a lead magnet if I want because nobody has ever paid for it.  It’s a pretty good give away because it has a real, tangible value, but it also introduces people to the quality of the newsletter and it can entice them to subscribe or buy back issues.

Another decision I made in the past was to weed out our SEO customers that just weren’t contributing enough revenue to make it worth the effort of providing the service for them any longer.  I could have kept going and simply grandfathered out the plans those customers were on, but I needed to make a hard business decision – those customers were not of a high enough value to continue to service.

I reached out to those customers individually, explained that the type of service we were delivering for them was one that simply didn’t meet our financial requirements to continue offering.  I explained their options: they could upgrade to a larger, more comprehensive package or they could leave immediately without our usual 30-day notice.

The majority of customers cancelled their service, the odd one upgrades, but for the most part, people were pretty cool with the change.  We help relocate some people to other service providers, but like everything in life, some people were not nice about it.  I got more than a few grumpy emails, but the response was always the same, “To achieve our business objectives, we needed to make this change.  Sorry if that doesn’t suit you, but this was a necessary shift in strategy.”

Conversely, I deal with one company where it seems like every single decision they make is selfish in nature.  They make changes that clearly progresses their strategic goals often at the expense of their partners.  The worst part is often that they couch their changes in a way that portrays the shift in everyone’s best interest.  What’s actually playing out is that this company is so selfishly motivated and insular that they no longer have the ability organisationally to tell the difference – they simply assume what’s in their best interest is in everyone’s best interest.

What happens in situations like that is trust gets eroded to the point where incredible levels of cynicism creep into the relationship.  All but the most ardent supporters lose faith and become jaded that the entire relationship becomes toxic.  Without significant change on the part of the business owner, they’ll soon have drained the life out of their own business by being selfish.

So it’s important to keep your own best interests at heart and make decisions that work for you over the long term.  It’s great to look for “win-win” scenarios whenever you can, but sometimes, you’re going to have to accept a small loss or inflict one on your customers to deliver your bigger goals.  The secret is balancing it out so that your customer feels you’re looking after them and they’re getting fair value while at the same time you’re able to meet your financial goals for your business.

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