Some businesses have lists of objectives that are better measured in yards, rather than word-counts. If there’s a way to prioritize and manage that many objectives, maybe that’s okay. We, on the other hand, tend to think there are two business objectives that (should) supersede all others:
- Acquire customers by developing the right product
- Retain those customers by delivering the right service(s).
While it may not seem like it, #1 is the easier of the two objectives. Creating a new product is like spring training: It’s a new season, a fresh start. Everything is fresh, green, hopeful, and eminently possible. With a win in front of us and the wind at our backs, all we imagine is succeeding. But that success precipitates the challenges manifest in #2.
The Day After
After developing the product and earning customers, the product has to be kept functionally relevant. Since we can’t eliminate change or anticipate the needs of every customer, #2 requires the constant accommodation of change and constant communication with customers. It takes a profound working knowledge of the industry (or industries) in which the product is expected to perform. It takes a combination of open-mindedness and decisiveness to know the product may, at some point, do this, but it will never do that (regardless of the precise definitions of this and that), as well as the courage to tell customers what the product will and won’t do — and why or why not.
Most important, perhaps, is the willingness and the determination to look ahead. No one can predict the future. But communicating with customers, listening to their needs, anticipating others, and demonstrating a commitment to remain professionally concerned and functionally relevant goes a long way to achieving two of the so-called soft objectives — the trust and confidence of your customers. Look at it this way: Functionality can always be added after the fact. But trust can never be back-filled.
First steps are crucial. Next steps are make-or-break.
It’s About Philosophy
Business objectives are great. Good intentions are terrific (and the stuff, of course, of which a particular road is paved). But over-promising and under-delivering is not a philosophy by which to earn long-term success.
That’s why we’re thinking about making a poster out of this strip: