For many years I have been asked what is most important for business success. The same is true in just about any endeavor. The same question comes up for actors, lawyer, dentists and doctors for the most part.
Price is often an answer I hear when I ask small business owners what is most important for business success. Yet in the next sentence they all admit they can’t compete only on price because the big companies are killing them on price.
Like many of you I shop on Amazon, and we are amazon partners so when you buy a product we review, use and recommend on a website like beachstreetnews or cooltoystv.com, we can get a little money. When I say little money I mean very little money, but it is still better than zero.
Looking at my Amazon shopping experience, I have learned to open private browser windows and make sure I get the best price. Even then about a third of the time I am disappointed by the product. At some point you realize price is not the most important thing when it comes to business success. Price is simply an variable in the sales equation.
Many years ago I owned and operated several Home Theater and Home Automation companies. When I started the company I was sure that having the best service was most important for the success of the business. We built hi tech systems in several states. I took great pride in the fact that we had the best customer service going.
The problem was the more we gave, the more the customers wanted. Eventually my company couldn’t keep up with the expectation we set and make a profit. We broke down and made some major changes. Without profit there is no service or success.
Having the best product is and interesting factor when it comes to business success. One of our flagship locations carried only the best in home theater and automation. It was our least profitable location by a long shot.
Without saying the brand, there was a product that among audiophiles is considered a third class product. One of my best techs wanted to branch out on his own and only support that brand. With one truck and a helper, he made more profit than the entire store selling the best of the best.
The Best Product only matters to a very very few people. These are the people that wear six figure watches that take a year or more to build. And even then I have seen them head to McDonalds for a quarter pounder and drive right past a far superior place with $20 burgers made from Prime Beef.
More importantly the best product is a relative term. The best product is really that product that solves the customers problem. If they needed a 72” High Def TV, for some people that might be a $100,000 projection system with 11.1 surround sound. For others it could be a boxed flat panel from the local warehouse store.
After running several of my own companies, and working for a couple other highly successful CEO’s, I believe I have broken the code on what is most important for business success. It is the customer experience. If the experience is bad, it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is.
Think about how much you pay for sub par products in theme parks. The “convenience fees” or “crazy high prices” are justified by the experience. A $5 churro at a theme park is no better than a $1 churro from the local stand, but the experience justifies the 500% increase in price.
An issue with a new client highlighted how incredibly important this is. It made me really look back at places where my businesses ran ahead of the crowd and fell behind. I also looked at places where the companies I worked at made big slip ups. Each time it wasn’t the product, the service or the price, it was the experience.
One of our clients had great cupcakes for $6 each. A competitor at a very high end shopping center had $12 cupcakes and a line out the door. They were by no means better than the $6 cupcake, it was about location and something else.
Apple has become the master of creating a great experience even when selling a 97% complete product. When the iPhone came out it had bugs, but Apple made the experience tolerable or better. The same was true with the iPhone X when it came out. The Apple Watch was the same.
When we signed a new client recently, I tried to sign up as a member of her yoga studio. It is the first thing we do with every new client. We act like a customer and rate the experience. I couldn’t figure out how to sign up and pay. My company builds websites for a living. If you have to teach someone how to pay you, guess what? That’s right, you won’t get paid.
The lesson I brought to my company from my time at Apple was, “make it easier”. no matter how good the product was that we brought to the, the feedback was the same. Make it easier.
I talked with the software vendor that made the Yoga Studio management software. The account rep suggested a consultant to help us set up the website and payment systems better. That should have been a red flag. You should not need a consultant to set up basic software for a small business. This isn’t Oracle or Salesforce.
While trying to hire the consultant I ran into the same issues. I clicked the “sign up” button that led to a page that said “You can’t sign up for this without paying first, click here to pay first.” When I clicked on the link, it took me to a page on another site with a different price. That is an epic fail in my book. The experience was horrible, and I never did hire (more importantly pay) the consultant. I learned everything I needed to learn just going through the process.
After watching the yoga studio’s website micro data, we noticed that as many as five potential new members were lost each week. They would start the sign up process and drop out one or two steps into it. The process was terrible, and therefore creating a horrible first impression and experience.
We decided to write our own front end to the studio management software to fix this. I’ll let you know how it goes. We are two to three weeks out on that project.
Next we walked into the studio for a class. There were a dozen people all hovering around the teacher trying to check in. The software lets them check in remotely but then the owner has no way to know who shows, who doesn’t and how many are actually in class.
The fix was pretty easy. An iPad for self check in, and we turned off the mobile check in. We only allow mobile sign up. While this might seem minor, it actually added to the customers experience. We know because the iPad was damaged and people immediately asked for a new one. The teachers liked it because they could start on time. Customers liked the quick check in and the ability to add themselves if they forgot to sign up.
The next most critical element we look for in a business owner is the fun meter. Is the owner having fun? Hobie Alder, the founder and creator of Hobie surf, Hobie cat, Hobie yacht and many other things used to say “If it’s fun, it will never be work, if it isn’t fun, it will never work.”
I couldn’t agree more. If you are not having fun, it is very hard to deliver a great experience. Having fun in your business helps reduce your stress and when you have fun, your customers are more likely to have a great experience. Customers who have a great experience become your best advertisement. When that happens, you will have a successful business.
If you want to find the fun again in you business. Click Here to see my calendar and get a free consultation.