A friend and colleague of mine runs a small business doing internet consulting, programming, and services mostly for online magazines. We were talking about customers and clients, and the sometimes large disconnect there is between how we all perceive technology. He said something very insightful – “customers don’t know what they want, but they know what their NEEDS are”.
Story: Hosting an Email List
I used to host this very email list myself, using some open source software called phplist. It is very customizable, providing a lot of features and functionality, rivaling if not surpassing many of the pay services. So for five years I simply hosted the list myself.
I had a lot of problems though. I had problems with bounces being handled properly, and unsubscribes, and the tracking never worked very well. The reports which one relies on a lot to know what people read and find interesting and useful, were not setup in an ideal way either. Worst of all was the blacklist problem, as a lot of email services simply blacklist servers they don’t like. It then becomes very difficult to get off of those lists. So subsequent emails just end up in junkmail boxes, and people never see your newsletter. Furthermore there was a lot of administrative overhead for managing the software.
I recently moved to a hosted solution called Mail Chimp. I spent a lot of time comparing various services, but this one seemed to have very good customer service, and a lot of community support. After I sent out my first newsletter I found it integrated with google analytics, which was superb. It further would automatically post to twitter, had a wordpress plugin for integrating with a blog or website, and a whole host of other features I hadn’t even dug into yet.
I got all this for only $30/month, I gain the brains of all those people working to perfect the system, I gain the proessionalism that they enforce when I upload the list, better reports, more intelligence, and more readers! The whole experience was a learning one for me. I knew well what I needed, to reach customers, colleagues, and potential prospects. But clearly I didn’t know what I wanted.
The end result? I now can focus more on my business, my day-to-day needs, by getting it done RIGHT… Leave email list management to the experts!
Story: A Clogged Drain
For a while my bathroom sink has had this sort of slow drain problem. Probably off and on for about two years I’ve had the problem. Usually I’ll pour some draino down there and leave it for a few hours, and then rinse it with hot water. Even after these various times of cleaning it out, it never drained well, and within a few months it would always come back. Once it’s not draining, it starts to gunk up, a real pain in the neck.
So in effort to solve the problem, I went once again to the local grocery store. This time I really looked at the products on offer. Apparently there were FIVE different kinds of draino. I had never noticed, I just always bought the same one. Reading the labels closely, one was a gel, another a foam, another a liquid one, and a fourth was extra strength. On the back of one of the labels there was a table describing the different types of clogs and which product would be best. Apparently I had a slow recurring drain. It turns out that was a known TYPE of clog. I didn’t know there were different types of clogged drains.
I ended up with the foam draino which seemed to be the one for a slow recurring drain. I followed the instructions, and poured the entire contents down the drain as instructed. I waited an hour or so, and ran the hot water down the drain. Low and behold it was clear, more clear than it had been in a couple of years. Wow!
Now I’m not a plumber, obviously, it’s not my specialty. I had no idea how complex the subject was, nor the variety of solutions available. I didn’t even know what my problem was. But I knew what my needs were. I knew I wanted my drain cleared. I assumed it was a simple fix, and it shouldn’t cost more that $5 or $10, but then I had the problem for two years. In retrospect it probably would have been worth hiring a plumber for $100 or $150 to fix the problem right, and have a clear sink for two more years than I did.
The recurring problem may inflict more pain than the cost of resolving the problem properly, promptly, and with no fuss, without requiring me to master new subject matter, so I can get on with other business at hand.
We all know what our day-to-day needs our, in business, and in life. But we don’t always know what we want. We turn to subject matter experts in various areas to provide us with their knowledge, their experience, and allow us to focus on our core businesses.
Book Review – What Every Body Is Saying – Joe Navarro
Ever been in a meeting with a colleague, client, or boss. You’re discussing some issue which needs resolution. You can sense the temperature is rising but you’re not sure why? Maybe you are already at the point where things are reaching a boiling point, and wondering when they got there and how?
Joe Navarro’s book takes a fascinating peak into body language, to help us better understand our own and those around us. Keep your hands in plain view if you want to be trusted, keep smiling, and keep and open mind. There is a lot to learn in this book. Navarro is an ex-FBI agent, with years of experience at telling the good guys from the bad, the liars from the just plain nervous. So his views and perspectives are sure to be insightful, whether you want to work better with your colleagues, get that big promotion, or close a deal with a new prospect.