At Tomcar we seriously love our customers. It’s a highly personal interaction at this early stage in the business, so we both take it personally, and make it personal. We care about how our cars perform for them, and how they make their working lives better. We’ve recently been documenting the delivery of our vehicles and making some short films about it.
Yes, we know it doesn’t really scale as a business model.
Yes, we know that major car manufacturers would never do this.
Yes, we know that it makes us seem like small fry.
But here’s something else we know: Doing things which do not scale in the short term, is what gives startups a chance at scale later.
Here’s a little video of one such unscalable activity. Oh, and if you buy a Tomcar, you’ll get your personal movie made too.
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So a question you might want to ask is this – How can you treat your customers like micro celebrities of your brand?
Seth Godin has an interesting idea of being Famous to the Family. Which is similar to my definition of cool: the stuff that matters, to the people who care.
This short interview is a 5 minute investment worth making.
- Decide who your family is.
- Build them stuff they really care about.
- Enjoy doing it enough, to be able to continue without riches.
- Be patient.
Winning a debate isn’t about proving the other party is wrong. It’s about proving you are right. In fact it’s about proving that you are more correct, even a little bit.
Although that’s a nice tip, debating is hardly the approach we need in any part of a startup business. The best advice we can give here is to never enter a debate, and let the other party believe they are right. Startups are about building relationships, not sabotaging them.
It’s what we create for the people who care. The truth is we never know how hard it was to deliver the right product, at the right place at the right time. We only care that it was.
What we (the entrepreneurs, producers, marketers) had to go through is not part of the consideration set. It isn’t charity, it’s about them. So if we nail it and deliver the project quickly, we needn’t feel guilty or less deserving. Likewise, if it took us 5 years of hard working weekends and nights, that’s also no reason to feel a level of entitlement. We need to feel what they feel – underwhelmed or overwhelmed with what we deliver, how we got there is far less important.
It was Friday night and I was having a drinks with colleagues who were discussing the relative taste profiles of various beers. I went on challenge the crowd that they wouldn’t know which beers was which in a blind taste test. None of them believed me.
Turns out it’s true. I once worked in a marketing role at Fosters, and 90% of beer drinkers cannot pick any brand within the same type (eg lager, pillsner, bitter ale). Beer is not bought on taste, it’s bought by brand. Sure, there are other factors which come into the decision like availability and price. But both trail and subsequent loyalty is never about taste.
So we have to know what we are selling. Not in the primary sense (the physical product) but in the secondary sense, the real motivation which makes us choose brand A over brand B. And in most categories it’s not what it seems
Beer = fashion
Electricity = company interactions
Coffee = socialisation
Cameras = memory library
For entrepreneurs the message is simple, we must know what we are selling. It’s most often how we market the secondary benefit which will drive our brand over the competitor.
Long held wisdom in the retail industry is that items must be displayed on shelves by category. Idea being that we know what thing we are looking when we shop. But what if we’re just browsing? What if we don’t want anything in particular? Bring on Smiggle – stationary retailer who display their range by color.
Eyeball worthy…. I better go check out what they have in purple.
What other conventions need to be busted in your startup category?
♫ Come in and see the good, good good guys. Pay cash and we’ll slash the prices… ♫
If you live in Australia, you’ve seen the TV advertisement and heard the jingle. It’s a pretty simple proposition. It encourages customers to negotiate a price. I went to the Good Guys to buy a fridge and negotiate like everyone else does.
After we cut the deal and agreed on a price, I proceeded to pay in cash, when the sales guy said; ‘Credit card is fine. We are not that strict on cash payments these days.’ So I paid using my card.
It got me thinking about the truth of the Pay Cash and we’ll slash the prices tagline / tactic. It is a simple point of difference and traffic generator. The idea of the cash payment is really something that can only work on a micro level. A large retailer couldn’t dodge the tax man through taking cash payments and justify provide an unusually large discount. The supply chain has too many parties involved. Rather, it is used to appeal the the customer who thinks they are getting a better deal by paying cash. It’s perception marketing. The insight for startups is this: if this works for the customer, that’s all that really matters.
Our job as entrepreneurs is really to build a business in which people depend on. The best we can possibly hope for is having a group of people at both ends of the value chain who really need us. Not just customers, but suppliers as well.
Suppliers who need us to succeed so they can feed off our success. Customers who need our stuff to get through their months, weeks or days. When we are needed, we are on our way to have a solid business.
Do your people in your supply chain need you to exist?